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Given that location matters in business, and that Esri location analytics tools and geospatial data are increasingly used in business workplaces, how can faculty effectively teach principles and applications in location analytics?  This blog, which will be refreshed often, aims to assist business faculty in fostering critical thinking skills, spatial analytics skills, and problem solving in their students. 


This essay includes:

  • 10 key messages for faculty to share with colleagues and students about why location analytics matters to business education.
  • Hands on activities aimed to foster location analytics skills, including a Learn Path.
  • A syllabus for a short workshop on location analytics. 


For more information, see the Location Analytics in Business Education landing page.  

10 Key Messages 


  1. Businesses exist to add value.
  2. Location is vital to all aspects of business.
  3. Location analytics adds value to business.
  4. Location analytics are increasingly used in decision making in business.
  5. Location analytics enables businesses to achieve their mission, serve their customers, and benefit society.
  6. The world of business is in a state of continual change.
  7. Location analytics enables businesses not only to manage current operations, but to plan for and enable change. 
  8. Cultivating location analytics skills increases an individual employee's value to a current or future employer.
  9. Adding location analytics courses and programs helps any School of Business become more vibrant and relevant for their campus and the greater society.   
  10. Location analytical tools, data, and output increasingly exist in a cloud-based environment, which offers a rich platform for collaborating, analyzing, and communicating.  


Feel free to use all or a subset of the attached slides that expand these messages.

Slide about the value of business and the value of GIS.

Slide about the value of business as part of the attached presentation. 


Hands-on Activities


1.  A Learn Path guiding you through a sequence of 12 videos, readings, case studies, and lessons, is here.


2.  The attached example hands-on activities about (1) regional business patterns, and (2) choosing the optimal location for a business have been used in a variety of schools of business, and focuses on developing spatial thinking, critical thinking, and problem solving with GIS.  Along with each lesson is the answer key. 

Slide from Business Analyst Web.

Location analytics in Business Analyst Web as part of the attached lesson. 


3.  For additional hands-on activities including Learn Paths of multiple lessons, including the above tools as well as ArcGIS Pro, see the Learn ArcGIS library of business-related lessons.


Location Analytics Workshop Syllabus


The following 10-item syllabus for a short (1 to 3 hour) workshop on location analytics is one that has been tested and used in many university and college settings, for an audience of students, faculty, university administrators, or all of the above.  However, the syllabus can be adapted and modified as needed as audience, time available, and needs change.   


At the beginning of the workshop, state who you are (as the speaker) and why the audience should listen to you.  Provide a background along with an explanation of why you are passionate about location analytics.


1.  What challenges are communities and societies confronting from a local to a global scale? Health, energy, water quality and quantity, rapid urbanization, economic inequalities, ecosystem degradation and species loss, climate, natural hazards (floods, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides, tornadoes, others), sustainable agriculture, vibrant but sensitive tourism, public safety, locating the optimal site for goods or services, and others are global problems that increasingly affect our everyday lives.  All of these issues and problems have a location component.  Hence, location analytics will increasingly be depended on for smart decision making for a healthier and more sustainable future in government, private industry, nonprofit organizations, and academia?


2.  What challenges do businesses regularly confront?   Site optimization, understanding consumer behavior, supply chain management, assessing risk, understanding demographic and behavioral trends, corporate security, enhancing company reputation, and many others.  All of these have a location component.  Hence, location analytics are used by all businesses to achieve their corporate and societal goals.  One such set of challenges exists during the COVID-19 crisis, as detailed on this operational awareness page about business continuity and recovery.


3.  What are the key components comprising Location Analytics?   Components include technology, data, and communication instruments. 


(3a.) Technological components to Location Analytics:  Geographic Information Systems (GIS), web mapping, remote sensing, and Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS)/Global Positioning Systems (GPS).  This technological framework for Location Analytics exists increasingly in a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environment.  This framework allows for web mapping applications, such as dashboards and multimedia maps and apps, to be built upon it, shared, and used.


(3b.)  Data:  Consumer preference, lifestyle, demographics, environmental, location of competitors, suppliers, stores within the same franchise or chain, distributors, and more.  All of this data contains a location component, such as street address, latitude-longitude, city-country combination, place name, census enumeration area, or political area from town to country.  All of this data exists as either points, lines, polygons, tables, images, or grids.  Much of this data is scaleable from local to global scale.  Much of this data exists as cloud-based Data-as-Services, accessible via ArcGIS Hub sites, open data sites, Business Analyst Web, and libraries such as the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World.   


(3c.)  Communication instruments:  The output of the work done in Location Analytics is increasingly varied, and ranges from 2D and 3D maps, web mapping applications, tables, charts, dashboards, infographics, and other multi-media visualizations.  The boundary between maps and visualizations is increasingly blurred, as the number of tools multiply.  


4.  List the 10 key messages provided above, or a subset, depending on the needs of the audience and the goals of the speaker.


5.  The SaaS environment for tools and spatial data offers several key advantages for today's business students, faculty, and business professionals:   


(5a.)   The tools can be accessed on any device, anywhere, at any time.  This vastly increases the number and diversity of people who have access to use the tools to analyze the data, and people who can view the results.  


(5b.)  The data available for use in business education mirrors the "big data" movement, increasing in velocity, volume, veracity, and variety.  The data arise from a variety of sources, from near-real-time and real-time data feeds, to data from academic institutions, government agencies, private companies, and nonprofit organizations.  Much is available aggregated at the neighborhood level.  Much data on current information and projected information are updated on a regular basis.  Much data is documented in terms of its scale, lineage, source, accuracy, format, permitted uses, and other characteristics as metadata. 


(5c.)  The tools update on a regular basis.   With each update, the tools become easier to use, better documented, and more powerful. 


6.  Provide several powerful, engaging case studies clearly showing the use cases for who uses location analytics.  These include Fruit of the Loom, Starbucks, Esri, Chick Fil A, John Deere, and others.  See a selection of videos in the middle of the Business Analyst overview page.  For more case studies, see those on the business education landing page and on the Esri industries page.  


