ABS Consulting Group, Inc.: Home | Blog | Resume | Speaking | Publications

Thursday, June 2, 2016

GIS Education Weekly: What's Happening at Maine and Kentucky's Online Masters Programs

Programs, Degrees and Courses


I found this question and answer from the Master of Applied Science in Spatial Analysis for Public Health webpage at Johns Hopkins interesting. How do you see the relationship between spatial analysis and GIS this way?
There are many definitions of spatial analysis; broadly, it is any use or interpretation of geographic information. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a component of spatial analysis, but it is more primarily focused on the mapping software as a tool for integrating, manipulating, and displaying spatial data. This program in Spatial Analysis covers a more encompassing set of skills, introducing and reinforcing the spatial science paradigm – a unifying comprehensive approach that includes components of spatial data, Geographic Information Systems and spatial statistics.

Subscribe! Get this GIS education update free, via e-mail, every Thursday!

University of Maine

noted the University of Maine online Masters last week and wanted to share the answers to a few questions I posed. Harlan Onsrud from the School of Computing and Information Science responded. (1) I asked about a reference in the press release to the program being "STEM certified." That, I've learned, is a designation of degrees (pdf) by the Department of Homeland Security. International students who attend those programs can receive special benefits, including staying in the U.S. to do follow up study/work. This designation can also be important to international online students since it can be used to secure funding. (2) I asked "How exactly does the university distinguish [the program] from all the other online Master of GIS Programs? What is unique?"

We believe the distance program to be quite different in that it has a strong focus on technical skills, the primary teaching professors have doctorates in computer science, engineering, psychology, landscape architecture, and law as opposed to geography, and the distance courses are actually taught by these full time faculty (i.e. not adjuncts hired on a course-by-course basis). Thus the statement in the press release that: "Distance students take the same comprehensive graduate course content with the same high-caliber full-time professors as taken by on-campus graduate students."
University of Kentucky (New Maps Plus)

The University of Kentucky's New Maps Plus Master of Science (MS) in Digital Mapping has been approved, but its launch date is unclear, per the text below. When queried about when there'd be news about the future of the degree, @NewMapsPlus pointed to the January 2017 timeframe. In the meantime, the certificate program is up and running.

Note: Admissions to the M.Sc. degree have been delayed due to budgetary uncertainty in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Penn State

Penn State’s Master of Professional Studies in Geodesign held its first exclusively online studio course this past spring. Dr. Michael Flaxman taught the fifteen-week course via a multi-platform distributed virtual classroom environment. The course project focused "the state of Florida due to its status as a major contributor of emissions and its susceptibility to some severe effects of climate change."

UC Davis

Geospatial and Environmental Analysis, the third course in the UC Davis GIS specialization on Coursera, is in review and launches June 13th. h/t @nickrsan

In and Out of the Classroom

In Japan's Chiba prefecture, the police have distributed GIS-based maps to schools that show student commuting routes and spots where students have been injured or killed in traffic accidents. The schools use them to post volunteers to help with safety and have organized students help evaluate the intersections. Ideally, the maps can promote more and better traffic control.

The open source CrowTrax website launched in April, when the Pacific Northwest region’s crows enter prime nesting season. It collects reports of Vancouver area crow attacks. Rick Davidson and  Jim O'Leary, who teach GIS at Langara College developed the site. The map is the basis of a story in the local paper that promotes the school's certificate program.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency launched a new initiative (press release) that places its employees in businesses and academia and invites the reverse. "Known as eNGAge, the NGA geospatial exchange encourages the growth of internal knowledge and capabilities by placing NGA employees in temporary positions within industry and academia and bringing counterparts from those worlds into the agency."

Anthropology 101 students at Kaskaskia College (IL) are creating a GIS-based app for visitors and students that locates the major doors of each campus building. The app should be available for students before the fall 2016 semester and is being developed in conjunction with a National Science Foundation grant.

The Center for Innovative Technology and Virginia Tech’s Center for Geospatial Information and Technology have developed a website to map broadband in the state. Researchers and 33 students are involved.

Navajo Technical University (NM) student Jayvion Chee developed a map of recently drilled oil and gas wells in Navajo Nation and San Juan County. Per an article in the local paper, he used "GIT, or geographic information technology, to show their proximity to communities and major sources of water." Chee's project was funded through an internship with a South Dakota-based geospatial company, Kiksapa Consulting. Chee was named NTU's Student of the Year at the American Indian College Fund's banquet in Minneapolis.

The Modern Blanket Toss, in its third year, brings cohorts of high school students from five Alaska high schools to participate in place-based learning using UAVs, GIS and other technologies.

Google Maps is part of
student created heritage map
of Cambridge, Ontario
Geography and environmental studies students at Wilfrid Laurier University tackle a Capstone Urban Sustainability Project, a partnership between Laurier and the city of Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. This year the project was a heritage map. "The goal wasn't to create an actual working app or website, but Spring said most of the students did or came very close." I see Esri and Google-based story maps among the deliverables.

Eight earth and environmental science E&ES 344 Advanced GIS students at Wesleyan presented posters of their service learning work at the Northeast Arc Users Group (NEARC) Spring Conference, last month at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. The course is part of the Academy for Project-Based Teaching and Learning hosted by the Center for Pedagogical Innovation.

The University of California Riverside School of Medicine (‏@UCRSoM ) shared its story via a story map. The title: UCR SCHOOL OF MEDICINE STORYMAP [sic]. 


Earlier this year, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), part of NIH, awarded San Diego State University a $10 million endowment to improve the infrastructure that supports population health and health disparities research. Among the areas to be developed: geospatial. "Ming-Hsiang Tsou, geography professor and director of SDSU’s Center for Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age, added that the university’s expertise in combining geospatial research with social media will give researchers new insights into how communities understand and respond to their own population health issues."


Autodesk is updating how it packages its software products and Web services for commercial and government users. Beginning August 1, Design & Creation Suites are out and industry collections are in. The industry collections come in three flavors: (1) Architecture, Engineering & Construction, (2) Product Design and (3) Media & Entertainment. The Architecture, Engineering & Construction one includes the products related to geospatial, described as "other software included" after the core products Revit, AutoCAD and Civil 3D: AutoCAD Map 3D, Raster Design and Vehicle Tracking. There are no education offering for collections; Autodesk continues to offer "qualified academic institutions, students, and educators" free annual product subscriptions.

Teaching and Learning Resources

The Census Bureau is offering "Summer Camp" webinars throughout June, July and August that explore its data and tools. They are free and no registration is required.

Videos of presentations from the Esri (UK) Annual Conference held in May are now online.


The Chairman of Esri China (HK) announced the free Map in Learning (MiL) electronic education programme for Hong Kong beginning this month. Modeled after the U.S. ConnectED program, it puts GIS in the hands of K-12 learners. More than 80 schools have already enrolled.

Want to see how organizations have customized the existing story map templates? Look here. h/t @0mgould

Videos of presentations from the Esri (UK) Annual Conference held in May are now online.

What story map authors need to know about the transition from Picasa to Google Photos

University of Redlands students can request a free one-day student pass to the 2016 Esri International User Conference in San Diego (June 27-July 1). The school recommends going to Monday's plenary and offers transportation to the conference that day. 

Worth Reading