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Thursday, June 9, 2016

GIS Education Weekly: UCLA Extension's One Year Certificate, U-Spatial Grows, Nat Geo Fellow Inspires Lab Schoolers

Programs, Degrees and Courses


UCLA Extension offers a one year GIS certificate (22 Mb PDF brochure). The estimated cost: $8,475.00. I asked some questions of Nick Burkhart, the Academic Coordinator, Geospatial @ UCLA.

1. "Coursework is grounded in the structure of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Geospatial Technology Competency model, which is required for most GIS and geospatial technology industry employees." How is the program related to the GTCM?
...our program was designed with the GTCM in mind, and ... we are continually making a concerted effort to ensure that our courses train students in the core geospatial abilities and knowledge specified in the GTCM and other relevant standards documents.  
He shared a table showing which of the courses are most closely related to core competencies outlined in the GIS Body of Knowledge.

2. Does the program uses both proprietary and open source software?
...we emphasize training in ArcGIS given that it is the industry standard commercial desktop GIS platform, though we do (particularly beginning in our Intermediate GIS course) introduce QGIS and encourage students to develop experience with ArcGIS as well as free and open source alternatives like QGIS.
3. What makes the UCLA Extension GIS certificate program different from other online programs? What is unique?
Several key characteristics distinguish UCLA Extension's online GIS certificate program from other online programs: (1) our program is primarily designed to serve students with little to no prior GIS experience, and (2) our instructional design deviates from the standard step-by-step ArcGIS tutorial-based training model that is so common in university-level GIS education.  The weekly practical exercises in all five of our courses provide students with scaffolded learning experiences wherein students are given the responsibility of thinking critically about process and outcomes.  This form of instructional design encourages development of true mastery of GIS techniques as students are thinking less about which buttons need to be pushed and more about the broader sequence of steps necessary to meet a given objective.  While we are relatively young as a professional certificate program, our certificate program courses are built upon the established GIS curriculum that we use here in the Department of Geography at UCLA.
Eastern Michigan

This fall, Eastern Michigan University will begin offering a residence undergraduate major (I don't yet see the major listed) in geospatial information science and technology.


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Stamen is offering two classes in data visualization and web mapping at its Mission District studio, ​on consecutive Sundays starting June 26. "By registering for both, you will receive a discounted rate at $850 (originally $500 each)." Details and background, and more details and background.

University of Minnesota

In fall 2016 the University of Minnesota is expanding the four year old U-Spatial program from 13 courses to 17. The new courses cover geocomputing, cartography, geovisualization, geodesy and surveying calculations. Two new faculty members joined U-Spatial: Eric Shook from Kent State University and Dr. Someyah Dodge from University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

Western Illinois University

Geography was spared from program cuts at Western Illinois University, but it and several other programs that are continuing will be "revamped."

In and Out of the Classroom

Two workshops introduced teachers, high school students and facilitators in Kazybek village and Kara-Oi village, Naryn province, Kyrgyzstan, to OpenStreetMap to map their communities. The participants mapped 10 villages focusing on basic infrastructure and water related features.

Seniors at the New York City Lab School participated in a semester-long program inspired by the Out of Eden Walk, National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek's epic trek around the world. "Called 'Out of Lab,' the school program began with an introduction to the Out of Eden Walk project via a February Skype conversation with Salopek, who began his journey in 2012 and is now eastward bound through Asia. Salopek encouraged the students to slow down and observe their everyday surroundings more carefully -- a foundational practice that he uses every step of his 21,000 mile journey." They even had a few guest lectures from Jeff Blossom at Harvard about mapping and telling stories.

Trivial Pursuit, A 50-State Adventure! opened Memorial Day weekend, at the Children's Museum in Rocky Mount, NC. The exhibit, which has been on tour around the country, includes hands-on activities and touch-screen trivia game kiosks for students in kindergarten to fifth grade. “The exhibit was created in collaboration with Hasbro Inc. to enlighten audiences about the geography, history and culture of the country’s 50 states and Washington, D.C." It runs until September 18.

The University of Oregon is prepping for graduation and a small track event called the Olympic trials. (Eugene is TrackTown USA for you non-runners!) The InfoGraphics Lab offers a graduation day map (Google MyMap) and a story map (map series) detailing road closures for the days of the trials.

University of British Columbia undergraduate geography student Iain Marjoribanks found that Airbnb is having a major impact on Vancouver's rental housing stock. His study for the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association found out how many people "are just renting out an extra bed here and there, and how many are de facto commercial operators."


Presentations from the first gvSIG Festival, held from May 23rd to 27th, are now online. There are 25 presentations in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish and Russian.

Each month the University of Chicago Press is offering a free e-book in exchange for your e-mail address. This month it's Mark Monmonier's Coast Lines: How Mapmakers Frame the World and Chart Environmental Change. h/t Donna Genzmer.

