Initial Publication Date: May 7, 2007

Implications of GPS on the Student Experience


Integration of GPS receivers and GeoPads can have both positive and negative impacts on undergraduate learning. Some argue that when a GPS is constantly informing the student of their position, the student is less likely to develop strong map reading and field navigation skills. Students dependent on GPS position information face difficulty when limited sky or technical difficulties prevent the GPS from providing a definitive location.


Students benefit from GPS when collecting data along transects or for other systematic surveys. In these situations, the GPS assists the user to stay along a predefined course or to assure that there is consistent data density. For example, a geophysical survey of resistively or magnetic intensity may require data to be collected at relatively systematic positions. In situations where students may become lost, GPS units can also increase student safety. It can also be beneficial for instructors that are connected to their students by wireless networking to be able to keep track of the locations of their students. For students just learning to correlate observed topography to contour maps, it can also be valuable for students to use GIS to confirm if they really are where they think they are.

Image of magnetic data (colored lines) collected along pre-defined transects (grey) in Wyoming. Details