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We often get questions by academic users on how to teach with ArcGIS Enterprise, especially by those who have been teaching with a standalone ArcGIS Server. For anyone new to ArcGIS Enterprise - ArcGIS Server was renamed to ArcGIS Enterprise as of the 10.5 release, to reflects its functional capabilities and a modern Web GIS pattern. ArcGIS Enterprise is how we do Web GIS in an organization’s infrastructure.


We wanted to outline a couple of possibilities in terms of teaching and deployment in the classroom. They are simply scenarios, and we welcome any feedback if anyone has utilized any of these, or other, patterns. Choosing an option will depend on your purpose:


  •      If one wants to empower many instructors and students to participate in innovative educational opportunities, enabled by ArcGIS Enterprise advanced services and capabilities, the first listed option would probably be best. In this case, the instructors or students do not necessarily need to know everything about the underlying technology, they just need to take advantage of the capabilities, once it is setup for them.
  •      If one wants to teach administrative aspects of deploying a technology such as ArcGIS Enterprise, then the second and third options may work better.


Note that there are a number of System Requirements that we need to keep in mind as we teach with ArcGIS Enterprise, specifically the need for Domain Name Service (DNS), Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) and SSL certificates – items that we didn’t necessarily have to think about with the older standalone ArcGIS Server pattern.


  •      ArcGIS Enterprise deployed for a course/program
    •      All students are Publishers in the portal
    •      Everyone leverages advanced services (geocode, image, geoprocessing, etc.)
    •      Everyone leverages advanced capabilities and server roles (GeoEvent/Real Time GIS, GeoAnalytics, Raster Analytics, Business Analyst)
    •      Everyone uses ArcGIS Pro to share to the portal
    •      Enterprise logins (SSO) can be used to alleviate manual student user creation


  •      ArcGIS Enterprise for a course (base ArcGIS Enterprise deployment managed by instructor, students having standalone ArcGIS Server machines, which they will federate with Portal for ArcGIS)
    •      Instructor has the base ArcGIS Enterprise deployment (Portal for ArcGIS, ArcGIS Server, ArcGIS Data Store, 2 ArcGIS Web Adaptors)
    •      If there are 20 students in a course, each of the 20 students will have their own ArcGIS Server machine – they will be Administrators on the Instructor portal and each student will federate his/her ArcGIS Server site to the Instructor portal (so 20 federated servers). They will do this as an exercise, i.e. practice some of the installation steps, but understand the importance of the portal in a modern Web GIS pattern. They will not get to setup the portal homepage and other settings.
    •      Everyone can leverage advanced services and capabilities.
    •      Everyone uses ArcGIS Pro to share to the portal.
    •      Note, this scenario with many federated servers has not been tested (a couple of universities are planning to implement it in Fall 2018) so please do test and share any results if this is your pattern of choice, especially if you have a lot of students in a course.


  •      Every student gets their own ArcGIS Enterprise deployment (students practice administration of ArcGIS Enterprise, including installation, portal setup (homepage, users, and various administrative duties)). We use this option in a "Web GIS" course at Johns Hopkins University, so I’ll take the liberty to document a few details.
    •      Students were given a scenario that they work for the City of X, and were tasked with deploying and administering a Web GIS in the city's infrastructure, to provide apps and capabilities to the city's constituents. They got to install ArcGIS Enterprise, setup the portal, add users, and wear an administrator hat. They really enjoyed it – it was empowering, after they’ve worked with a SaaS such as ArcGIS Online, to be able to do many things on premise themselves, including Real Time GIS!
    •      We leverage AWS as an infrastructure but this could be done on-premise or with other cloud platforms, such as Azure or Google Cloud (GCP). Every student gets a dedicated EC2 instance. We have AWS federated logins and SSO (which means no manual IAM user creation for students – access gets controlled through Active Directory (AD) groups and roles mapped to them). Therefore, students can just login to the AWS console using their student credentials, and they have privileges to start/stop/restart their own instances and no one else’s.
    •      Esri Cloud Formation, Esri ArcGIS Enterprise AMIs or ArcGIS Enterprise Builder can be used in this scenario.
    •      We favored the use of ArcGIS Enterprise Builder deployed by students on a preconfigured AMI we setup beforehand (starting with the standard AWS Windows Server 2016 instance, turning off Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Configuration, setting up Chrome as a default browser, installing Notepad ++, Installing ArcGIS Pro, copying the install executables on the AMI, and a few other tweaks)
    •      We used AWS Route 53 for DNS, our own domain hosted in AWS (such as, and record sets for each student. Let’s Encrypt wildcard cert was used by all students. We could have worked with Central IT to register all student instances with JHU DNS, but they recommended against Elastic IPs, required all internal traffic, which meant the students would have to VPN, which was not ideal for a fully online program, given that our students could be anywhere geographically. Hence, managing everything within AWS appeared to be an easier approach. However, there are many options in terms of networking and fulfilling the system requirements.
    •      At the end of class, we had a DevOps scenario, and students again got to configure a base deployment using Chef Solo (free Chef Client download), and Esri Chef cookbooks, specifically the ArcGIS Enterprise recipe – powerful way to observe Web GIS automation and deploy via a script.


