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mattjanes100

Distance Learning Courses

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I've been considering taking on a course to gain a recognised qualification in either Astronomy or Cosmology and wondered if anyone here had experience of a distance learning course?

If so, which institution, what did you study, what were the costs and how did you find it?

I have a degree in an unrelated subject (Surveying) so would probably be looking at undergraduate level as the highest realistic starting point.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

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Hi,

I am not sure what your circumstances are such as working full time, retired or somewhere in between. For what it is worth I have just completed the Open University course S177 Galaxies, Stars and Planets. It is a module, cost c£500 and ran from April to September. It needed c8 hours per week study time.

The reason I took the course was to get a grounding of the science behind what I was observing. There is a little bit of maths involved and some use of Aladin - imaging software. Overall I found it fun and gave me a better appreciation of what I am observing.

There is an end of module assessment which I have just completed involving short essays, math calculations and observational work.

The course is run on a distance learning basis with as much or less contact with the tutors as you need. There is a text book to work through which is also accessible online via iPad etc.

John

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I studied the BA Hons in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the Open University (OU) more than a decade ago. A degree is made up of 360 points. The first 240 points was relatively easy going but I found the last 120 a bit of a slog. In my case, each 60 points contained 6 units. You swot up, write an essay from a set question and repeat this for each unit during the year until around May when you have to supply a final essay which carries more weight and is marked accordingly and in June you sit a final exam. Part-time is 60 points a year, so if you kept at it, you'd get a degree in 6 years. Because I don't live in the UK, I had to pay about £1,000 per 60 points.

Thankfully, I studied this stuff purely for pleasure, there was no necessity for qualifications, employment or what have you. And therein lies a problem. Comparing my experience at OU to a more traditional 'brick and mortar' university the OU's grading system is ruthless. The OU is a bit like the special forces, you're only as strong as your weakest link and as such, it is your worst score which determines your overall course grade. It is extremely difficult, then, to achieve more than an acceptable pass.

To sum, if you're looking for a bit of 'fun', something new to learn and direction in which to pursue that learning at a distance, then OU is good. If you're looking for a degree or qualifications per se, there are probably easier options.

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Thanks both, very useful. I have a full time job that I expect to be doing for another 30 years unfortunately, so the study would just be for interest and to support my astronomy hobby - unless I can make some magic happen and turn it into a career!

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Friend of mine looked into options a couple of years back, from memory:

As best I recall look for UCLAN they have a distance learning degree and maybe lesser certificates. Something says they also operated under the name of astronomy.ac.uk. So search for that also, may be a more direct source of information.

Another possible was Birkbeck College, however less knowledge on their offering.

OU has or had an OpenLearn scheme. Small free courses and I would think you selected a range to do but they were not a recognised final qualification as in BSc type.

There was also at time mention of Coursera who offered again small courses. Think they were free also.

From the previous look in to this I had the impression that in the UK you had A'Levels then Degree and not a lot between to build up over time. Think that is what put my friend off. It was small courses for no great recognition or a Degree.

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Liverpool John Moores University contains a highly regarded Astro Physics and Astronomy dept. It owns and operates the Liverpool Telescope in La Palma.

They run short open learning courses in several related subjects from An Introduction to Astronomy to High Energy Astrophysics.

It may be worth taking a look.

https://www.ljmu.ac.uk/study/cpd/additional-cpd-courses/astrophysics-distance-learning-cpd-courses

http://telescope.livjm.ac.uk/

 

 

 

 

Edited by ScouseSpaceCadet
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I've taken two courses thru distance learning programs - getting ready to start a third that is series of four courses total. None lead to degree credit - but helped convince my better-half that I was indeed serious about getting into this before she consented to the out-pouring of funds for the "toys"<lol>.

There are two organizations - EdX.org and Cousera.org that have on-line offerings. Some can lead to degrees (on Coursera) but most don't - they are on-line, non-credit.

The first course I took was thru EdX.org and unfortunately it is no longer offered. It was a lot of work - and one can either do the work or coast thru it depending on what you want to get out of it beyond qualifying to get a certificate. The second course was, to be honest, absolutely fantastic. It is titled Astronomy - Exploring Time and Space and can be found here https://www.coursera.org/learn/astro . The instructor, Dr. Chris Impey ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Impey) is a fantastic lecturer and has put a tremendous amount of effort into the material - written and video that you can download and keep. I never would have guessed he was from Scotland - he's lost his brogue completely after living in Arizona since the mid-1980's. They are - or have - updated the program but I have not had a chance to look at the new material. I was amazed to find out that they are casting HUGE mirrors at the University of Arizona - in excess of 9 meters in diameter. I grew up in San Diego, CA and my family visited Mt. Palomar several times so I've always be interested in large scopes. But this course really broadened by knowledge of space and astronomy. I highly recommend it. As a side benefit, you will be invited to attend his biweekly 1 hour on-line Q&A's which are very interesting.

This winter I'm going to back to EdX, and take this program https://www.edx.org/xseries/astrophysics . Brian Schmidt is one of the instructors - he received the Nobel prize in physics for his work on dark energy. I've seen him on some science shows on tv, and he appears to be dynamic lecturer.

Neither the Coursera program or the next one at EdX are live lectures. The Coursera program had a 14 week schedule - but you could work ahead.  The EdX Xseries program appears to be self-paced.

Beat's watching reruns !

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In these cloudy/rainy times I have been spending some time doing this course and am now about halfway through. It is quite enjoyable and gives a general overview of several topics. Although it is not necessarily teaching me much that I didn't already know, it is good to be studying in a structured format and actually producing some written submissions.

The lectures are easily digestible in up to 15 min videos and are supported by multiple choice quizzes at key points, whilst some subject areas also have the written submission.

The written pieces are peer reviewed - marked by others on the course rather than in a formal way. I have found this to be fine and fair if you take the time to formulate and submit a good answer. When it is time to review others, the submissions are a mixed bag and I have actually reported two users for quite obvious plagiarism.

Most useful and interesting is a regular live Q&A session on youtube with Prof. Chris Impey, this has been a highlight for me to put any questions to him about the course or any other physics/astronomy interests.

All in all, this is definitely worth doing as a first step for adult education and will certainly provide a baseline level of knowledge if you have not completed any other further science education, or as a platform for targeting something more advanced.

 

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On 20/09/2019 at 11:14, mattjanes100 said:

Thanks - I like the look of the UCLAN courses so might get started with their short options and go from there.

I've taken five of the courses run by the UCLAN consortium. I began with the Introduction to Astronomy and in following years did History of Astronomy and  Cosmology. I then did the one year Radio Astronomy course with Jodrell Bank under the UCLAN umbrella and a shorter course in Galaxies with Liverpool John Moore's. I think all of these were excellent and, being a teacher at the time, I guess I was quite a critical student. My final course was Sun and Earth Climate. I didn't find this to be as good as the others but it still had its merits. I wouldn't hesitate to take more of these courses were it not for the fact that I no longer live in Britain so they would be vastly more expensive. When I did them they were almost absurdly good value. Recommended without any hesitation whatever. 

Be warned that I think I finished the last course in 2004 so I can't claim to be up to date!

Olly

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Thanks Olly, I have had another look at these UCLAN courses as a next step. Would be great to get on to the degree course if I can make it work financially.

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