7.  Explain why should the audience should use location analytics:   For students, Learning and using Location Analytics adds value to business content knowledge, in marketing, management, risk assessment, and supply chain.  Location Analytics adds value in skills such as proximity, routing, choropleth mapping, geocoding, creating infographics, reports, and storymaps.  Location Analytics adds additional skills in presenting, communication, and cartography.   For instructors, it helps them to teach core content in more relevant and exciting ways.  It helps anyone understand how to work more effectively with data, how to consider change over space and time, how to consider scale in business, how to think critically, and how to solve problems.  


8.  Lead a short activity in hands-on mode, in a teaching lab or via a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) mode in any classroom, or online, using Location Analytics.  Use any of the attached activities or other resources mentioned on this page.  You could begin by comparing two different types of businesses (bail bonds and car washes map in Oklahoma City) or the Starbucks around-the-world "Manhattan Coffee" map in ArcGIS Online, or the San Bernardino County parcels with property values, and then move to an activity that incorporates analytics, such as analyzing convenience store regional chain patterns (attached) or siting a new business.


Image of business analytics.Business analytics image.

Images from Starbucks analysis map (left) and property values map (right) in ArcGIS Online. 


9.  Encourage your audience to dig deeper, given the skills they have just learned and practice, into ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Insights, or Business Analyst Web (overview of slides attached to this essay) with the data they have been using in the previous step.  Start by noting patterns and relationships.  Zoom in and zoom out and note how patterns sometimes change as the scale changes.  Then change the symbology and classification.  Filter the data on different criteria by building expressions.  Add additional variables, such as demographics or consumer behavior at different scales and analyze the patterns and relationships.  Map competitive businesses and business that aid another business.  Then, create reports, infographics, and storymaps, and share your results. 


10.  End the workshop with a discussion of how the audience can learn more about Location Analytics.  Selected key resources are as follows: 


(10a.)  The resources on the business education landing page. 

(10b.)  Obtaining an account on (via, for example, the university's existing Esri license or via the ArcGIS Developers site).

(10c.)  Taking a free, fun, and rigorous Esri MOOC, especially the Location Advantage MOOC that focuses on business.

(10d.)  Taking courses and watching webinars on the Esri training site, on analysis tools, field apps and tools, and reporting tools. 

(10e.)   Learning about Python and Javascript via the tutorials on ArcGIS Developers site.   These tutorials show in side-by-side fashion, how the code runs the map.  The tutorials ask you to make adjustments in specific lines of code, and there is instant gratification as the map changes when you make these adjustments! 






The recently published the E-book 5 Ways to Transform Urban Planning shows how location intelligence is used to transform how we plan and shape our future. ArcGIS Urban helps planners solve the modern design challenges by becoming more proactive and less reactive resulting in a more sustainable practice in urban planning. There are many opportunities to enrich the design methodology and process of your planning and urban courses and we're excited to show you how.


Download the E-book to learn more about these 5 ways to transform urban planning:

  • Encourage citizen engagement
  • Incorporate data-driven design
  • Reduce risk with digital twins
  • Evaluate impact
  • Accelerate policy making

ArcGIS Urban E-book

Do you know that almost 80% of the world’s data is unstructured? Unstructured data can be found in emails, speech transcripts, briefings, social media posts, news reports, and many other places


The question is: How can you integrate this data into spatial analysis workflows?


Join us on this webinar to explore the latest ArcGIS AI-based Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities:


Topic:  Text Analytics and Location Intelligence

Date: April 28th , 2020

Time: 9:00 – 10:00 am PDT

Link to Registration


Topics we’ll cover:

  • Introduction to NLP
  • Labeling and preparing training data
  • Extracting entities using ArcGIS.Learn EntityRecongizer
  • Integration with 3rd party NLP frameworks
  • Demos and industry-specific use cases
  • How to start and useful resources


Join GeoAI group on LinkedIn,  the hub for discussions, resources, news and virtual events related to the topic


Link to recording for previous webinar:

Which app should I use to collect data? That's a question I hear a lot – both now, in the education space, and previously, when I was part of the field apps team. Esri offers multiple apps for collecting data in the field – Survey123, Collector, and QuickCapture – and it isn't always clear when to use each one. 


I've been making some story maps lately, and I decided to dedicate one to helping answer that question: 

ArcGIS StoryMaps > ArcGIS field apps in schools
Field apps comparison promo image


Take a read to learn what is common to all three apps and the data collection power they bring to the field. Continue to think through your data collection project, and its purpose, so that you can determine the right app for your project. (Yes, it depends on the project.)

Facing disaster, the best odds for effective response lie with the generalist. Adaptability is crucial. Prior knowledge is useful, but especially about problem solving. At least as important are willingness to attempt, to fail without discouragement, tenacity in action, and an insatiable appetite for learning. These traits combine flexibly and repurpose quickly and easily, giving the best chance for success under the widest array of unpredictable conditions.


We have been pitched thru a one-way door into a bad-dream house of glass and mirrors, with collective vision of an exit clear, but proper path unlabeled, and people pointing in many directions. Parents are thrust into teaching at home; teachers are forced to abandon historic patterns; youngsters are isolated; and those less fortunate grow even more so. No direction is ideal. Never before have so many understood intestinally the meaning of "unprecedented."


In these conditions, what is the role of education? As always, it is to provide both roots and wings: an understanding of what is in place and how it came to be, and the ability to reach out and venture beyond. Of course, the parameters vary by age, experience, and situation, but a third grader can appreciate danger without being immobilized just as a high school senior approaching graduation can grasp the vagaries of "the future." Each may be best served by focusing on what can help them adapt to uncertainty: ability to ask questions, gather information, explore situations from multiple perspectives, analyze data and integrate diverse elements, and act.


This is what GIS practitioners do. A quick look at Esri's Industries page proves that these tools and skills have universal relevance. Some skills are built in seconds just through exploration; the more elaborate take hours of thoughtful study and practice. But the more skills, tools, data sets, perspectives, examples, and experiences one assembles, the more capable one becomes. This is why I have witnessed employers fidget with excitement when seeing high schoolers' projects, and college recruiters' eyes light up when hearing middle schoolers share their experiences, and civic leaders' jaws drop upon grasping what elementary students have discovered.


