Montana State University

PHSX 514-801: Comparative Planetology: Establishing a Virtual Presence in the Solar System

The Office of Continuing Education at Extended University offers both face-to-face and online learning opportunities:

  • Degree Programs
  • Certificate Programs
  • Professional Development
  • Summer Field Study Programs
  • Study Abroad
  • Leisure and Lifelong Learning
  • Youth Programs

Feb 02-Apr 03, 2015
Credit: 3 graduate
Tuition & Fees: $835.50 NSTA members receive a discount.
Instructor(s): Eric Brunsell and Jason Marcks

Register Online

Course Description

Is there ice on Mercury? Why isn't Pluto a planet? As viewed by the modern astronomer, the Solar System includes more than 100 diverse worlds interacting as a dynamic system. This online course for K-12 in-service teachers focuses on fundamental questions driving NASA's exploration of the Solar System: How did it form? What's in it? How is it arranged? What does the study of other worlds (planets, moons, asteroids, and comets) teach us about our own? How do we learn about other worlds? How are these worlds similar and different? How do they interact, forming mini-systems within the Solar System? What are their surfaces, atmospheres, and interiors like, and how do we know? By taking advantage of NASA's virtual presence in the Solar System, course participants will learn about the "new" Solar System and how to engage their students in the wonder of exploration.

Meeting Place and Times

This course is taught online. Course participants login and participate at a time of day that is convenient for them. It is recommended that participants login at least 4 to 5 times per week and plan on spending 13 to 16 hours per week for the 9 weeks the course is in session to successfully complete this course. The time estimate above includes both the time teachers will spend online participating in group discussions and such, and the time spent offline working on assignments, projects, and other activities.


Eric Brunsell, EdD. Intercollege Programs for Science Education, Montana State University

Jason Marcks, MS, MAS, ATP. Aerospace Consultant, Marcks Aerospace. Jason is a former high school Earth and space science teacher, He has a MS in Geoscience and a Masters of Aeronautical Science (MAS) in space launch management. He has served as the professional development director and lead instructor for the Wisconsin Initiative for Math, Science and Technology Education program, the Nevada Science of Aerospace Project, and the Oklahoma Science, Technology, and Education Program. Mr. Marcks is also an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) and instructor pilot for Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation.


Bachelor's degree, professional teaching certificate, and at least one year of K-12 teaching experience. Because the use of technology is integral to the course, some familiarity with using technology in the classroom is required.

Target Audience

K-12 science teachers with at least one year of teaching experience and some familiarity with using technology in the classroom.

Time Commitment:

13-16 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

 Program Fee $25.50
 Computer Fee$10.50
 Distributed Learning Fee$0.00

Participants are on your own to purchase the required text. See information below.

NSTA Members are eligible to receive a 10% discount on tuition. Enter your NSTA Membership Number when you are asked for it on the registration form.

A $30 registration fee is also charged once per semester.

The costs above assume that you are taking only MSU Extended University courses during the semester that the course is offered. If you also registered for courses through the MSU Registrar, the regular MSU fee structure may apply.

A $40 late fee will be assessed if payment is not posted to your account by 3 pm (Mountain Time) of the course start date (or the business day before if the course starts on a weekend or a holiday).

To learn more about tuition and fees, please see the University Business Services' Student Accounts Web page.

Required Books/Materials

  • The Solar System
    8th Edition, by Michael A. Seeds and Dana Backman
    ISBN-10: 1111990654
    ISBN-13: 9781111990657
    Cengage Learning

Teacher/participants are responsible for purchasing the required text for the course on their own before the course begins.

Computer Requirements:

  • Computer running Windows XP Service Pack 3 or newer or Mac OS X.5 (Leopard) or higher
  • CD-ROM drive
  • Internet access
  • Microsoft Powerpoint software

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

For More Information

For specific questions about the course content, contact Dr. Eric Brunsell at, or for questions about registration and other administrative details, call NTEN at (800) 282-6062.

How to Register

Register Online

Campus ToolsStudent E-MailDesire2LearnMy InfoMy MSU PortalMy Passwords