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I would like to announce a poster session and competition for the 2019 American Association of Geographers annual meeting focused on:

Innovative Applications of Esri GIS Technology

For more information, and for the 5 categories that will serve as criteria, see:


Cash prizes will be awarded, but even more importantly, this is an opportunity for your students and colleagues to showcase the innovative things they are doing with Esri GIS technology to help understand and solve the most pressing local-to-global problems of our time.


Please consider entering a poster, or encouraging a student or colleague to do so. 


--Joseph Kerski

We often get asked about the differences between My Esri and ArcGIS Online accounts in educational settings, and how the two are related. We wanted to document a few items to keep in mind - indeed, they are two different accounts, which could bring confusion.


My Esri - portal to manage your customer account information:

  •      Update contact and account information.
  •      Review order history and maintenance status.
  •      Access license information and generate provisioning files for users.
  •      Access software downloads.
  •      Create technical support cases.
  •      Manage conference registrations.
  •      Add users with customizable access levels, including adding users for Esri Training and GeoNet access (though not necessarily recommended to add students/faculty/staff for purpose of providing access to Esri Training, GeoNet, etc., more below).
  •      Your My Esri account is your identity to My Esri – this is your customer record.


ArcGIS (ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise) named user account:

  •      Your ArcGIS account is your identity in the organization/portal, it is how you get access to ArcGIS Online and are provided various privileges and capabilities to work with ArcGIS, depending on your role (User, Publisher, Administrator, etc.).  
  •      If you enable Esri Access for an ArcGIS Online account, users can access Esri Training and GeoNet with their ArcGIS Online credentials. Hopefully those are enterprise accounts – i.e. your organization in Educational setting has enterprise logins enabled (SSO).
  •      If you are an Administrator, this ArcGIS account is used to grant entitlements for SAAS products (apps, ArcGIS Pro, etc.), also to enable Esri Access, and a number of other functions.
  •      This account stays with your institution, however, you may transfer any Training History to a personal (or other) account by reaching out to Esri Customer Service.


A few additional facts:

  •      If you already have Esri account for training, enabling Esri Access on ArcGIS Online account is not going to link that ArcGIS Online account to any existing Esri account (and to the training history, support, event registration, etc. associated with it)
  •      An individual could have Esri account tied to a personal email address, so that they can retain their training history after they leave the institution.
  •      If you are a student or faculty/staff, you can be linked to your institution’s My Esri (customer record). Note that we don’t necessarily recommend this, unless this individual will be helping with management of downloads files, generation of provisioning files, calling Technical Support, and other similar functions.
  •      If you have purchased a license from Esri (Personal Use, Student Use), you will have your own Esri organization.
  •      Therefore, you may have multiple Esri accounts.
  •      A single email address may be tied to multiple ArcGIS Online accounts, but to only one Esri account (Exception: ".edu" and "" emails may have multiple).
  •      When logging to Esri Training or GeoNet, one must use (a) an Esri Account, or (b) an ArcGIS Online account with Esri Access enabled.



  •      There are various approaches for management, but we typically don’t recommend adding students to the My Esri organization, as this would impose manual admin work to grant such access, and work for students to accept email invitations the correct way and with the correct account, and to keep track of which account is used for what. This may appear to be an acceptable option for managing a class or two, but not for empowering your whole institution to use ArcGIS.
  •      We do recommend enabling Esri Access via ArcGIS Online accounts – if an institution has implemented enterprise logins, this is an automated process for anyone joining the organization (no additional work for admin or students).
  •      Additional information for recommended way to share downloads/executables/provisioning files is here, so that it does not have to be done through My Esri for everyone in an institution.
  •      Any of the above options make it challenging to retain Training History (certifications from courses, etc.) – the solution for now, for whoever wishes to preserve their training history upon leaving the institution, is to reach out to Customer Service and request their training history be transferred from their institutional ArcGIS account to a public one.

I worked with our fabulous Urban Observatory team here at Esri to add another theme that will be very useful in teaching geography, geology, environmental science – the Ecology theme.  This data comes from the amazing Ecological Land Units data set (another excellent teaching and research tool) and allows you to compare the bioclimate, landform type, lithology, and land cover for any city you would like to examine, thus providing a very useful land connection for each urban area. Having it in the Urban Observatory provides the interface to compare the ecoregions for over 100 cities, which can be compared to the other variables provided, all  with nothing to install. 


