GIS Lab 3 - Coordinate Systems

Margaret E. (Beth) McMillan, University of Arkansas at Little Rock


I use this lab to reinforce the basic concepts of coordinate systems and to introduce the coordinate systems that are commonly used for GIS/GPS in Arkansas.


Type and level of course
This assignment is in my Introduction to GIS course. This course is an upper-level Geology course - required for our Environmental Geology track, elective for our Geology track. It is also required for our Graduate Geospatial Certificate program.

Geoscience background assumed in this assignment
Basic understanding of maps and spatial information.

GIS/remote sensing skills/background assumed in this assignment
Understanding of scale, location, and distance.

Software required for this assignment/activity:
ArcGIS 9.3

Time required for students to complete the assignment:
2-4 hours


GIS/remote sensing techniques students learn in this assignment
They learn how to convert from one coordinate system to another using ArcGIS software.

Other content/concepts goals for this activity
Location using GPS instruments and digital map coordinate pair extraction.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
They must be able to think critically in order to realize that they can convert from decimal degrees to linear distance units. They must utilize quantitative skills to complete conversions. They must synthesize 2-d and 3-d concepts.

Description of the activity/assignment

This lab reinforces the concepts of using coordinate systems for pinpointing locations on Earth's surface. Students are directed to search for background information online as a way to remind them of the concepts, and as a way to help them identify resources for future background help. They follow specific directions for converting between coordinate systems using ArcGIS software. Then they compare distances on the Earth for a local area using GCS units and UTM units. The end goal is to illustrate the utility of projected coordinate systems. Finally, they extract coordinate pairs from their maps and collect GPS coordinates from the same points in order to confirm the connection between GIS and GPS.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Correct form of quantitative calculations and correct reasoning in written answers.
More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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