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Thursday, October 20, 2011

What Geospatial Practitioners Need to Know About the New SPACE Certification

On Tuesday the title of this press release prompted a few articles and tweets: "Digital Quest Announces New National, Industry-Backed Geospatial Certification." I want to unpack this for those who are thinking "Oh no! Not another certification!" This is really in yet another category than the GISP from GISCI, the Esri Technical Certification from Esri, and the the very technical certifications from ASPRS.

First off, who is Digital Quest?
It's a company that develops GIS teaching tools. "Digital Quest is a Mississippi-based development- and training-oriented company enabling educational institutions to provide their students with skill-based training in the growing, vital field of geospatial technology."

Digital Quest already implements a certification program, called Spatial Technology And Remote Sensing aka STARS, developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship. About 300 people are STARS certified; ideally they are prepared for entry level geospatial work after completing a four semester program and an exam. The STARS certification course set is offered, for example at Atlantic Cape Community College (certification Q&A). The program is aligned with the Geospatial Technology Competency Model (GTCM). The courses are taught with Esri software; Esri is a Digital Quest partner.

So, what the new SPACE certification?
Spatial Projects And Community Exchange, aka SPACE, "applies geospatial technology to real, local, community-based projects." The educational program can be taken in a classroom, at work or at home. The twist? "The SPACE series teaches GIS through the eyes of the businesses and government agencies that protect, and increase the efficiency of, citizens’ everyday lives." Students tackle GIS in economic development, homeland security, law enforcement and other areas. Like its sibling, it aligns with the GTCM. The progression, per the press release, suggests this certification precedes the tougher STARS certification, which itself can precede professional certification.

What industry backing?
The Enterprise for Geospatial Solutions (EIGS), Mississippi Enterprise for Technology (MsET), and the Magnolia Business Alliance (MBA) back the certifications. (On the Digital Quest website the term "sponsored" is used.) Those are regionally focused groups, so its possible those in outside the southeast are not familiar with them.

How does this certification impact someone working toward a GIS or geotechnology certificate or degree?
Both of Digital Quest's certification have their own curricula. Most schools currently offer their own certificates or degrees, based on their own curricula (and in time perhaps, these programs will align with the GTCM). Digital Quest notes the difference between its certification and GIS certificate programs here.

How does this certification impact schools looking to teach geotechnology?
It's certainly one way to implement a new geospatial program in a high school or community college, especially one with instructors who are new to geospatial technology. The tagline of Digital Quest is "creating teacher friendly curriculum for the geospatial industry."

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