Presentation #503.03 in the session “Astronomy Education in a Rapidly Changing World: Best Practices from Research and Instruction”.
Online lab experiences are difficult to recreate in online environments. Though some of that can be filled in with simulations, the in-person help of the instructor is often a key part in ensuring student understanding of the material. A video game, however, where students are guided through a series of missions connected by a narrative, provides a solid foundation for asynchronous lab explorations in an introductory astronomy class. I will report on the implementation of and student feedback from “At Play in the Cosmos: The Video Game” for the lab portion of an online astronomy course in summer and fall of 2020. Through this game format, students learn how astronomical measurements are made with a simplified interface and progressively determine which tools and calculations are appropriate for a given situation. Furthermore, returning to a consistent set of tools over the course of the semester gives students ample opportunity to practice concepts long after they are first introduced. Finally, students report satisfaction at getting to use such a novel educational tool, especially during a particularly trying semester.