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GEOG 482 - Making Maps that Matter with GIS

This is a sample syllabus.

This sample syllabus is a representative example of the information and materials included in this course. Information about course assignments, materials, and dates listed here is subject to change at any time. Definitive course details and materials will be available in the official course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


GEOG 482: Making Maps that Matter with GIS. Case studies, student investigations, and projects reveal the scope, impact, and character of the Geospatial Revolution. This is the required introductory course for students who pursue the Post-baccalaureate Certificate in GIS and the Master of GIS degree. (Students with substantial professional experience may be permitted to complete GEOG 581: Spatial Data Science Ethics to satisfy this requirement.)

Despite its widespread use in thousands of organizations worldwide, GIS remains for many an obscure set of technologies and professional practices. Even practicing GIS professionals may have limited awareness of the breadth of the field and its impacts in government, industry, and non-governmental and non-profit organizations. The course uses case studies of meaningful applications of GIS to reveal key topics across the spectrum of industry sectors defined by the U.S. Department of Labor in its Geospatial Technology Competency Model (GTCM): Positioning and Data Acquisition, Analysis and Modeling, and Software and App Development. Topics to be mastered include concepts like positioning frameworks, uncertainty, and geo-enablement, methods, and techniques including GPS positioning, spatial modeling, and geo app development, and relevant ethical, legal, and policy issues such as locational privacy. In addition to topical objectives, the course cultivates competencies associated with lifelong learning, a cornerstone of the GTCM. Students achieve educational objectives by searching, discovering, and evaluating information from a variety of sources, including, but not limited to, the World Wide Web. Those with substantial professional experience are encouraged to share their perspectives. Students develop mastery through class discussions, in which they collaboratively prepare to demonstrate individual mastery in tests. They also learn to craft case studies of their own by creating and presenting story-telling web apps using cloud-based GIS technology. They gain self-knowledge by assessing their individual competencies in relation to the GTCM. The awareness, knowledge and technical skills they gain prepare them for success in programs such as Penn State's Post-baccalaureate Certificate Program in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Master of GIS graduate degree program, and for professional growth.


After the course, students will be prepared to demonstrate:

  • Self-knowledge of their individual strengths and weakness in relation to the foundational, academic, and industry-specific competencies specified in the U.S. Department of Labor's Geospatial Technology Competency Model (GTCM).
  • Familiarity with key topics that span the three industry sectors of the GTCM.
  • Lifelong learning skills, including the ability to investigate topics independently, the ability to work in teams, and the ability to communicate effectively.
  • The ability to use maps and geospatial technology as a story-telling medium.
  • Readiness to use case studies to make compelling arguments on how and why GIS matters.

Required Materials

Typically, there are no required materials for this course. If this changes, students will find a definitive list in the course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.




We have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. How much and how well you learn is dependent on your attitude, diligence, and willingness to ask for clarifications or help when you need them. We are here to help you succeed. Please keep up with the class schedule and take advantage of opportunities to communicate with us and with your fellow students. You can expect to spend an average of 12 – 15 hours per week on class work.

Major Assignments

Students' achievement will be evaluated in relation to three criteria, weighted as follows:

Participation in collaborative research and discussion: ~31%

In the discussions, students are expected to investigate assigned topics independently and to share findings within study groups to collaboratively construct understandings of these topics. Furthermore, students who bring substantial professional experience to the course are encouraged to share that experience with fellow students. Instructors will actively oversee and guide class investigations and discussions.

Performance on quizzes: ~37%

Quizzes are designed to help students hone their abilities to interpret domain-specific terminology and to differentiate the most precise and nuanced statements from flawed but seemingly reasonable alternatives. A series of self-assessment surveys are not graded but serve to bolster students' self-knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses relative to established competency standards.

Performance on mapping projects: ~31%

Finally, students are evaluated on the extent to which they succeed in creating web-based presentations that combine interactive maps, photographs, and text into compelling narratives about their own professional and personal journeys.

Course Schedule

Course Schedule
0Introduction: Why GIS Matters
  • Upload your certificate of completion at the Academic Integrity Summary page.
  • Submit your responses to the GTCM Self-Assessment survey.
  • Sign in to your class ArcGIS Online account, make a web map showing your chosen location, and post a greeting to the class.
  • Take Introductory Quiz
1GIS in the Eradication of Polio in Nigeria
  • Contribute to the Discussion assignment.
  • Take Lesson 1 quiz.
  • Complete the ArcGIS Online assignment.
2A Global Geodetic Reference Frame for Sustainable Development
  • Contribute to the Discussion assignments.
  • Take Lesson 2 quiz.
  • Complete self-assessment assignment.
3Everyday Spatial Analysis
  • Complete ArcGIS assignment.
  • Contribute to the Discussion assignments.
  • Take the Lesson 3 quiz.
4A National Water Model for Flood Prediction and Response
  • Contribute to the Discussion assignments.
  • Take Lesson 4 quiz.
  • Complete self-assessment assignment.
5Rediscovering GIS
  • Start class final project.
  • Contribute to the Discussion assignments.
  • Take Lesson 5 quiz.
6Building a Web GIS Business
  • Contribute to the Discussion assignments.
  • Take Lesson 6 quiz.
  • Complete self-assessment assignment.
7Ethics in GIS
  • Contribute to the Discussion assignments.
  • Take Lesson 7 quiz.
8-10Conclusion: Will GIS Matter in the Internet of Things?
  • Complete and share your Story Map.