Open Planets: Sharing the Solar System

Illustration of the sun (very large) and the first five planets of our solar system moving outward toward the left

Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Resource

Open Planets: Sharing the Solar System is a textbook made up of five modules compiled into a free single resource page for learners of an online course, Planetary Science.

Why We Set Out to Build This Resource

We were struggling to find a current, relevant survey textbook—in this case for our online Planetary Science course. There was no comprehensive, up-to-date publication that met all our needs, so we embarked on building our own. With support from the Brock University Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI), who were looking for new e-learning projects, we began a one-year journey to research and develop a resource that would serve our learning outcomes and that we could share with other interested educators and learners.

We combined our resource with other course elements such as discussion and assessment for a fully online delivery with Brock undergraduate students, and we have now delivered the course twice in partnership with 450 learners.

How We Did It

To complete our resource, we had to invest a lot of trust in each other and upfront time in writing and development. We each worked on different modules and segments and provided each other with feedback along the way. Brock University’s Centre for Pedagogical Innovation, led by Director Jill Grose, shared their outstanding team who were all a pleasure to work with. The instructional designer, Giulia Forsythe, and Manager of eLearning Matt Clare, provided us with support to use the Scalar open sources publishing platform to build and share our final product.

Using Scalar was a key element of our success, as we were able to do all of the writing and multimedia work ourselves. This was empowering to us and aligned well with our development style. The platform was very easy to use and has come very nice features, including the: professional look and feel, ease of adding images and videos, accessibility tools as part of inclusive design (universal design for learning), and ease with which we could update our materials for each delivery. This last point was crucial to success, as we were committed to developing a resource that we could manipulate and ensure would be as up-to-date and engaging as possible.


We welcome any educator who wants to use, adapt, and contribute to the resource: Brock University ERSC 1P94 Planetary Science.


Contributed by

Mariek Schmidt, Frank Fueten, and Rick Cheel, Brock University

Brock University Centre for Pedagogical Innovation


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