GIS Tech News (#71)

1 Dec, 2008

Technology Aids Distance Learningp>

Many educational institutions and private vendors now offer GIS curricula on line.

By Andrew Roe

Andrew Roe

With most GIS professionals accustomed to scouring the Internet for data, it’s no surprise that many are turning to online sources for education and professional development. A growing number of colleges, universities, and private vendors are offering online courses, and technological advances are helping smooth the sometimes bumpy road of working with large datasets and complex software. But the human element remains a key, elusive factor valued by both students and educators weighing future education options.

The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association lists nearly 200 schools that offer GIS certificate programs — GIS-focused curricula that may or may not be part of an undergraduate degree. Hundreds of others offer at least some GIS courses. Software vendors such as ESRI, Autodesk, and Bentley offer a variety of online education and training, as do a host of third-party providers. ESRI’s virtual campus offers more than 140 courses, many of which are free.

Statistics on the number of online college courses are not readily available, but the list appears to be growing. And some schools, such as the University of Southern California and Penn State University, now offer online graduate degrees.

USC started an online graduate-level GIS program in 2007. Students located anywhere in the world can take courses in spatial data analysis, remote sensing, programming, GPS/GIS field techniques, and other areas. John Wilson, a professor of geography at USC and director of the school’s Geographic Information Science and Technology graduate programs, says the online courses have attracted a new type of student — typically established professionals focused on advancing their careers. “The students [in the online graduate program] are more mature and motivated,” he said.

Long-Distance Student
One USC student, Marilyn Gambone, has taken courses remotely while working as an IT specialist for the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. The ability to take classes from an established university located hundreds of miles away has made graduate work feasible for her. “I do not have to quit work to try and get my master’s degree,” she said. At her day job, she wears several hats, developing database, mobile, and web applications and maintaining a public web site for Hawaii’s National Flood Insurance Program.

USC’s solid reputation in GIS was also attractive to Gambone. “I would not have considered distance learning if I could not trust the university to provide me with the high standard of education I want,” she added.   Read more »

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Cadalyst contributing editor Andrew G. Roe is a licensed civil engineer and president of AGR Associates. He is also the author of Using Visual Basic with AutoCAD, published by Autodesk Press. E-mail him at


Cadalyst Labs Review:

Budget-Conscious Workstations

By Ron LaFon

Cadalyst presents its second workstation roundup of 2008, focusing on budget-conscious workstations for CAD. Little did we realize when we planned this comparative review earlier in the year just how relevant the topic would be at the time of publication. If tough times are falling on your workplace, we hope they are temporary. In the meantime, we offer the following options if a new workstation is a must but your budget is tight.

This month's workstation roundup represents some firsts for Cadalyst Labs and marks the beginning of some changes in how we will evaluate systems. This summer Cadalyst sent invitations to workstation vendors, announcing plans to evaluate economical 64-bit workstations and, for the first time, test them under 64-bit versions of Microsoft Vista. Cadalyst received six workstations from five vendors and put them through their paces. Read more »

Mark Your Calendar: GIS Events

Geomagic Convergence 2009
February 24-26 , 2009
Savannah, Georgia
Geomagic's conference will feature presentations on how Geomagic technology can be used to enable digital shape sampling and processing. Read more »

Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting
March 22-27, 2009
Las Vegas, Nevada
The AAG 2009 meeting will welcome 8,000 geographers, GIS specialists, and environmental scientists from around the world for the latest in research, policy, and applications in geography, sustainability, and GIScience. Read more »

GITA 2009 Geospatial Infrastructure Solutions Conference
April 19-22, 2009
Tampa, Florida
GITA's four-day event will feature more than 100 sessions, half-day seminars, and an extensive products and services exhibition in addition to preconference Knowledge Immersion seminars, user forums, panel discussions, networking socials, and a products and services exhibition. Read more »

Cadalyst's complete list of upcoming events is always available on our Web site. Our sister Web site,, also offers a full calendar of GIS-related events.