GIS and Remote Sensing in the Geosciences

John Wilson

Lafayette College
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


A broad introduction to the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) within the geosciences. The relationships between geography, geology, and society will be pursued. Students will be exposed to both pertinent computer and analytical skills common to GIS, including both field and computer based projects that explore spatial data (regions, rocks), and their associated attributes (feature data).

Course URL:
Resource Type: Course Information
Special Interest: GIS
Grade Level: College Upper (15-16)
Course Size:

less than 15

Course Context:

GEOL 229 is an upper level course, which requires any introductory geology course as a prerequisite. The course is project intensive, with 75% of the course dealing with GIS application, and 25% of the course highlighting the technical background important to GIS.

Course Goals:

Students should be able to use any GIS program regardless of being taught that program
Students should be able to critique maps that they, their peers, or professionals have made
Students should be able to use GIS to solve real-world problems.
Students should be able to design a GIS project from planning to completion
Students should be able to understand technical background to be proficient in use of all GIS related technology

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

Students are given weekly tutorials and projects that provide them with the background in using GIS. The projects assigned give them ample opportunity to develop their proficiency in GIS use, and hone their analytical use of GIS. Students are required to complete two large projects during the semester, which assess those topics. Project one is more cartographic in nature, and assesses their GIS use, and map creation skills. Project two requires them to propose, build and complete a GIS project that has a community impact. This has included working with local townships, watershed associations, and businesses.

Skills Goals

Students are expected to be proficient in working on their projects alone, but they are encouraged to receive support from their peers. This collaboration allows them to problem solve as a group, yet still maintain their individual goals. Students are required to give two presentations during the semester. These are both oral presentations, one being supported by a poster.

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

I can gauge the skills that the students are acquiring based upon the numbers of questions I receive. Students typically ask more questions of me at the beginning of the semester than at the end. This is due to more proficiency in the software, and more involvement in the group troubleshooting sessions that they set-up. As course assignments get more difficult, students are working on more complex projects. These projects have timelines and receivables that must be met. The degree to which students meet these guidelines is a good assessment of whether they are meeting the standards from above.

Attitudinal Goals

The largest attitudinal goal is to give students who are less comfortable with computers and data management, the skills they need to feel comfortable in a computer intensive class.

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

Course requirements build upon common skill sets, and are designed to progress with much overlap to ensure student success and familiarity with computing.


I can assess student learning through two methods. The primary method is the practical assessment. Can the students complete the required materials? There are certain levels of ability that I expect at certain time frames of the course. And it is easy to assess where students are during the course. The second assessment is the analytical assessment. Are the students able to analyze the data provided them and make something out of it. This is a more difficult topic to assess, but typically students build their analytical abilities with each project. When they begin their final project, the have to create a proposal which identifies the items that they are going to analyze. Typically these items are indicative of the level to which are able to analyze the data.


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