GEOG454: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) 

Description:  This course is an introduction to basic Geographic Information Systems (GIS) concepts, using the ArcGIS-ArcView GIS software program. It focuses on developing both a theoretical background in the technology and real-world applications using GIS techniques. Learning objectives will be met by a combination of reading chapters, lecture notes, labs, quizzes, and an individual project.

Instructor: Mr. Jim Chelsvig          Email: 

Expected Outcomes for Student Learning:  At the completion of the class, each student should be able to:  A.)  At an intermediate level, produce a map that demonstrates cartographic theory and proper techniques in GIS applications.  B.) Transfer data provided for examination and correlation to produce functional GIS databases. C.) Evaluate outside data to create functional GIS data sets.  D.) Demonstrate an effective and full command of the available GIS analysis techniques.

Course Materials/Textbook:  Gina Clemmer, The GIS 20: Essential Skills (2nd Edition).  2013   ISBN: 978-1-58948-322-4 

Grading:  Final grades are based upon the total points students receive on quizzes, topics, labs, and projects. The scale below reflects the method applied to calculate final grades.

1. Quizzes: In this course we will have a three quizzes. The individual quizzes will involve students demonstrating mastery of stated concepts from the textbook. 

2. Weekly Topic: Each week of class, you will be given a topic to research the meaning of or find a related article or discussion in class.  Each class will begin with a brief discussion and lecture.  The rest of class is devoted towards actually using the software and doing geography.

3. Labs: You will be doing weekly labs – ten in total (excluding the last five weeks of class) that will be an overview of the week’s lecture. The lab work is extremely important for your understanding of GIS techniques. You will have one week to complete the lab for full credit. Partially completed labs will receive partial credit.  A rubric is provided for each lab activity. 

4. Final Exam/Final Project: As we will learn throughout the semester, GIS is about the doing of geography.  This technology is vital and used throughout our workforce in a variety of ways. The last five weeks of the course will be spent working on a final GIS project. You will find a topic, formulate a question, develop the methodology, find and evaluate the data, and write a final report. On the day of the final exam, each student will present his/her results/project. This project will give you the opportunity to experience true “hands-on” GIS work. Not only will you develop GIS skills, but you will also be able to use this project as part of your resume/portfolio. Detailed information about the project will be given later in the semester.

Make-up Test and Labs:  There will be make-ups allowed for missed labs and quizzes. You may also make changes to labs to improve final scores

Grading Scale:  Student final grades are based upon the total points students receive on test, quizzes, and labs. Final grades will be based on a 90-80-70-60 scale.

Student Expectations:  Each student is expected to attend class and maintain an appropriate pace for class completion.  If your work seems to be falling behind, you are expected to make arrangements to catch-up.  This will mean more time in the lab.  Most students will need extra time outside of the regular meeting time.  Study hall/adv. time will be ideal. 

Instructor Expectations:  Class will be organized in this manner:  Introduction to core concepts with examples through the use of PowerPoint presentations.  Brief discussions will be arranged around this material and related to your weekly topic assignment.  Upon conclusion, students will begin working on the modules/labs provided.  When the modules/labs assigned are completed, a score will be determined in a timely fashion.

Class Meeting Schedule:

16 - 18, 21 - 25 August:  Class introduction.  Each student completes a series of four presentations from ESRI regarding the Power of Maps.  

Keep observations in your typed notes. 

You can find local examples of some of what you read here:  

Chapters 1, 2 completed (Lab One).    Also, refer to Chapter 20 to apply using ArcGIS Online. We will also explore ESRI’s online learning website as related to this material.    

Introduce class, discuss and implement file structure for whole class (both the H and G drives).  Carefully read the text introduction and locate important filesNote the text is posted as a pdf file – and if opened in Adobe, has several annotations that will prove useful.  Begin Chapters 1 and 2 and 20.  All should be completed by the end of the week.  Parts of the Bonus activities will be used to complete Chapters 1 and 2.

Now that you have started the process, check out a GIS “Lite” application for ideas:

Social Explorer:, this web application uses data from this source:

28 August - 1 September:  Chapters 3, 4 completed (Lab Two).  Plus bonus exercisesWeekly Topic:  Map Projections

Be sure you begin a new LAB2 notes document.  Be sure you include research on the topic of map projections.  At least two sources (noted in your notes) are required for full credit.  Due on Friday of this week.  Class discussion is part of the grade.

As part of Chapter 3, you will create another map using data placed in the G drive.  Also, complete this online lesson from ESRI regarding projections.  Log-in is required.  

More for your interest:


4 - 8 September: Chapters 5, 6 completed (Lab Three).    Weekly Topic:  Natural Breaks or Quantile

11-15 September: Chapter 7 completed (Lab Four).  Quiz One in class.  Weekly Topic:  Vector Data

18 - 22 September: Chapter 8, 9, 10 completed (Lab Five).  Weekly Topic:  Geo-coding

Using our ArcGIS Online account, complete Map Voter Data to Plan Your Campaign.  See link for lessons.  This can be completed at home or school:  Try this site for another approach at Geo-coding.  Note limits.

Also - consider checking up on ArcGIS Online.  They make updates and changes regularly.  Here are the most recent ones - that are somewhat relevant to us: 

25 – 29 September: 11, 12 completed (Lab Six).  Weekly Topic:  GPS

2 – 6 October: Chapter 13, 14 completed (Lab Seven).  Weekly Topic:  Raster Data  Using our ArcGIS Online account, complete Evaluate Locations for Mixed-Use Development.  See link for lessons.  This can be completed at home or school:

9 - 13 October: Chapter 15 completed (Lab Eight).  Weekly Topic:  Digitizing  Quiz Two

16 - 20 October: Chapter 16, 17 completed (Lab Nine).  Weekly Topic:  Queries  Using our ArcGIS Online account, complete Bridging the Breast Cancer Divide.  See link for lessons.  This can only be completed at school:  You may complete either the Breast Cancer lesson or the Homeless in the Badlands lesson - by October 27.

23-27 October: Chapter 18, 19 completed (Lab Ten). Weekly Topic:  Buffers, Layers, and Layer Packages  Using our ArcGIS Online account, complete Homeless in the Badlands. See link for lessons.  This can be completed only at school.

30 October – 3 November: Quiz Three in class.  Student Project discussions – guidelines discussed.  Presentation by Shawn Artis about community work.  Local professionals share actual work ideas. Weekly Topic:  Geodatabases.  Using ArcGIS Pro, complete the following lesson.  This must be completed in the school using ArcGIS Pro.  It will take around three hours to complete.  See link:

6 - 10 November: Student Project Work.  Project Plan\Topic: 15 points.

13 -17 November:  Student Project Work.  Project Proposal: 20 points.  All students must partner with a person or organization in the community – connected to this project.  Story Map Selection. 

20 – 21, 27 November - 1 December: Student Project Work.  Project Work Log grade: 30 points.

4 – 8 December: Student Project Work.  Project Work Log grade: 50 points.

11 - 15 December: Student Project Work.  Log grade: 60 points.

Finals.  Final Project Presentation/Paper/Maps.  Paper & Presentation: 100 points.


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