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Distance Education in GIS, LBS, and Geo-Spatial Sciences

Distance Learning is typically thought of as being an Internet-Based Learning and/or training program. Numerous educational institutions, often in conjunction with corporate sponsors, partners, and clients are now offering Web-based educational courses and programs in virtually any field. The GeoCommunity receives numerous requests from individuals for information about distance education programs in GIS. We've responded to this demand by providing a comprehensive summary of a number of programs around the world which have been brought to our attention. If you've taken a distance learning course in GIS, GPS, or another geo-spatial discipline and we haven't listed details of the program here, please feel free to share some information about your experience with us. Send your GIS/LBS Distance Ed. suggestion to editor@geocomm.com -- Printer Friendly Version Here
MSC in GIS from Birckbeck Colege, London - The School of Geography, Birkbeck College offers an advanced and flexible Masters degree in Geographic Information Science (GISc) for professionals and researchers working with geographically referenced data. As the course will be entirely delivered over the Internet by distance learning, no attendance at Birkbeck College in London will be required at any stage of the course, although for those who are resident in the UK or who visit London, facilities for study will be provided. Prerequisite: Applicants to the course will normally need a second class honours degree from a UK university or its international equivalent. The course will run from October to September each year and will consist of 3 course modules

E-mail: m.roy@bbk.ac.uk,Tel: +44 (0)20 7631 6490 (or 6475), Fax: +44 (0)20 7631 6498. School of Geography, Birkbeck College, 7-15 Gresse Street, London W1P 2LL

Curtin University, Australia - The distance learning program in geographic information science provides participants with an open and flexible means of studying the exciting and dynamic field of GIS. The distance units are open to anyone within the GIS Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate programs or to someone who simply wants to learn some GIS and enrols as an extension (external) student.

Courses Currently Offered:
  • Geographic Information Systems 501 (Semesters 1 & 2)
  • Geographic Data Analysis 502 (Semester 2)
  • Spatial Analysis 502 (Semester 1)
  • Spatial Data Handling 502 (Semester 2)

    Students get access to the Curtin Learning Link - a web-based communications system for Curtin distance and open learning students

    Interested students should view the online Distance Ed Handbook. Curtin is located in Perth, WA. The distance ed program can be reached by phone at (08) 9266 2100 or via email at gis@vesta.curtin.edu.au
    GIS distance Education from CRWorld UK and the Kingston Center - The Kingston GIS Professional Training Programme is a complete course in GIS The programme is composed of three modules, which can be taken in sequence as one course, or on their own as independent courses. Each Module consists of 8 units, each with notes, exercises and assignments. Each module is designed to take baout 30 hours of work.

    Modules include:
  • Intro to GIS
  • Practical GIS
  • Management in GIS

    Course Price: Ł449 each

    There are no pre-requisites for these modules. You do not need either A-levels or a degree to enrol on this Programme, however, it is helpful if you are currently working in a GIS environment.

    Kingston University was the first University in Europe to offer both an undergraduate GIS degree and an HND GIS programme. The Distance Learning GIS modules are a full part of this recognised centre for GIS.

    Training Manager, The GeoInformation Group, 307 Cambridge Science Park, Milton Road Cambridge CB4 0ZD, UK, Tel: 01223 425 325, Fax: 01223 425 735, email: training@crworld.co.uk, website: www.crworld.co.uk

    The GIS Administrator, School of Geography, Kingston University, Penrhyn Road, Kingston upon Thames, KT1 2EE, UK, Tel: + 44 (0) 181 547 7508, Fax: + 44 (0) 181 547 7497, email: t.connolly@kingston.ac.uk, website: www.kingston.ac.uk/geog/gis

    Department of Geoinformatics, College of Surveying and Land Management, The University of West Hungary - Postgraduate Diploma Course and Master of Science in GIS in English -- The Postgraduate Diploma in Geographical Information Systems is aimed at professional development by in-service training and as such is focused on the practical knowledge and skills required to design and implement GIS in real situations. The part-time UNIGIS distance-learning Postgraduate Diploma and Master of Science (M.Sc.) programme in GIS of UNIGIS Hungary provides opportunities for professionals to acquire knowledge and skills in the field of GIS, within their existing organisation as well as to increase job mobility.