To access this new theme, go to the Urban Observatory:

On the left side, you will now see the ECOLOGY theme.  Select it, and choose from the cities listed at the top.  In which ecoregions do cities tend to be the largest?  How does the ecoregion influence the land cover in and around that city?  Name the chief environmental challenges for the cities you are investigating, based on the ecoregion they are in.  How do you think the landforms and lithology impact construction in the area, or traffic patterns?  


Another feature that is very helpful about the Urban Observatory:  If you copy the URL while examining a specific theme and send it to someone (or yourself to access it later), then the application will open with those themes and cities that you were examining, just as you left it:  For example, this URL opens with 3 cities and the ecology for each, as I had been examining the last time I taught this content:  Rotterdam, Rio de Janeiro, and Delhi.  Rotterdam is in the cold wet bioclimate, while Rio is hot wet and Delhi hot semi-dry.  The landforms are hills, plains, and plains, respectively, while the lithology is mixed sedimentary for Rotterdam and unconsolidated sediment for the last two.  The land cover is grassland, shrub, or scrub for Rotterdam but mostly cropland for Rio and Delhi.  


See the graphic below.  The Urban Observatory, in my opinion, is still one of the best examples of a web mapping application that is ready-to-go for teaching and learning.


Teaching note:  You might need to click outside the urban area when you are examining the cities.  If you just click on the urban area itself, everything comes up as Cold Wet hills.  Therefore, click outside or zoom out once and click outside and you will be fine.  


Urban Observatory

Huge thanks to Ryan Danzey (Esri), Richard Tsung (USC),  Duffy Chisholm (UCR) and Hoori Ajami (UCR) for sharing their experiences in virtualizing ArcGIS Pro!!!


  • The recording and slides are located  here


Below are a couple of resources for what we discussed - be on the lookout for a blog and further resources coming up on AWS AppStream!



Please post any questions or further follow up here. 

Simply sharing, if you have not seen the following resources, covering a great variety of capabilities and topics with Esri platform.


  • YouTube - 50 Tech Workshops are publicly available to share with your faculty/staff/students
  • Slides - PDF versions of the PowerPoint slides from each workshop (Esri Events Proceedings page)


Along the same lines, the 2018 Esri Developer Summit offerings are here.

ArcGIS Online Organizations can accrete user accounts over time for a number of reasons. Bulk CSV based creation of user accounts or single sign-on or simply orphaned accounts from last year's classes all contribute. For bulk user management in ArcGIS Online, no tool is more powerful than the ArcGIS API for Python - however, it should be noted for the non-scripter, GEO Jobe Admin Tools are ....


Read more >>

The International Statistical Institute (ISI) and Esri are pleased to announce and are co-sponsoring a Student Poster Competition for 2018-2019.  The competition aims to promote research, encourage spatial thinking, and inspire curiosity.  The competition details are here.   We will accept applications for the international competition beginning September 1, 2018, with the application deadline being November 30, 2018. Final judging will take place during the ISI World Statistics Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, August 18–23, 2019. Cash and GIS software will be awarded to the winners. 

Applicants to this Contest must be enrolled as full-time students at a university.  All Applicant entry(ies) will be submitted to an international panel for selection.  Recommended application areas include, but are not limited to, economy, environment, crime, transportation, climate, urban planning, land use/land cover, sustainable development, health, and disasters of all kinds.


Resources have been posted on the site to help you get started on your integration of statistical methods and GIS applied to a problem or issue you are concerned about. 

E-book market growth continues to climb.  E-books, as a share of the worldwide textbook market sales, is estimated to jump from 12.3% to 25.8% from 2013 to 2018 (Statista). The advancement of ebooks (including etextbooks) is nowhere more evident than in education. A projection report from Technavio suggests, 49% of “students” had purchased and used an etextbook by 2015.  


With the rise of ebooks on more powerful mobile devices and the continued growth of digital instructional materials in education, it's worth noting that maps can extend a wide variety of standards-based instructional content in schools (e.g. see the Esri GeoInquiry project to validate this idea). Thankfully, ArcGIS Online maps can be inserted into at least one particularly ebook format: Apple's iBook.  Learn how >>

Students love projects. They dive into challenges of their own design, following their own route, building capacity, solving puzzles, constructing answers … learning to learn. That's the magic of the ArcGIS Competition for High School and Middle School Students. Students might be able to do some work on it in class, but most students work on it outside of class, according to their interest.


Needing to examine a topic inside their state's borders, most pick an issue they already know something about … a local industry, town feature, watershed, or problem from nuisance to nightmare. They investigate, gather data, and build a Story Map. The best from the school go to the state, and from there to the national level. The ultimate winners attend the Esri User Conference and Education GIS Summit in San Diego, CA.