Note that to deploy ArcGIS Enterprise for teaching, licensing will be needed for the ArcGIS Server component as well as the Portal for ArcGIS component. For the Portal for ArcGIS licensing, you will likely need to reach out to your Esri Account Manager and specify the number of named users you’d like to have in your portal. For the last described pattern (each student having their own ArcGIS Enterprise deployment), licensing for the Portal for ArcGIS component would need to be obtained for each student through the ArcGIS Developer Subscription, documented here. Students will get a portal with 5 named users.


If anyone has used the above scenarios, or others, please do share what worked, if any challenges were encountered.



"Web mapping? Sure, I use digital maps!" is a statement I hear fairly often. On the surface, it seems that these two concepts are the same. Indeed, for nearly 20 years, since the 1990s with MapQuest and in the 2000s with maps on mobile devices, interacting with maps in digital form rather than paper has been the more common everyday experience. But I submit that "web mapping" is not the same as simply using maps on the web, whether in health, energy, city planning, or, as is the focus here, in education.


In my view, using maps on the web includes looking up a place name, examining thematic maps such as ocean currents, world biomes, or demographic characteristics by neighborhood across your city, finding the distance between two points on a map, finding the route between two points, mapping locations that you have visited in the field, and so on. Nothing wrong with any of those tasks. Using maps on the web focuses on the "What's Where?" question.

But web mapping's purpose is for examining patterns, relationships, and trends. It examines change over space and time at a variety of scales, and across themes. For example, what is the relationship between the location of mines and water quality across a mountain watershed, or between median age and median income across a city? How does the land use change across a region over time, or the precipitation across a mountain range? All of these questions end with, "And why?" Charles Gritzner wrote a great article about geography being about what is where, why there, and why care.  Web mapping focuses on the "Why there"? and "why care?" part of Gritzner's framework. 


To summarize in tabular form:


Maps on the webWeb Mapping


             Navigation       Navigation
             Visualization       Visualization
       Creating web mapping applications
       Collecting and exploring field-collected data
Where are the field sites I visited?Why does the water quality vary across the field sites I visited?
Where are the younger and less affluent neighborhoods in this city?Is there a spatial and attribute relationship between median age and median income in this city, and if so, what is the relationship, why does it exist, and does it change over time?
Where is the mountain range in a region and what is the precipitation regime across them?How and why does the precipitation regime change across the mountain range?


Using maps on the web is a stepping stone to web mapping, but is not exactly the same as web mapping. They are not exactly the same thing, but there is overlap between them to be sure.


In short, web mapping uses the concept of GIS as a platform, including web, mobile, and desktop, with its analytical, multimedia, and application ability, to its full potential. 


The educational implications of this are many.  How do we teach in this new paradigm of web mapping?  What concepts should we teach, and what skills should we seek to foster?  What tools and data sets should we use?  How should we incorporate new field techniques and apps?  How should we assess student work given the ease of creating web mapping applications such as story maps?  How should our primary, secondary, community college, and university courses and programs change to encompass this new world?  