Geographic Inquiry Process

We cannot choose the winds and currents that greet us; we can only choose how we cope with them. To support learners most effectively, we need to help them construct a framework for understanding conditions, tools with which to explore and experiment, skills for thinking critically and solving problems, perspectives that honor diversity, and an insatiable thirst for learning. This is GIS -- a toolbelt, a mindset, a knowledge base, and a vision. It's never too soon -- or too late -- to begin learning. If you are a parent or teacher, feeling adrift, just discovering the indelible blazes of this trail, and pondering whether and where to begin, check out the Mapping Hour videos. Build a path for your learners.


Mapping Hour

As Jack Dangermond announced yesterday, the 2020 Esri User Conference is moving to a virtual format.  The event will include Plenary sessions, technical workshops, user sessions, an Expo, and unique networking events. It will take place July 13-15 and registration will be complimentary for all Esri customers with current licenses/maintenance and for all currently enrolled students. 


Institutions with a current Education Program license may register an unlimited number of participants (e.g., Education Institution Agreement/Site License, Academic Department license/Lab Kit, Administrative Use Department license, Schools Bundle).


This FAQ provides additional details about registration policies and the event format.


The 2020 Education Summit will be moved to a later date.  Details about the schedule and format will be shared as they become available.

We have always been fascinated with our home:  The Earth.  Our blue-and-green oasis of life in the solar system has been the subject of poetry, music, novels, scientific investigation, and—maps.  For centuries, maps have stirred imaginations, inspired explorations of the unknown, and helped us understand our planet.  Far from the static documents of the past etched on clay tablets, wood, film, and paper, today’s maps are interactive and digital.  They can be combined with charts, satellite images, databases, photographs, videos, and other data to help us make sense of our world.  They help us navigate to the library or to grandma’s house on an everyday basis, help us understand our communities and our world, and how to build a more sustainable and resilient future.   These maps have become ubiquitous—on our smartphones, computers, in our vehicles, in trains and airplanes, and just about everywhere we turn.


These digital maps and the everyday activities that depend on them are possible because of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and other technologies:  Remote sensing, computer science, and Global Positioning Systems (GPS, or more broadly, Geographic Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS)) to name a few.  However, people make these technologies effective, applying them to solve problems.  People using these maps and tools cultivate a spatial way of thinking, looking at the world from a geographic perspective, examining patterns, relationships, and trends, making wiser decisions about the future. These decisions include planning urban greenways, mitigating invasive weeds, locating the optimal site for wind energy, studying groundwater withdrawal impact on aquifers, and many more, from local to global scales.


Why Use GIS on Earth Day and in Environmental Science Education?
The central themes that scientists have studied for years have in recent decades become topics on daily news feeds, increasingly affecting our everyday lives. During the COVID-19 crisis, maps, dashboards, and infographics produced from GIS were viewed by the millions per hour, helping people and communities make wise decisions and plans.  Connecting students with real-world data and issues builds spatial bridges in the brain and appeals to multiple ways of learning. Students learn to transfer knowledge, to inquire strategically, to connect to their community, and to solve problems with real data.  Studying environmental issues with GIS lends relevancy and real-world contexts to these issues. Spatial analysis appeals to today’s visual learners.  


Using GIS provides a way of exploring a rich body of content and a framework for holistic thinking about the world. GIS provides a set of skills grounded in content standards and fosters critical thinking about data and methods. Students using GIS grapple with current, relevant, important issues in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines, social studies (geography, history, economics, and civics), language arts, and other subjects.  These include sustainable agriculture, natural hazards, water, energy, historical events, weather and climate, and more.  GIS enables these issues to be analyzed spatially because they all have a geographic component—they occur somewhere, and change over space and time.  Students see the big picture and understand how different patterns and trends are related. Students become involved digital citizens that can use technology in meaningful ways to ask the “what if” questions, test hypotheses, and model scenarios.   The questions stem from a firm foundation in content, the spatial perspective, and spatial skills.


GIS can foster each of the Center for Ecoliteracy’s six core ecological concepts:  Networks, nested systems, cycles, flows, development, and dynamic balance. GIS allows variables to be input, modeled and modified so that the dynamics of environmental processes can be studied. Hungerford and Volk (1991) defined nine key ecological concepts necessary for environmental education programs:  Individuals and populations, interactions and interdependence, environmental influences and limiting factors, energy flow and nutrient cycling, community and ecosystem concepts, homeostasis, succession, humans as members of ecosystems, and ecological implications of human activities and communities.  GIS can enhance the teaching of these concepts. The NAAEE’s definition of environmental literacy (NAAEE 2011) includes four interrelated components: competencies, knowledge, dispositions, and environmentally responsible behavior.  Because the use of GIS involves the same tools used by scientists, GIS fosters learning each component.  Teaching with GIS also connects well with several of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, such as water quality and quantity, energy, climate, and sustainable cities.

10 Ways in Which GIS Can Be Used in Earth and Environmental Science Education

GIS can be used in a wide variety of ways. GIS has rapidly evolved into a cloud-based SaaS (Software as a Service) environment, and thus is more accessible and approachable than ever before.  GIS tools such as ArcGIS Online can be run on any device, at any time, using a modest web connection.  Certain maps and tools can also be used offline.  GIS can be accessed in a classroom with one computer and a projector, in a computer lab, and in the field. GIS can be used in multiple disciplines and to analyze a myriad of issues.  Explore a few or all of these selected ways to use GIS in teaching and learning about the Earth.


1.  Ask questions. Asking questions is the first part of scientific inquiry, forming the basis for knowing what types of environmental data to collect and what data to analyze and what decisions to make. GIS does not ask the questions, rather, it is the person using GIS who asks the questions.   Be curious about the world.  How does acid mine drainage in a mountain range affect downstream water quality? How will climate change affect global food production?  Where are invasive plant species living in this alpine valley?  Giving students a reason to learn is powerful.  Start your journey with The ArcGIS Book.  Then examine this series of Mapping Hour videos that demonstrate how to cultivate asking questions in the context of learning GIS tools.


The opening page of The ArcGIS Book, an excellent interactive way of discovering the world of GIS, and teaching with it.


