Introduction to Geographic Information Systems

Course Leader: Dr Lisa Watson

Home Institution: University of Stavanger, Norway

Course pre-requisites: None.

Course Overview
GEO260 aims to prepare students to read, understand, interpret, and create maps and other products from maps for scientific purposes. At the end of the course, students should have an understanding of what it means to create a map and be able to create a map with new and collected data.

Learning Outcomes
• Construction of maps and understanding their significance
• Interdependence of science and spatial studies
• Be able to apply spatial knowledge and get relevant results by using specialized
software or equipment
• Be able to perform basic spatial analysis functions using specialized software
• Be able to create and interpret maps
General Competence:
• Background in geographic information science that can be used as a basis for
other areas of study
• Have an understanding of geographic information science, including database
theory and cartographic theory
• Be able to communicate and explain geographic information

Course Content
TThe course will cover introductory topics related cartography and geographic information science. The topics are organized as follows:

  • Basic concepts
    • What is GIS and mapping
    • History of mapping
    • Geodesy, projections, coordinate reference systems, and map scales
  • Organization
    • Data organization and structure
    • Remote sensing (general)
    • GPS
    • Downloading GIS data
    • Georeferencing
    • Creating vector and raster data
  • Visualization
    • Basics of map reading
    • Symbology
    • Planning and creating a map
  • Beyond map creation
    • Spatial query
    • Analysis of data
    • Prediction of future spatial relationships

Instructional Method
The course instructor tries to include as many different methods of teaching as possible and reasonable in order to meet the varying needs of students. The three main methods are:
• Interactive lectures based in Mentimeter,
• Hands-on exercises between lecture topics to apply learning, and
• E-lectures which can be accessed for reinforcement of in-class lectures.
Two tests and a group project are used for assessment (below).

Required Course Materials
The course requires the use of QGIS software (open source and freely available online).

GPS units required for the course. Instructor will bring GPS units if these are not available
or compatible.

If UDC does not have access to Canvas or similar, Edmodo (free and online teaching resource) will be used to disseminate course reader and data sets.

Instructional methods and exercises require the use of the Internet


Formal course assessment will be based on three grades:
• 25% - individual test covering theory, limited to multiple choice, matching, and fill-in-the-blank questions;
• 25% - individual test applying theory, where the students must use critical thinking skills and apply what they have learned to scenarios;
• 50% - group project where students collect data and create their own map by applying the skills and knowledge from the course. The group size depends on the number of course participants (2-4).
Informal assessment is made by participation in Mentimeter questions during lecture. The instructor does not have access to individual information and their answers, but students can personally gauge their understanding because correct answers are given immediately. Additionally, between lectures, students are able to apply the lesson of the lecture in a hands-on exercise using the QGIS software.