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  1. #1
    drwetsch is offline Registered User
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    Talking Online Astronomy

    There are two completely onlime master degree programs in Astronomy offered in Australia.

    Swinburne University offer the M.S. in Astronomy at http://www.swin.edu.au/astronomy

    and the University of Western Sydney has a Master of Astronomy (MASTRON)at http://www.nepean.uws.edu.au/astronomy/index.html

    I took th plunge in 1999 and will be completing the UWS program by December 2001 if all goes well.

    For the science minded...

    John



    ------------------
    John R. Wetsch, Ph.D.
    John R. Wetsch, Ph.D.

    B.S. '01 University of North Dakota
    B.S. '84 Excelsior College (USNY/Regents)
    M.A. '89 Antioch University, The McGregor School
    Master of Astronomy, '02, University of Western Sydney
    Ph.D. '94 Nova Southeastern University

  2. #2
    Bob Harris is offline Registered User
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    Following completion of my DL business masters degree I plan to enroll in the Swinburne program (just for fun). Any particular reason why you chose the University of Western Sydney (I don't think Swinburne was offering their program in 1999). Any other comments on the program? I like the selection of course offerings at Swinburne better than Nepean.

    Bob

  3. #3
    Mark A. Sykes is offline Registered User
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    I have seen the two programs myself, and also the much more expensive program at www.space.edu . After I finished my mathematics Bachelor, it's off to UWS I (virtually) go. I am looking forward to it...

    Bob, Swinburne describes its program as catering to the advanced amateur astronomer and specifically not meant as a research degree in preparation for further (i.e., Doctoral) schooling. Both degrees, though, end in a proper, legitimate Master of Science degree.

    We'll probably see this sort of offering from other schools. Hopefully by the time I finish the UWS program, there will be a small selection of astronomy Doctorate programs available, low to medium cost, with a very reasonable residency requirements.

    Mark A. Sykes

    P.S. Dr Wetsch, keep all of us informed about the program, your impression of the rigor, etc. Thank you.

    AIS Sinclair Community College
    BA Thomas Edison State College
    Grad Diploma James Cook University

  4. #4
    Bob Harris is offline Registered User
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    Mark,

    Thanks, I've been aware of the UND program (as well as the other two) for some time as well. I'm particularly hoping UND moves forward with their PhD program. I like the broad range of coursework and specializations in their program. I've often thought of pursuing a second career in Space Science (maybe in about 10 years when I'm 50) as an educator, or lobbyist, or policy think-tank fellow, or employee within a space commercialization company, etc.

    Could you share with me your reasons for choosing Nepean over Swinburne. I'm aware of their (Swinburne) marketing efforts to amateur astronomers but what interested me was their better selection of coursework - seems more in line with the titles one would expect in a BS/MS program in Astronomy. I did my undergraduate and graduate study in physics (was a TA for undergrad physics & Astronomy) and have always wanted to get a degree in astronomy (even if it would be just for fun). I also have no preconceived notion that a Swinburne (or Nepean) Masters degree will get me into some astronomy research position. This will be more for personal interest and satisfaction. And the cost is very attractive for either program.

    Any thoughts on whether or not a Nepean or Swinburne masters degree would be accepted towards a PhD program such as UND?

    P.S. Dr Wetsch, plese keep all of us posted about the program - thanks.

  5. #5
    drwetsch is offline Registered User
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    Originally posted by Bob Harris:
    Following completion of my DL business masters degree I plan to enroll in the Swinburne program (just for fun). Any particular reason why you chose the University of Western Sydney (I don't think Swinburne was offering their program in 1999). Any other comments on the program? I like the selection of course offerings at Swinburne better than Nepean.

    Bob
    The Swinburne program did not exist when I enrolled. However, based on my interest the UWS program provided courses in observational instrumentation with the resources of the UWS observatory supposedly available to students. Swinburne does not appear to offer instrumentation courses. The UWS observatory is robotic and although I have not had any observatory time I hope that it will be avalable for my research project. The UWS courses also utilize simulation software developed by Gettysburg College (located in Virginia) to simulate actual astronomy lab/observatory environments using CCD, spectroscopy, and other equipment and research methods. The first UWS courses were very elementary but the courses do get more advanced and harder as you move through the program. My astrophysics course last term was more math intensive but shied away from using calculus.

