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GEOG 6N - Maps and the Geospatial Revolution

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.


The rapid evolution of digital mapping technology via personalized digital mapping applications and location-aware devices has completely transformed how we use place and space to make decisions about human and environmental problems. Geography 6N introduces the fundamentals of cartography, geographic information science, and associated technologies through creating maps and conducting spatial analysis to answer key human and environmental problems. Answering these problems requires you (the student) to integrate artistic and scientific practices in cartography with historical and contemporary perspectives on human and environmental issues to craft maps that tell stories. The course also encourages you to become knowledgeable, critical, and ethical consumers of maps and geographic data produced by government agencies, industry, and the media.


General Education Learning Objectives

  • Effective Communication – the ability to exchange information and ideas in oral, written, and visual form in ways that allow for informed and persuasive discourse that builds trust and respect among those engaged in that exchange, and helps create environments where creative ideas and problem-solving flourish.
  • Critical and Analytical Thinking – the habit of mind characterized by comprehensive exploration of issues, ideas, artifacts, and events before accepting or formulating a conclusion.
  • Integrative Thinking – the ability to synthesize knowledge across multiple domains, modes of inquiry, historical periods, and perspectives, as well as the ability to identify linkages between existing knowledge and new information.

Course Learning Objectives

Geography 6N will help you become knowledgeable and critical consumers of geographic data produced by government agencies, industry, and popular media. Students who successfully complete Geography 6N will be able to:

  • Describe and explain fundamental concepts in Geographic Information Science (GIScience) and related technologies for making maps and solving spatial analysis problems.
  • Explain how and why organizations create and use geographic data, including reference, thematic, and imagery sources.
  • Demonstrate geographic information literacy to identify the kinds of geographic information needed for a particular task, determine whether needed data are available, use relevant technologies to acquire data, and to interpret and explain maps of the data critically.
  • Create digital thematic maps that integrate design, analysis, and scientific knowledge to tell stories about geographic phenomena that impact people and environments.

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

Labs (30%)

Labs consist of hands-on exercises that help you gain experience with digital mapping software. Seven labs are planned for this course. Each week (unless otherwise noted on the syllabus) you will find that week's lab instructions on Canvas.

Exams (30%)

You will have two exams during the course: a midterm and a final. 

Projects (30%)

You will be assigned two projects to assess your skills with making and interpreting maps.

  • A Map Critique assignment, wherein you will critique various aspects of a recent map that you select from online news/media.
  • A Make Your Own Map project, where you will find or collect some geographic data of interest to you and display it on a map using best practices in cartographic design.

Discussions (10%)

Because this class is remote and asynchronous, we'll be replacing typical classroom conversations with online discussions and activities. This is not busywork! Besides the fact that it's part of your grade, research has demonstrated that one of the most effective ways to learn information is to discuss it with other people, so participation is important for your own development. The activities will be fun, and will give you an opportunity to do some hands-on work that will solidify certain concepts.

Course Schedule

Course Schedule
1The Geospatial Revolution: Exploring the recent explosion in new mapping technologies and spatial data sources.
  • Quiz: Academic Integrity
  • Discussion: Let's think about privacy and space
  • Lab 1: Let's Make a Map
2Space, Similarities, and Scale: Describing core concepts in geographic science that made the geospatial revolution possible.
  • Discussion: Lets think about spatial thinking
  • Lab 2: Mapping Change
3Understanding Spatial Data: Identifying key sources of spatial data and probing their possibilities as well as limitations.
  • Discussion 3: Let's think about making spatial data
  • Lab 3: Mapping Disasters
4Making Great Maps: Describing the fundamentals of map design to support storytelling.
  • Discussion: Let's think about map design
  • Lab 4: Making Spatial Data with OpenStreetMap
5Doing Spatial Analysis: Explaining the key processes and pitfalls associated with analyzing spatial patterns.
  • Discussion: Let's think about spatial analysis
  • Lab 5: Mapping Social Media and Making Location Decisions
6Midterm Exam
  • Midterm
7The Earth from Above: Describing key aspects of science and technology that allow us to view our world from the sky and space.
  • Discussion: Let's think about the earth from above
  • Lab 6: 3D Web Mapping
8Web Maps: Identifying what makes web mapping possible and describing where this sector is heading in the future.
  • Discussion: Let's think about mapping on the web
  • Term Project: Part 1 Due
9Politics, Propaganda, and Maps: Exploring maps as a rhetorical and practical tool for advancing political goals: who maps and who is being mapped.
  • Discussion: Let's think about politics and propaganda and maps
  • Lab 7: Making Maps Like a Pro
  • Begin Map Critique
10Making Maps to Make a Living: Explaining the scope of the geospatial profession and exploring the ways in which people make money making maps.
  • Discussion: Let's think about making maps to make a living
  • Term Project: Continued
11Mapping Virtual Worlds: Exploring methods and technologies for mapping beyond 2D to create virtual worlds.
  • Discussion: Let's think about virtual worlds
  • Map Critique: Due
  • Term Project: Continued
12Open Data and Open Mapping: Exploring open-source spatial data and tools to make and share maps and contribute to scientific research.
  • Discussion: Let's think about open data
  • Term Project: Continue
FinalFinal Exam
  • Exam- Final
  • Term Project: Part 2 Due