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Student and tutor module reviews

Astronomy

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  • Points: 30
  • Code: S282
  • Level: 2

Student reviews

This course was excellent, providing a massive amount of interesting grounding information on astronomy and cosmology. The cosmology in book two was a bit more complex but nothing too taxing. There is a fair amount of maths on this course (as expected) but no calculus really, just general equation manipulation and other staples.

The TMAs were not particularly hard, and the scientific project TMA (of which you have a choice of two) was really fun to complete. The only downside is that the exam is based on the two hefty text books over 300 pages long which are rammed with data, so a lot of rote learning and memorisation is required to get a good mark in the final exam (which counts for 2/3 of the course marks. As such I'd recommend studying at a faster rate than the study planner in order to leave more time for revision at the end.

As always the best preparation for the exam is to buy every available exam paper and practice them for 2 months before hand, great for identifying and covering any gaps in your knowledge.

Course starting: February 2013

Review posted: July 2014

I found this course challenging as my initial knowledge of physics was a bit light. At one point I thought I was out of my depth, I did however hang in there and was very glad I did as a few things came together in the run-up to the exam and I am now looking forward to S382 at some point.

Overall, this course is both fascinating and rewarding, but you do need to be happy with physics to some extent, and I'd say S104 is not quite enough. The maths is not particularly difficult, but you do need to understand trig and equations.

Lucy Evans

Course starting: February 2012

Review posted: October 2013

Mixed feelings about this one. The subject matter is interesting, no doubt. But the whole thing's a bit of a compromise. One of the reviewers below complained about the maths content - my complaint is the other way, that there's not enough, and that concepts that are much better expressed mathematically were dealt with here in a rather less than satisfactory way (eg no calculus!). So no-one ends up happy!

My other gripe is the amount of rote learning involved. One of the things I've always liked about the physical sciences is the lack of memory work - but there was a lot of it here, to get a good grade.

Pity about these things. Understanding the way stars and galaxies work, and the cosmology, is fascinating, and the books are well written.

Course starting: February 2011

Review posted: March 2012

Faculty response

S282 is designed to be accessible to students with a wide range of backgrounds so we have tried to keep the mathematics content to a minimum. Third level S382 and S383 will give you all the maths you would like!

This means some physical concepts that can be expressed elegantly using more advanced maths are explained in a less concise but more accessible way in S282. Astronomy is a wide ranging subject (it covers the whole Universe!) so there is, of necessity, much to learn to prepare for the higher level modules.

S282 is a challenging course and I would not advise anyone to take it as their first Level 2 course. Anyone considering taking the Certificate in Astronomy and Planetary Science would find it useful to start with S283, which is much easier. That said, S282 is indeed a very interesting course, with challenging TMAs which are not at all solved by just reading the books but require quite a lot of mental struggle. I would advise any new S282 student to start dedicating from the beginning of the course some time to the second part of book 2, since the Cosmology chapters are tough and correspond to the summer months, where the level of concentration required is not always possible to attain. My second piece of advice would be to buy the past papers at the beginning of the course, analyse from the most frequent questions what parts of each chapter are more relevant and dedicate some time from day one to exam-oriented study, since the TMAs are so absorbing that one easily forgets about the exam and is faced by September with the quite daunting task of revision.

Despite having had a lot of personal problems during the year, I enjoyed the course very much. The maths level is completely affordable for anyone having taken, for example, S151: just some basic algebra and a tiny bit of trigonometry is required. The e-tutorials were varied and very helpful, specially the Past Paper ones; the synergy between a team of dedicated tutors and the students worked wonders there. In our group, it was very clear from the exam results that many of us did badly in the questions related to Book 2, hence the suggestion of starting working with it asap, since it is fairly self-contained. After having taken S282 and S194 before it (you can read my comment about it too), my love for Astronomy has increased even more and I am now looking forward to S382 in a couple of years!

Maria Gloria Paz

Course starting: February 2010

Review posted: December 2010

I loved doing this course and unexpectedly discovered that I really enjoy Astronomy as a result. Packed with really interesting topics although I must admit that I found some of the maths difficult.

Having said that, I loved discovering about how a star works and other really odd facts such as how to look at distant galaxies using gravatational lensing.

Good balance of media and book work, TMAs are interesting and pitched at the right level.

