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Luc Anselin, a Fellow of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, recently remarked that "GIScience [is] morphing into spatial data science” (Anselin 1027).


Is it really?


Fresh from Harvard’s "Illuminating Space and Time with Data Science" conference, and thinking ahead to the upcoming CaGIS AutoCarto/UCGIS Symposium on "Frontiers of Geospatial Data Science", I aim to collect my thoughts about Luc's claim in this short article.


Depending on the origin stories you choose, both GIScience and Data Science began to take shape in the 1960s and 70s. Stanford professor David Donoho traces the origins of Data Science to the work of the maverick statistician John Tukey, then Donoho’s undergraduate thesis adviser at Princeton (and one of my own scholar-heroes; hence my choice of stories).


Donoho’s definition of data science as “a superset of the fields of statistics and machine learning which adds some technology for ‘scaling up’ to ‘big data’” belies his skepticism about the hype that surrounds the “contemplated field.” Indeed, Gartner reports that data science and machine learning began reaching the peak of their “hype cycle” in the past year. 


Concerns about predicted shortfalls of qualified practitioners have led organizations like the National Academies of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health to charge distinguished panels to develop strategic plans for Data Science, including data science education. These reports barely mention geospatial data and methods, and certainly don’t recognize GIScience as an integral part of Data Science.


Anselin (2017) might attribute this to “space skepticism,” the tendency of mainstream scientists not to consider spatial thinking “fundamental to the scientific process itself.” In our own higher education outreach, my colleagues in Esri’s Education team and I have noted a widespread belief among scientists beyond GIScience that spatial data are “just another data type." 


Contrary to that academic culture trait, there is some evidence of GIScience's convergence with Data Science. For instance, The University of Oregon’s Department of Geography established an undergraduate degree program in Spatial Data Science and Technology in 2016. The University of Southern California’s Spatial Sciences Institute offers a new cross-disciplinary MS Degree in Spatial Data Science. And Anselin himself founded a Center for Spatial Data Science within the Division of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago.


Beyond the academy, there is evidence of convergence in the occupations as well. A search on “data scientist” at O*NET Online the U.S. Department of Labor’s database of occupationsproduces "Geospatial Information Scientists and Technologists" and "Remote Sensing Scientists and Technologists" among its top ten search results. 


First 20 occupations associated with the search term "data scientist" at the U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net OnLine web site.


(One might wonder, why does the Department of Labor database not include an occupation called "data scientist"? One explanation is that GIScience's hype cycle peaked much earlierarguably in 2003, when the U.S. Department of Labor highlighted “Geospatial Technology” as a high-growth technology industry. Advocacy for formal occupations crescendoed soon thereafter.)


The recent events hosted by Harvard's Center for Geographic Analysis, and soon by CaGIS and UCGIS, may reflect a widening interest in the intersection of GIScience and Data Science - among GIScientists, at least. Harvard's event attracted 26 presenters and panelists representing academic institutions, government agencies, and industry, and a record-high registration of over 250 participants in total. Organizers Matt Wilson (Professor Geography, University of Kentucky, and Visiting Scholar, Harvard), Wendy Guan (Executive Director, Harvard CGA), and I aimed to bring together mainstream data scientists and GIScientists, to review the status of both fields, and to explore commonalities.  


Here's a partial list of highlights of two keynote addresses and four panel sessions presented on Friday, April 27:


Keynoter Francesca Dominici (Professor Biostatistics, co-chair Harvard’s Data Science Initiative) described a research study that applied a neural network to predict a continuous, 1 km grid of daily air pollution levels across the continental U.S.. Fused with claims records for over 67 million Medicare patients, the research suggests that there is no “safe” level of fine particulate matter pollution (produced primarily by fossil-fueled power plants) for senior citizens. 


In a panel themed “Sensors, Smart Objects and Infrastructure for Data Science," Carlo Ratti (Director, SENSEable Cities Laboratory, MIT) focused his short presentation on a project called TrashTrack, which addresses the research question, “why do we know so much about the supply chain and so little about the ‘removal chain'?” The project mobilized volunteers in Seattle who attached small, cheap, location-aware sensors (designed in Ratti's Lab) to 3,000 trash objects. The visualized trajectories of tracked trash revealed far-flung, nationwide removal chains, and raised new questions about environmental justice. 


In the same session, Brendan Meade (Professor Earth & Planetary Sciences and Affiliate in Computer Science, Harvard), discussed how machine learning is changing the condition of possibility of earthquake prediction, and reported progress in using neural networks to predicting where aftershocks will occur.


A second panel titled "Crowdsourcing, Geocomputation, and Spatiotemporal Analysis" included Amen Mashariki (Urban Analytics program lead, Esri). Amen reflected on his former role as chief data scientist for the City of New York, and pointed out the prevalence of predictive policing in U.S. cities. Emphasizing the need for transparency in prediction algorithms, he described an outreach strategy to promote public understanding of algorithms in his new home, the City of Baltimore.


Alex Singleton (Professor of Geographic Information Science and Director of the University of Liverpool’s Geographic Data Science Lab) explained why traditional sources of social science data are under threat, including national censuses and large-scale social surveys. Emergent new data sources are challenging traditional modes of inquiry. 


In a third panel on "Data Science for Cities, Health and Environment," Björn Menze (Professor Computer Science, TU München) presented work on algorithm design for medical image processing, including CT Scans. Noting that hundreds of thousands of such images are available for analysis at national health information repositories, he demonstrated how machine learning enables new mappings of disease patterns. 


(Menze’s work came up earlier in the day, in a different context. Our host for the event, Jason Ur, (Professor Archeology and CGA Faculty Director) mentioned in his introductory remarks that Björn used similar algorithms to detect thousands of archaeological sites in remotely-sensing imagerydiscoveries that would have taken Jason years to uncover through traditional field methods.) 


Finally, in a fourth panel on "Geography, Civic Engagement, and the Future of Data Science," Robert Chen (Director CIESIN, Columbia University) described an effort to mobilize the "data revolution" to advance the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals.  


Michael Goodchild (Professor Emeritus Geography, UC Santa Barbara) offered a second keynote address entitled "The Landscape of GIScience." Goodchild, who coined the term “Geographic Information Science” in 1992, wondered if the name "Data Science" isn't "retrograde," given that "information is data fit for purpose." Still, he agreed that rise of data science does provide opportunities for GIScience. "Carpe diem," Mike concluded.


Should GIScience converge with Data Science?


Allowing that some evidence supports Anselin's claim that GIScience is morphing into spatial data science, a second question remains: should it? Answers will vary depending on one's viewpoint and values. I'm an educator first and foremost, and my primary sense of duty is for my students' successbefore and after they graduate. From that perspective I think about spatial data science in context of the evolution of work in an age of automation. 


I hear a growing chorus of economists, tech leaders, and forward-looking historians anticipate fundamental disruption of traditional employment by increasingly capable machines. Management consultants Richard and Daniel Susskind, authors of The Future of the Professions (2016, p), foresee that “in the long run, increasingly capable machines will transform the work of professionals … leaving most … to be replaced by less expert people and high-performing systems.” Kelleher and Tierney (2018, 67), for example, suggest that "data science is best understood as a partnership between a data scientist and a computer."


Recognizing that the outsourcing of work to machines is nothing new, and that observers are notoriously bad at anticipating the new jobs that disruptive technologies eventually create, the Susskinds don’t predict future occupations that may replace the traditional professions. Instead, they suggest twelve future roles for which education should help people prepare. Those roles are:
Future roles in a post-professional economy (Susskind and Susskind 2015)


As the search results of the Department of Labor's O*Net database (above) suggest, "data scientist" is a role that workers in many occupations will be expected to play. I, for one, am becoming convinced that graduates of GIS-related degree and certificate programs should be prepared to play that role, to a greater extent than their predecessors already do. 


One implication is that tomorrow’s spatial data scientists – professionals with specialized competence with georeferenced data “wrangling,” analysis, visualization, and story telling – will need skills and abilities that span all three industry sectors of the Department of Labor's Geospatial Technology Competency Model: positioning and data acquisition, analysis and modeling, and software and app development. A corollary to that point is the need for future revisions of the GTCM to incorporate data science skills and technologies, including machine learning techniques and greater emphases on statistics and programming. 


While GIScience may be "morphing into spatial data science," the fact remains that few data scientists recognize that spatial data are special, as Goodchild first argued in 1992. However, that "space skepticism" may yet be overcome by "successful use cases ... demonstrating indisputable business advantages" and "unequivocal evidence that the incorporation of an explicit spatial perspective leads to better solutions..." (Anselin 2017). 


Carpe diem indeed!



Anselin, Luc (2017) Space Skepticism. University Consortium for Geographic Information Science blog, October 24. 
Berman, Francine, Rob Rutenbar, Brent Hailpern, Henrik Christensen, Susan Davidson, Deborah Estrin, Michael Franklin, Margaret Martonosi, Padma Raghavan, Victoria Stodden, and Alexander S. Szalay (2018) Realizing the Potential of Data Science. Communications of the ACM, 61:4, 67-72. 
Donoho, David (2017). 50 Years of Data Science. Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics, 26(4), 745-766.
Kelleher, John D., and Brendan Tierney (2018). Data Science. MIT Press Essential Knowledge series.
National Academies of Sciences (2018). Data Science for Undergraduates: Opportunities and Options
National Institutes for Health (2018) Strategic Plan for Data Science [draft].
Susskind, Richard E., and Daniel Susskind (2015). The Future of the Professions: How Technology will Transform the Work of Human Experts. Oxford University Press.