    H-8000 Székesfehérvár, Pirosalma u. 1-3. Tel: 22 348 271 Fax: 22 327 697 Email: geoinfo@cslm.hu
    Louisiana Tech - Louisiana Tech offers a Distance Learning certificate in GIScience. From their website..."The Distance Learning Certificate in Geographic Information Science is a Continuing Education program delivered via the Internet. The Certificate program is an excellent opportunity for working professionals to gain valuable GIScience training on a flexible schedule without having to travel to attend classes."

    They recommend the following skills from applicants:
  • Experience in the field where you plan to apply GIScience technology (a bachelors degree, or 2 or more years professional experience)
  • Experience working in a windows-based computing environment
  • Experience navigating the Internet Tuition is roughly $480 per class

  • Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
  • Database Creation and Management in GIS
  • Data Integration in GIS: Understanding and Applying
  • Vector and Raster Data Sets
  • Spatial Analysis in GIS

    Contact: Spatial Data Lab, LA Tech School of Forestry, PO Box 10138, Ruston, LA 71272, (318) 257-3714

    Oregon State University - OSU currently offers Geog465/565 - an intro to GIS course via their distance ed. program. Complete lecture material and labs are available online as are bibliographies, past term papers, and a nifty discussion board to keep in touch with distance ed. class mates.
    Johnston Community College - GPS/GIS Technology Program. According to the website..."Johnston Community College proposes to conduct a pilot project designed to restructure the delivery of Geographic Information Science in an attempt to meet the burgeoning need for trained spatial information users in North Carolina. The goal of this project is to provide geographic information science training to the people of North Carolina who have been denied the opportunity." Courses listed include Intro to GIS, GIS/GPS, Advance GIS, raster GIS, Air Photo Interpretation, and many more... a very impressive list!
    Be sure to check out details of the Dr. William A. (Bill) Finch, Jr. Scholarship (PDF). To top it all off, JCC maintains a Virtual Classroom which hosts a number of the distance ed. program resources and learning aids.

    Darryl McGraw
    Dean of Information Technology
    Johnston Community College
    PO Box 2350
    Smithfield, NC 27577
    email: mcgrawdarryl @novell.johnston.cc.nc.us
    voice: (919) 209-2000

    Earth Observing System (EOS) Education Project at The University of Montana - The EOS Education Project disseminates Earth imagery, develops interdisciplinary programs, and deploys advanced technologies to the global K-16 education community. The EOS Education Project combines Web-based technologies and educator workshops for the interpretation, utilization and relevancy of geospatial information. According to Charlotte Lauerman, the K-12 Online Curriculum Instructor for the Earth Observing System (EOS),"...we investigate how geoinformation enhances our exploration and understanding of the diverse and changing landscapes of the world."

    Online courses include; ArcView GIS: GEOG 495.3 Introduction to ArcView GIS, GEOG 495.2 Intermediate ArcView GIS, and GEOG 495.4 Advanced ArcView GIS. These courses are available for three undergraduate or graduate credits, and they are ten weeks in length. The courses are online and instructor led, thus are not self-paced. They are written and taught in a somewhat non-technical fashion, as they are geared towards K-12 school teachers, and hopefully someday school children. These courses are perfect for the person with no GIS or technical background.

    Be sure to check out the following white papers:
    - Geospatial and Internet Technology Integration
    - EOS Technology Strategy

    UNIGIS - A worldwide network of educational institutions offering distance learning courses in GIS. According to their website, institutions within the UNIGIS network offer internationally recognised qualifications for GIS professionals and those seeking to enter the field. Members of the UNIGIS network offer postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and Masters courses in Geographical Information Systems by open and distance learning. Additional information from member schools are provided within this document.

  • Austria - unigis@sbg.ac.at
  • Canada - poiker@sfu.ca
  • Czech Republic - unigis@mendelu.cz
  • Ecuador - unigis.admin@mail.usfq.edu.ec
  • Hungary - mb@geo.cslm.hu
  • Italy - unigisstaff@sit.iuav.unive.it
  • Netherlands - UNIGIS@econ.vu.nl
  • Romania - rgogu@hidro.utcb.ro
  • Russia - simonov@informika.ru
  • S. Africa - nikolaus@ml.petech.ac.za
  • Spain - irene@skywalker.ud.es
  • Sweden - hans@geomatics.kth.se
  • UK - b.heyworth@mmu.ac.uk
  • USA - jpwilson@rcf.usc.edu Tel: 0161 247 1581
    Fax: 0161 247 6344
    Email: UNIGIS@mmu.ac.uk

    Simon Fraser University, UNIGIS - The emphasis of the SFU UniGIS program is on acquiring knowledge of the design and implementation of Geographic Information Systems. It provides the necessary background to understand spatial relations and geographic modelling and to undertake geographic analysis. The program consists of 12 courses, each requiring 70 to 85 hours of study over a two month period. The program is designed to be completed within approximately two years. Admission to the program will be determined by an assessment of the candidate's academic qualifications, work experience and commitment to the field of GIS. Preferred candidates will have a degree from a recognized university or professional institution. In addition, candidates will normally be expected to have appropriate experience working in GIS or a related field.

