Workshop Overview

Developing problem-solving skills using GIS and remote sensing has become increasingly important for undergraduates majoring in geology and in geology-focused environmental science. Many geology departments, however, do not incorporate GIS and remote sensing into their own curricula but rather send students to other departments for their GIS course work. The result can be frustrating for both students and faculty. This workshop is designed for 1) geology faculty who want to develop GIS and remote sensing courses or modules for their geology courses and 2) faculty who teach GIS and remote sensing in other departments who want to develop relevant geology examples that can be incorporated into general GIS and remote sensing courses to better meet the needs of geology students and to broaden the experiences of other students.

Please note: this workshop is not a training workshop to teach faculty how to use GIS and remote sensing software. Participants must have experience with GIS and/or remote sensing.

Workshop goals

First and foremost, this workshop will help participants develop effective and innovative course materials that focus on analysis, independence, and critical thinking in GIS and remote sensing. In order to accomplish this, participants will:

  • Establish goals for students and, in the context of those goals, develop course materials that reflect best practices in effective teaching and assessment.
  • Review and/or test and provide feedback on at least two activities currently in the Cutting Edge GIS/remote sensing collection.
  • Develop an action plan for implementing the new course and/or course materials and participate in self-reflection and assessment after the implementation.
  • Contribute to the Cutting Edge goals/syllabus database for GIS and remote sensing courses and the online collection of assignments and activities for teaching GIS and remote sensing. Participants will also be invited to participate in a email list for workshop participants.

Format and dates

The events of this workshop are spread out over about six months to give participants time for development, feedback, and testing. The workshop will take place largely on line but will have two face-to-face opportunities, which previous course design workshop participants have found enormously valuable. Here is the schedule:
  • Workshop kick-off: Due to the number of participants in the workshop, we will split the kick-off event into a virtual event and a face-to-face event as outlined below. Those who will attend the face-to-face kickoff on March 19 will not take part in the virtual kickoff on March 13.
    • The virtual kickoff will take place on Sunday, March 13 from 2-6 pm EDT.This synchronous event will take place using Elluminate web conferencing and will give those who cannot attend the face-to-face kickoff an opportunity to interact with other workshop participants in a virtual setting.
    • The face-to-face kickoff will take place on Saturday, March 19, 2011 from 8:30-5:00 pm in Pittsburgh, PA: For those who are able to travel to Pittsburgh, the face-to-face kickoff will be held in conjunction with the NEGSA meeting. We will meet at the Omni William Penn Hotel in the Frick Room on the Conference level.
  • After the kick-off, participants will have three weeks to work on and post the first workshop assignment and receive initial feedback from leaders and other participants.
  • Online synchronous session on Saturday, April 9, 2011, 2-6 pm EDT: This online session will involve discussion and presentation of the next phase of the design process. After the session, participants will have a month to work on and post the second workshop assignment, participate in asynchronous discussions and optional webinars, and receive feedback from leaders and other participants.
  • Online synchronous session on Saturday, May 7, 2011, 2-6 pm EDT: This online session will prepare participants to work over the summer on their design projects. Participants will set goals for summer work.
  • Online synchronous session on Saturday, August 27, 2011, 2-6 pm EDT: This online synchronous session will include an electronic poster session showcasing work that participants have done over the summer.
  • Workshop on teaching GIS and Remote Sensing on Saturday, October 8, 2011, 8:30-5:00 CDT: We will have a one-day workshop at the annual national meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis on using GIS and remote sensing to teach geoscience. This workshop will be open to anyone who wants to register, and the workshop will showcase courses and activities developed by participants in this workshop and in the summer 2010 workshop. We hope that as many participants as possible will be able to attend, and we will have a post-workshop reception for all workshop participants. We realize ,however, that not all will be able to attend.

Flexible opportunities

Over the course of the workshop, we will have optional webinars and synchronous online discussions on a variety of topics of potential interest to participants. These topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Designing activities around open-source software. What are the opportunities? the challenges?
  • Data - where to find it and how to use it.
  • Strategies for preparing students to be independent and to handle ongoing changes in the future.
  • Effective assessment for GIS and remote sensing courses.
  • The affective domain. What role does this/should this play in our GIS/remote sensing courses?
  • Meeting the challenges of integrating GIS into a geo curriculum.

Expectations of all participants

All participants are expected to:
  • Participate in all synchronous workshop sessions. Those unable to travel to the March 19 face-to-face kick-off are expected to participate in the virtual kickoff on March 13 from 2-6 pm EDT.
  • Complete assigned work between scheduled workshops sessions.
  • Post completed assignments by the stipulated deadlines.
  • Receive feedback from workshop leaders and provide feedback to other online participants.
  • Consult individually with workshop leaders via e-mail or phone (optional).
  • Contribute to the Cutting Edge resource collections by reviewing/testing existing items in the collection and submitting new ones.

Application and selection criteria

To be considered for participation in this workshop, an applicant must hold a faculty position at a two- or four-year college or university and must have experience in GIS or remote sensing. This workshop is not a training workshop to teach faculty how to use GIS or remote sensing software. We welcome applications from faculty who teach GIS and remote sensing in departments other than geology departments.

The online workshop is limited to 30 participants, and the final list of participants will be established with the goal of assembling a group representing a wide range of experiences, educational environments, and specialties. Application must be made on line by February 1, 2011 and successful applicants will be notified by February 5, 2011.


The registration fee for this workshop is $50. The cost of the workshop is partially supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation as part of the professional development program On the Cutting Edge. Participants will pay the workshop registration after acceptance to the workshop at the time they confirm their participation.

Further information

Contact Barbara Tewksbury (