2.  Examine change over space and time. The Earth is a dynamic planet.  Environmental phenomena interact, move, and change.  Begin by comparing change over time using satellite imagery for the past six years using the Wayback imagery app, or for the past century in the USA using historical USGS topographic maps using a web mapping application.  Explore changes in seasons for precipitation and soil moisture around the world using the Water Balance App.

The Wayback imagery app can be used to examine natural and human-caused changes to Planet Earth, here, the changing water levels at Lake Mead.


3.  Explore human-environment interaction. How does the environment affect people, through such characteristics as daily weather and long-term climate, native plants and animals, landforms, the availability of water, local and regional natural hazards, and the type of predominant soils? Conversely, how do humans affect their environment?  Begin by examining ecological land units with this interactive map, and then examine urbanization, agriculture, and other land use with the Landsat Explorer app.

 Comparing Landsat imagery on the Arabian peninsula to detect changes in agriculture and urbanization using the Landsat Explorer app.


4.  Explore environmental content. Not only does GIS use enhance earth and environmental studies, but also conversely, a firm grounding in environmental content enhances the use of GIS.  One way to begin exploring map-based environmental content is through the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World. The atlas includes thousands of data layers from ocean currents to biomes, from watersheds to energy production. As the name implies, it is curated, continuously updated, and includes live feeds from buoys, stream gauges, seismographs, weather stations, and other data sources.  Many maps and data layers are available through an ordinary web browser, while some require an ArcGIS Account to use (a link to a free account is here).


5.   Work with data. Data skills are especially critical in the modern world, due to data’s increasing volume and diversity, and given its often sensitive and politically charged nature.  Using GIS involves managing databases, tables, maps, feeds, imagery, vector and raster files, to name a few.  Start by using ArcGIS Online:  Modify Map, add data, change the symbology.  Change the classification and note how the map’s appearance changes.  Filter the data.  Tutorials, MOOCs, and lessons can help you begin.   Be critical of mapped data, however: Understand who created it, how often it is updated, its scale, and other aspects via its metadata, as this book and blog invite you to do (Kerski 2015).


Teaching and learning about data sources, data quality, and societal issues surrounding data is the focus of the Spatial Reserves book and blog.


6.  Collect data in the field. A new citizen science field app was created for Earth Day by the Earth Day Network, the Wilson Center, and the US Department of State, using the App Studio for ArcGIS by Esri.  It invites you and your students to find, photograph, and classify plastic pollution in your community.   Another tool is Survey123, which allows you and your students to quickly create a field survey, collect data into it, and map and analyze the results.  Data from other citizen science tools such as iNaturalist can be brought into a GIS environment for spatial analysis.


Using these tools, students can understand, “How does pH vary along this stretch of river, and why? How do tree species and tree height change depending on slope angle, slope direction, and why?  Fieldwork has additional benefits:  Louv 2006 and others have shown that if students do not receive repeated and deep immersion in natural places while young will not value or appreciate natural places and associated issues as adult decision-makers.  Sobel’s “Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education” (1996) states that essential to helping students to understand environmental issues in distant lands is to cultivate connections to the local environment, teaching about local systems. “What’s important is that children have an opportunity to bond with the natural world, to learn to love it, before being asked to heal its wounds,” Sobel wrote. This can be done through his stages of empathy, exploration, and social action. 


7.  Solve problems. GIS was created specifically to solve problems.   A series of GeoInquiries are short lessons that invite you to dig into natural hazards and environmental issues, each tied to a single interactive web map with no log in required.  A library of Learn ArcGIS lessons digs further into specific problems and skill building, from predicting the weather to assessing landslide and flood potential.


8.  Gain career skills. GIS was a green tool long before “green” was popular. GIS began in the mid-1960s, just before the first Earth Day in 1970.  GIS is used on a daily basis to benefit the environment, from protecting elephant habitat in Africa to planning urban greenways in the local community.  GIS offers career pathways increasingly in demand according to the U.S. Department of Labor (Gewin 2004).  Students who are well grounded in the spatial perspective through GIS are better able to use data at a variety of scales, in a variety of contexts, think systematically and holistically, and use quantitative and qualitative approaches to solve problems. In short, these graduates are better decision-makers.  View these videos and interviews with people using GIS everyday on the job.  Share your skills with others by becoming a geomentor.  Learn more about mentoring here and here.


9.  Communicate your results. Sharing and collaborating is how today’s complex problems will be solved.  As environmental science has become more quantitative and analytical during the past century, GIS is the perfect tool in which to study processes through databases, maps, and spatial statistics.  Yet there is still plenty of room for art, creativity, and qualitative data.   Start by examining multimedia storymaps and consider making one of your own on a topic of your choice.


Part of the Age of the Anthropocene set of story maps showing the human imprint on Earth; here, patterns of specific agricultural crops.


10.   Act.  Students engaged in GIS and environmental studies engage in the geographic inquiry process:  Asking geographic questions, acquiring geographic resources and data, analyzing geographic data, assessing and making decisions from resulting geographic information, and acting on that geographic information. This often leads to additional geographic questions, and the cycle continues.  However, using GIS is not just to gain skills and knowledge:  Don’t just get discouraged: Be encouraged to act.  Once litter or invasive species are studied and mapped, what can be done about them?  How can a plan be implemented, stakeholders gathered, and results achieved?  Discover how people are using GIS to solve problems in society in different professions in these case studies.


Modern GIS is a platform upon which sound environmental decision making is based.  GIS is a system:  As with any system, it is comprised of many pieces.  Give yourself time for the journey, but the key is to start.    People empowered with GIS and data can make a positive impact on our world!


Gewin, Virginia. 2004. Careers and recruitment: Mapping Opportunities. Nature. 427: 376-377.

Hungerford, Harold R., and Trudi L. Volk. 1998. Curriculum Development in Environmental Education for the Primary School: Challenges and Responsibilities. Essential Readings in Environmental Education. Champaign, IL: Stipes.

Kerski, Joseph J.  2015.  Why data quality matters --now more than ever.  Directions Magazine.  


Louv, Richard. 2006. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.

NAAEE. 2011. Developing a framework for assessing environmental literacyExecutive Summary. NSF project report. Washington, DC: North American Association for Environmental Education.