The Esri Development Center (EDC) program confers special status and benefits upon a select few leading university departments that challenge their students to develop innovative applications based upon the ArcGIS platform and related elements of the geospatial technology ecosystem. One benefit of the program is a cash prize, certificate, and Esri Press book awarded to a Student of the Year named by each EDC. Here I’ll share brief profiles of 10 outstanding award winners, including the one student selected as Esri's 2018 International Student of the Year.


Susanna Ambondo Abraham, Technische Universität (TU) Dresden


Susanna is employed as a Cartographer at the Ministry of Mines and Energy in Namibia


For her International Master of Science in Cartography thesis “Historical Spatio-temporal data in current GIS, Case Study: German-Herero war of resistance 1904”, Susanna applied Natural Language Processing techniques to extract spatio-temporal data from unstructured historical text documents. Using the GATE text engineering architecture, Susanna developed tools to perform gazetteer matching and spatiotemporal relationship extraction, as well as pattern-based rules to recognize and annotate elements. She then used ArcGIS to analyze the extracted historical spatio-temporal data. Reviewers observed that “the project requires expertise in natural language processing, geographic positioning, spatio-temporal analysis, and history, and addresses a timeless issue – human conflict.” Her research will be reported in a special issue of the Transactions in GIS. Meanwhile, this story map summarizes Susanna's findings. 


Marlena Götza, University of Münster


Marlena’s masters project at the Institute for Geoinformatics (ifgi) involved a collaboration between 52° North, Esri, and the company CLAAS E-Systems. CLAAS’ Telematics system uses a big data infrastructure to delineate farm fields from the movements of agricultural vehicles. Farm field boundaries provide the basis for automated planning and control tasks for farmers. The problem is that CLAAS' infrastructure does not provide geo-functionalities that take into account the spatial context in managing and processing the data. The purpose of Marlena's study was therefore to determine how the existing Big Data infrastructure could be enhanced by Esri technology.


Overview of the extended system infrastructure Marlena Götza tested for CLAAS E-Systems.


For field boundary detection, the existing Hadoop infrastructure was extended through the ArcGIS Enterprise platform. In addition to the ArcGIS Enterprise Stack, the configuration also includes ArcGIS Pro, which allows to users to control processing on ArcGIS Enterprise and to define processing workflows. The project demonstrated the added value of ArcGIS for visualization and spatio-temporal data, and also identified potential improvements to GeoAnalytics Server and the Big Data Store for similar applications. 


Jan Jedersberger, Karlsruhe University of Applied Science


For his masters thesis "Conceptualizing and implementing mobile mapping tools to support cheetah monitoring in Kenya”, Jan used AppStudio for ArcGIS and Qt/QML to develop a suite of mobile field apps, a web app, and back-end capabilities. Reviewers noted that “Jan built a complex distributed system for a worthy cause."


Jan (left) confers with a staff member of the NGO Action for Cheetahs in Kenya (ACK) about usability of the mobile apps he developed. At right, an ACK staffer photographs and tags a cheetah track.


Relationships among components of the system Jan Jedersberger developed for Action for Cheetahs in Kenya.


Timo Staub, University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt


Timo developed a 3D route planning system for the University’s Röntgenring campus information system. Users can search start and end points by room number. Options include avoiding elevators, stairs, and/or special lock authorizations, and specifying in-building routes. Timo used ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Server, Network Analyst, and ArcGIS Online to create the 3D-Routeplanner app. 


Timo Staub’s 3D-Routeplanner app at the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt’s Röntgenring campus.


Nicole Helgeson, University of Minnesota


Nicole is a second-year student in the University of Minnesota’s Master of GIS program. She’s also a research assistant with the University’s Extension Center for Family Development. She earned the EDC Student of the Year award for her work in web mapping and web GIS—specifically related to health and nutrition. Nicole's nominators remarked that although Nicole “did not have a computer science or software engineering background … she has become our archetype for how a student can migrate from GIS applications into GIS development."



Nicole interns with a local county Public Health agency, volunteers for the Minnesota Food Charter, and has received funding from the university’s Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute. The web mapping sites she’s developed for these agencies deal directly with food access or cataloging institutions concerned with food access. A common feature is the integration crowdsourced information, primarily using Survey123 for ArcGIS. One example is Ramsey County food resources.


Timothy Naegeli, Penn State University


For his Master of GIS capstone project, Tim collaborated with a plenary geologist at the U.S.Geological Survey to develop and test a new GIS-based tool for identifying and characterizing impact craters on Mars and the Moon. Planetary geologists study primary and secondary impact craters to determine the ages of celestial bodies. Tim developed an extension to the Large Crater Clustering (LCC) tool set that enables analysts to simulate impact trajectories and identify likely locations of primary and secondary craters. The extension – a Python script that levers ArcGIS’ ArcPy library – is described in Tim’s paper in Computers and Geosciences.


Simulated impact trajectories reveal likely locations of primary craters in the Lunae Pauls quadrangle on Mars.


Brian Ho, Harvard University 


Brian earned Harvard University’s EDC Student of the Year distinction for his project Making a New City Image


Brian Ho, Harvard Graduate School of Design and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences


Brian's project seeks nothing less than to to define a "new mode of geographic analysis" that "unites the [planimetric] view from above and the [street]view from the ground.” The project is grounded in Kevin Lynch’s Image of the City, a landmark study that relied on both systematic field reconnaissance and interviews with a small sample of city residents, all supported by photographs, hand-drawn maps and lengthy transcripts. Lynch’s five elements of the city image — the path, edge, district, node and landmark — led to a generalized theory of urban form. For his project, Brian geolocated some 2000 of Lynch’s original photos of Boston. He then used ArcGIS Pro to warp a scanned image of Lynch’s Boston city image diagram, digitized each city image element, then associated the geolocated photos with the elements. Finally, Brian developed a convolutional neural net to learn the relationship between the imagery and the city image elements. A reviewer noted that Brian’s project "requires expertise in disparate domains (AI, geographic analysis, perception) and addresses a timely issue as the world becomes increasingly urban.”


Stefan Zimmer, University of Salzburg


Department of Geoinformatics – Z_GIS – honors Stefan for his masters thesis "An Efficient Algorithm for Computing Space-Time-Linguistics Similarities and Labelling Social Media Posts.” Stefan's machine learning-based algorithm “TwEmLab" (Twitter Emo-tion Labeller) assigns emotion categories to social media posts like tweets. Nominators praised his success in implementing the complex algorithm in a way that outperforms comparable parallelized algorithms, both for CPU- and GPU-based operations.


Tweets in the Boston vicinity associated with anger/disgust (red), fear (blue), and sadness (yellow), according to Zimmer’s algorithm.



Stefan applied exceptional software development skills to develop and implement geospatial applications using a variety of software technologies, including extensive use of Esri technology for spatial data analysis and visualization. He conceived and implemented a location-based game, in which a spaceship can be controlled using a mobile EEG device and voice commands, and was a member of the successful team winning the first Copernicus Hackathon.


Abhinav Mehrotra, University College London



Abhinav earned his PhD with a dissertation titled “A framework for intelligent mobile notifications.” His work focuses on the collection and analysis of large-scale datasets from mobile and wearable devices. He is also interested in the analysis of mobile GPS traces to extract human mobility patterns and exploit this information to support innovative services. "My research,” Abhinav writes, "is driven by a strong desire to provide value to the smartphone users from the data generated by their phones.”


ArcGIS played an important role in his projects, especially for visualizing mobility trajectories and understanding the characteristics of the places visited by the users considered in his studies. For example, in a recent project that investigates the impact of places on users' mobile interaction behavior, ArcGIS has been a key tool for clustering places visited by users over time. Nominators remarked that “the results of this work could prove to be of key importance for the development of novel intelligent mobile applications and services and also for mobile application marketing purposes.” Abhinav’s co-authored paper "Understanding the Role of Places and Activities on Mobile Phone Interaction and Usage Patterns” is published in the Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies.


Nicholas Romano, University of Maryland


Nick is a second year student in Maryland’s Master of Professional Studies in Geospatial Information Sciences program. He currently serves as a Graduate Assistant within the Campus GIS Group in Facilities Management. His development portfolio focuses on web development using the ArcGIS for JavaScript API, and data management and interoperability utilizing Python and the ArcPy package. He has developed a tool that repairs CAD files to re-enable block attributes that can be read within ArcGIS 10.3 and above. His other tools automate the transformation of CAD building floorplan data into the Local Government Information Model (LGIM), allowing them to be utilized for visualization within 3D Web Scenes and for interior navigation. At the 2018 Esri Developers Summit in Palm Springs, Nick proposed new methods to organize and scale enterprise application code. Along with his colleagues and predecessors, Nick helps make the University of Maryland Campus Web Map one of the best of its kind. 


Nick Romano’s 3D Interior Navigation prototype app


Last but not least, we are pleased to announce our 2018 Esri Development Center International Student of the Year:


Ashwin Shashidharan North Carolina State University


Ashwin Shashidharan (center) with advisers Ross Meentemeyer (left) and Raju Vatsavai. 


Ashwin’s pathbreaking work in high performance computing for geosimulations earned first place in the student research competition at the 24th ACM SIGSPATIAL Conference. A PhD candidate in Computer Science, Ashwin is advised jointly by Ross Meentemeyer, director of NC State’s Center for Geospatial Analytics, and Faculty Fellow Raju Vatsavai.