    I do agree that the Swinburne program has a greater offering of courses whereas the UWS program is a progression of specified courses leading up to the project.

    I did share some e-mail with the director of the Swinburne program. Both UWS and Swinburne are complimentary of each other.

    The UWS program is also geared to improving astronomy education amongst amateurs, journalists, and teachers . The residential astronomy graduate students at UWS are pursuing M.S. & Ph.D. degrees and not the Master of Astronomy offered online. Although I do not intend to pursue a Ph.D. in astronomy I have been viewing the MASTRON more as a terminal degree and will be interested in learning if online graduates would qualify for admission to Ph.D. study. Who knows -- maybe a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of South Africa?

    My next two courses start up in a couple of weeks. The following term will be my research project of which one of the courses this term is meant to prepare you for the astronomy research. The other course is advanced astronomy instrumentation.

    A related note: In space studies the University of North Dakota offers an online M.S. in Space Studies through its nationally renowned Center for Aerospace Studies. http://www.und.edu

    John




    ------------------
    John R. Wetsch, Ph.D.
    John R. Wetsch, Ph.D.

    B.S. '01 University of North Dakota
    B.S. '84 Excelsior College (USNY/Regents)
    M.A. '89 Antioch University, The McGregor School
    Master of Astronomy, '02, University of Western Sydney
    Ph.D. '94 Nova Southeastern University

  6. #6
    Mark A. Sykes is offline Registered User
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    Bob,

    I have a choice among four potential programs: UND, Swinburne, UWS Napean, and Unisa. Here is my list of points/demerits:

    UND:
    Points - American, regionally accredited, and a more likely entry way into a Doctorate program if and when UND announces it.
    Demerits: Quite expensive, and the concentrations are in space science versus astronomy. Right now I see myself interested in stellar structure, but my vantage point is from the early part of a Bachelor and can certainly change. In any case, UND's concentrations deal variously with management, history , or social impact of a space program versus hard science, and presently that's not where I want to go.

    Swinburne:
    Points - Their Web site presents more information about the program and the classes ('units') are a little more specifically titled than UWS. Affordable.
    Demerits: Their FAQ, in questions 10 and 11, tell me the scope of their program is more for a professional credential for educators or a serious amateur than as preparation for doctoral candidacy. Now, that alone wouldn't stop me because I'm not so sure where I'll be academically after the Master's (and I believe my wife thinks I'll be through after the Bachelor!). However, many of the units of Swinburne's program are similar to what I'll be taking during my Bachelor from Unisa. Here is where I made a judgement call and decided that I would be repeating subject matter more often at Swinburne than UWS.

    UWS Napean:
    Points: Affordable. Their program looks to be more research oriented; the last semester hinges upon a major paper and an independent research project. Swinburne includes two major projects, but they are research papers into specified areas versus new research.
    Demerits: Not much information to go on, including your very important question concerning suitability for admission into another school for continued studies.

    Unisa:
    Points - The most affordable, already a distance MSc and PhD astronomy program, and I believe the best curriculum of all programs discussed so far.
    Demerits - I originally wanted to get the Bachelor in astronomy from Unisa ( http://www.unisa.ac.za/study/info/ca...xes/a/ast.html ). One of the classes, however, is a week-long observing practical performed at the Pretoria campus. I wrote the department head proposing that I conduct a parallel program using my own 'scope and soon-to-be-purchased photometer, plus a few sessions at one of the many robotic CCD-equiped Internet telescopes available to the public for good measure. Unfortunately, the department head said no, that wouldn't really satisfy the requirements of the class; but he would, considering the trouble to travel from Dayton, Ohio to Pretoria, shorten the program from a week to just a single evening.
    So I'm taking math instead, plus every astronomy class besides the practical. To get into Unisa's Master's program, you will need the Honor's Bachelor, and to get the Honor's Bachelor, you will need to have the corresponding Bachelor in that subject area.
    Unisa wants the graduate student to engage promotors locally, and I frankly don't know how I could sell the busy professors of Ohio State upon the idea taking the extra trouble to be an advisor to a student who will probably never enroll in their school. (Note: I've never been a graduate student, and I thorougly don't understand the student/advisor dynamic.) Conclusion: Unisa's program look great, I would love to do it, but there are a couple roadblocks that I don't know how to get by.


