This has been a busy period with many observational courses using the NOT. This included the on-site course from the Stockholm University (5 nights in May), the NEON school (6 night in June), the master school in CUO/NBI guaranteed time (2 half nights plus 2 full nights in August), and the DARS PhD course (2 half nights plus 5 full nights in August). Furthermore, remote observations with the NOT were made as part of a course at the Moletai observatory in Lithuania (5 half nights in August).
It should be noted here that there is a significant extra staff effort associated with these courses. Apart from the need for some additional preparations, the support during the courses is much more extensive, including the introduction to several instruments compared to a single instrument in a normal observing run plus the need to assist various groups of observers, typically throughout the night. In the specific cases of the remote observing course from Moletai we also had a staff person continuously monitoring the observations, primarily for safety reasons. For these observations, a special remote observing system was developed.
In the mean time we also have had a short (2 hours) training course from Uppsala University observing with FIES and the telescope remotely. Particularly of interest to note in this case is that there wasn't an astronomer from the NOT at Uppsala to assist nor had the tutor at Uppsala use the instrument before. After doing some tests with the observing system using the connection and providing specific documentation in advance, setting-up the connection, starting-up of the system and doing the observations all went very smoothly.
Beyond the evaluations made by the organizers of the different courses, we have also been making our own evaluations based on our own experiences and talking to the tutors and students directly. In general people were very happy with how things were arranged and worked. As far as directly concerning the NOT, the main issue is the need for a better and more timely definition of the specific requirements (e.g., as for the laptops) for each course. Specifically, this should be provided and requested well in advance. Also, some of the practical preparations at the observatory (water supply, cleaning, etc) should be specifically organized in advance.
Related to the courses, one of the NOT staff astronomer was a tutor at the NEON school, and the author of this document was at Moletai during the remote observations to help set-up the system, provide instructions and assist during the observations.
As part of the Moletai course a booklet is being made for which an article was written outlining the general role of education at the NOT and describing in some more detail what we offer for training courses. A copy of this article will be send together with this report.
Currently we are also actively involved in the planning for the June 2009 summer school in Tuorla, Finland. We have agreed the dates, topics, number of students, qualification requirements and most of the teachers already. The web page of the school is already available and the poster is being designed. First announcement of the school will be out soon.
Led by our new NORDFORSK funded post-doc, monthly meetings with the NOT students have been started. The purpose is to integrate the student group more and provide support. Students talk about their science, NOT duties and possible problems there might be. In the first meeting they estimate the state of their thesis and then in forthcoming meetings we look how they have been proceeding.
Thomas Augusteijn 2009-01-15