Charlton receives inaugural Teaching and Learning with Technology Impact Award

Jane Charlton, professor of astronomy and astrophysics in the Eberly College of Science at Penn State, has received the inaugural 2017 Teaching and Learning with Technology Impact Award.

The award celebrates faculty whose work has significantly enhanced teaching and learning in higher education through the usage of technology. At the same time, the award raises awareness of exemplary and innovative uses of technology by faculty that improve teaching, learning, and scholarship at Penn State and beyond. This in turn can inspire more innovation that enhances the impact of teaching and learning with technology across Penn State, and improve the quality of, access to, and scholarship of teaching and learning with technology.

“As the University embraces transforming education, Jane's work embodies the commitment to creating engaging learning experiences for her students,” Jennifer Sparrow, senior director of Teaching and Learning with Technology, said. “It is an honor for TLT to be able to recognize Jane's work in advancing new approaches to teaching and learning.”

Charlton was recognized for her work creating an updated online version of one of her department’s fundamental courses, Astronomy 001. Astro 001 had existed for decades as a traditional three-credit general education astronomy course. She turned this basic course into a powerhouse of online learning that enabled Penn State to lead the nation in the number of students who have completed such a general education course.

Instead of a typical series of filmed lectures, Charlton envisioned the online version of Astronomy 001 as a course that would appeal to the gamer generation. The first version of the course was developed around a decade ago as a science fiction story-based game, requiring students to role-play and interact with “alien civilizations” as they explore the universe, solve problems, and gather information about the makeup of the universe. This version of the online course was quite successful, enrolling more students than the lecture format Astro 001.

Charlton decided in 2010 to take advantage of the increase in personal computer capabilities and create a new, improved version of the online Astro 001 course that would be more like a typical video game with better graphics. After three challenging years of development, this version of Astro 001 was first offered in spring 2014. The course has proven to be effective as an immersive teaching experience, and has been enthusiastically embraced by students. In fact, approximately 1,500 resident and World Campus students complete the course each year.

“I have encountered many truly outstanding educators at Penn State, but none can match Jane’s passion and creativity,” said Donald Schneider, distinguished professor and head of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, who nominated Charlton.

The 2017 Teaching and Learning with Technology Impact Award is one of many Charlton has received in her career. Charlton received the Annie Jump Cannon Special Commendation Honor from the American Astronomical Society in 1992. She was honored with the Faculty Associates Award for Teaching and Service at Penn State in 1997 and the President's Award for Excellence in Academic Integration at Penn State in 2015. She was also selected to receive one of three Penn State Teaching Fellows Awards for 2015/2016.

Charlton earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and physics at Carnegie Mellon University in 1983. She earned master's and doctoral degrees in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago in 1984 and 1987, respectively. Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Charlton was a research associate in astronomy at Cornell University from 1987 to 1989 and a research associate at the Steward Observatory of the University of Arizona from 1989 to 1992. She became assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State in 1992 and was promoted to associate professor in 1998 and to professor in 2003.

Last Updated May 03, 2017