Søren Meibom
Astronomer (Ph.D.)


Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

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Educational and cognitive science is showing that learning is a highly individual process and that people learn at different rates and in different ways. Some students can receive and process information just by listening (auditory learners), but many students depend on a combination of senses and time to think and reflect before they can learn effectively. Indeed, most students learn best in an active environment with a strong emphasis on teamwork, problem-solving, and hands-on experience.

There are good and tested approaches to teaching a student body with diverse needs, and many fit under the umbrella of cooperative learning (e.g. group learning activities, lecture segments, classroom demonstrations, and peer instruction). However, despite the research-based recommendations of methods for effective teaching and learning, and a toolbox of well tested teaching practices, the scheduled face-to-face time with the students is often too short to both provide them with the knowledge and tools they need to solve problems and learn, and engage them in active learning activities.

The Extra-Solar Planet Project tests the use of a web-based alternative to the traditional astronomy college - the web-lecture. The web-lecture is produced using the Internet and innovative computer technology that offers a simultaneous and synchronized presentation of video, audio, and slides, and additional technological advantages to the benefit of both the students and the professor. Along with this technology, we examined the effect on student learning of participation in "active" or "passive" learning environments during the review section following the web-lecture. Student learning is assessed from analysis of pre- and post-test data. Follow the above link to read a journal paper (submitted to Astronomy Education Review; http://aer.noao.edu/cgi-bin/new.pl), and check out the web-lecture itself here. A poster presentation of the Extra-Solar Planet Project can be found here.