Packt Publishing, which publishes books on GIS and other software topics, offers a free e-book each day. This past week featured an OpenStreetMap book from 2010. Follow @PacktPub or check this link to learn about each new free offering.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) released updated training materials for its introductory and intermediate courses in crime mapping developed by the NIJ Information and Geospatial Technologies Center of Excellence, through a cooperative agreement with Rand Corporation. The course materials were updated from version 9.3.x to 10.1 of Esri's ArcGIS software. Best I can tell the materials are under an open license or are public domain. (I'll let readers download the 151Mb zip file to find out!)

A workbook based on the GeoAcademy curriculum, called Discover QGIS, is available in a pre-press e-edition (link to buy it; account required, $24.99). The 470 page book is valuable to those involved in community health, per the author.

Want to see one instructor's second year GIS final? Someone posted the question on Reddit/GIS.

Jessica Breen from the University of Kentucky spoke at FOSS4GNA about moving the focus of an intro GIS course from "traditional" software to open source and open data. The video is worth your time if you are considering such a switch. "Open source mapping tools present an opportunity to engage GIS students in critical learning in ways that blackbox tools do not. In this presentation I will discuss the experience of converting a traditional, collegiate “Introduction to GIS” course to exclusively open source tools and data including QGIS and OpenStreetMap."


Amelia Cooper graduated from Simon Fraser University this week with a BA in environmental geography. She has osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition often referred to as brittle bone disease. "Now she is eying a career as a geographic information systems (GIS) technician." Oh yeah!


Per a blog post, the public field-testing of the fifth geoinquiry collection, GeoInquiries for Advanced Environmental Science and Biology, is now open. This collection is targeted at high school biology students and includes 15 cross-curricular activities that tap ArcGIS Online. Here's a story map of the content.

Here's a way that researchers can use a story map, per Michael Gould (@0mgould):  "Researchers: do as this U.Texas scientist did. Publish in peer-review journals AND to the other 99.9% via StoryMaps. [sic]"

Esri supported Hopeworks ‘N Camden’s Promise Zone National Day of Civic Hacking in Camden, New Jersey, this past Saturday. The company joined local tech players to help promising young developers learn software development and interactive mapping. What did the students create? Per the press release, the goal was story maps.

Per Allen Carroll (@allencarroll), coming later this month:  "2 awesome new #StoryMaps apps! Story Map Cascade w/full-screen scroll and Story Map Crowdsource."

Joseph Kerski offers ideas (not lesson plans) of how to use the free (Windows only, desktop) ArcGIS Earth for education in 5 Educational Activities Using ArcGIS Earth.

Esri's Jack and Laura Dangermond are among the 17 new signatories to the Giving Pledge. "The Giving Pledge is a multi-generational, global initiative created by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates that encourages billionaires to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes." I suspect/hope/would be delighted if some of donations went to geography and GIS educational efforts.

There's a two page "road map" PDF for those attending the Esri Education GIS Conference. Among the events listed is the Lifelong Learning Showcase/Exhibit. You can read about Esri's support for lifelong learning on the Esri Insider Blog.

Quote of the Week
MOOC platforms are making classes small, spendy, and mentored. Should focus on innovating to tackle scale instead of running from it. 
Anthony Robinson (‏@A_C_Robinson) on Twitter. See also: Future MOOCs might not be Free.

Ask Three Before Me

I learned about the phrase "Ask Three Before Me" at EdCamp a few years back. The idea is that students are welcome to ask the instructor a question about a project or assignment, but only after asking three fellow students. Most of the attendees at my local (Boston) EdCamp teach K-12, but I can certainly see this working in higher education, including in GIS labs!

I was thinking about this phrase because this week I saw two examples of GIS practitioners reaching out on social media to find answers to their questions. Neither seems to have asked anyone, even a search engine, for input.

One person, from the UK and who, based on a photo, has some kind of degree, posted this question in response to a link to an Esri blog post about ArcGIS Earth: "does anybody have a link to download ArcGIS earth? is it free?" The post included those very details in its first sentence! Still, fellow GIS folks are trying to respond. As I write this, they've confirmed it's free but are still looking for the download link.

Another person, a GIS technician with about 10 years of experience in GIS, asked about free geospatial data for New York City. There was no mention of any sort of Web search. I appreciate the respectful reply from an Esri-NY staffer, my former colleague, Dave LaShell.

I want to point out "three before me" to help our community better serve students and peers. I encourage responders to consider challenging such queries with "What have you tried? Who have you asked? Where have you looked?" I see that occasionally on Reddit/GIS, and would love to see it on other platforms including LinkedIn, Facebook, and e-mail lists.

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