During an earlier internship with Esri, Ashwin contributed to algorithm design and software development of a spatial indexing library for GPGPUs. This work involved C/C++ programming using the NVIDIA’s CUDA parallel computing platform and programming model for NVIDIA GPUs. This work was part of Esri’s GPU computing initiative to extend big data analysis with the ArcGIS GeoAnalytics software. Reviewers noted that "Ashwin is working on the bleeding edge of GPU-based geoanalytics within the ArcGIS platform."


As Esri’s 2018 EDC International Student of the Year, Ashwin is invited to attend the 2018 Education Summit @ Esri UC and Esri User Conference in San Diego, July 7-13.


Time, space and available documentation do not permit profiles of every Student of the Year. Congratulations to honorees at other Esri Development Centers:


Benjamin Acker, University of Texas at Dallas, for his project Spatiotemporal Risk Estimation of Traffic Accidents using Python.


Max Czapanskiy and Sally Shatford (co-winners), San Francisco State University


Cesar del Castillo, Arizona State University, for contributions to the From the Past a Sustainable Future project.    


Brian Everitt, University of Southern California, for his Earthquake Awareness, Response, and Recovery Web Mapping Application


Andrew Fleming, Texas A&M University


David Penn, Georgia Southern University


Nikhil Sangwan, Purdue University, for his project on validation of floodmaps at county resolution for the entire U.S.


Timothy Schempp, San Diego State University


Matthias Stein, Hochschule Bochum, for his master thesis project "Usability improvements for map content controls on mobile devices."  


Zachary Sutherby, Rochester Institute of Technology


Jorim Urner, Institute of Cartography and Geoinformation, ETH Zurich, for his thesis project Incorporating Spatio-Temporal Context for Predicting the Next Place Using Neural Networks and Random Forests and contributions to the GoEco project.



Stop Teaching GIS

Posted by DDiBiase-esristaff Employee Jan 10, 2018

Teach how to learn GIS instead.


That was a guiding principle as I recently redesigned the gateway course to the Penn State Online certificate and masters degree programs in GIS.


I began developing "Nature of Geographic Information" in 1998, at the outset of the Penn State Online program. I designed the course to serve adult students who sought to start or advance careers using GIS. The online course consisted of an open-access textbook ( and associated courseware for registered students. The courseware included ungraded and graded quizzes meant to ensure students' engagement with the text, as well as discussion forums and prescribed projects that required students to practice working with, and writing about, key concepts and technologies. 


Over 10,000 students have taken the course through the years, and most have expressed satisfaction with their experiences. Penn State colleagues and students helped me update the course incrementally. But the geospatial field has changed fundamentally since the late 1990s, and the Penn State Online program that the course was designed to introduce has evolved and expanded along with it. Equally important, our understanding of how people learn (and in particular, how they learn online) has advanced considerably. Nearly 20 years on, "Nature of Geographic Information" was overdue for a complete makeover. 


Although I began working with Esri full-time in 2011, I continued to lead online classes and workshops part-time for Penn State. I was thrilled and a bit overawed when program director Anthony Robinson invited me to create and lead a new version of the course. I accepted the challenge in the summer of 2016, and worked on the revision for over a year. The result, now known as "Making Maps that Matter with GIS," differs from its predecessor in scope, objectives, content, and user experience. Regarding content, the main difference is that I stopped assigning a textbook (though several texts are suggested options). It seems to me that today's next-generation GIS text is the World Wide Web itself.


The user experience in the new course is markedly different as well – for instructors as well as students. As the syllabus states, "students are expected to investigate assigned topics independently and to share findings within study groups to collaboratively construct understandings of these topics." The course introduction goes on to state that “The best employers in this field are looking for GIS pros who know how to discover, evaluate, and use information needed for the task at hand. This course is designed to help you strengthen those skills. The course establishes educational objectives, but does not spoon-feed the information needed to achieve them. We expect you to find and discuss the required information yourself, using the web, libraries, and your own personal experience." Instructors spend considerably more time evaluating student discussion posts and web mapping projects using rubrics like the one illustrated here, and proportionately less time updating exercise instructions and other course content.


Rubric used to score students’ contributions to discussions in Penn State’s GEOG 482: Making Maps that Matter with GIS.

Rubric used to score students’ contributions to discussions in Penn State’s GEOG 482: Making Maps that Matter with GIS.


The notion that people learn best when they actively construct knowledge in relation to what they already know is not a new idea, of course. Neither am I alone in believing that students - particularly adult students - should be challenged to take more responsibility for their own learning. For example, Karen Kemp, Professor of Practice at the University of Southern California and co-editor of the original NCGIA Core Curriculum in GIS, says "my goal in teaching now in our field is simply to teach students how to learn." Don Boyes of the University of Toronto reports that "Where it makes sense, I am encouraging students to learn how to find their own data … I provide some guidance about where to look for data and how to evaluate it, but I want them to be in charge of their own work as much as possible. " At Minnesota State University Moorhead, David Kramar “generally begin[s] the semester with some cookbook/step-by-step exercises that are intended to get the students familiar with the software interface and basic functionality. However, my ‘true’ labs require them to think critically, use the help and search functionality, and (frankly) figure it out for themselves (with my guidance and assistance as needed).”And in their 2017 International Journal of Geographical Information Science article "Critical GIS pedagogies beyond 'Week 10: Ethics", Sarah Elwood of the University of Washington and Matthew Wilson at the University of Kentucky state that "our approach to skill-building now involves students in learning new interfaces or platforms through individual and collaborative exploration without detailed step-by-step instructions, but with instructions for how to identify and productively engage online user forums, help files, etc."


There are many ways to get students more actively involved in learning. The right strategy depends on your educational objectives, your students’ ages and experience, and your instructional context. For instance, Robert Rose at the College of William and Mary directs a support unit that offers GIS classes to students in Geology, Environmental Studies, Government, and other undergraduate programs. They’ve adopted a "laddered approach" to GIS instruction that begins with scripted GIS activities, followed by "add-on" exercises with less detailed guidance, culminating in a final project in which students create “habitat suitability models for mythical beasts” with no step-by-step instructions. At San Diego Mesa College, Michele Kinzel uses “backwards design and constructivist approaches. I also reach out to multiple learning styles and combine individual hands-on GIS lessons with small group work and other types of exploration.” Boris Mericskay at Université Rennes2 developed an “inverted approach” in which he “poses a problem to students and leaves it to them to find the right tools and how to combine them.” “At the beginning the students are a little lost,” Boris admits, “but eventually they figure out how to apply GIS to solve the problem I posed.” Like Don Boyes and others, Bob Kolvoord of James Madison University has taken a “flipped classroom” approach, in which “students have various work they need to do to prepare for class and then class time is spent working on largely open-ended exercises to bolster their spatial thinking and GIS skills.” Some strategies involve more elaborate educational technology than others: Geographer Ashley Ward and GIS Librarian Amanda Henley at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill challenge small groups of students to select 8-10 socioeconomic variables from the Atlas of Human Development in Brazil, map the variables using ArcGIS Online, and then, prompted by patterns they discover in the maps, embark on self-guided explorations of on-ground landscapes using Google StreetView in a Liquid Galaxy immersive virtual reality display.


Don Boyes’s YouTube channel, where he shares self-produced video demonstrations to support his “flipped classroom” approach.

Don Boyes’s YouTube channel, where he shares self-produced video demonstrations to support his “flipped classroom” approach.


Requiring students to take greater responsibility for their learning isn’t easy, and it’s not for everyone. Vince DiNoto of Jefferson Community and Technical College in Louisville, Kentucky says that while he’s a "firm believer in less lecturing and more personal assistance,” he finds that “students directly out of high school really struggle with open ended case studies. They email me constantly, imploring me to tell them what I want.” Aaron Addison of Washington University in St. Louis reports that “I’ve tried the ‘guide on the side’ rather than ‘sage on the stage’ approach at the graduate student level, and to a lesser extent at the undergraduate level. My experience (unfortunately) is that it may work on a 1:1 basis, but does not appear to result in successful outcomes in a classroom setting with 15-20 students.” Bob Kolvoord relates that “on the whole, the flipped classroom approach works well, but it can be a challenge for students who aren’t motivated or that have poor task/time management skills.”


What about the students in my new course? A formal evaluation of student outcomes and preferences is underway, but anecdotal data is the best I have to share at this point. I found feedback from one student – an accomplished young woman who is new to GIS but previously earned a PhD in Marine Geochemistry – particularly enlightening. Early in the first offering of the course, she wrote me privately to express frustration. She wrote, "I (and probably most students) signed up to learn from an expert (and you are, according to your credentials, an expert!). But in the discussion forums, we’re learning from our peers, and most of us are hardly experts." She felt cheated. Rather than waiting to submit an anonymous evaluation at the end of the course, she asked permission to create a forum in which students could share critiques and suggestions about the course. Later in the course I took her advice, and invited all 53 students to post in a Course Commentary discussion. By this time, students had about six weeks of experience with the new course format. On reflection, the same student wrote this:


… after my first exchange with David a few weeks back about my frustrations with this class … I dug up an interesting article in Harvard Magazine1 about how interactive learning is much more successful than traditional (lecture) teaching and learning methods, although it meets with a lot of resistance. I was skeptical then, but the more time passes, the more I find this active learning class engaging, the more I enjoy what I’m learning, and the more I agree that, overall, this pedagogical method has been a success with me.


Other students complained that researching unfamiliar topics independently, and reading their peers’ many posts, was too time-consuming. Fellow instructor Adrienne Goldsberry and I streamlined that aspect of the course for the second offering, and fewer complaints about excessive workloads followed. However, it remains true that students who are unfamiliar with the subject matter, or who prefer their accustomed roles as consumers of instructor-produced content, are uncomfortable with the level of responsibility that the course demands.