    I'm a half-time student, so I'm five years from being eligible to enter a Master's program. Therefore I haven't made a final determination on any graduate program yet, but if I were able to make the move tomorrow, UWS looks like a good choice for me.

    Hope that helps,
    Mark A. Sykes

    AIS Sinclair Community College
    BA Thomas Edison State College
    Grad Diploma James Cook University

  7. #7
    drwetsch is offline Registered User
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    Red face

    Originally posted by drwetsch:

    A related note: In space studies the University of North Dakota offers an online M.S. in Space Studies through its nationally renowned Center for Aerospace Studies. http://www.und.edu

    Oops, it appears that you all already made a better link to he UND program at http://www.space.edu I hadn't checked UND out in awhile so the link didn't connect until I checked it out.

    As a former UND undergraduate I must endorse the program. Go Sioux!

    John






    ------------------
    John R. Wetsch, Ph.D.
    John R. Wetsch, Ph.D.

    B.S. '01 University of North Dakota
    B.S. '84 Excelsior College (USNY/Regents)
    M.A. '89 Antioch University, The McGregor School
    Master of Astronomy, '02, University of Western Sydney
    Ph.D. '94 Nova Southeastern University

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  9. #8
    drwetsch is offline Registered User
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    Thumbs up

    Mark,

    A good overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the programs. Keep us informed of your South Africa experience.

    John
    John R. Wetsch, Ph.D.

    B.S. '01 University of North Dakota
    B.S. '84 Excelsior College (USNY/Regents)
    M.A. '89 Antioch University, The McGregor School
    Master of Astronomy, '02, University of Western Sydney
    Ph.D. '94 Nova Southeastern University

  10. #9
    Bob Harris is offline Registered User
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    Mark, John

    Thank you very much for your overviews and opinions. This is valuable information.

    Bob Harris
    (a guy who has been posting on this board since its inception and on the aed board for a year under a different handle but decided recently to begin using my real identity)

  11. #10
    Mark A. Sykes is offline Registered User
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    Bob,

    Glad to have your input and happy to help.

    Mark A. Sykes
    A telecommuting IT type who has had an academic coming out of the closet and discovered he's more comfortable around scientists, hence all the grad student aspirations.
    AIS Sinclair Community College
    BA Thomas Edison State College
    Grad Diploma James Cook University

  12. #11
    drwetsch is offline Registered User
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    Just wanted to pipe in about the UWS program being applied towards Ph.D. studies. In a UWS discusion board one of the stated goals of the research project is to help prepare students for Ph.D. studies. The AIM program will have its first grads this year so it'll be interesting to see who goes on for the astronomy Ph.D.

    John
    John R. Wetsch, Ph.D.

    B.S. '01 University of North Dakota
    B.S. '84 Excelsior College (USNY/Regents)
    M.A. '89 Antioch University, The McGregor School
    Master of Astronomy, '02, University of Western Sydney
    Ph.D. '94 Nova Southeastern University

  13. #12
    Bob Harris is offline Registered User
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    Originally posted by drwetsch:
    Just wanted to pipe in about the UWS program being applied towards Ph.D. studies. In a UWS discusion board one of the stated goals of the research project is to help prepare students for Ph.D. studies. The AIM program will have its first grads this year so it'll be interesting to see who goes on for the astronomy Ph.D.

    John
    Are you referring to a PhD program at UWS or somewhere else?