    Tuition fees are Cdn $1,350 or U.S. $1,025 for each of six 4-month terms which covers all materials and instruction for two courses, or an annual fee of Cdn $4,000 or U.S. $3,000 which covers the costs for six courses.

    Additional Information:
    UniGIS, Department of Geography
    Simon Fraser University
    8888 University Drive
    Burnaby, BC
    Canada V5A 1S6
    Email unigis@sfu.ca
    Telephone 604.291.5095
    Fax 604.291.5098

    USC GIS Distance Learning Certificate Program - This 12-unit (three-course) graduate program leads to a Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Science. Our courses incorporate ESRI Virtual Campus ArcView courses taken by over 70,000 students in 170 countries: Introduction to ArcView GIS (in GEOG-581), Spatial Analyst and Network Analyst (in GEOG-583), and 3-D Analyst (in GEOG-585), or another of your choice. Students complete the ESRI Internet courses in tandem with USC course material. USC pays the ESRI course fee and students recieve the ESRI Course Certificates upon successful completion of each ESRI course.

    Read this article which appeared in ArcNews for more info about the program http://www.usc.edu/dept/geography/learngis/arcnews.html Students taking this course may be eligible for Hope Scholarship And Lifetime Learning Tax Credits

    The University of Colorado ON-LINE MASTER OF ENGINEERING DEGREE - GIS - The University of Colorado at Denver offers an on-line Master of Engineering degree - Geographic Information Systems. The MEng-GIS degree at CU-Denver is multidisciplinary involving Civil Engineering, Geography and Environmental Sciences, Urban and Regional Planning, Computer Science, Applied Mathematics and Engineering Management. The 10-course degree builds on a core curriculum of 7 GIS courses in association with 3 electives in the student’s domain of interest. A GIS Certificate option is also offered. The degree is offered on-line using web-based course instruction and telecommunications technologies. It is possible for a student to complete all degree requirements at distance.

    Lynn E. Johnson, Professor & Director, MEng-GIS Program
    Dept. Civil Engineering, CB 113
    University Colorado at Denver
    1200 Larimer St.
    PO Box 173364, Denver, CO
    Email: Lynn.Johnson@cudenver.edu
    GeographyWeb - Between January 1997 and August 1998, the GeographyWeb project created Internet-based instructional materials and course homepages for Geography Departments at the University of Colorado. This homepage contains links to five geography lessons on the Web.
    University of Huddersfield, Geographical Sciences - In partnership with colleagues from Manchester Metropolitan University and Salford University, the Department offers the unique, 'UNIGIS', programme of studies leading to either a Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or MSc in Geographical Information Systems. The diploma consists on ten modules, eight of which are compulsory.

    To obtain a placein the program you need:
  • a first degree or HND or equivalent,
  • and/or relevant professional qualifications,
  • and/or relevant experience.

    Each application is considered individually on the basis of qualifications and experience, and attitude and degree of commitment are particularly important. Candidates with an inadequate background in Geography, Computing or related studies who are otherwise eligible for admission to the course may be advised to undertake foundation studies. These may include attendance at appropriate courses or recommended reading. The course leader for the UNIGIS programme at Huddersfield is Derek Reeve (Phone : 01484 472246 Email: d.e.reeve@hud.ac.uk)

    Penn State World Campus Certificate in GIS - The Penn State World Campus GIS certificate program is comprised of four courses. Each course involves 40 to 80 hours of student activity (depending on prior computing and GIS experience). The courses are delivered via a combination of information technologies including (but not limited to) Internet/WWW, CD–ROM, e–mail, and print. The World Campus GIS program has a formal partnership with ESRI and relationships with organizations such as Intergraph and the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA). In addition, the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), a division of the American Planning Association, has approved the World Campus GIS certificate program as an AICP–sponsored education program for planners, worth a total of 40 continuing professional development credits. Students must have a high school diploma or its equivalent, and should be familiar with the Windows operating system and the World Wide Web.

