Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA
Students have a weekly online reading assignment (hosted by SurveyMonkey.com), where they answer questions based on reading their textbook, material covered in previous lectures, opinion questions, and/or asking (anonymous) questions or making (anonymous) comments. Full credit is given for completing the online reading assignment before next week's lecture, regardless if whether their answers are correct/incorrect. Selected results/questions/comments are addressed by the instructor at the start of the following lecture.
The following questions were asked on reading textbook chapters and previewing presentations on runaway planets (Venus and Mars), jovian planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune), and the dwarf planets (and the International Astronomy Union classification scheme).
Selected/edited responses are given below.
Describe something you found interesting from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally interesting for you.
"It was cool that there are a lot of other Pluto-like objects on the outskirts of our solar system."
"The differences between Venus and Earth because of the distance between the sun to either planet and it's terrifying knowing that Earth could have been Venus' fate had it been closer."
"Other planets have volcanos and rocks. I know that is vague but I just thought they were round hard objects with plain surfaces."
"The criteria to whether or not an object is to considered a planet or not. I found this interesting because I had no idea why Pluto was 'discharged' of its title of a planet, but now I know that since it doesn't dominate its orbit it's not a planet."
"Venus' and Mars' greenhouse effects, and how each one is different from Earth's."
Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"The difference between a volcano and a corona--is it just the dried up lava that makes it a corona?"
"Geologic and atmospheric cycles are confusing."
"Planet classification, because it sounds like there are some exceptions."
"Trying to memorize everything about Venus that was being thrown at me was kind of challenging but it was made much easier when I previewed the presentation and read the bit on Venus."
"That Venus and Earth have outgassed similar amounts of carbon dioxide, only Earth's oceans have absorbed a large amount and is possible that Venus may have had oceans when it was young. Venus is now considered to be trapped in a runaway greenhouse effect."
Identify the relative amounts of these characteristics for Venus, compared to Earth. (Only correct responses shown.)
Volcanic outgassing, up until now: about the same as Earth [38%]
Heat from the sun: more than Earth [83%]
Amount of atmosphere, today: more than Earth [62%]
Interior core heat, today: about the same as Earth [35%]
Geologic activity, today: less than Earth [55%]
Identify the relative amounts of these characteristics for Mars, compared to Earth. (Only correct responses shown.)
Volcanic outgassing, up until now: less than Earth [72%]
Heat from the sun: less than Earth [82%]
Amount of atmosphere, today: less than Earth [90%]
Interior core heat, today: less than Earth [90%]
Geologic activity, today: less than Earth [69%]
Which jovian planet has the coolest interior temperatures?
Jupiter (most massive).   *  Saturn (most prominent rings).   *  Uranus (least active weather patterns).   ********************  Neptune (farthest from the sun).   *****  (Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)   ** 
I believe Pluto should be a planet.
Strongly disagree.   **  Disagree.   **********  Neutral.   **********  Agree.   ****  Strongly Agree.   *** 
Briefly explain your answer to the previous question (whether Pluto should be a planet).
"Pluto is round and orbits the sun, but I don't think it dominates its orbit."
"Because the explanation given by the IAU made sense."
"Back in my day, we had nine planets."
"It doesn't change what the thing itself is, just what it's called. Simply fixing a mistake made many, many years ago."
"I don't truly know enough about it to decide."
Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Do you think Pluto should be a planet? And why do you hate Pluto?" (It's not personal--simply, life is just not supposed to be fair.)
"When are we using the telescopes next?" (At the North County campus, we will project the image of the sun during October's partial solar eclipse, just after class that Thursday. And I'll also try to schedule another star night at the telescope shelter to look at the moon.)