Rebuilding the Astronomy Curriculum around Robotic Telescope Observations and Active Learning Exercises

Project: Research project

Project Details


The university is revising its Astronomy curriculum. The changes are guided by recent physics education research findings that emphasize interactive and hands-on learning strategies in order to better serve the educational needs of Creighton and two other local universities (Metropolitan Community College and the University of Nebraska at Omaha), area middle and secondary schools, and the greater metropolitan Omaha community. The changes are made possible by the purchase, installation, and operation of a robotic telescope capable of remote observations that is being made available to students and faculty at local and regional institutions as well as middle and secondary students in the region.

Intellectual merit: Using this facility, the project is adapting observationally-based exercises that have been designed and used successfully at other institutions for use with remote telescopes into the introductory astronomy curriculum. The exercises are designed for non-science, introductory astronomy students but can readily be used with high school and mid-high students. Other components of the revision involve the introduction of physics and astronomy education research strategies in the introductory astronomy lecture, including increased use of tutorials and problem/research based learning. A separate advanced lab section is being offered for interested introductory astronomy students and freshmen who may be considering a physics major, as well as an upper division observational astronomy course for science majors. Both are implementing project-based learning with emphasis on advanced observational astronomy techniques and instrumentation, including imagery, photometry, and spectral analysis using the robotic telescope. A comprehensive evaluation is being undertaken to gauge progress in learning outcomes and overall success in achieving project goals.

Broader Impact: The project benefits approximately 500 students who enroll in introductory astronomy at Creighton, and 1000 students who enroll in courses offered at Metropolitan Community College and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. In addition, the project provides project-based learning opportunities in astronomy for thousands of middle/secondary students in the Omaha metro region and state of Nebraska. The project has a broad reach in a geographical area that is currently underserved in astronomy education and outreach.

Effective start/end date8/15/107/31/15


  • National Science Foundation: $199,306.00