At this point it should be clear that the call to action in the title of this short article is purposefully provocative. Naturally, every college and university educator wants to help students learn to discover, evaluate, apply, and share knowledge independently and in groups. Even so, I believe it’s healthy for GIS educators to ask ourselves frankly whether we give our students enough responsibility for their own learning. The question and answer has been transformative for me.


1 Lambert, Craig (2012). Twilight of the Lecture. Harvard Magazine

Every year, in preparation for Esri’s annual User Conference, Jack Dangermond asks managers across the company to prepare Questions and Answers of concern to their user communities. The entire set of hundreds of “2017 Esri UC Q&As” in 49 categories was published on June 26th.  


The 2017 set includes an expanded Education section, which Jack asked us to circulate directly to our education communities. The Education Q&As follow in this post, under the headings: 

We welcome conversation about these, as well as your suggestions for additional Q&As. You can add a comment below after you log into GeoNet.



Key Takeaways

We believe that education is key to a brighter future. Hundreds of Esri employees around the world work in education and training. It's in our DNA. We believe that education creates opportunities for people of all ages, and all stages of personal and professional development, to shine.


Esri contributes to what the 1st edition of the GIS&T Body of Knowledge calls the global “GIS Education Infrastructure.” Esri specializes in education and training that helps millions of people of all ages and many walks of life apply ArcGIS effectively in their work, their studies, and their community service. In this way, Esri’s education enterprise complements the work of accredited higher education institutions, K-12 schools, professional societies, publishers, government agencies, and other software companies and training providers.

The diverse clientele for Esri’s education and training offerings includes:


  • GIS users in hundreds of thousands of public, private, and not-for-profit organizations around the world who need to strengthen their skills and keep up with the evolving ArcGIS platform;
  • College and university students in over ten thousand higher education institutions who seek specialized careers in GIS, or to add analytical skills that benefit many other career paths;
  • College and university educators who teach with and about GIS;
  • Researchers in many fields who use GIS to solve problems and create knew knowledge;
  • Campus administrators who rely on GIS to conduct their operations efficiently, and make their campuses safer;
  • K-12 School teachers and youth program leaders who want to empower their students with geographic inquiry and 21st century technology skills; and
  • Adults of all ages who turn to free online education to expand their horizons and satisfy their curiosity about GIS.

Esri responds to this large and diverse demand with a spectrum of education training and offerings tailored to these diverse needs. The various offerings are described elsewhere in this Education Industry Q&A, and at the Education web presence at\


What trends, challenges, and opportunities does Esri observe in the education field?

Esri’s education enterprise serves three constituencies: Higher education, K-12 Schools, and Lifelong learners. In higher education, hundreds of thousands of college and university students, tens of thousands of scholar/educators, and hundreds of campus administrators use ArcGIS every year. Over 2,000 institutions worldwide maintain “site” licenses that provide virtually unlimited access to most parts of the ArcGIS platform for most academic uses. Some 10,000 additional institutions maintain more limited licenses. Slightly more than half of education users live and work outside the U.S. Over 90% of the world’s top 400 universities license ArcGIS, and the lion’s share of all higher education institutions use ArcGIS for teaching, research, service, and increasingly for campus administration. Thus, Esri’s grand challenge in higher education is not just to attract more colleges and universities, but to effect broader and deeper usage of existing licenses across the academy.


Trends relevant to this challenge include the U.S. public’s declining esteem for higher education, which is part of a long-term trend of flagging confidence in public institutions generally. An exception is 2-year and community colleges, which recent polling shows a large majority of Americans believe contribute to a strong workforce, are worth their cost, and prepare students for success. These perceptions explain increasing push-back against the cost of university education, declining taxpayer support, and increasing scrutiny by legislatures.


Despite these headwinds, GIS in higher education is poised for growth in new disciplines and new use cases, if benefits to student success and cost savings are demonstrated. Esri’s modernized education licensing should hasten that growth by increasing access and flexibility without increasing costs. Beyond the U.S., growth is challenged by the fact that only a few of Esri’s 80-plus international distributors support strong education outreach programs. Exceptions include Esri Canada, Esri UK, and Esri Germany.


In primary and secondary (K-12) schools, tens of thousands of pupils, thousands of teachers, and tens of district administrators use ArcGIS – primarily ArcGIS Online – every year. We believe that GIS can be an effective enabling technology that supports inquiry-based education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), as well as in the social sciences and humanities. Esri is committed to empowering every young person with the geographic inquiry skills that modern GIS fosters. Since 2014 that commitment has been expressed in the ConnectED program, through which Esri offers free curriculum resources, technology, and teacher training and mentorship to every U.S. school and every Esri international distributor. To date over 4,600 U.S. schools have responded to the ConnectED offer, and our GeoInquiries curriculum resources attract tens of thousands of views and downloads each month. Several distributors in the European Union, U.K., Australia, and New Zealand have launched ambitious ConnectED-like initiatives of their own. Relevant trends and factors in the U.S. include:


  • State and federal school financing policies, which tend to exert downward pressure on public school resources and staffing, often leading to high student-to-teacher ratios and a low availability of up-to-date instructional resources.
  • Curriculum standards and standardized assessment tend to relegate the social sciences, particularly geography, to second-class status.
  • Teacher accountability initiatives tied to student performance from standardized tests tend to put a chilling effect on innovation in the classroom.
  • High teacher turnover – perhaps as high as 50% of teachers leaving the profession in the first five years – requires that teacher professional development be continuous, high quality, and flexible.


On the bright side, technology trends, including low-cost Chromebook adoption and cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS, such as ArcGIS Online) create a condition of possibility for strengthening GIS in schools. Despite persistent challenges, the vision of widespread use of GIS in schools seems more possible than ever.


Since learning is a way of life for GIS users, most of the millions of ArcGIS users are lifelong learners. Esri Training Services provides dozens of instructor-led and E-learning courses, recorded seminars, and other resources from, “your location for lifelong learning.” And Esri’s Learn ArcGIS exercises support self-paced, guided learning through authentic activities that are increasingly integrated with Esri Press publications, and with ArcGIS itself. Esri’s massive open online course (MOOC) program enable sthousands of learners to test-drive the latest Esri technology while discovering or refreshing their knowledge of core GIS topics like spatial analysis, cartography, and geo app development.


The trend toward more frequent software releases creates challenges for Esri’s education and training staff as well as for users. And the ongoing evolution of GIS and related information technologies increases the need for lifelong learning activities for both Esri users and employees.


What are Esri’s education and training offerings?

Esri supports learners and educators in K-12 schools, higher education, and the ArcGIS user community with a spectrum of educational offerings. Here are the top ten:

  1., Esri’s gateway to instructor-led classes, E-learning classes, and many other resources.
  2. Hands-on independent learning activities help users Learn GIS.
  3. Esri’s massive open online course (MOOC) program.
  4. Curriculum solutions for educators, including SpatiaLABS exercises for higher education and GeoInquiries for schools.
  5. Deeply discounted access to the ArcGIS platform and training resources for educational institutions, and free access for students (see Education Licensing, below).
  6. Esri Support helps users learn to be successful with ArcGIS.
  7. A multi-level Technical Certification program that attests to practitioners’ skills.
  8. A Young Professionals Network that builds community among recent graduates and other newcomers to the GIS field.
  9. Esri Press books, ArcNews, ArcUser, ArcWatch, and other educational publications.
  10. And, of course, the Esri User Conference – the world’s largest social learning event for GIS professionals.


What’s new in Esri’s Education Licensing Program?

We are modernizing our product offerings to reflect changes in technology as well as changes to educational practices, while ensuring that Esri products remain affordable to educational institutions and customers receive the support and training needed to be successful.


The mission of Education Outreach team is to prepare the next generation GIS workforce. We want students to learn modern workflows and technologies, as well as to feel free to experiment and innovate, expanding GIS into new fields. To encourage this, we are removing barriers to broad deployment of ArcGIS within educational institutions and increasing flexibility for license administrators, without increasing license fees. 


 Over the years, ArcGIS evolved from a single product (ARC/INFO) to a platform of tightly integrated parts. Our education licenses will reflect this platform orientation, and include all the core components (mobile apps, online, desktop, enterprise) in one package, with options for individual students, departments and labs, and entire institutions.


Meanwhile, education has evolved as well. Learning is not limited to the classroom or lab. Online education and flipped classrooms mean many students learn at home and at the coffee shop, not solely on a physical campus. While Arc/INFO once required high-end workstations that could only be found in a university lab, students now own laptops and tablets with more processing power. ArcGIS should be accessible from whatever location students and educators choose to work, on any device.


Given these changes, we recognized a need to update both the product contents and the legal framework (license agreement) of the Education Program offerings. We have renovated our offerings to address customer concerns while building on opportunities created by new thinking about education and technology.


Specific changes include: 

  1. Increase flexibility for license administrators and users:
    1. Support both centralized and decentralized administration
      • Options for each institution in consortium agreement to manage their own software, training and tech support, while maintaining cost savings that come from consortium agreements.
      • Options for multiple portals within an institution for managing users and content by department or research project. 
    2. Focus on institutions and users instead of physical sites and computers
      • Simplify licensing for institutions that operate in multiple countries, especially online programs and study abroad programs.
      • Include all campuses of an institution for one fee, rather than treat each location as separate entity.
      • Accommodate “bring your own device”, virtualized and hosted computing environments.
  2. Expand access to all components of the platform:
    1. Increase Named User accounts and increase support for single sign-on, making ArcGIS access ubiquitous for students, faculty and staff.
    2. Standardize quantities of licenses per product in institutional agreements so anyone can use any component, even premium apps.
    3. Make ArcGIS free for primary/secondary instruction, along with classroom activities and a guide for creating classroom activities tailored to local curriculum.
  3. Eliminate perceived risks of Software as a Service (SaaS) model:
    1. Provide functionally unlimited service credits for teaching and research. Yearly allocations will increase by an order of magnitude.
    2. Document and share best practices for system architecture, user management, and credit management.