    A SpatialNews reader tells us the program consists of four 10 week web-based courses, for 16 continuing education credits. "There are two "tracks", one using GeoMedia Pro and MFWorks, and the other using ArcView and Spatial Analyst. I've taken two of the four courses, and I'm quite pleased with the scope of the program and the quality of the instruction."

    Costs: Courses range from 395 - 995 each and materials including software and books will need to be purchased. It is recommended that students have a minimum, 300 mhz pentium PC with a 15" monitor


    Western Michigan University - Western Michigan University's (WMU) self-instructional courses offer students the opportunity to take courses without limitations of time and place. Courses are developed and approved by University faculty and meet the same high standards as the traditional face-to-face courses. No GIS courses are currently offered, however, several geography courses (credit) are available including Geology of National Parks and Monuments, Human Geography, and Geography of Michigan. Plans are in the works for additional Engineering related courses to be offered.

    UC Riverside - In cooperation with the ESRI Virtual Campus, UC Riverside offers several distance learning modules in GIS. These include;
    - Introduction to ArcInfo Using ArcMap, ArcCatalog and ArcToolbox -A Self-Paced Online Course
    - Introduction to Visual Basic for ESRI Software
    - Introduction to ArcView GIS
    - Introduction to ArcView Spatial Analyst
    - Introduction to ArcView 3D Analyst
    - Introduction to Avenue
    Additionally, the UCR Extension, University of California, Riverside, has scheduled an intensive program July 2-Aug. 31 in Geographic Information Systems. Participants may earn the prestigious UCR Extension certificate in GIS in eight weeks by taking the "full bundle" of 10 courses (prerequisite course is Introduction to ArcView). Details can be found in this Press Release

    University of Leeds School of Geography - The School is one of the top research-based Geography Departments in the UK, gaining a '5' Rating in the Research Assessment Exercise in 1996. They offer a MA/Dip/PgCert in GIS for Business and Service Planning.


    Houston Community College - Dr. Kenneth L. Russell from the Dept. of Geology and GIS Houston Community College informs us that Houston Community College offers "Introduction to GIS/GPS" as a distance education course each semester including summer. This is a four credit course with emphasis on GIS principles and real-world problem solving. It uses ArcView as the main software. More Details are on our web site.

    ESRI's virtual campus - thousands of ESRI users around the world have taken training from ESRI's virtual campus. Select from Introduction to ArcView GIS, Map Projections, What's New in ArcInfo 8 and much more. Be sure to check out the Free course section for dozens of free training modules. Credit from some courses can be applied to the Penn State certificate program in GIS.

    Non-credit courses and online Tutorials

    GIS Self Learning Tool - University of Melbourne - This is a general introduction to GIS, its algorithms and applications. It is not software specific. Shockwave is required for the interactive components. The developers would appreciate feedback. Topics covered include raster overlay, vector and raster analysis, data entry, line generalisation, and more. (Added 05.01.01)

    ArcView Tutorial - Christoph Uhlenküken Prof. Dr. U. Streit, Institute for Geoinformatics, University of Münster, Germany has developed this popular online training module.

    IDRISI Tutorial - IDRISI is a rasterbased GIS & image processing software serving a broad range of tasks. Put together like modules makes this training somewhat similar to the IDRISI package, which consists of approximately 120 single programs, called 'modules'. The tutorial will try to give you an overview to IDRISI's capabilities, and show you some ways how to solve spatial problems. Some background in GIS and fundamentals of GIS are recommended. Developed by Eric Lorup.

    JShape Online Workshop - Online JShape trianing module covering the basics through to complex scripting of this popular Java mapping program.

    NCGIA - The National Center for Geographic Information Analysis (NCGIA) is a research consortium whose main focus is to conduct basic research in geographic information science and its related technology. There are three sites in the consortium: University of California at Santa Barbara, State University of New York at Buffalo, and the University of Maine. They provide core curriculum to assist educators in developing GIS related course content. Comprehensive course material is provided starting with an intro to GIS and the fudamentals, as well as numerous in-depth, topic specific lecture material.

    University of Alberta Environmental Studies Program - Environmental Resource Management Certificate Program, Applied Land Use Planning Certificate Program, Geographic Information Systems, Natural Resources

    GPS training From Trimble - for those of you looking to get some experience with GPS, Trimble offers this online tutorial designed to introduce you to the fundamentals. Start off with how GPS works, then delve into differential GPS, navigation, and GPS mapping.

    The Remote Sensing Tutorial - for those of you looking to get some experience with GPS, Trimble offers this online tutorial designed to introduce you to the fundamentals. Start off with how GPS works, then delve into differential GPS, navigation, and GPS mapping.