Winners of 2018 Competition


In 2018, 11th grader Keeli Gustafson from Duluth MN saw a local problem born a century back, and traced its path to today, including the intersection of cultures. 8th grader Andrew Wilson from Lincoln NH, like a modern Sherlock Holmes, spent hours tracing a historic railroad and lumber company. Together, they presented their stories in the User Conference Map Gallery, to GIS users from across the planet. They followed up by regaling mentors anxious for inspiration and ideas to help educators and students in their own communities. (See the full results from 2018 and 2017, and states already in the hunt for 2019, by clicking below.)


Results from 2017 and 2018

Students will face daunting challenges tomorrow. Every opportunity they get to dive deep, study the interplay of forces, analyze the patterns and relationships, and present the story, builds hope that situations can be understood, and problems can be solved. Thousands of young scholars in every state would relish the chance to follow their own course. Help the students and teachers in your community dive in as part of the 2019 competition, underway now.

As I recently wrote in the guidelines and essay, More Power for Your GIS Analysis through Joining Features to ArcGIS , the paradigm that GIS users have been operating under for decades is being challenged in new and exciting ways.  One way, as I wrote above, is the standard workflow of "downloading data > joining the attribute tables of two data layers > performing analysis."  I demonstrated how you can join your data to layers in ArcGIS, and specifically, the Living Atlas of the World, an authoritative rich body of content, and thus bring that diverse content to bear on the analysis of patterns that may be inherent in your data.


Let's take another, related standard workflow--spatial joins.  A spatial join is a GIS operation that affixes data from one feature layer's attribute table to another according to its location. Spatial joins begin by selecting a target feature and comparing it spatially to other feature layers.  Spatial joins have been used for years, for example, to determine how many water wells are in a drainage basin, or businesses in a census tract, or the number of earthquakes that fall within specific countries over specific time periods.  Let's take this last example and apply it to the rapidly advancing web GIS paradigm.  


Let us say that I want to determine how many earthquakes occurred in the past 30 days according to the USGS National Earthquake Information Center.  The way I have done this for years in ArcGIS Desktop was to gather two data layers - a point layer for earthquakes, and a polygon layer for world countries, and perform a spatial join.  Nothing is wrong with that method, and it continues to work well in ArcGIS Pro, for example.  But let's say I want to do that in ArcGIS , and I don't want to download anything.  This is accomplished with an analysis tool in ArcGIS --Join Features.  To use the analysis tools, you have to be signed in to ArcGIS  and have a publisher role.  


To begin, I start with my web map: - the 

Earthquakes starting point map.  It contains data layers that are streaming from the USGS earthquake center, in my case, the last 30 days of earthquakes. 


Once the Join Features analysis tool is engaged, I find World Countries (generalized) in the Living Atlas of the World.  This is my target layer, so named because my goal or "target" is to create a choropleth map by country polygons.  The layer to join to these polygons is my earthquakes layer that is streaming from USGS.  My type of join is "intersect"--if an earthquake is inside or "intersects" the country polygon, I want it to be considered.



Spatial Join 2

Here is how I found the Living Atlas content, after searching on World Countries, I selected the generalized data set:


Spatial Join 1

I filled in the remainder of the Join Features dialog box as follows:  I chose the one to one operation; I added statistics so I could determine average magnitude and depth by country, which I thought would be interesting (always be curious! This drives you forward in your use of GIS as I explain in this video); I named my resulting layer and I unchecked "use current map extent" just in case my current extent happened to be cutting off any outlying islands in the South Pacific, for example, and then > Run Analysis:


Spatial Join 3


My results are below, with all countries defaulting as single symbol. 

Spatial Join 4

I will change the style shortly, but before I do, let's examine the new table of data.  The "join count" field contains the number of earthquakes by country:


Spatial Join 5

The average magnitude and average depth have been saved as fields in the new layer:


Spatial Join 6


Next, I used Change Style to symbolize the countries on Join_Count, as follows:



Spatial Join 7

Because the USA contains so many earthquakes, the default Counts and Amounts symbology lumps most countries into one category.  The reason why is in part because the USGS earthquake center is in the USA.  It is in Golden Colorado; I used to give tours there as a USGS employee; a fascinating place that I recommend highly for you to take a tour in next time you're in Colorado.  The earthquake center receives transmitted signals of information from the global seismic network, but it also senses ground motion from nearby earthquakes in the western USA.  So, it senses more small earthquakes in the USA than it does for other countries, resulting in a higher number for the USA.  This is all a critical part of knowing your data, as I write about weekly on the Spatial Reserves data blog.  So, under Options, I changed the classification to Quantile with 5 classes, as follows:


Spatial Join 8


The result is below.  Now I have a better sense, with a choropleth map, of the frequency of earthquake by country.  Given a ocean polygon layer, I could even map oceans by earthquake frequency.