Beginning with higher education in 2016, and continuing with primary/secondary schools in 2017, our goals throughout this process have been to make ArcGIS easier to acquire and manage, and to increase the benefits of our offerings without increasing the cost. We believe this enables more people to learn and apply the science of where, providing meaningful career opportunities for individuals and creating positive change for society.



K-12 Schools

What is Esri’s commitment to primary and secondary schools around the world?

We believe that GIS can be an effective enabling technology that supports inquiry-based education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). To realize that potential, Esri is committed to making our technology accessible to every K-12 student and teacher. In 2014, Esri offered to donate ArcGIS Online accounts to every public, private, and home school in the United States. Since then we have provided free curriculum solutions and teacher professional to thousands of teachers. Our goal is to inspire mainstream adoption of geo-enabled teaching in thousands of U.S. schools.


Over 4,600 U.S. schools have requested free ArcGIS Online licenses through Esri’s ConnectED program. Our free GeoInquiries curriculum solutions attract 50-60,000 views and downloads every month. More than 1,000 teachers participate in Esri-sponsored teacher training events every year. Beginning this year, Esri is sponsoring statewide ArcGIS Online U.S. School Competitions across the U.S. And, we’ve teamed with the Association of American Geographers to recruit 1,000 volunteer “geomentors” to assist teachers who wish to adopt GIS in their classrooms.


Meanwhile, Esri partner provides many resources for teachers, including an exciting new product called Field Trip Library, which levers Esri’s Story Maps to make history and geography come alive. And beyond the United States, content providers like Collins are including Story Maps in educational products like the Geographical Enquiries series. We’re also encouraging Esri’s international distributors to do all they can to support primary and secondary education. Some, like Esri Canada, Esri UK, Esri Australia, and Eagle Technology (New Zealand) have ambitious programs to bring GIS and spatial thinking to schools. And in support of the European Commission's Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, Esri has launched the GIS School Program Europe to provide no-cost GIS software and resources to primary and secondary schools across the continent.


I’m a school teacher. What curriculum materials does Esri provide for me?

Esri has created GeoInquiries™, which are starting points for classroom instruction using ArcGIS Online. Each is a brief intro activity with just two pages of questions and instructions tied to a specific pre-made map. A teacher with grasp of their standard content but no background with GIS can engage these activities with just a single computer and projector, introducing the class to a new way of seeing and thinking about these essential elements, in just 15 minutes, without even requiring a login. Where students have access to desktop, laptop, or tablet devices with just a browser and internet access, they can jump into the maps themselves, examining the patterns and relationships, building key skills and familiarity with ArcGIS Online. Teachers can easily ramp up the content or shave it back as appropriate for their students. Because the activities address significant items in each subject, they make excellent launch platforms for longer investigations and personal projects where students save and share customizations through an ArcGIS Online Organization account. GeoInquiries are available for key areas in science, geography, history, literature, and math, at


Beyond GeoInquiries, Esri has all manner of resources that help people understand how to use GIS in projects, at, at, and at "Blended resources" which mix hardcopy print, digital print, and online mapping, such as The ArcGIS Book ( and companion volume Instructors Guide to The ArcGIS Book, give instructors a powerful way to introduce skill-based activities through real-life scenarios.


What teacher training and professional development opportunities are available for teachers who wish to use GIS for teaching and learning?

The rise of ArcGIS Online and proliferation of instructional materials for education mean that educators do not necessarily have to travel or even change their schedule to begin learning to use GIS. Many resources exist for building background and experience incrementally. For instance, scaffolds for educators an intro to basic concepts and skills necessary for using ArcGIS Online effectively. It sequences key resources from,,, and, through which educators can easily ramp up their skills. Meanwhile, across the US, and now starting in other countries, educators who have built a background teaching with GIS are providing local opportunities for professional development, in presentations, workshops, and institutes. Events at which educators are presenting about GIS are visible on a frequently changing website, The biggest annual gathering of educators who use GIS (typically over 750) is the Esri Education GIS Conference,, where educators can get hands-on practice, hear user presentations, catch plenary sessions, have unlimited conversations with peers, and be part of the full Esri User Conference opening day audience. And, throughout the year, the conversation continues 24x7 on GeoNet, with a variety of groups for educators, based on subject, theme, or region, at Assistance is also available from many GeoMentors -- GIS professionals who want to help teachers and students discover the power of GIS; see Map#4 at and


Which are the most useful Esri technologies for teaching and learning in schools? How can I get them?

The fastest and easiest way to get started working with maps in schools is ArcGIS Online. Think "any device, anytime, anywhere connected." Educators and students alike can explore endless content on even without logging in; thousands of Story Maps, including many with powerful content for instruction, await at Scores of pre-built instructional activities for schools, in a variety of subject areas, are ready to choose and use, at Many resources supporting broad exploration and doing projects are available at But to save content for students, and for them to create/save/share as well, you need an account. Schools can acquire an ArcGIS Online Organization subscription, for instruction, for free, in the US and other countries. (In US, see; outside US, contact your distributor These accounts can expand learning, with secure storing and sharing, special powers for geographic analysis, additional tools like those for doing field data collection (Survey123 and Collector) or building custom apps (Web AppBuilder), and scores of enhanced and curated data layers in the Living Atlas. ArcGIS Online opens the door to more components in the ArcGIS platform, but even just staying with web browsers (on Windows, MacOS, and Chromebooks) and focused apps for tablets and smartphones, educators and students can start easily, learn quickly, and build essential background knowledge and skills for college, career, and community life. And educators can connect 24x7 with their community members and others online, at


How does Esri support the business functions of higher education campuses and school districts?

Educational campuses and districts are akin to small cities. Planning, operating, and sustaining them and serving the people associated with them are critically aided by using GIS. Here are some of the ways in which Esri supports education administration.

  1. The Esri Education Outreach Team has staff dedicated to help education users address tasks such as demographic analysis, master planning, transportation, facilities management, safety, and stakeholder communications. Please feel free to contact them,
  2. There is a growing gallery of DIY templates and apps designed around specific workflows and problems, like field inspections and safety compliance. While not built specifically for education campuses, the issues they address are present there. Additionally, the samples can be modified.
  3. For institutions seeking additional assistance in learning how to build in-house expertise, Esri’s free e-Learning for users on maintenance and its broader training catalog are places to start. Tailored training pathways also are available in consultation with a Training Specialist.
  4. For those seeking direct assistance in implementing GIS to meet their circumstances, Esri’s Professional Services team has a dedicated education practice lead who is ready to help.
  5. Additionally, Esri has a body of business partners that provide user services and/or build tailored ArcGIS-based solutions specifically for education-focused matters such as student transportation, enrollment projections, space management, campus asset management, pre-incident planning, and mobile mapping.
  6. The number of education administration GIS users expands every day. Many of them are becoming lighthouses for others, e.g., the University of Maryland and the University of Minnesota. To discover others, please contact


Higher Education

What does Esri mean by a “spatial university”?

The “spatial university” is Esri’s vision of what a higher education institution would look like if it fully realized the potential of spatial thinking and geospatial technology to enrich teaching, learning, research, and campus administration. The spatial university has four defining characteristics:


  1. Spatial thinking across the curriculum. There’s now compelling evidence suggesting that spatial abilities prepare students for success in STEM coursework and early employment. However, no college or university to our knowledge includes such preparation among its overarching objectives for general education. Nor do many institutions have campus-wide programs to prepare students to use GIS in community based service learning projects or internships.
  2. Geospatial workforce development. For nearly a decade the U.S. Department of Labor has highlighted career opportunities associated with geospatial technologies. In 2014 it published an updated Geospatial Technology Competency Model that clearly defines workforce needs. Still, relatively few higher education institutions offer advanced, practice-oriented undergraduate and graduate programs that prepare students for geospatial career opportunities. And many that do offer such programs struggle to attract sufficient enrollments.
  3. Geo-enabled research. Research discoveries too often remain segregated and hidden in disciplinary silos. GIS, and the spatial perspective it embodies, is inherently integrative. The spatial university hosts and disseminates multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research enabled by the spatial perspective and geospatial technologies. We believe that preparing a new generation of researchers who understand how geo-enablement powers innovation should be an urgent priority for research universities.
  4. GIS for campus administration. The spatial university has an enterprise GIS infrastructure in place to support campus planning, operations, maintenance, and sustainability. Given the proven potential of such infrastructures to save money and increase safety and security, it’s remarkable that more institutions have not yet fulfilled this potential.


We promote our vision of the spatial university in frequent visits to universities and colleges around the world. And we support institutions that share our vision by providing low-cost education licensing, educational resources and experience that complement higher education offerings, and opportunities for student internships and careers.


I’m a college or university educator who wants to start teaching and doing research with ArcGIS Pro. How can Esri help me?