Sobel, David. 1999. Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education (Nature Literacy Series, Vol. 1) . Orion Society.


Selected maps and tools described in this essay.

Selected tools and maps described in this essay:  Clockwise from upper left:  An agriculture story map, the ecological land units of the world map, the Landsat Explorer app, and The ArcGIS Book.  Try them!


Did you know we dump an estimated garbage truck size amount of trash into the ocean every minute?? On Earth Day we give some extra attention to our planet and its health. Are we taking care of it the best we can? And what have we (as humans) done that hurts it? To answer these questions, we need to know how the Earth is.


Using a new app, this Earth Day you (and your kids) can help scientists monitoring our planet through the Earth Challenge 2020 initiative. They can only visit so many places on Earth and need your help to collect data on plastic pollution. They'd like to collect a billion data points! Ready to help?


You and your kids! This project is "citizen science" which means that everyone can help.



We're looking at plastic pollution -- or where plastic is found that it shouldn't be! Plastic litter is unfortunately not uncommon. I'm sure you've seen an improperly discarded soda bottle or chip bag.



Using the Earth Challenge 2020 app you'll take a picture of plastic litter you find and mark where you found it.


  1. Get the Earth Challenge 2020 app:
    Apple App Store buttonGoogle Play button
  2. Join the citizen science initiative or just skip and start collecting data.
  3. Tap Plastic Pollution, read the intro, tap Continue, and set your language.
  4. Read through the instructions by swiping.
  5. Take the app on a walk. When you find plastic pollution, take a picture, mark where you found it on the map, and tell what you did with the trash you saw.
  6. Keep walking and mark the next plastic pollution you see.



Wherever you are. Plastic pollution is a problem around the globe, and by sharing what you see around your neighborhood you give scientists a look at your community.



Share data about the world around you (in this case, where you find plastic trash) to help build our understanding of the problem. You can help scientists collect the data they need.


What's next?

Did you share the plastic pollution you found around you? Thanks! If you'd like to learn more about the project from Esri's Chief Scientist Dawn Wright, see her blog on the app.


Interested in air quality citizen science? Check out "Air Quality" in the Earth Challenge 2020 app. It has instructions that take you through collecting that data, too.


If you'd like more activities about marine science, check out the Kids Environmental Lesson Plan (KELP) program for free activities you can do from home.




A comprehensive guide to spatial data science courses in the Esri Academy has been published.  This guide helps you find those that are most applicable to the topics you are teaching or learning in the emerging and rapidly expanding field of data science.  An introduction to the guide describes its contents and explains its purpose, and here is a direct link to the guide.   


The guide lists items in three broad groups—Learning plans, Technology, and Capabilities—and categories, such as ArcGIS and Python Scripting, and Predictive Analytics, so that you can see the big picture.   Resources listed include:

Self-paced web courses, Training Seminars and videos, Tutorials, Videos, and story maps. 

Please note:  This document is no longer being updated. 

For the most current information, please visit the new FAQ here: Frequently Asked Questions for Learn ArcGIS




To support students amidst COVID-19 university closures, we are offering student free licensing for ArcGIS until August 31st, 2020 via Learn ArcGISBelow are frequently asked questions about the Free Student Access to ArcGIS via Learn ArcGIS


This FAQ will be updated regularly.  If your question isn't addressed, please add it in a comment.


General topics:



What is this Learn ArcGIS offering and is it for me?


Q: What is Learn ArcGIS?

A:  Learn ArcGIS is a free resource for learning to use ArcGIS in the context of real-world problems.  It provides hands-on lessons for many products, such as ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Pro, Story Maps, Survey123, and more – over twenty in all.


Lessons can be filtered by capability (e.g., mapping, spatial analysis, real-time visualization); product; industry; resource type; or geographic region.  Learn Paths are curated collections of resources on a given topic, such as spatial analysis or health, providing easy access to a series of activities.  


Q: My institution already provides ArcGIS, how is this different?   

A: If your institution already has ArcGIS deployed successfully, we recommend that you use the institution-provided licensing that is already in place. Therefore, this offer may not be applicable to you.  However, we know there are still students worldwide who do not have access. Hence, we wanted to provide access for you. 


If you have access to ArcGIS through your college/university, we recommend you continue to use your institution-provided ArcGIS account and licensing.  Your institution-provided account usually is available while you are still enrolled as student and is therefore likely to be available to you past August 31 2020.  In addition, if you were using ArcGIS prior to the COVID-19 closures, you will have content (data, maps, apps) in your institution-provided account that is not accessible through the Learn ArcGIS account.  Finally, any content you create in a Learn ArcGIS account will not be available to you after August 31 2020 unless you copy them to your institution-provided account.


Q: Does this offer create another ArcGIS Online account? Are they related? 

A: This offer creates an account in the ArcGIS Online organization managed by Learn ArcGIS. This account is separate and not related to any ArcGIS Online account provided by your university. To minimize confusion, if your institution already provides student licenses via its institution agreement (i.e. site license) AND if you are leveraging this free student license offer, please be aware that the two accounts are separate.  


Q: How long do I have access to ArcGIS through this free student offer?

A: Extended free ArcGIS access is available to students during the COVID-19 pandemic through Learn ArcGIS until 31 August 2020. We have extended the Learn ArcGIS membership term to ensure students have access to ArcGIS during college/university closures. Free memberships in Learn ArcGIS will still be available after August 31 for our usual period of 60 days.


The expiry date shown in ArcGIS Pro settings refers to the software license term and is independent of the student's membership term in Learn ArcGIS. The Learn ArcGIS organization has a license for ArcGIS Pro software that runs until 2021. Students can register for a membership in the Learn ArcGIS organization to use this software for free until August 31 2020. The students’ membership will expire before the software license expires.


Q: I am a faculty member and would like to know if this offering is meant for my students?

A:  If you are faculty/instructor at an institution that already has ArcGIS licenses through either an Education Institution Agreement (formerly Education Site License) or an Academic Department License (formerly Lab Kit/Lab Pak), we recommend that you provide your students access to those licenses so that the maps/content they create will be in your institution’s ArcGIS Online subscription.  Please see this blog for more information.


