Jan 25-Apr 16, 2021
Credit: 3 graduate
Instructor(s): Ron Hellings

Course Description

Registration begins on October 26th - register for CRN 33254.
Astronomy has long been a subject that captures the imagination of young students and provides a framework for teaching many kinds of science. This course, specially designed for practicing science teachers at the middle and high school levels, serves as a survey of topics in astronomy, with special emphasis on the latest advances. The topics are closely aligned with the concepts emphasized in the NRC National Science Education Standards. Our textbook is a very complete, very up-to-date, very readable source that teachers will want to keep as a reference. Students are responsible for acquiring the textbook in time for the first day of class -- see below for details. Our instructional strategy focuses on readings from the textbook, exercises that clarify the concepts and collaborative internet group discussions that correct misunderstandings and deepen insights.

Meeting Place and Times

Teachers login to the course at a time of day that best fits their schedule. It is necessary to connect at least 4 - 6 times per week and spend 10 - 14 hours each week the course is in session working on course requirements, to stay current and successfully complete this 3 credit course. The time estimate above includes both the time teachers will spend online retrieving homework assignments, participating in group discussions, etc. and the time spent offline working on assignments and projects.


Ron Hellings, PhD.
Dr. Hellings is a graduate of Montana State University. After 4 years as a professor at Southern Oregon University and University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Hellings went to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he worked for 25 years as a research scientist. But it bothered him that there was no opportunity to teach at JPL, so he moonlighted for 24 of those years as a part-time Physics professor at Harvey Mudd College, Pomona College, Scripps, Cal Poly, and Mt San Antonio College. He is now back again at MSU as a researcher and teacher, though he recently spent 3 years on loan to NASA Headquarters to serve as the Discipline Scientist for NASA’s Astrophysics Theory Program. His own research is in the areas of General Relativity and Cosmology.


Graduate standing; one year of teaching experience; reliable online service provider and access to Microsoft Word.

Target Audience

Currently certified middle and high school teachers with one year of teaching experience. Community college professors are also welcome!

Time Commitment:

10-14 hours per week. If you are unfamiliar with this field of study and/or method of delivery, you may require more time.

Tuition and Fees

If you are accepted into a qualified online program, see the appropriate MSU Online Only Tuition and Fee table below:

  • Go to the Student Accounts page.
  • On the left navigation bar, click "Tuition & Fee Charts--Current & Historical."
  • Then click "Online Programs Only."
  • Click the link appropriate to your semester and status as a student.

If you are also taking a face-to-face course, please refer to the MSU Fee Schedules.

Required Books/Materials

  • Preferred -
    Roger A. Freedman, University of California, Santa Barbara
    Robert M. Geller, University of California, Santa Barbara
    William J. Kaufmann III, San Diego State University
    W.H. Freeman and Company - A Macmillan Higher Education Company
    Eleventh Edition
    ISBN-10: 1319039448
    ISBN-13: 978-1319039448
    Under $90 used at

    Or -

  • Universe
    Roger A. Freedman, University of California, Santa Barbara
    Robert M. Geller, University of California, Santa Barbara
    William J. Kaufmann III, San Diego State University
    W.H. Freeman and Company - A Macmillan Higher Education Company
    Tenth Edition
    ISBN-10: 1-4641-2492-2
    ISBN-13: 978-1-4641-2492-1
    Please note that this tenth edition differs from previous editions in pagination and question assignment numbers. Older editions should not be used.
    Under $70 used at

Teachers are on their own to pick up a copy of the text before the course begins. The eleventh edition is preferred, but the tenth edition will do.

It is important that you purchase the text and have it in your possession before the course begins, so please order early. The text is not included in the price of the course and must be purchased separately.

Computer Requirements:

  • Internet access
  • A device and browser that pass the system check for Brightspace LE, MSU's learning management system.

This course uses a learning management system. You will learn more closer to the course start date.

For More Information

Regarding registration, please contact NTEN/MSSE by email at

For questions regarding course content, contact Dr. Ron Hellings at

How to Register

You must be accepted as a student to Montana State University to take this course.

Learn how to apply.

After your application has been accepted, you will register via MSU's online registration system, MyInfo.

Registration requires a PIN number. Learn how to find your PIN.

Once you have your PIN, learn how to register through MyInfo.