We salute your desire to engage with ArcGIS Pro. Because of its integration with ArcGIS Online, its 2D and 3D functionality, and its modern and intuitive interface, and its 64-bit performance, using it in your university will better equip your students for the workforce. Two books that are filled with hands-on activities provide teaching and learning resources worth investigating:


  1. Getting to Know ArcGIS Pro, from Esri Press, which has been reviewed for educators, here.
  2. Learning ArcGIS Pro, from Packt publishers authored by Tripp Corbin, reviewed for educators here.
  3. In addition, these foundational courses may be helpful:
  4. Existing ArcMap users migrating to ArcGIS Pro: Introduction to ArcGIS Pro for GIS Professionals Instructor-Led.
  5. New ArcGIS Pro users: ArcGIS Pro: Essential Workflows Instructor-Led.
  6. Getting Started with ArcGIS Pro, a three-hour E-learning course.
  7. Automating Workflows Using ArcGIS Pro Tasks, a three-hour E-Learning course.


Finally, several of our SpatiaLABS (hands-on instructional activities that you can use with students) have been migrated to ArcGIS Pro, and can be found here.


I'm a university student who wants to use ArcGIS on my own laptop. What are my options?

You have several options.  Some require the assistance of your instructor or Esri license administrator, and some are available to you independently.


  1. Registered students at colleges and universities with an Esri Educational Site License are entitled to install components of the ArcGIS platform on their personal devices (tablets, laptops, phones, etc.).  This includes many ready-to-use mobile and web apps, as well as ArcGIS Desktop (ArcGIS Pro and ArcMap).  Access to most apps (including ArcGIS Pro) requires a named user account, which your instructor or license administrator can provide.
  2. Alternatively, you can purchase an ArcGIS for Student Use license at a very low cost (no cost to students in select developing countries).  ArcGIS for Student Use includes ArcGIS Pro Advanced and a suite of ready-to-use apps, as well as self-paced e-learning.
  3. Finally, you can join the Learn ArcGIS organization for access to guided lessons and a software trial of the ArcGIS platform (ArcGIS Pro and ready-to-use apps).


Can I teach an introductory GIS course with ArcGIS Online?

Yes! Not only is teaching an introductory GIS course with ArcGIS Online possible, but doing so can help foster spatial thinking, provide a way for students to more quickly engage with spatial analysis, enable them to collect and examine their own field data, link to the world of Web GIS and apps, and spark enthusiasm to pursue additional GIS courses. In such a course, students can examine spatial patterns on existing interactive maps from local to global scale, create their own maps and apps, gather and analyze field data, and more, on any device.


One way of getting started is to examine a selection of the maps and apps in The ArcGIS Book from Esri Press. This resource is also available in print form, and the companion website contains hundreds of interactive maps that your students can begin examining right away. The Instructional Guide to the ArcGIS Book provides ready-to-go lesson activities built on ArcGIS Online. Additional lessons can be found on the Learn GIS website and in the GeoInquiries collection. Other resource libraries that you can build activities around are the Living Atlas of the World, the Story Maps Gallery, and a selected set of apps with guiding questions about everything from urban demographics to changes in land use around the world.


Pinde Fu’s Getting To Know Web GIS 2nd Edition book from Esri Press provides 10 hands-on activities in ArcGIS Online, from mapping spreadsheets to using the Living Atlas to configuring web apps. Educational strategies, resources, maps, and data are shared regularly on the Education Space on GeoNet. Use ideas and activities from the Going Places with Spatial Analysis and the Do-It-Yourself GeoApps 5 week Esri MOOCs, which are entirely based on ArcGIS Online. An example of a GIS-based lesson activity on the history and geography of cholera is here. Ideas on content and activities to include and how to structure courses based on ArcGIS Online can be found here, here, and here. Field experiences can be easily included in such an introductory course, where students can use Survey123, Collector for ArcGIS, Snap2Map, or Mapillary to collect data that they can analyze in ArcGIS Online.


I am an ArcGIS Online administrator. How can Esri make my job easier?

ArcGIS Online organizational accounts allow multiple students, researchers, faculty, and staff to use the data, tools, and maps in ArcGIS Online and create their own content. Your job as administrator is an important one! You are likely to create accounts for a short time, for a course or project, and want to clear them out when the course or project ends. And, you want to be sure that one user doesn’t accidentally use up half of the organization’s credits!


The most important tools to make your ArcGIS Online administrative job easier include:

  1. Credit Budgeting and Allocation: This feature allows you to set a default number of credits for every account created in the organization. It’s easy to add more credits as users need them. Try to determine a reasonable number for the course or project and use that as a default. You might try two or four times the number of credits needed to do all the expected exercises and explorations. That gives users some freedom to explore but will prevent them from breaking the bank. Also, be sure users know about the “Show credits option” available for analyses. Clicking that link can prevent executing something unreasonable that may eat up 1000 credits!
  2. Roles: Roles are used to assign ArcGIS Online privileges. We offer some templates and the “student” one is a good place to start to create a custom version for specific classes or student projects. To distinguish different student roles, you might name them with a course name, such as “student_geo452.” Assigning students custom roles can also make it easier to delete accounts associated with a single course using batch tools.
  3. Managing Content: To move or copy content between folders in your ArcGIS Online organizational account and between ArcGIS Online organizational accounts or in Portal consider the free ArcGIS Online Assistant. The Assistant also includes viewing/editing of underlying JSON for any item in ArcGIS Online or Portal, so you can modify URLs for services in web maps and registered applications. Another option is GEO Jobe’s Admin Tools which are offered in free and paid (discounts available for educators) versions. These admin tools allow you to copy groups, add multiple users, change permissions, view item dependencies and perform other actions on multiple accounts.
  4. Resources: ArcGIS Online User Strategies for Education details the types of logins and how they might be used in education. This set of slides offers the basics of an ArcGIS Online organization (focused on K-12) as does this two-minute video (more general). The Getting Started with ArcGIS Online documentation details how to configure your organization’s site, invite members, organize and share content, get apps, and monitor usage. A variety of Web courses on administrative tasks are available through Esri Training.


Can I teach remote sensing with ArcGIS Pro?

ArcGIS Pro is great for teaching the fundamentals of applied remote sensing. You can work with all types of data, from imagery to scientific datasets to create classified maps, or apply custom algorithms for visualizing change over time. Thousands of students across the globe have used the Earth Imagery at Work MOOC (massive open online course) and the ArcGIS Imagery Book to understand and apply remote sensing concepts. ArcGIS Pro enables users to fuse the vast collections of GIS data with imagery and raster datasets to find timely answers to challenging geospatial problems. In the coming year, with the implementation of the Image Coordinate System in ArcGIS Pro, image analysts will have greater ability to glean the information they need from the imagery they work with.


How can I integrate ArcGIS with data science tools?

According to the leading job site, job ads for “data scientist” increased 570% between 2014 and 2017, to over 3,600 open positions. Though some might say that GIS users have been doing “data science” all along, there are good reasons to integrate ArcGIS with other data science tools. Esri’s R-ArcGIS Bridge provides a means to combine the spatial analysis and visualization capabilities of ArcGIS with one of the leading analytics platforms. Besides R, Python has also become a leading scientific programming language. The ArcGIS API for Python lets ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise users, analysts, developers and administrators script and automate tasks ranging from performing big data analysis to content management and administration of their Web GIS. The API integrates well with the Jupyter Notebook and the SciPy stack and enables academics, data scientists, and GIS analysts to share programs and reproducible research with others. And then there’s Insights for ArcGIS, the browser-based analytic workbench where you can explore spatial and non-spatial data.


I hear a lot about Insights. How is it useful for education and research, and how can I get it?

Insights for ArcGIS is designed to support a different pattern of analysis and visualization through spatial data exploration.  It provides intuitive technology, with a simple drag-and-drop UI, enabling information to be extracted from data, in an experience in which the technology assists the exploration and analyzing of data. 


Insights for ArcGIS provides access to many data science methods and, spatial or GIS methods, to analyze data using subject knowledge from a wide range of disciplines without requiring deep domain knowledge of GI science at the outset.  The modern experience can be easily used by GIS and non-GIS professionals alike in teaching and research, across multiple disciplines to analyze spatial and non-spatial data in one place.  Students and staff can easily and quickly create maps, charts and tables to visualize and analyze any data.  Furthermore, Insights records all analysis steps, thereby documenting workflows and providing a convenient way to present and share analysis workflows, which can be re-run by others.

 Insights offers an ideal application in which students can build and solidify subject expertise, while adding to their knowledge a new set of analytical skills.


Currently, Insights for ArcGIS is a product available with ArcGIS Enterprise 10.5.  For teaching, various approaches could be taken, for example adding all students as portal users and enabling access to the app.  Alternatively, an approach can be taken where each student has an individual ArcGIS Enterprise deployment along with an Insights license. In the future, there are plans to make Insights for ArcGIS available with an ArcGIS Online organization.


 For anyone who wishes to explore the Insights app, this exercise takes ~30 minutes and uses university data.  

 Here are some additional resources:


What is the new “named user model”? Why should I adopt it? How do I adopt it?

The apps you use most — email, social media, business systems — require you to log in with a unique ID and password. As ArcGIS becomes a web-centric platform composed of numerous integrated components, it too has begun to rely on identity to enable users to access the platform. With a unique & secure identity you can unlock maps and apps that can be used on any device, anywhere. Your identity opens the door to ArcGIS so that you can join groups, access resources and share maps and apps. Identity in ArcGIS lets you own something and share it with others, you can save items under your name and access them later, store favorites, create special privileges or full administrative privileges, and keep items private until you are ready to share them with other private people and groups or make them public. Your identity (named user credential) associates you with ArcGIS privileges no matter where you are, or what device you use.