If it is not practical to provide your students with access to your institution’s licenses, they can register for access through Learn ArcGIS.  Access will be available through August 31, 2020.  See the section How can I access ArcGIS and my content after this offer ends (August 31 2020)? below for instructions on moving content back to your university’s ArcGIS Online organization.


Q: I’m younger than 18 years; can I use this offer? 

A: No, this offer is available only for students 18 years or older, based on Esri’s Privacy Policies.  If you’re a student under age 18, a parent or guardian can create an account on your behalf. 


Q: Does my Learn membership include ArcMap?  

A: ArcGIS Desktop (ArcMap) is not included.  ArcGIS Pro is the desktop application included in the Learn membership.


I registered and need help getting started


Q: What support is offered (e.g., download and installation, general software use), and how do I get help? 

A: Community support is available in the Learn ArcGIS GeoNet community .  You can ask questions and search for information in the Content feed.


Q: What should I do if my invitation to join Learn ArcGIS has expired?

A:  Please send an email to with “expired invitation” and your username in the subject line.  Please check your email for a message from ArcGIS Notifications to reset your password.  Once you update your password you’ll be able to access your Learn ArcGIS Account.


Q: How do I reset my password?

A:  Go to and click “Forgot password?” Enter the username you received when register for Learn ArcGIS; it will end with _LearnArcGIS. You will receive an email with a temporary password. Login with the temporary password and then change your password.


If you did not set a security question the first time you logged in, you will not receive the email with the temporary password immediately. It may take a day or two because an administrator needs to reset your password and then you will receive the email. Please be sure to create a security question in case you need to reset your password again in the future.


Q: How do I find out my user ID?

A:  Go to and click “Forgot username?” and enter the email address you used to register. You’ll receive a list of all accounts associated with that email. Use the one that ends with _LearnArcGIS (e.g., Your_Name_LearnArcGIS)


Q: Where do I get the installation files/executables to install ArcGIS Pro?  

A: Instructions will be sent via email when you register.  You will receive one email message to activate their account, then a second message with instructions to download ArcGIS Pro.  You can download ArcGIS Pro from your profile by following these steps: 

  1. Log into your ArcGIS Online account 
  2. Go to “My settings” 
  3. Choose “Licenses” 
  4. Find the link to download next to ArcGIS Pro 


Q: I contacted but haven't received a response.  What should I do now?

A: The Learn ArcGIS Team works in the U.S. so if you're contacting us from Asia, Africa or Europe it may be a few hours before you receive a response.  You also can check the forum to see if your question has been asked and answered by someone else.


Q: Can I sign up for courses/MOOCs on the Esri Training site with this account?

A: This account through Learn ArcGIS is separate from accounts for using resources on To access resources such as Esri Training and MOOCs, you will need to sign in with a free ArcGIS Public Account or an or an Organizational Account that has "Esri Access" enabled.


To check if you already have an account that provides access to Esri Training, use the Forgot Username option on the ArcGIS Sign In page and enter your email address.   If the message you receive includes a username for either an ArcGIS Public Account or an Organizational Account that has Esri Access enabled, you already have an account that can access Esri Training.


If you don’t have an ArcGIS Public Account, you can create one for free on the page by clicking “Sign In”, then choosing “No account?  Create a public account."  


Because they are free, public accounts do not have all of capabilities that your Learn ArcGIS account does, but it will not expire after August 31st, so any Esri Training certificate of completion will remain available to you in the long term.  


I need more help with ArcGIS Online


Q: What are credits? How many do I have? What do I do if run out of them?
A: Credits are consumed for certain types of actions in ArcGIS software products. Your Learn ArcGIS account includes more than enough credits to complete the lessons and explore on your own. Here are a few resources for learning about credits:


Q: I got an error that my request timed out 

A: If you are experiencing performance issues with ArcGIS Online or any other cloud GIS programs, please check your internet connection. These products rely on the strength of your connection, so if you are on WiFi, try connecting via ethernet. 


I need more help with ArcGIS Pro


Q: When signing into ArcGIS Pro I get the error "The number of licenses assigned to the user exceeds the number available in my organization."

A: There are two possible reasons for this error: 1) We temporarily had problems assigning licenses and accounts that were created between April 4 and April 7 may not have the correct license configuration.  We are working to fix them, but if you are logging in with a Learn ArcGIS account and get this message, please contact and include "no ArcGIS Pro license" and your username in the subject line.

2) You may be logging into a different ArcGIS Online organization or license portal (such as your college/university license portal) that does not have licenses available.  Please make sure you are logged into ArcGIS Pro using your Learn ArcGIS account.  See this Help topic for more information.


Q: I am not able to sign into ArcGIS Pro. Which username and password do I use?

A: You may see either of these messages:

  • "Your account could not be used to authorize ArcGIS Pro because it is an ArcGIS Public Account." 
  • "Invalid username or password. ArcGIS Pro wants to access your ArcGIS Online account information"

 Both messages indicate you are not signing in with your Learn ArcGIS account, which includes an ArcGIS Pro license. Please sign in with your Learn ArcGIS account.


Q: How can I confirm that I am signed into ArcGIS software with my Learn ArcGIS account?

A: In ArcGIS Pro:

  • Open a new or existing project.
  • In the top right click on the text to the left of the "person" icon, it will show your “Learn ArcGIS” account, which will end in _LearnArcGIS (e.g., Your_Name_LearnArcGIS). 


Q: Can I install and/or use ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Pro on more than one computer?

A: Yes.

  • You can access ArcGIS Online through a browser on any computer with an internet connection.
  • You can download, install, and run ArcGIS Pro on any computer that meets the requirements to run it.

Your Learn ArcGIS account can be used to sign into ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Pro wherever you have access. This license, a Named User license, travels with you not your computer.


 Q: How do I know if my computer can run ArcGIS Pro 2.5?

A: Most lessons use ArcGIS Pro 2.5 desktop software.  To check if you computer can run Pro 2.5, see the details for your operating system below.

  •  Windows

If you have a Windows computer, you can use this test to see if your computer has the needed hardware and software to run ArcGIS Pro 2.5.

