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GEOG 585 - Open Web Mapping

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.


Everyone can make a web map now, but what are the best tools to do so? Maybe you have already created web maps with ArcGIS or Google Maps but have never taken time to have a closer look at open-source software alternatives such as QGIS, GeoServer and Leaflet. Or, are you new to web mapping and looking for the best way to create a web application for spatial data from your job or hobby? If so, GEOG 585, Open Web Mapping, is the right course for you. Learn about FOSS vs. proprietary GIS software, open data and standards for web mapping, and how to create beautiful and interactive web maps with Javascript and Leaflet.


By the end of this course you should be able to:

  • select and apply different free and open source software (FOSS) to support all stages of a web mapping project, from data preparation to web hosting and client-side programming;
  • explain and assess fundamental concepts, approaches & architectures, and common open standards related to web mapping;
  • analyze, evaluate, and adapt existing web mapping applications;
  • design and implement FOSS based interactive web mapping applications with the main purpose of visualizing geographic data;
  • reflect on the potentials, advantages and disadvantages of utilizing FOSS software and open standards compared to proprietary approaches.

Required Materials

The materials listed here represent those that may be included in this course. Students will find a definitive list in the course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.

There is no required textbook for this course.

All software used in this class is open-source software that is freely available for Windows.

To host some of the web map data and applications that you will produce in this class on the web, you will be required to set up an Amazon AWS account, including registering a credit card. Using the AWS S3 cloud storage service will result in some extra costs, but these will be small (<$10 most likely) if you make sure to follow the instructions provided in the lesson materials and posted as announcements on Canvas by the instructor.


This course requires you to do some programming with JavaScript and the Leaflet API. You don’t have to know anything about Leaflet yet, but it is required that you have:

  • Enough formal experience with writing computer programs or scripts that you are comfortable identifying and using fundamental constructs such as variables, loops, decision structures, error handling, objects, and so forth. A B grade or above in GEOG 485 satisfies this prerequisite. Exceptions require equivalent programming experience and instructor approval.
  • Enough experience with JavaScript that you are able to easily identify the above constructs when you see them in a piece of JavaScript code. A B grade or above in GEOG 863 satisfies this prerequisite, or you can do your own preparation using the W3Schools JavaScript tutorial.
  • Enough experience with HTML and CSS that you are easily able to view and interpret the basic elements of page markup, such as the head, body, script tags, and so forth. GEOG 863 satisfies this prerequisite, or you can do your own preparation using the W3Schools HTML tutorial.


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:

  • Weekly Assignments: 50% of total course grade
  • Quizzes: 20% of total course grade
  • Term Project: 30% of total course grade

Course Schedule

Course Schedule
  • Orientation tasks
1Lesson 1: FOSS and its use in web mapping
  • Walkthrough: Installing and exploring QGIS.
  • Responding to FOSS.
2Lesson 2: Designing web services and web maps
  • Walkthrough: Setting up GeoServer.
  • Analyze two web maps.
  • Term project proposal.
3Lesson 3: Storing and processing spatial data with FOSS
  • Walkthrough: Clipping and projecting vector data with QGIS and OGR.
  • Walkthrough: Processing raster data with QGIS and GDAL.
  • Prepare term project data and experiment with GDAL utility.
  • Quiz 1.
4Lesson 4: Drawing and querying maps on the server with WMS
  • Walkthrough: Serving and styling a WMS with GeoServer.
  • Walkthrough: Advanced styling and group layers with WMS.
  • Review a WMS and serve some of your term project data as a WMS.
5Lesson 5: Building tiled maps with FOSS
  • Walkthrough: Creating tiles with GeoServer using GeoWebCache.
  • Walkthrough: Creating tiles with QGIS.
  • Examine tiled maps, then build your own.
6Lesson 6: Putting layers together with a web mapping API
  • Walkthrough: Overlaying a WMS on a tiled map with Leaflet.
  • Overlay your own data in Leaflet and examine real world use of a web mapping API.
  • Quiz 2.
7Lesson 7: Drawing vector layers with the browser
  • Walkthrough: Adding interactive GeoJSON layers in Leaflet.
  • Make your own mashup with a vector layer drawn in the browser.
8Lesson 8: Going beyond “dots on a map”
  • Walkthrough: Making a thematic map with Bootstrap controls and the Leaflet framework.
  • Independent exploration of FOSS.
9Lesson 9: Exploring open data, VGI, and crowdsourcing
  • Walkthrough: Getting source data from OpenStreetMap.
  • Evaluate OpenStreetMap usage and contribute to OpenStreetMap.
  • Quiz 3.
10Lesson 10: Term project
  • Term project video.
  • Term project report and review of project videos of two other students.