Named user licensing is required for ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise. It is also activated for ArcGIS Pro by default. At version 10.5.1, ArcMap licenses can also be managed with named users so that both ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro can be accessed with the same ArcGIS identity used to access ArcGIS Online and Portal for ArcGIS. Although Single User and Concurrent Use licenses remain available for ArcGIS Pro and ArcMap, we are eager to help higher education institutions transition to Named User licensing, because it is necessary to realize the full benefits of ArcGIS Pro as a “connected desktop.” An additional benefit of the named user model is the ability to implement enterprise logins (single sign-on) by tying into your institutions existing identity management system. In many cases, implementing enterprise logins is the single most helpful best practice for managing users in ArcGIS Online.


What is “Web GIS,” and how does it impact higher education?

GIS is evolving from a desktop-centric technology to a web-centric one. What many think of as a complex but monolithic desktop app has become a constellation of apps, servers, and services, all mediated by portals in the cloud or on-premises. One name for this new configuration is “Web GIS." The impact of this technological evolution on professional practice is profound. Dedicated GIS pros continue to create and curate geodata, perform and interpret spatial analyses, and design and disseminate information products for decision-makers. However, they also build and deploy web and mobile geo apps that enable discovery, use, and sharing among a much broader community of GIS users. Many of the thousands of public and private organizations that employ graduates of academic GIS education programs are beginning to adopt this Web GIS paradigm. Job ads commonly reflect expectations that students have IT and coding know-how as well as traditional GIS skills. A survey of Esri’s Young Professionals Network suggests that GIS graduates want more coding, app building, and IT.


Why should my campus implement 10.5, including ArcGIS Enterprise?

As part of a distributed GIS pattern, we can work with two portals. One of them is ArcGIS Online, which is Esri’s software-as-a-service. The other one is ArcGIS Enterprise, software in an organization’s infrastructure. ArcGIS Enterprise is how we do distributed GIS in an organization’s infrastructure (which could mean on premises or in a virtualized environment).


On campus, in specific departments or for certain projects, we may have requirements to have more control or security over software that is used. Incorporating the university’s security and compliance requirements, and connecting to any enterprise data, and providing high-availability deployments could be a reason to deploy ArcGIS Enterprise.


At 10.5, there are many new capabilities that are available, such as GeoAnalytics, Raster Analytics and others that would only work with an ArcGIS Enterprise deployment. These applications give us the ability to take large volume datasets and distribute them across multiple cores of one machine or several machines altogether. These could be big intensive processes that cannot be scaled and managed with ArcGIS Online. Working with Big Data databases and doing Real Time GIS also requires the use of ArcGIS Enterprise.


New applications, such as Insights for ArcGIS and Drone2Map require ArcGIS Enterprise to run. In addition, ArcGIS Enterprise offers administrators, faculty and developers a host of well-integrated API’s and SDK’s, and scripting tools, to build custom apps and automate workflows.


Furthermore, ArcGIS Enterprise allows us to participate in distributed Web GIS collaborations. If we would like two departments within a university, or departments between different universities and organizations, to collaborate (share content, services, etc.), portal to portal collaboration via ArcGIS Enterprise can be implemented.


Further resources include:


I teach in a university outside the U.S. Where can I go for help?

Esri has more than 80 distributor offices around the world. To find the office nearest you, go to You can also ask your peers at this GeoNet site:



Lifelong Learning

What does Esri mean by “lifelong learning?”

"Change is the only constant in life." That age-old saying is truer than ever. In today’s world, rapid technological change demands that we rethink the role of education in our lives. Rather than a prelude to adulthood and careers, learning has become a way of life. User Conference participants of all ages and all stages of professional development are actively involved in learning, teaching and mentoring. In fact, lifelong learning is one thing that the diverse community of GIS users has in common.

It’s hard to think of a technology and set of professional practices more changeful than GIS. Recognizing this, the U.S. Department of Labor identifies lifelong learning as a cornerstone of its Geospatial Technology Competency Model. Esri does its part by providing educational resources and experiences that lifelong learners need, and by supporting educational institutions at all levels. These include:

  1. Web-based and instructor-led training and free massive open online courses (MOOCs).
  2. Curriculum solutions for educators, including Esri Press books and SpatiaLABS exercises for higher education, and GeoInquiries for schools.
  3. Hands-on independent learning activities to help users Learn GIS.
  4. Deeply discounted access to the ArcGIS platform and training resources for educational institutions, and free access for students (see Education Licensing, above).
  5. A multi-level Technical Certification program that attests to practitioners’ skills.
  6. A Young Professionals Network that builds community among recent graduates and other newcomers to the GIS field.
  7. The Education GIS Conference and many other Esri-sponsored learning events.
  8. ArcNews, ArcUser, ArcWatch, and other educational publications.

Alongside our education partners, Esri is committed to providing a full spectrum of offerings for learners who wish to broaden their horizons, both professionally and personally. Representatives of Esri’s Training Services, Education Outreach, Learn GIS, Esri Press, and Technical Certification teams will be on hand at the UC Expo. They’ll be ready to advise visitors about how Esri can help learners learn, help teachers teach, help GIS pros advance their careers, and help the GIS community change our world for the better. They’ll also be eager to hear advice about what more we can do to help.


What types of training does Esri offer?

Esri offers instructor-led courses, self-paced e-Learning, books on many GIS and ArcGIS topics, and short, live training events.

Instructor-led classes cover ArcGIS best practices and recommended workflows. Class time is devoted to discussion, group activities, and hands-on exercises. All Esri instructors have achieved one or more Esri technical certifications and CompTIA CTT+ certification (which covers core instructing skills). Course content is developed by a team of education specialists who incorporate proven adult learning principles to teach knowledge and skills that can be applied immediately on the job.


Instructor-led classes are taught at Esri learning centers around the United States, in the Online Classroom in multiple U.S. time zones, and at Esri distributor locations worldwide. You can view all instructor-led classes at


Self-paced e-Learning provides focused training on GIS and ArcGIS concepts, and has multiple formats including web courses, training seminars, tutorials, videos, assive open online courses (MOOCs), white papers, and teacher resources. E-Learning is designed with learner engagement in mind and provides the flexibility and convenience to learn when and where you want.


Our Training catalog includes many freely available e-Learning resources and many more that are available to individuals and organizations who have a current Esri maintenance subscription. To see the complete collection of Esri training resources, visit You can find out more about the e-Learning benefit for maintenance customers on the Training site.


Esri Press publishes educational books and award-winning workbooks on a variety of GIS and ArcGIS topics. You can browse all books on the Esri Press website.


The Hands-On Learning Lab is a fixture at many Esri conferences, including the User Conference. At the Lab, you can take free lessons on a variety of ArcGIS topics. Each lesson includes a video lecture and a hands-on software exercise and takes about 45 minutes to complete. We encourage you to visit the Lab while you’re in San Diego. It will be open Tuesday through Thursday in the UC Expo. Esri provides all hardware and software.


Geodata Academy is a new program that brings in-person, hands-on training to cities throughout the U.S. Topics include web maps, web apps, and field data collection using Survey123 for ArcGIS. A session on migrating from ArcMap to ArcGIS Pro will be starting in September. Each Geodata Academy event is under four hours, with morning and afternoon sessions available. Find out more and view the upcoming schedule at


What’s new from Esri Training this year?

The Training team is working hard on new courses to help you be efficient and productive with ArcGIS, and discover new ways to apply ArcGIS to accomplish your goals. Some of the new course topics we’re excited about are story maps, creating web apps using Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS, Insights for ArcGIS, migrating ArcMap workflows to ArcGIS Pro, and many more.


The Training catalog is a curated collection of resources developed by teams across Esri and is a true “one-stop shopping experience” for authoritative ArcGIS learning resources. The catalog now includes over 500 instructor-led and e-Learning resources, with more added each week. We encourage you to visit the catalog and take advantage of its many resources.


The Technical Certification team has been developing seven new exams for version 10.5. We expect these exams to be open for registration beginning in July. Find out more about Esri technical certification and all available exams at


Does Esri offer any training for CIOs?

CIOs who want to learn the capabilities of the ArcGIS platform or explore our powerful new analytics app, Insights for ArcGIS, may be interested in these courses:


Do you offer industry-focused training?

Yes! Instructor-led courses that include scenarios and terminology used by the geospatial intelligence and national security, public safety, and water utilities industries are available. We also have e-Learning resources on business analytics, green infrastructure and planning, and more resources on these topics are being developed now.

The complete Training curriculum covers workflows and ArcGIS capabilities that apply across industries. Examples include data collection and management, spatial analytics, mapping and visualization, and more. You can view all training courses by capability at


Does Esri offer e-books or digital magazines?

Yes! Esri offers a wide variety of digital newsletters and publications, including ArcUser and ArcNews magazines. You can sign up to receive digital newsletters and publications that match your interests at

The Training catalog provides easy access to a variety of digital resources, including documents that help organizations get up and running with ArcGIS. These include:


  • Architecting the ArcGIS Platform: Best Practices
  • Launching Your Location Platform: The Esri Guide
  • Administering Your Location Platform: Best Practices and Resources
  • Promoting Your Location Platform: A Change Management Kit


From the Training catalog, you can find dozens of Esri Press books and the popular The ArcGIS Book: 10 Big Ideas About Applying Geography to Your World, which is also available as a free PDF download.


What are the most important new books coming from Esri Press this year? 

