Reaching for the stars

Online course on astronomy, astrotourism a huge success

07 October 2021 | Tourism

Between 24 August and 21 September 2021, the Universities of Namibia and Oxford jointly offered a free online “Introduction to Astronomy And Astrotourism” (AAA) course to several hundred participants.
The course provided relevant and theoretical information on these topics in the context of Southern Africa, both for local guides to implement and to educate the general public:
With light pollution on the rise, tourists desire to travel to remote areas to experience dark, starry skies. Astrotourism is a growing market, and is sustainable and low-cost to implement. Activities like stargazing, sharing indigenous star lore, visiting observatories and other astronomy-related sites, and doing astrophotography all come under the umbrella of astrotourism.
In order to make astrotourism more accessible, researchers working between the universities of Namibia and Oxford develop this free, introductory course, which covered an introduction to astronomy; Astronomy facilities and research in Southern Africa; Astronomy and astrotourism for development; Stargazing and indigenous astronomy; and Light pollution and dark sky conservation.

Participants
The course received 864 registrations, including 295 (30%) and 77 (9%) who live in Namibia and South Africa, respectively. The majority came from a tourism (35%) or astronomy (28%) background. Namibians and South Africans retained a high participation throughout.
In order to obtain a certificate for their attendance, the participants had to complete some homework assignments and 231 participants were awarded certificates.
Overall, the course reached the desired audience and was thoroughly enjoyed by many: 88% of people who responded to the exit survey said that they are planning to implement the material they have learned.
In the future, the material could be used to produce an (online) booklet, and has the potential to be used for further training. It also holds the potential to be translated into different languages and adapted to other regions and cultures of the World.
This project was led by Prof Garret Cotter (Oxford), Prof Michael Backes and Dr Eli Kasai (both University of Namibia) and the course was facilitated by Dr Hannah Dalgleish (University of Namibia and University of Oxford) and Dr Meghan Hughes (Oxford).
The course material can be found online at: https://darkskytourism.com/aaa/

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