  • MacOS 

Esri does not offer a native version of ArcGIS Pro for MacOS, but the software can run on a Windows partition or a Virtual Machine. Please refer to this documentation.

  • Ubuntu 
    Esri does not offer a native version of ArcGIS Pro for Ubuntu. Esri does not support ArcGIS Pro under WINE.
  • Virtualized Environment
    documentation details how to run ArcGIS Pro in an on-premises or a cloud virtual machine.

Q: My computer does not have the required version of Microsoft .NET to run ArcGIS Pro. How do I install it?

A:  Microsoft provides the download of the .NET Framework 4.8. The top option, "Runtime" is what's needed to run ArcGIS Pro. You will need to have privileges to install it on your computer. If you do not, please ask your computer support provider for help.


Q: When I try to run ArcGIS Pro, I see an error: "Unable to establish a connection to" What do I do?

A:  There are few different things that may cause this error.

1) This could be related to the TLS patch roll-out in April 2019. If so, you may need to update a security setting.

  • Open your computer's Control Panel.
  • Choose Internet Options.
  • Click Internet Properties > Advanced tab > Security.
  • Look at TLS 1.1 or 1.2. If they are not checked, please check the respective boxes to turn them on.

Try to run ArcGIS Pro again.

2) It’s possible a firewall or antivirus is blocking access to ArcGIS Online. Please whitelist the following URLs in your firewall and antivirus (or work with your computer support or IT provider to do so):
 3) Try resetting your Internet Explorer settings as discussed 


Q: When I try to open a project in ArcGIS Pro I see the error: "failed to load system tool." How can I fix it?

A: This is related to how Python is set up on your computer. The solution can be found here.


How can I access my content after August 31 2020?


Q:  How can I save content that's in my Learn ArcGIS account at the end of August?

A:  To save your content, you’ll need to copy the content into a different account, such as an account provided by your university.  There are three main options:  1) An account provided by your college/university; 2) An ArcGIS for Student Use license; or 3) An ArcGIS for Personal Use license if you no longer are a student.


To copy content to another account, there are three options:  1) ArcGIS Online Assistant, 2) GeoJOBE Admin tools, 3) ArcGIS API for Python.   This post explains more options for saving work created in a Learn ArcGIS account.


Q: How do I copy content from my Learn membership to my university account (or my own Student Use or Personal Use account)?  

A: Currently there are three ways to copy content from one organization to another - 1) ArcGIS Online Assistant, 2) GeoJOBE Admin tools, 3) ArcGIS API for Python.   This post explains more options for saving work created in a Learn ArcGIS account.


Amidst COVID-19 closures, many educators have sought to virtualize ArcGIS to support their courses. One of the ways is to leverage the AWS Educate Program, which provides EC2 instances (virtual computers), among other AWS services, as well as enhances student’s knowledge of cloud environments in general.


Given recent experiences shared by a couple of educators, we wanted to take the opportunity to share lessons learned and provide further guidance in terms of running ArcGIS on EC2.


With the AWS Educate Program, there is a an option for a AWS Educate Starter Account, and "regular" AWS Account. The AWS Educate Starter Account does not support access to AWS Marketplace for EC2, which means that access to preconfigured Marketplace AMIs will not be available.


Esri does provide preconfigured AMIs on the AWS Marketplace, which come with pre-installed ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcMap (not ArcGIS Pro), and hence are not available with a Starter Account.


  • Starter Account
    • No credit card required sign-up
    • Eligible for free credits through AWS Educate
    • No access to Esri's ArcGIS Enterprise AMIs in Marketplace; have to share your own custom AMI to students, or have students install ArcGIS on their own.
  • Regular Account
    • Credit card required for sign-up
    • Eligible for free credits through Educate
    • Access to Esri's ArcGIS Enterprise AMIs in Marketplace; can share your own custom AMI to students, or have students install ArcGIS on their own.


The ArcGIS Enterprise AMIs are a wonderful way to start but are highly customized and have a large footprint/overhead. Unless you are teaching ArcGIS Enterprise in your course, if your intent is to just provide access to ArcGIS Pro and ArcMap, the recommendation is to create your own custom AMI, and share that with your students.  Alternatively, have your students start from an appropriate base Windows AMI and install ArcGIS on their own.  


Advantage of creating one’s own AMI, then making it available to the whole class is that you can also include other helpful tools in your own image (7-zip, Notepad++, Chrome, Atom, PyCharm, etc.).  When this approach is taken, you would need to ask the students to send their AWS account IDs, then share the AMI with those IDs (i.e. an additional step).


In terms of covering any outstanding costs, AWS has provided codes that could be distributed to students and redeemed for AWS credits, so consider reaching out to AWS directly.  


Also, it should be mentioned that, yet another approach is to have an AWS centralized account for the class/department, and instructor or staff spins the instances for the students, using a similar pre-configured AMI approach. The advantage of a centralized account is that the students do not need individual AWS accounts (i.e. lesser amount of steps), which has worked well for some institutions. However, there are associated costs, though AWS could also provide codes/credits for educational purposes to cover the costs.


Feel free to review the following webinar on “Enabling Remote Access and Virtualizing ArcGIS, outlining additional virtualization options.


If you are considering Azure as an environment, the videos below from our colleagues from Esri Canada will be very helpful.



Thank you to Peter Knoop, University of Michigan, and James Detwiler, Penn State, for sharing their experiences above.

Spatial data science is receiving a lot of attention in higher education. Some institutions are setting up new programs or reorganizing existing ones that center around data science. Many instructors are starting to integrate spatial data science methods and technologies in their courses. Students are anxious to learn skills to benefit them in a future career.


If you teach geospatial technology, data science, or a related subject, consider including spatial data analysis and visualization in your course using ArcGIS to enrich your students’ experience. One easy way to get started is to use Esri e-learning resources in your course.


With hundreds of items in the Esri Academy catalog, it can be challenging to figure out which items pertain to spatial data science, and which ones are most applicable to the topics you are teaching or learning. That’s why we created a curated Guide to Esri E-Learning for Spatial Data Science.


E-Learning Guide for Spatial Data Science, first two pages

The guide lists items in three broad groups—Learning plans, Technology, and Capabilities—and categories, such as ArcGIS and Python Scripting, and Predictive Analytics, so that you can see the big picture.


