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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Esri User Conference Q & A: Notes for Educators

When I worked for GIS publications, I always enjoyed reading the detailed Q&A (HTMLpdf) Esri provided before the User Conference. I want to share share some of the content that's especially relevant to those involved in education. Here's the 2015 article for comparison.

1) What major initiatives will Esri talk about at this year’s User Conference?

These two points from the long list have implications for educators.
1)...Extending GIS to serve the civic community. This is actually being done in the City of Los Angeles with their GeoHub project. This pattern promises to extend the world of GIS to support the entire community (civic, schools, NGOs, businesses, etc.), not just the city.

Esri is positioning the LA GeoHub as a best practice/vision for other jurisdictions. GeoHub is now a product and services offering, so I suspect we'll see more examples rolling out.

Educators (using Esri or other technologies) should be thinking about how to take advantage of, and contribute to, similar projects as they pop up. How can students get involved in real world problems by gathering, publishing and analyzing data? How can students participate in making their communities better places to live?
2) Lifelong learning for GIS professionals (training, MOOCs, books, and communities)
I noted a few weeks ago that there'd be a Lifelong Learning exhibit at the User Conference. The teams behind it include Esri’s Training Services, Education Outreach, Technical Certification, and Young Professionals. Esri is broadening its understanding of education beyond K-16 learners to those starting in, or already holding, positions the geospatial workforce. I think this vision can only provide more tools for those involved in formal and informal K-16 teaching and learning. It also helps unite a variety of efforts that have been rather disparate, including Learn ArcGIS which launched in 2014.

What does Esri mean by a "spatial university?" Is this happening around the world?

The answer identifies four defining characteristics:
  • Spatial thinking across the curriculum.  
  • Geospatial workforce development. 
  • Geo-enabled research.
  • GIS for campus administration. 
What are you doing to support primary and secondary schools

The response recaps the ConnectED initiative and partnerships with GISCI and the AAG. New to me is a reference to a series of books from Collins titled Geographical Enquiries for the upper grades, I think.

What new GIS Learning resources are available from Esri that can help people get started? Who are the target audiences?

As I noted in a recent newsletter,  a companion guide for the ArcGIS Book, the Instructional Guide for the ArcGIS Book will be launched this month (with free copies for Education GIS Conference attendees). There's also a new activity based book on remote sensing,  The ArcGIS Imagery Book, expected later in June.

What is Esri doing in the area of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)?

The three Esri MOOCs (Going Places with Spatial Analysis, The Location Advantage, and Do-It-Yourself Geo Apps) have attracted over 50,000 adult learners from more than 150 countries since fall 2014. "On average, 27% of students completed the courses, which is four times the typical completion rate of other MOOCs." That's telling; this is a motivated set of students!

A new MOOC, Earth Imagery at Work, is expected to launch this fall and its students will use ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Pro, and the new Esri app Drone2Map for ArcGIS.

The calendar is firming up for 2017: "In 2017, we will offer eight MOOCs. These will be scheduled two at a time, in February, April, September, and November." These dates coincide pretty well with the academic calendar in the U.S. I wonder if that's intentional to allow instructors to "assign" the MOOCs.

Other points to note:
  • Esri’s self-paced e-learning (will be free to all users on maintenance in late summer 2016)
  • Web GIS is directly usable and configurable. A GIS user can easily configure and deploy ready-to-use apps or easily develop their own apps using Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS or AppStudio for ArcGIS. Both of these app builders are for non-programmers
There's no mention of Esri U, something that's been hinted at in the past.

That second bullet is interesting because it addresses the fear-inducing question of whether students (in school or lifelong) must learn to program. The implication is that for many customization tasks, the answer is no. It'll be interesting to see how educational institutions position the tools mentioned and programming in their courses and degree programs.