    Bob

  14. #13
    Bob Harris is offline Registered User
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    John,

    I have some questions regarding UWS. What kind of projects and assignments are required for each of the courses? Term papers? Exams? Research papers? Internet posting? Also, how much time per week did you spend on completing course assignments? Would you happen to know if individuals who have completed BS and MS degree coursework in physics would be able to bypass the first semester coursework at UWS?

    Thanks in advance.

    Bob

  15. #14
    drwetsch is offline Registered User
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    Originally posted by Bob Harris:
    Are you referring to a PhD program at UWS or somewhere else?

    Bob
    Bob,

    I would expect that it would be for any doctoral program. The program is young and we will have to watch and see.


    Originally posted by Bob Harris:
    John,

    I have some questions regarding UWS. What kind of projects and assignments are required for each of the courses? Term papers? Exams? Research papers? Internet posting?

    With the exception of the research based courses and assignments the greatest focus of the classes are weekly problem solving assignments -- much like taking a physics course. There are also lab assignments where lab reports must be submitted. At the end of the course there is a final exam.

    Also, how much time per week did you spend on completing course assignments? Would you happen to know if individuals who have completed BS and MS degree coursework in physics would be able to bypass the first semester coursework at UWS?


    I would spend from 10 - 20 hrs. per week doing assignments. Having a B.S. in physics would well prepare students for the program but may not allow you to bypass the first semester. With an M.S. and you had taken some astronomy courses you should be able to get some academic credit. I completed my M.A. from Antioch in historical astronomy. I was able to get academic credit for an intro course as well as the History of Astronomy course. My B.S. is in physics from Excelsior (USNY/Regents) and I had taken an astronomy course and an upper level senior course in astrophysics (At UND this course was available for graduate credit) and "I believe" this did help in receiving UWS academic for an intro course.

    Overall, I found UWS very helpful in working with students.

    Best,

    John
    John R. Wetsch, Ph.D.

    B.S. '01 University of North Dakota
    B.S. '84 Excelsior College (USNY/Regents)
    M.A. '89 Antioch University, The McGregor School
    Master of Astronomy, '02, University of Western Sydney
    Ph.D. '94 Nova Southeastern University

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  17. #15
    drwetsch is offline Registered User
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    Just an update....

    I just finished up with a Netmeeting with my professor in the UWS program. We are getting ready to embark on some research projects. Some of the research happenings include study of extra-solar planets, active galactic nuceli, astronomy education , history , and others. Some of the students who have already embarked on their research project are making some discoveries that may be published. There seems to be emphasis in data reduction of radio astronomy data. Thus, the point I want to make it that the later half of the program gets into real professional astronomy and it is quite exciting.

    The next piece of news is that the UWS AIM (Astronomy Internet Masters) or as some call it the "Master of the Universe" degree is growing. UWS is working on AID -- Astronomy Internet Doctor. It will not be a Ph.D. but will be geared towards doing some research and publishing in professional journals but not a full blown dissertation. Not sure what the degree will be -- maybe something like a D. Astron. It sounds like a continuation of the masters program with more research. The program is under development and should be announced soon. I am interested in learning more about the specifics. I think this is very exciting.

    For the science minded...

    John

    John R. Wetsch, Ph.D.

    B.S. '01 University of North Dakota
    B.S. '84 Excelsior College (USNY/Regents)
    M.A. '89 Antioch University, The McGregor School
    Master of Astronomy, '02, University of Western Sydney
    Ph.D. '94 Nova Southeastern University

  18. #16
    Mark A. Sykes is offline Registered User
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    John,

    Thanks for keeping us up to date. I knew there would be more programs by the time I finish my undergraduate program.

    I can't find an announcement of this on the UWS site yet so it must still be in the conceptual stage. I'm interested in seeing how the program will be structured with respect to research, seminars, publication, and mentorship.

    I think a UWS doctorate could potentially be a fine terminal program for someone like me who has a family and mortgage and therefore no hope of moving to Mauna Kea or Arecibo; I'm just curious about the academic viability of a dissertationless Doctor of Astronomy versus the traditional Ph.D.


    Mark A. Sykes
    AIS Sinclair Community College
    BA Thomas Edison State College
    Grad Diploma James Cook University

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