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Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Look at Esri's SpatiaLABS GIS Lab Projects

Esri announced the new DVD product ahead of this week's Association of American Geographers event in New York City. Per the press release:
SpatiaLABS from Esri Press are independent computer lab activities that introduce, enhance, and reinforce spatial reasoning and analytic skills that apply to a variety of disciplines. Students working with SpatiaLABS use mapping technology and visualization tools, including Esri's ArcGIS software, to solve real-world problems.
There are more than 50 labs on the DVD assigned to three different levels. Documents (intro material, cookbook instructions, bibliography) are delivered in Word format and can be edited as needed. From looking at the the sample labs (provided on the Esri Press website in online magazine format) the data for the labs are available free, online and on the DVD. The advanced level lab required access to Business Analyst Online. Educators are encouraged to host the DVD materials on a central server for students access.

The topics range from watersheds, to air pollution, to urbanization to natural hazards to disease outbreaks, with several clumped in the business and forestry areas. It's not clear from the press release or the website who Esri asked to write/contribute the lessons, but I suspect those details are on the DVD.

The offering is a service rather than a product and priced per year, per campus, per $25,000 of an Esri Educational Site License (if there is one). The cost is $500 per year, per campus, per $25k of site license for those with one or $500 for those without one.  New labs will be added annually for  institutions with a current license of SpatiaLABS.

My Take

I would like to see learning objectives for each lesson. These need not be linked to specific curricula or the GTCM, but would certainly help educators select lessons to fit specific courses.

I'd like to see a forum for feedback and suggestions for each lab. That may be in the works. I did see a tweet from an Esri Ed staffer asking for feedback on the product.

I'm curious how users of other software products might use these resources. It think it'd be valuable to ask advanced students to tackle one of these projects using a "new to them" GIS platform.

I'm curious if the $500 price tag will stick. It's seems like too much work to extract this small fee from schools already paying for a site license. On the other hand, if the writers are not Esri staffers and these fees encourage and pay for contributors continued enhancement of the existing projects and efforts to write new ones, I'm all for it.