GIS 120 Introduction to Remote Sensing

Michelle Kinzel

San Diego Mesa College
Two Year College


GISG 120 introduces students to the basics of remote sensing applications, characteristics of remote sensors, electromagnetic radiation and its interactions with remote sensing media, visual interpretation of aerial imagery, digital image analysis and remote sensing applications in academic disciplines and professional industries.
Students of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) who wish to explore collection of environmental data and imagery from remote platforms and explore the basics of visual interpretation, digital analysis and application of remote sensing in industry and academia.

Course URL:
Resource Type: Course Information
Special Interest: GIS
Grade Level: College Lower (13-14)
Course Size:


Course Context:

This introductory course with no prerequisites deals with remote sensing applications, the basics of image acquisition and data analysis used in field of geomatics, as well as conceptual issues involved with collecting data in the electromagnetic spectrum, storing, processing and analyzing remotely sensed datasets and images. The class focuses on learning fundamentals and designing a workflow in remote sensing to solve an environmentally based problem with real-world applications.

Course Goals:

Upon successful completion of the course the student will be able to:
1. Explain remote sensing basic principles, purposes, advantages, and limitations.
2. Define and describe basics of electromagnetic spectrum and interactions with various types of media.
3. Describe industry-specific image sources, collection methods, platforms, sensors and digital image processes.
4. Describe basic characteristics of remote sensing imagery.
5. Desribe sensors and image acquisition methods.
6. Locate and acquire data sources for remote sensing applications.
7. Construct a workflow for image analysis, following appropriate design processes.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The course activities will be a combination of class lectures, group activites, technical tutorials (including tutorials from ENVI and ENVI-EX), laboratory exercises and basic field work. Laboratory instruction will begin with basic buttonlogy involved with using the software platforms ArcGIS, ENVI and ENVI-EX, and progress to a project chosen, designed, implemented and presented by each student that reflects an industry specific workflow involving remote sensing. Examples of appropriate topics for projects might include analysis of habitat loss resulting from a wildfire, assessment of building damage following an earthquake, estimation of crop returns based on health of agricultural stands measured with satellite imagery, and post fire habitat recovery following a wildfire.

Skills Goals

Critical analysis of satellite or aerial imagery

Designing and executing a workflow using remote sensing techiques appropriate to an applied field

Analyzing remotely sensed data using the scientific method to address an inquiry based study

Preparing a formal visual multimedia presentation to communicate the results of a designed workflow and data analysis of remotely sensed imagery

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The course activities will include background reading assignments and lecutre presentations on basic remote sensing principles. The activities will include data searches, and analysis of proven workflows used in real world sitatuions such as the California Wildfires, Haiti Earthquake, and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. After students review work completed by others, in groups and individual assignments, they will complete a proposal to perform a data search, acqusition, and workflow designed to address an environmentally based problem using techniques and methodologies of remote sensing.

Student mastery will be evaluated by the instructor and other students in a peer review of a formal oral presentation. Students will be required to submit a written report, which will be graded by the instructor, and present a multimedia demonstration, which will be graded by all class participants.

Attitudinal Goals

1. Build students confidence in interpreting and assessing remote sensing products and imagery.

2. Encourage students to use remote sensing softwares and products to conduct inquiry based research related to environmental issues.

3. Give students group and peer support in developing appropraite workflows and industry specific skills by prepaing an in depth project, and conducting a critical analysis of their peer's projects.

4. Improve student's views of the accessibility of using remote sensing software and imagery once basic skills have been mastered.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

All activities will begin with introductory topics or basic skills, and progress to complex and advanced analysis and remote sensing processing, with an emphasis on peer teaching, real world experience and group work to make the subject tangible, touchable and real for each student. Individual projects will benefit from input from the instructor and other professionals, and build confidence in each students.


Student learning will be assessed by midterms, technical assignments or laboratory exercises, and a final project grade combined of instructor's grade and overall review of other students in the class. Emphasis will be made on meeting deadlines, communicating work plans and presenting products to classmates as remote sensing peers. This course is designed to teach remote sensing basics to students completing a GIS Certificate Program, and the emphasis of this course will reflect the emphasis of the department, to provide students will skill sets appropriate for entering the work force as a geospatial professional.


Syllabus for GIS 120 Remote Sensing (Acrobat (PDF) 210kB Jun1 10)

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