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The Science of the Solar System

The Science of the Solar System (SciSolSys) is an online introduction to planetary science originally designed for the Coursera platform. At Caltech, I use the Coursera lectures to make a flipped classroom: the students all watch the lectures ahead of time, we discuss and do projects in class. For the Spring term of 2020, we are switching to 100% online. Here is everything you need to be able to use the class for your own remotely-taught high school or college or self study class.

The class is serious, which is not the same as hard. It requires effort, but is not above the head of a high-school-and-above-level student who puts in the effort.

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Who is SciSolSys suited for?

The class is designed to be accessible at any level from about high school through intro graduate studies. I know this sounds like a wide stretch, but it works by having lectures that are generally accessible and then letting an instructor choose appropriate supplemental materials and activities. It can be run instructor-less via Coursera and makes a nice ~5 hour a week class at a ~high school level.

How can I use SciSolSys?

Probably the easiest way is to use the class as hosted on Coursera. The class is divided into 9 one week sessions, with graded quizzes each week and tests at the end of each unit. All enrollees have access to the entire class for free regardless of how much Coursera tries to imply that there might be additional content if you pay. There is not. If you pay (Coursera, not me, I get nothing for this), you do get a nice certificate suitable for printing.

The Coursera class starts April 2nd (because it coincides with Caltech's spring term, and I will be using it for my own class right then!).

If you don't want to be constrained by Coursera, I am posting most of the course here. You will be able to access all of the lectures and I will figure out what else. It's not perfect; Coursera has some nice features that happen inside the app that I can't think of any way to reproduce. But if you need to get to the lectures on your own timeline, or you just want to use some of them, this would be the way to go.

How to use SciSolSys for:

  • Individual learners: Sign up for the Coursera version and start April 2nd. Only pay if for some reason you really really want a certificate (and, really, why?)
  • High school class, using Coursera, with Coursera grading: If you run the class weekly starting APril 2nd, have everyone sign up on Coursera. All quizzes and exams will be automatically graded and somehow we will distribute those grades. Do not have your students pay! Supplement these videos (~3 hours/week) with small group discussions and activities at the appropriate level. In my college-level class we write papers, do group presentations, etc. I will be posting weekly suggestions. I would love suggestions from people who actually teach at the high school level.
  • High school class, homebrew: Use the videos as posted here. Distribute and grade your own quizzes and exams (you can use the ones from Coursera, which I hope to also post here, but you will have to grade them!). Supplement the videos as described above, using the resources described above.
  • College undergrad, Coursera or homebrew: Precisely the same instructions as high school above; with appropriate supplements found below.
  • Grad school: This is me. If you want, you can just use my materials precisely. Coursera is easiest, but homebrew will work.