Resources listed include:

  • Self-paced web courses
  • Training Seminars and videos
  • Tutorials
  • Videos and story maps


Each resource is briefly described, allowing you to quickly identify items of interest. When you’re ready to dig into the details, just click a title to access the full catalog description.


Keep in mind that courses may be available for different software versions. Before assigning or taking a specific course, please visit the catalog page and verify that it is available for the software version you will be using.


Future updates to the Guide will be made using the same link so that you can bookmark it and always be sure you're looking at the latest version. We welcome your comments below. You can also reach us with questions about courses at, or with questions about ArcGIS product licensing at

It's a (rare) rainy day here in Southern California. A good day to cuddle up with a good.... story map?


If you've been looking for GIS activities to do with your kids, here's a story map (built on a map presentation) version of an exercise I often do in classrooms: taking printed maps, looking for clues, and solving the mystery of where (or what) in the world we are looking at!


Indoor mapping: Map detectives
My map detective looking for clues


When you finish guessing, fill out the survey on how many you got right (it's right there in the story map) and see how you match up to others. 

The recent update of ArcGIS Online brings exciting improvements and new capabilities.  


Key Improvement


With the recent update, ArcGIS Online users now have the ability to download the ArcGIS Pro installer directly from the new My settings page in their profile. 


  1. Log into your ArcGIS Online account
  2. Go to “My settings”
  3. Choose “Licenses”
  4. Find the link to download next to ArcGIS Pro


Download ArcGIS Pro by ArcGIS Online User


This option is available if the user already has an ArcGIS Pro license assigned to their ArcGIS Online named-user account. If your institution has migrated to the new Education Institutional Agreement, you can assign users the “GIS Professional Advanced” user type, which includes an ArcGIS Pro license by default. Otherwise, you can assign users the “Creator” user type and then assign ArcGIS Pro as an add-on license in their account. In either case, ArcGIS Pro extensions can be added afterwards as add-on licenses.


This option provides a better experience for faculty members and students to install ArcGIS Pro in their own machine.


Other improvements and new functionalities


  • HTTPS readiness: As of December 2020, HTTP support will be discontinued and references to HTTP URLs will no longer work in ArcGIS Online. ArcGIS Online notifies users about the upcoming change.
  • Map Viewer Beta: Highlights include enhanced label authoring with support for multiline labeling, scale-dependent labels, and rotation.
  • Sharing and collaboration: You can also embed videos in item page and group page descriptions.
  • Configurable apps: New Minimalist (beta) configurable app built using the 4x version of the ArcGIS API for JavaScript.
  • Data management: When purchasing an ArcGIS Online organizational subscription, you can now choose the region—United States or Europe—where your geospatial data will be stored.
  • 3D: You can drape feature layers onto integrated mesh scene layers for better 3D visualization. You can replace the contents of a scene layer you published from a scene layer package.
  • ArcGIS Security Advisor: Security Advisor delivers recommendations based on your current settings.
  • GitHub account: New social login: Developers and other GitHub users can sign in or sign up using their GitHub account credentials.
  • ArcGIS Notebooks (beta): ArcGIS Notebooks are now available in ArcGIS Online via a public beta. ArcGIS Notebooks integrates Jupyter directly within ArcGIS Online.
  • ArcGIS StoryMaps: Newly added functionalities: Map actions, Guided Tour block, a navigation bar, updates to sharing.
  • ArcGIS Dashboards: Operations Dashboard renamed to ArcGIS Dashboards.


For complete list of updates, access the following:


As always, please contact for questions or requesting more info. 

One of the easiest ways to teach and learn with online GIS tools, data, and activities is with Learning Plans and Learn Paths because they offer a sequenced way of learning specific content and tools.   What are they and how can you use them?


I.  Learning Plans


A Learning Plan is a set of resources (readings, hands-on activities, videos) that is sequenced for learning about a particular topic.  You can choose plans from a wide variety of topics, scales, and specific Esri GIS tools.  By signing in to Esri training (, you can track your own progress through plans that you have chosen, identify plans that you would like to take in the future, and assign plans to your students.



A sample Learning Plan, for Spatial Data Science, showing the courses, videos, and seminars that comprise it.


Dozens of Learning Plans are available.  We’ve highlighted a few below, and you can browse the catalog for others (filter by Format) based on your interests and needs.


Recommended Learning Plans for new GIS users:

  1. ArcGIS Online Fundamentals:
  2. GIS Fundamentals:
  3. Fundamentals of Mapping and Visualization:

Recommended Learning Plans for select topics:

  1. ArcGIS Technology for Spatial Data Science:
  2. Image classification using ArcGIS:


II.  Learn Paths


A Learn Path is a set of resources (readings, hands-on activities, videos) from the Esri Learn ArcGIS collection that is sequenced for learning about a particular topic.   You can choose from among many tools and topics; each of which features Learn lessons that have been created by instructors at Esri and at universities.  Each path and lesson is kept current with the latest tools and data sets.  To discover available Learn Paths, see:


Dozens of Learn Paths are available.  We’ve highlighted a few below, and you can browse the Learn collection for others (filter by Type) based on your interests and needs.


Recommended Learn Paths for new GIS users:

Getting Started with Maps and Data in ArcGIS Online.

1.  A beginner’s guide to ArcGIS Online.


2.  Try ArcGIS Pro.

Get started with the essentials of ArcGIS Pro.


3.  Resources for Teaching with ArcGIS Pro.

Learn path for your students to become familiar with ArcGIS Pro.


Recommended Learn Paths for select topics:


1.  GIS in the Age of Community Health.

Arm yourself with hands-on skills and knowledge of how GIS tools can analyze health data and better understand diseases.


2.  For Geospatial Analysts:

Create a project, ingest data, process data, analyze data, share/publish results.


3.  Solving Problems with GIS and public domain geospatial data 1 of 3: 
Learn how to find, evaluate, and analyze data to solve location-based problems through this set of 10 chapters and short essay readings, and 10 hands-on lessons:




Sample Learn Path, for Geospatial Analysts activities in the path.   

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