Robotic v. Simulated v. “The Real Thing”: Student and Faculty Perceptions on Observing


  • C. Renee James Sam Houston State University
  • Scott T. Miller Sam Houston State University


Astronomy Education, Remote Observing, Simulations, Telescope


Astronomy educators have a variety of motivations for including – or not including – some nature of observing in their curricula. Observing components can range from very simple exercises of merely looking at the sky to much richer, more complex projects that give students a complete feel for the process of doing science through engaging in professional astronomy. Moreover, these observations can be performed in person or virtually, with either remote/robotic telescopes or simulators, thus allowing educators greater freedom to incorporate observing in any kind of learning environment. There is a disconnect, however, between the learning goals that astronomy educators have and their students’ perception that these goals have been met. To investigate the usage and effectiveness of various astronomical observing tools intended to promote student learning within an astronomy course, we have surveyed both astronomy educators and university students. Our goals are threefold: 1) to determine the educational objectives instructors have related to astronomical observing and which methods they employ to achieve those objectives, 2) to unveil the perceived barriers to using other observing methods, and 3) to compare how well the student experience of these observations matches the instructor’s objectives and perception of the observing component. We discuss the results of these surveys and address possible resolutions.