In addition, Web GIS is not just "more and better" GIS, it also requires new ways of managing GIS. 


All of this is part of the continued shift from desktop-only GIS to web GIS.  This shift involves the movement:

  • from software products to platforms and APIs,
  • from client/server to web services and apps,
  • from standalone desktop to connected devices,
  • from print maps to web maps and data visualizations,
  • from static data to data services, streams, and big data
  • from custom applications to interoperable packages and libraries
  • from a single all purpose application to many pathways and focused apps
  • from proprietary data to open data and shared services.



If all this seems like mere semantics, this is why I believe this matters: Like all of you, I care deeply about meaningful student learning with geotechnologies. To foster spatial and critical thinking with geotechnologies requires more than looking up place names on a map, or routes from a certain point to another point. It requires that we be purposeful about using maps as the analytical, exploratory tools that they are.


Education for a brighter future with GIS

Using the Web GIS paradigm in education and society offers a brighter future for students and the entire planet.

In a recent Ed Summit 2018 workshop on “Best Practices for Administering ArcGIS in Education” we shared a number of recommended workflows applicable to academic setting. Some of the key ideas are below:


  • Web GIS is not just “more and better” GIS, rather a whole new way of doing GIS, which requires new ways of managing GIS.
  • Build bridges with stakeholders within your institution who can facilitate these best practices – collaborate with experts in enterprise systems, identity management, information assurance, etc.
  • Maximize access to ArcGIS and minimize time/cost spent managing ArcGIS - it takes more time to restrict access.
  • Enable enterprise logins, commonly referred to as Single Sign On (SSO), and auto-provision new users for Role (Publisher), Credits, Esri Access, Entitlements, etc. This eliminates manual account creation and management when user status changes (student graduates, faculty retire, staff leave).
  • Enable access for everyone – once SSO is implemented, new users can automatically join and leverage the technology. Consider ArcGIS to be enterprise-level system similar to email, LMS, file servers. 
  • Enable Esri Access for any incoming user as part of auto-provisioning (possible after latest June 2018 ArcGIS Online release) – empowering users to help themselves by getting access to Esri Training, Learn ArcGIS, GeoNet.
  • Enable access to everything – grant entitlements for all common apps (ArcGIS Pro, GeoPlanner, Insights for ArcGIS, Community Analyst, Business Analyst, etc.) for any incoming users (currently done via script). Ensure that any such scripting is enterprise-level – robust, scalable, secure, reliable.
  • Set credit quota – high enough so that users can do their work, low enough to protect them from mistakes.
  • Use a single ArcGIS Online organization, where possible, which avoids impeding collaboration and means reduced combined management workload.
  • Disable offline licensing for ArcGIS Pro via Named User licensing, and instead provide Single-Use licenses for potential offline use cases. 
  • Do nothing as a best practice – no need to delete accounts, delete content, etc. 
    • Rely on official institution sources to track when person’s status changes – students graduate, faculty retire, staff leave – configure SSO to deny access for ineligible users.
    • Do not delete content as there may be dependencies and others may be relying on this content.


We welcome any feedback on the above recommendations!


Peter Knoop (University of Michigan)

Geri Miller (Esri)

"It's the work of freedom." These words by history teacher Mariana Ramirez near the end of the education section of the 2018 Esri User Conference plenary summarize the power of teachers helping students investigate their world. The Math, Science, & Technology Magnet Academy at Roosevelt High School, in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, presented their work on Esri's stage in 2013, and two teachers (Ramirez and English teacher Alice Im) were brought back in 2018 to receive the "Making a Difference" award, because the work their students do is such a powerful model.


Theirs is not a "simple research project" that could be replicated immediately in any given week, or even a month. Teaching under-privileged youth in an inner city public high school sometimes involves helping students facing serious personal responsibilities and family distress, working with English language learners, overcoming difficulties in reading and math, wrestling with layers of "administrivia," coping with inadequate resources, all while covering classroom content. How then does one help students build substantial background knowledge and long-term life skills?