I did find the end of course exam difficult however. The course covers such a vast amount of information that I found myself revising everything and remembering very little under pressure!
Recommended.

Steve Short

Course starting: February 2009

Review posted: October 2010

The course is split into two parts and books, The Sun and the Stars and Galaxies and Cosmology. By far the most interesting of the two for me was the first part. The whole book was absolutely fascinating. The first half of Galaxies is very good too, Active Galactic Nuclei are breathtakingly awesome as is their cause, but I thought that when it went into cosmology it wasn't all that clear, although the chapter on the time scale of the Big Bang was very good. I came away from the cosmology section with the impression that we didn't know a lot about it....

This was my first course with e-tutorials which I didn't like at all, I much prefer personal contact. I felt that I taught myself most of the course to be honest. Just my opinion.

Still, I managed a grade two pass, which for someone who is hopeless at exams because of my gnat like memory retention was quite pleasing. The maths content is straight forward. I did MST121 just before this course and I had no problems with the adding up.

All in all, if you are interested in astrophysics a most interesting course, well worth doing.

David John Wilson

Course starting: February 2009

Review posted: January 2010

This well-presented course was one of the most fascinating I have tackled - quite awesome in many respects. Without a decent knowledge of physics and maths it would be difficult but not impossible. I was not, however, fully prepared for the level of detail required in the exam and this left a rather sad taste. But if you want to get a feel for some of the fundamental properties of our Universe, this is a brilliant course.

Course starting: February 2009

Review posted: December 2009

A very interesting and informative course. However, since there were only 2 face to face tutorials for the course lasting only 2 hours each, it can be a struggle to get a firm grasp of all of the course content to a level that would ensure a decent examination grade. The course text is comprehensive but lacks a defined structure on linear events such as the stellar lifecycle.

The course is hard work and will tax your mathematical skills for the TMA's.

Cameron Robert MacKay

Course starting: February 2009

Review posted: December 2009

Unlike other reviews made I didnt enjoy this course! The maths content is massive, much more then I had expected and wish that I had known about beforehand. Support from my tutor wasnt great, and in the forums different OU staff popped along (with the theory that they where now helping out), but I found this confusing and struggled to differentiate between them and fellow outspoken students.

The study books are good, in that the illustrations/photos of what is out there in space is amazing! quite mind blowing.

On the whole, this course is very heavy going, and unless you are very strong on Maths and a fanatic about astronomy I'd think twice before doing this course. Sorry.

David Stringer

Course starting: February 2008

Review posted: September 2009

Of the 10 or so courses I have studied with the OU this has been the most interesting and if you have an interest in Astronomy and want to take it to a level above that put forward in popular science books this is the course to do.

The course is broken into two main parts - the first focusing on the lifecycle of stars which introduces such wonderful concepts as White Dwarfs, Neutron Stars and Black Holes. The second part is concerned with the history of entire galaxies and the whole universe, with the history of the Big Bang and the curvature of space/time being the only bit I struggled with.

Fantastic materials and well structured with lots of examples and 'side stories' about famous astronomers this programme is definately worth all the effort required to complete it.

Mark Justin Eaton

Course starting: April 2009

Review posted: June 2009

Having done an MBA with the OU and a range of other courses, doing S282 has been the highlight of my studies so far.

I did S194 and S196 prior to doing S282 and therefore missed out on some of the preparatory physics that might have made it a bit easier.

The first half of the course was the highlight for me in terms of the life cycle of stars, but the cosmology part was still very interesting even if the last part of it was a bit beyond me.

I have already signed up for S283 (Planetary Science) and will be doing SXR208 so that I can go and observe some of the wonderful things that S282 covered.

Course starting: February 2008

Review posted: April 2009

I think this has to be the favourite of all the courses I've done with the OU so far (out of about 14). I had a basic background in astronomy, so I knew sort of what stars were, but this course opened my eyes to the details and their life cycles.

There is a fair bit of basic maths in this course, but nothing fundamentally difficult. If you are OK with scientific notation (how many astronomers does it take to change a light bulb? Ans 2x10^8 - because astronomers love big numbers) and re-arranging formulas, and a little trigonometry then you'll be fine. No calculus or differential equations!

