Introduction to GIS

Carol Cady

St. Lawrence University
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is the use of computers to manage, display and analyze spatial or geographical information. This course will introduce the basic concepts, functions, and applications of GIS. We will also discuss maps, data sources and management, and geographic techniques, including global positioning systems (GPS), aerial photography, and satellite imagery. Through a series of exercises using ArcView software students will explore the analytical functions of GIS. Each student will develop a GIS project with data appropriate to his/her area of interest.

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

less than 15

Course Context:

This is an introductory course with no pre-requisites, though first-year students are not allowed to enroll. The course includes a 3 hour lab. The course is 5o%+ geology students. This course does not satisfy any general course distribution requirements or major requirements, so some years over half the students are seniors who are floundering around trying to find some marketable skills.

Course Goals:

Define what GISystems and GIScience are
Determine the best way to store spatial data for a specific type of analysis (raster vs. vector)
Understand what metadata is, how to use it to assess data quality, and how to create it
Identify sources of spatial data, web, paper, gps
Determine the appropriate analyses for specific data

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

Weekly lab assignments are given in very general terms. This requires the student to figure out how to apply the skills they used during lab/class to a more real life situation. The students are expected to using real data, not tutorial canned projects. They are asses on how well they meet the requirements of the assignment and how well they display the result in a map, graph or table.

Skills Goals

Communicating with visual displays, in our case maps.
Critical analysis of data sources
Data management

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

Several assignments require students to generate their own data before analysis. They are required to turn in these data at different stages in the analysis. For example as their own raw data, then combined with the rest of class data and somehow standardized, etc. At each stage they are expected to display or produce a result. If the desired result isn't achieved the student can go back and re-do until they get it right.


Students are graded on weekly assignments, two exams and final project. My ideal is for every student to complete every assignment perfectly. To help them achieve that, I allow students to redo almost all assignments without penalty, except the final project. The final project has the time constraint of the end of the semester. This course is about learning how to do GIS.


Carol Intro GIS Syllabus (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 30kB Aug6 10)

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