MSTMA at Esri UC 2018

Amid exploding reams of data, often conflicting or unbalanced sources, and shifting and confusing scales of attention and value, what matters is not accumulation of facts but ability to learn -- to ask good questions, handle varied inputs, derive substantive meaning, think critically, make good decisions, and act, singly and in concert with others. Teaching these skills takes all the time, energy, empathy, attention to detail, coaching skill, content expertise, pedagogical experience, planning and adaptability, capacity to tolerate risk and withstand failure, and multi-tasking that a teacher can muster, for dozens of students at a time, typically over 100 on any given day. The best teachers know that education is a process of engagement, not simply delivery. They teach people, not content, and so tweak their interactions scores of times per minute, at once speaking, listening, looking, feeling, cataloguing, digesting, planning, and reacting … explaining here, asking there, cajoling one, praising another … all while helping to erect the scaffolds of knowledge and skill, and the trust with which students frame their view of the world.


MSTMA presents to Esri

Because of its capacity for incorporating limitless types, amounts, and scales of data, GIS is a powerful tool for learning. The MSTMA teachers help students build their skills, then turn the focus to the world they know, asking them to dig deep, seek the data, analyze it, and present their conclusions. It takes time to build the requisite skills, conduct the research, and present to their peers, their teachers, their community, and the broader outside world. But the students recognize the rewards, inside and out, often very quickly, occasionally only over time.


"One person can make a difference … and everybody should try," says Esri president Jack Dangermond at the close, echoing the words of President John F. Kennedy. Anyone in doubt, or anyone simply seeking affirmation, need only watch the video, and then share it. "It's the work of freedom."

I taught a story mapping workshop and a growth in tribal GIS colleges workshop at the Society for Conservation GIS conference, and have attached the slides and activities for these workshops to this essay.  The story mapping workshop covered why to use story maps, how to use story maps, and how to create map tour, swipe, series, map journal, and other types of story maps.  The tribal GIS workshop covered the application of GIS to teaching and learning in Tribal Colleges, the recent 2nd edition of the Tribal GIS book published by Esri Press, and other related topics. 


I created these materials for the annual conference of the Society for Conservation GIS (SCGIS).  SCGIS is a non-profit organization that assists conservationists worldwide in using GIS through communication, networking, scholarships, and training, and it was a pleasure working with the participants.   The themes, tools, and approaches in these materials will be useful to other communities, and I hope you find them useful, too!

Site of the SCGIS conference - Pacific Grove, California.

Site of the SCGIS conference - Pacific Grove, California, and its unique coastal ecosystem. 



Last year I wrote guidelines on how to go beyond the standard base maps available in ArcGIS Online to access others that are now available.  There's plenty to love about standard base maps - satellite imagery, OpenStreetMap, National Geographic, and others, and for the USA, the USGS topographic maps.  But the ability to easily access the unusual and fascinating ones such as Colored Pencil and Antique Modern is interesting and useful in many ways, such as integrating Arts into your STEM instruction (thereby creating "STEAM"), for discussion about cartography, to lend interest to your maps, analysis, and story maps, and much more.


There are additional ways to access these maps over and above the ways I described in my previous essay.  One way is to access a map that contains a set of new custom vector tile base maps, on  Change the base maps simply with the base maps tool.  Grab the URL for the base maps that you are interested in and use it in your own maps - many are listed here:  


The newspaper base map, showing central London.


The newspaper base map, showing central London, but available globally at multiple scales. 


Since ArcGIS is an integrated system (web, desktop, field, enterprise), you can also access these base maps in ArcGIS Pro.  To add one of these base maps to your ArcGIS Pro project, click on the View Tab > Catalog Pane, > Living Atlas > Search 'vector tile basemap', as shown below. 


Adding basemaps to ArcGIS Pro.

Adding one of these fascinating base maps to ArcGIS Pro.


Now challenge yourself and your students to go the extra mile. Now that you are using a variety of different base maps, discussing the merits of each cartographically and artistically, a logical next step is for you and them to create your own base maps.  That's right!  As my colleagues describe in these guidelines, you can edit everything from fill and text symbols to fonts, halos, patterns, transparency, and zoom level visibility!  This is a great way for you to enhance your GIS and cartography skills but also to tap into your creative, artsy side!