The second book in the course about galaxies and cosmology I found a little less inspiring, although it does have some excellent material in it. I couldn't see the utility in learning galaxy classification - join galaxyzoo if you want to do that!

Anyway, all in all an excellent course, and I'm now doing S283 so I get a certificate from it, and looking hungrily at the new 3rd Level courses...

It's just a shame I'm aiming for a biology degree!

Julian Onions

Course starting: February 2008

Review posted: March 2009

A really interesting course, which does get steadily more difficult as it progresses. There is a lot of emphasis on Maths, so make sure you are up to speed before tackling this. I would strongly recommend S151 before taking this course to make sure your maths is up to the job.

The final exam reflects the amount of maths, with a good number of maths based questions. That said, I managed to avoid most of the maths questions in the exam and still pass with Grade 3!

Overall, I found this course fairly heavy going, but the content is excellent, and you do learn about some really interesting things to do with stars and Astronomy in general.

It's interesting to also find out that there is still so much we don't know about Astronomy and the origins of the Universe, and this is covered in the book as well.

I found this course a lot harder than the Planetary Science course, S283, that I studied a few years earlier. Because of this, I had to do quite a lot of revision before the final exam, and I still didn't feel confident I'd pass. Happily, I did though.

Although thoroughly enjoyable, I'm glad this one is behind me!

Glyn Harper

Course starting: February 2007

Review posted: February 2008

A lovely course. I felt much in-love with this course towards the end, and was sad when it finished. The only section I couldn't quite grasp was the section at the end of book 2: cosmology!. I didn't leave myself enough time, and I would advise those studying this course to ensure they have enough time to come to grips with the cosmology part. Having said that, it wasn't a very big part of the exam at all.

I surprised myself with a Grade 2!

Melanie Stott

Course starting: February 2006

Review posted: July 2007

This is a fantastic course if you can come to grips with the maths and notations. Learning the life cycles of stars and galaxies makes it all worthwhile.

My one piece of advice is don't give up because of the maths. It honestly is not that tricky, it just LOOKS that way. I have no maths qualifications or skills, I followed the examples and noted the clever bits about substituting one formula into another to grind it down.

When you get on to the cosmology bit and you start dealing with a big formula that has just symbols in it, with not a real number to be seen anywhere, it's just the same. What are numbers if not just symbols? I even did my best exam questions picking the maths ones because they GIVE you starting information and formulas AND the answer and all you have to do is show you can get from one to the other. I sat in the exam and thought 'you're mad trying to do this' but when you suddenly find you've arrived at the answer that been given it just feels so good because you know you've got marks in the bag.

The other thing I found more with this course than any other was that when I came to revise for the exam, bits that had been total mysteries suddenly became understandable because you do need to pull in information from across the whole course in places and of course when you work through it the first time you've not done some of it yet.

Bottom line (and let's be clear about this no-one was more surprised than me) I got a distiction. And if I can do it anyone can do it.

Now, where did I leave that neutron star?

Course starting: February 2006

Review posted: March 2007

Please note

Each of the views expressed above is an individual's very particular response, largely unedited, and should be viewed with that in mind. Since modules are subject to regular updating, some of the issues identified may have already been addressed. In some instances the faculty may have provided a response to a comment. If you have a query about a particular module, please contact your Regional Centre.

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Module satisfaction survey

The figures below are taken from a survey of students who sat the exam/completed the end-of-module assessment for the February 2012 presentation of S282. The survey was carried out in 2012. 39.9% of our students responded to the survey covering what they thought of 10 aspects of the module. See this page for the full text of questions and more information about the survey.

Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of this module 94.6 %
Overall, I am satisfied with my study experience 90.2 %
The module provided good value for money 89 %
I was satisfied with the support provided by my tutor/study adviser on this module 83.5 %
Overall, I was satisfied with the teaching materials provided on this module 93.5 %
The module met its stated learning outcomes 91.3 %
I would recommend this module to other students 85.9 %
The module met my expectations 92.4 %
I enjoyed studying this module 93.5 %
Overall, I was able to keep up with the workload on this module 83.7 %
Faculty comment: The module team would like to thank the students who took time to take part in the survey and to give their feedback. We're very pleased to receive such positive feedback on many aspects of the module and are looking at ways of improving module performance in other areas such as student workload.
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