4-VA Initiatives

4-VA Makes a Return Trip to Astronomy: ASTR 113

After tackling the development of an OER textbook for ASTR 113 which resulted in enlightening, digitized materials for the course and saving students up to $200 on a textbook, Dr. Mario Gliozzi applied for and received a second 4-VA@Mason grant to take on the challenge of producing an online homework system to complement and support the redesigned educational resources.

Gliozzi recognized that students were not attending to their homework assignments, which are integral in testing understanding of topics on a regular basis. Therefore, Gliozzi and colleague Dr. Rebecca Ericson were interested in developing a homework system closely related to the new OER material including weekly quizzes with multiple choice, multiple answer, ordering, matching, and jumbled sentences, with feedback and clarification accessible after the quiz deadline.  Additionally, Gliozzi wanted to utilize the many illustrations/graphs available online, which helped prompt questions on fundamental concepts and allowed the students to learn the importance of understanding and interpreting graphs and diagrams.

After employing the new homework program for a semester, Gliozzi tweaked some of the elements and employed them fully the next year (ASTR 113 is only taught in the spring semester). He noticed that once the importance of the weekly homework assignment was properly emphasized at the beginning of the semester, and the students realized the close link between the homework questions and the questions in the proctored tests, the homework quizzes were recognized as one of the most effective tools for preparation and success in the class.

After fine tuning the homework and quizzes, they were made available to all Mason astronomy instructors by uploading them on their permanent ASTR 113 Blackboard repository. Thus, the new materials were a positive change for the students, but also for fellow faculty.

Gliozzi notes, “This 4-VA@Mason grant gave me the chance to develop a tool that proved useful (and free of charge) to complete the student preparation out of class which gave them the best tools possible to be successful in ASTR 113.”