For more information, read the GeoNet blogs about vector base maps.   Happy mapping! 


I confess, my favorite is still Colored Pencil.  What's yours? 

During this week as I spend time with 18,000 people at the Esri User Conference and at the Esri Education Summit, several themes have become evident.  First, the GIS education community has enormous energy--they are enthusiastic about the new tools and data at our fingertips, yes, but more importantly, about the task of educating primary, secondary, community college, and university students about how to use GIS effectively to tackle a wide variety of problems.  Second, they are dedicated--many are new to the field, some are 30 year veteran educators, but all are willing to invest the time needed to learn the most effective ways to teach with GIS and teach about GIS.  They see the enormous return on investment--student engagement, job opportunities, community connection, and a wiser, more informed populace.  Third, they model what it is to be a lifelong learner--willing to teach each other and learn from each other in our rapidly changing field and in our rapidly changing world.  At the conference, we heard many inspiring stories and were presented with many models of the use of geotechnologies in the areas of natural hazards, population change, energy, water, health, business, and other application areas that we can use in our instruction. 


For example, at the Education Summit keynote, stories were shared about the progress of GIS in education in the UK and beyond, about how the University of Southern California is understanding aging in the community, and how an innovative masters degree among three universities in Europe was conceived and implemented.  We learned about new imagery, layers in the Living Atlas of the World, new capabilities in field apps, in ArcGIS Pro, in Community Analyst, and in ArcGIS Online that we can use.  We learned about new books such as Cartography and Getting to Know Web GIS, new resources such as the new Esri Training site and the Learn ArcGIS library, that can be accessed again and again.  


Our community is faced with an enormous challenge--to increase the spatial literacy of our students, and by extension, all of society.  But we have excellent tools, excellent data, and most of all--a wonderful and diverse community of people, to meet this challenge for a brighter future.   


Esri User Conference 1

Learning about new tools, resources, and people at the Esri User Conference plenary session.


One of the Young Scholars at the Esri UC

One of the Esri Young Scholars.   They came from all over the world and were truly were inspiring. 


At the Esri User Conference

Learning and growing at the Esri User Conference Expo. 

The Living Atlas of the World is a growing, curated, authoritative set of map content for your projects.  Here are 7 free lessons that use the incredible Living Atlas of the World -…   


These lessons cover a diversity of tools, such as ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online,  ArcGIS Earth--even Adobe Illustrator!  They cover a variety of themes, such as poverty, open space, public safety--even Chinese food delivery!  They cover scales from local to global--electronic stores in Manhattan, child poverty in Detroit, the Vietnam War, aquaculture in Thailand, and more. 


Give these lessons a try as a way of understanding spatial problems, GIS, and data--for yourself, for your students, or both.



One of the 7 Learn ArcGIS lessons using the Living Atlas of the World.

One of the lessons in the set of 7 free lessons that use the Living Atlas of the World.

Like many of you reading this, I love to teach, and every year look forward to teaching hands-on workshops at the Esri Education GIS Summit.  It brings me joy to help educators advance in their GIS journey, and also it is extremely valuable to hear about their concerns, challenges, questions, and success stories.  This year I am serving as a teaching assistant in the story maps workshop and in a GIS for Beginners workshop.  I am also leading two workshops--Spatial Analysis in ArcGIS Online, and Survey123 for Education.  I also have been asked to give a presentation for the Esri Young Professionals Network on GIS in education.  Recognizing that not everyone can attend these sessions, I wanted to make the slides and the hands-on activities available to all via the attachments to this blog.  


1.  GIS for Beginners.  Slides.

2.  GIS for Beginners.  Activities.

3.  Spatial Analysis in ArcGIS Online.  Slides.

4.  Spatial Analysis in ArcGIS Online.  Activities.

5.  Survey123 for Education.  Slides

6.  Survey123 for Education.  Activities.

7.  My notes for my presentation about GIS in education to the Esri Young Professionals Network.


 I look forward to your feedback below, and I hope these resources are helpful.

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