    Other Training Options & Resources

    Online course in Physical Geography through the University of Regina
    Geography 221 is an introduction to the physical basis of geography. This course provides a basic understanding of the atmospheric, hydrological, biological and geological processes which account for the earth's landscapes and their geographic variability. The interaction of human and physical processes, in terms of physical constraints and opportunities for land use and human impacts on the physical environment, is also considered. The lab exercises provide an introduction to the quantitative and practical aspects of physical geography. Students must receive permission from the head of the Department of Geography at the University of Regina to take this course. Please contact the Geography office at (306) 585-4222, or send an e-mail to Dr. Randy Widdis, Acting Head (randy.widdis@uregina.ca). Listing Added (08.07.01)

    Destination Lab - A collaboration between the U.S. Space & Rocket Center® and the world's largest independent, nonprofit R&D organization, Stanford Research Institute, International (SRI). With its combination of small classes, mentor-based learning and field work, Destination Lab is designed to address the needs of the GIS novice and the expert. An outgrowth of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, GTAC provides the next step on the learning and training continuum. GTAC's mission is to become the gateway for the dissemination and application of GeoSpatial technologies. One of the first programs to emanate from GTAC is Destination Lab™...a unique field-based, immersive GIS training experience. They boast 3-5 day project-based classes that combine: technology instruction, real-world application exercises, field work and video teleconferencing. See the Press Release.
    NCGIA Core Curriculum in GIS
    This is a resource for educators, however, anyone looking for material to familiarize themselves with GIS should look no further. No credits or certificats to be had here, however, you will find some excellent material for self-learning and teachers can pick and chose some fine material to incorporate into the classroom.

    From the NCGIA "...In keeping with the spirit and success of the original Core Curriculum and to meet the same specific need in the GIS education materials market, the new Core Curriculum will concentrate solely on providing fundamental course content assistance for educators - formally as lecture materials, but adaptable for whatever instructional mode each course instructor wishes to use. Thus, as before, we are not interested in compiling a comprehensive textbook for students, but rather, lecture note outlines similar in structure and content to those used originally. As a "core" curriculum, it is not intended to impose any specific structure or educational objectives. Nor does it imply any required content for GIS courses. Instructors will be encouraged to pick and choose amongst the materials on offer in order to develop courses suited specifically for their own students. Course design remains the responsibility of individual instructors."

    Material Includes:
  • Fundamental Geographic Concepts for GIScience
  • Implementing Geographic Concepts in GISystems
  • Geographic Information Technology in Society
  • Application areas and case studies

    If you would like to contribute to this project, please send a brief email message describing your proposed contribution to giscc@ncgia.ucsb.edu.

    According to their website, Gateway2Earth/AmericaView is a national consortium of universities, colleges, schools, federal, state, local and tribal governments and industry designed to promote the development of the satellite remote sensing industry in the United States through improved access to geospatial data and technology for education and research.

    Gateway2Earth/AmericaView boasts a number of members including educational, commercial, and government partners. Lists of members are posted on the website.

    Third Gateway2Earth Conference at the NASA Stennis Space Center - April 2nd, 2001. Details available at http://www.spacecommerce.com/g2earth/
    OhioView - OhioView is a consortium of state universities, the USGS EROS Data Center, the NASA Glenn Research Center, OhioLINK, The Ohio Supercomputer Center, OARnet, and NREN whose mission is to promote the low-cost distribution of US Government civilian satellite data for public use. OhioView boasts a number of educational and government partner agencies.

    Individuals looking for training material will find several remote sensing courses referenced from the website. Courses include: Getting Started with ER Mapper, Use of Color Composites in Landsat TM Data, Using MultiSpec to create a 3-band composite. There are also a number of K-12 targeted tutorials listed.

    PTEX - The Petroluem Extension Service at the University of Texas at Austin is not strictly a geospatial educational resource, but definitely a related vertical sector. Founded in 1944, PETEX specializes in training field-level personnel, administrative staff at oil and gas companies, and the professionals who support and offer services to the industry. PETEX courses and materials cover topics such as drilling, offshore, pipelines, production, well service and workover, compliance and regulatory, skills training, and others.

    Suggested Links
    If you've developed online GIS courses or taken part in distance learning from any of the institutions listed above, please send us your comments. We'd like to keep building on this section and provide pointers and comments from course participants. Please send e-mail to editor@geocomm.com