In Summary

Swinburne University of Technology’s postgraduate online astronomy program has won third prize in the 2014 NOVA awards for online learning excellence for its unit ‘Galaxies and their Place in the Universe’.

The biennial awards, sponsored by Open Universities Australia (OUA), were announced last week at the OUA conference 2014 Education Frontiers Summit in Melbourne.

The winning unit is one of three introductory interactive astronomy units offered by Swinburne Astronomy Online (SAO) that allow students to explore 3D geometries and complex astronomical datasets.

“The unit offers students rich learning materials that include text, images, animations, screencasts and web-links delivered via a content management system integrated with the Blackboard learning management system,” SAO coordinator Dr Glen Mackie said.

“It is enhanced with exercises that let students explore the highly complex structure of galaxy interactions through interactive PDFs.

“We are delighted the quality of the program has been recognised by OUA.”

Swinburne Pro Vice-Chancellor, Learning Transformations, Professor Gilly Salmon, congratulated the SAO team on their achievements.

“Swinburne loves to celebrate all its exemplary online teaching and AST80006 Galaxies and their Place in the Universe is the shining star of learning,” Professor Salmon said.

“We congratulate the team and know that their students will too.”

SAO has been offering a suite of fully online postgraduate degrees in astronomy for fifteen years. In that time more than 400 students from more than 40 countries across the globe, have graduated from the program.

It concentrates on fundamental concepts and key issues in contemporary astronomy and focuses on building student's skills at communicating their science knowledge to others.

An example 3D PDF Galaxy Interactions file, used in the winning unit, can be downloaded here. (It can be viewed using Adobe Reader v8 or higher)

The winning ‘Galaxies and their Place in the Universe’ submission was written by Dr Glen Mackie, Professor Sarah Maddison, Associate Professor Christopher Fluke and Artem Bourov.