Ron Garan (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Ron Garan (Photo courtesy of NASA)

NASA Astronaut Ron Garan to Lead New UA Online Class

Led by NASA astronaut Ron Garan, UA Online's "Orbital Perspective" class aims to increase global access to science education and provide students with the opportunity to present their work to the United Nations.
March 20, 2017
Extra Info: 

Registration for "The Orbital Perspective" is open. Students interested in taking the course can sign up on Coursera on the corresponding day. To learn more and to watch an introductory video, watch the intro video online.

Ron Garan, a NASA astronaut, has spent 178 days in space, accomplished four spacewalks and logged more than 71 million miles in 2,842 orbits of planet Earth.

And yet, his biggest contribution may not be what he has done in space, but what he is doing back home.

In collaboration with UA Online, the University of Florida and Drexel University, Garan, an affiliate professor in the University of Arizona Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory, will teach and lead "The Orbital Perspective," a massive open online course that explores global problems and solutions, all while providing students with the opportunity to present their work to the United Nations.  

"Ron's background and work as an astronaut makes him one of the few individuals who can offer such a distinctive perspective on Earth," said Chris Impey, associate dean of UA College of Science. "Best of all, our students will be working with the U.N. to make the world a better place to live in."

Together, students will research, crowdsource and provide their input to create a vision of what the world should look like in 2068. This collective effort will culminate in the Earthrise 2068 project and the drafting of a manifesto that will be presented to the United Nations.  

"This is an action course designed to start a global conversation that leads to tangible action," Garan said. "It's special in its ability to create an extraordinary and engaged learning experience that reflects the very best of what online education has to offer."

Such a course is not only innovative but needed in a time when students have limited opportunities to pursue a science degree to meet the high demands of the STEM fields, said Vincent J. Del Casino Jr., vice provost for Digital Learning and Student Engagement and the associate vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.

"Few large, research-intensive universities have made an effort to invest heavily in expanding access to their core science program," Del Casino said. "Through course offerings such as 'The Orbital Perspective' and our Online Science Academy, we're providing educational opportunities for Arizona residents and students worldwide that they otherwise wouldn't have."

Beyond increasing student access, the course also is inventive in its unique design, Impey said. Through the use of cutting-edge technology, including live sessions with Garan and collaborative learning tools such as VoiceThread, the course will foster cross-collaborations with multiple universities.