The ArcGIS Book Second Edition by Christian Harder and Clint Brown, Editors

This revised and expanded edition provides a learn-by-doing pathway to all of ArcGIS. Whether you are a long-time user or very new to GIS or a student in K-12 or college, this guide provides an effective and comprehensive way to experience and work with the ArcGIS system, especially the significance and use of Web GIS. The companion website for this book contains over 200 live links to GIS in action in all kinds of organizations throughout the GIS community. This book provides an effective way for everyone to learn why GIS is so significant and relevant to the challenges we face every day. Everyone, regardless of your level of GIS experience can learn from this book. And for GIS practitioners, you can share this book with family, friends, and co-workers to illustrate the power of GIS and the Science of Where.


Instructional Guide for the ArcGIS Imagery Book by Kathyrn Keranen and Lyn Malone

This companion textbook to The ArcGIS Imagery Book: New View, New Vision (Esri Press, 2016) builds on the foundational concepts laid out in The ArcGIS Imagery Book. Whether you are a self-learner, currently teaching, or are planning to teach GIS, this guide provides the materials to develop and apply ArcGIS Imagery tools and concepts. Using The ArcGIS Imagery Book’s structure as a starting point, each chapter provides students and teachers with activities, resources, lessons and data that reflect the interaction between components of ArcGIS Online, as well as GIS applications for publishing to the web and mobile devices. A combination of scenario-driven and skill-based lessons (including many that don't require downloading any software), not only offer practice in the use of these tools but also inspire a deeper understanding of the potential and power of Imagery and Web GIS. Includes downloadable instructor resources.

The free e-book will be available for download from the website, Summer 2017.


Understanding GIS: An ArcGIS Pro Project Workbook by David Smith, Nathan Strout, Christian Harder, Dr. Steven Moore, and Thomas Balstrom

The first single-project GIS textbook on the market, Understanding GIS: An ArcGIS® Pro Project Workbook is an excellent resource for students and educators seeking a guide for an advanced, single-project-based course that incorporates GIS across a wide range of disciplines. Built and revised by the professors at the renowned University of Redlands, readers progress through nine lessons (35 exercises), using ArcGIS Pro software to find the best location for a new park along the Los Angeles River in Southern California.

Each exercise offers step-by-step instructions, graphics to confirm exercise results, and explanations of key concepts. The book includes access to ArcGIS Pro software as well as project data—downloadable from the book’s resource web page.


Imagery and GIS by Kass Green and Russell G. Congalton

The basis for most maps is imagery. Imagery and GIS: Best Practices for Extracting Information from Imagery shows how imagery can be integrated successfully into maps and GIS projects. Readers will learn how GIS can be used to derive value from imagery through enhanced visualizations and extraction and information analysis. Plus, readers will learn how to efficiently manage and serve imagery datasets. The authors share practical considerations and lessons learned from real-world applications. With more than 200 full-color illustrations, this reference guide helps readers use image datasets that best satisfy their requirements to get the job done.


Making Spatial Decisions Using ArcGIS Pro by Kathryn Keranen and Robert Kolvoord

Making Spatial Decisions Using ArcGIS Pro is a textbook that provides the user with a broad overview of the capabilities of using ArcGIS Pro to use geospatial tools to solve real-world problems. This book takes full advantage of the integrative nature of ArcGIS Professional and its advanced capabilities to seamlessly unite cloud-based and desktop GIS. The lessons included in this book have been adapted and updated from lessons from Keranen and Kolvoord's popular first three Esri Press books: Making Spatial Decisions Using GISMaking Spatial Decisions Using Remote Sensing, and Making Spatial Decisions Using Lidar.


GIS Tutorial 1 for ArcGIS Pro by Wilpen L. Gorr and Kristen S. Kurland

GIS Tutorial 1 for ArcGIS Pro: A Platform Workbook is an introductory text for learning ArcGIS Pro. In-depth exercises that use ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, and other ArcGIS apps apply the latest releases to show readers how to make maps, create and analyze spatial data, and how to manage systems with GIS. Incorporating proven teaching methods in detailed exercises, “Your Turn” sections, and expanded homework assignments, this book is suited to learning GIS in a classroom. Wilpen L. Gorr and Kristen S. Kurland authored the top-selling GIS Tutorial 1: Basic Workbook, GIS Tutorial for Health, and GIS for Crime Analysis.


Cartography. by Kenneth Field

Cartography “Period” – The definitive guide to making maps is a modern, visually compelling, comprehensive cartographic reference book that can be used by anyone required to make a map. By demystifying cartography and explaining the basic tenets of what makes a good map and how to create one, this book focuses on the core question of ‘why design matters’ from a standpoint of ‘clear information.’ The authors debunk the myth that well-designed maps are just ‘pretty maps.’ While several seminal texts on cartography exist, they often fail to adequately capture the changing nature of map-making, and are written in a formal style unsuited to effective implementation and are targeted at those who seek a detailed exposition of cartographic theory; Cartography. is written in an accessible manner, yet it upholds the goal of providing sound advice based on knowledge that translates into practical implementation. Even non-cartographers can take this book and use it to improve their own mapping.


What is The ArcGIS Book?

The ArcGIS Book is now available with instructional guides and hands-on activities for teaching and learning ArcGIS.


The ArcGIS Book Second Edition

Start with The ArcGIS Book: Second Edition 10 Big Ideas About Applying The Science of Where. Everyone who attends the 2017 User Conference will receive a copy of this book. This is a book that you read as well as do. Visit the companion website for the book, which contains hundreds of live links to ArcGIS in action. Over 70% of these can be done by anyone without the need for an ArcGIS account. When you are ready to begin to create your own maps, analyses, and apps, you’ll need a Learn account. Working on real-world problems is undoubtedly the best way to explain and show GIS at work as well as to generate excitement about your good work!


Instructional Guide for the ArcGIS Book

Later in 2017 we will release the Secnd Edition of The Instructional Guide for the ArcGIS Book, by Kathryn Keranen and Lyn Malone. This follows the chapters in the ArcGIS Book and provides a host of useful hands-on learning resources and exercises that any instructor can use at both the K12 and college levels.


Learn ArcGIS

This website contains hands-on lessons where you can apply all aspects of ArcGIS to real world problems. These lessons require a login. Join the Learn organization and start to put ArcGIS to work!


What instructional resources are available for working with Imagery and Remote Sensing in ArcGIS?

ArcGIS now supports complete and comprehensive image processing capabilities including support for massive imagery collections – the ultimate Big Data source. You can learn and teach about using Imagery in ArcGIS through the following key resources:


The ArcGIS Imagery Book

Start with this book and its companion website to explore how imagery and remote sensing add real power to ArcGIS. This is a guide that you read as well as do. The companion website for this book contains hundreds of live examples and lessons for applying imagery and remote sensing with ArcGIS.


Instructional Guide for the ArcGIS Imagery Book

To be released this fall, The Instructional Guide for the ArcGIS Imagery Book by Kathryn Keranen and Lyn Malone provides learning resources and lessons for applying imagery in ArcGIS from simple to highly advanced workflows. This follows along with the chapters in the ArcGIS Imagery Book and provides numerous useful, hands-on learning resources and exercises. And like the ArcGIS Book, these resources can be used at both the K-12 and college levels.


Learn ArcGIS

This website contains dozens of hands-on imagery lessons where you can apply all aspects of working with Imagery in ArcGIS in the service of addressing several interesting real world problems. This provides an excellent introduction to imagery and a way for existing image professionals to learn more about how these capabilities come to life in ArcGIS.


What is Esri’s MOOCs program? How can users, educators and students make the best use of it?

Esri has offered four massive open online courses (MOOCs) since 2014: Going Places with Spatial Analysis, The Location Advantage, Do-It-Yourself Geo Apps and Earth Imagery at Work. These are four to six week long courses offered for free to anyone who is interested in GIS. We offer two courses at a time, four times during each calendar year. The schedule is on the main MOOC page.


To date, Esri’s 17 MOOC offerings enrolled 95,000 students. We are pleased that 23,000 students, 25% of those who started a course, finished all the requirements to earn a certificate of completion. That rate compares favorably to other MOOCs with completion rates between 4 and 15%. Further, 82% of survey respondents rate the courses as “good” or “very good.”


We invite Esri software users, educators and students to take one or more MOOCs to learn or review spatial analysis, location analytics, no-code app development and image analysis. Those who enroll will learn from experts in the field and gain hands on experience with software including ArcGIS Online, Business Analyst web app and GIS Pro.


Educators are welcome to “assign” MOOCs as part of a course or project. We try to choose course dates to align with academic calendars. We are hosting a session at the Esri Education GIS Conference on best practices for integrating MOOCs into existing courses and projects. Educators who want to use MOOC content outside of our course offerings are invited to contact


What’s new in Esri’s MOOC program?

The MOOC team is currently developing Esri’s fifth MOOC: Cartography. Lead instructor Ken Field and a team of Esri cartographers will share their thinking about map-making to encourage students to make better maps. Students will tackle practical, hands-on exercises using ArcGIS Pro and explore how to go beyond the typical workflows and defaults. The course will launch in November 2017 in conjunction with the publication of Field’s new book, Cartography., to be published by Esri Press.


The first Esri MOOC, Going Places with Spatial Analysis, will take a vacation from the course rotation for an overhaul in late 2017/early 2018. The updated version, to be offered in 2018, will incorporate Insights for ArcGIS. Linda Beale will return as course author and instructor.


Esri’s MOOC on location analytics, The Location Advantage, is updated for 2017. Updated exercises highlight Business Analyst web app tools to build infographics and explore site suitability and explore story maps to present results of analyses.


This post ( explains how our GIS Education Modernization strategy is informed by a survey of 226 Young Professionals. I welcome your feedback!

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