I would like to make just a few adjustments.  Because over the last 30 days, according to the USGS, earthquakes had occurred in only 42 countries, and 254 polygons exist in the generalized world countries data set, countries with no earthquakes have no symbol or color:    


Spatial Join 8b


This looks a bit odd.  My goal is to show countries with no earthquakes over the past 30 days with a pale yellow color.  This is easily remedied with a few keystrokes.  The easiest way to do this is to use the Add Data button, add the generalized world countries from the Living Atlas of the World, and change its style to pale yellow with a yellow outline.  Once done, I moved its position to be located underneath my joined earthquakes layer.  I also moved the earthquakes to the top of the contents so that my map users could more clearly see them.  I also labeled the countries with the number of earthquakes that occurred within each one.   The resulting map is here. 

Spatial Join 9


Try the Join Tables to ArcGIS  on other data sets.  It can be accomplished in just a few steps but the results are powerful.  Think of ArcGIS  and the Living Atlas as a vast storehouse of data that you can join your own data to for rich analysis.

For those of you interested, and if you have not seen this already, this Story Maps and the Digital Humanities collection contains some inspirational examples of humanities/education/academic oriented story maps. 


It is a companion to Allen Carrol's recent blog post on this topic.



I am pleased to report that the registration link on  is working and is ready for you and your colleagues to add the event(s) that you are planning for this year.  This year, 2018, GIS Day is officially on Wednesday 14 November.  However, holding your event on another date that better meets your needs is perfectly fine, as I explain in this video.  


GIS Day provides an international forum for users of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our society.  You can hold an open house, conduct a presentation or workshop, or be creative and hold some other sort of event, that showcases what you are doing with GIS and why it matters.  Your event can be open just to your own organization, to the general public, or to a specific audience.  


The first 300-ish organizations that register on the above URL will receive 1 free box of specially prepared GIS Day items, so be sure to verify your shipping address when you register your event.  Also check the map and make sure your event appears in the correct location with the correct information.  Location matters!


In addition, I have added some new items to the GIS Day resources pages recently with more to come.


Thank you for being a GIS Day champion!


--Joseph Kerski

 GIS Day 2018

We often get asked “I’d like my students, staff or faculty to use ArcGIS Pro, what is the best way to distribute the executable to them”? This applies to any other Esri application that needs to be downloaded and installed, such CityEngine, ArcGIS Enterprise, etc. There are a few ways to accomplish this, and our recommendation is to use the institutional shared file system (same applies for distributing single use provisioning files, though the recommended way of licensing ArcGIS Pro is through a named user account in an ArcGIS Online organization).


  •      Use your institution’s shared file system – this could be Box, Google Drive, shared drives, whatever method is typically used to distribute files. Advantages are:
    •      One location for accessing the executables that can be used by everyone in the organization (this makes it easy for ArcGIS administrators, instructors and students).
    •      It can be behind the same single-sign-on (SSO) as your ArcGIS Online organization, LMS or other business systems – makes it easy for students, staff and faculty to simply login with their known enterprise credentials and download.
    •      Potentially faster download speed.


  •      Use My Esri – this could be an involved process if one wants to provide Download access to many students, staff and faculty. We generally discourage it for the reasons below – and of course exceptions apply.
    •      This involves an invitation to My Esri initiated by the administrator.
    •      Depending on whether the My Esri account is already in the system, there may be additional interaction to Request Permission (for Downloads in this case).
    •      There are a couple of notification emails that would go out to students, staff, faculty who are being given those permissions, such as “your permissions request has been received”, or “your request has been approved” notifications.
    •      This can be burdensome for administrators (to have to manage the requests), for instructors (to have to instruct their students where to go to download), and for students (to have to navigate My Esri to get to downloads).
    •      From Administrator standpoint, this does not scale well for increased number of users.


  •      Use trial downloads – we generally discourage this method, as it has users creating additional accounts that can be confusing with any other My Esri or ArcGIS Online accounts they already have.

Feel free to share feedback.

My new article in Geospatial World magazine is entitled Why GIS in Education Matters.  My goal was to reach a global audience of readers through this magazine with a message that they would be able to take to their own communities, schools, colleges, and universities to encourage the deepening and widening of spatial thinking through GIS in those educational institutions, and beyond those institutions, to libraries, museums, and after-school clubs and university clubs.  I begin the article with a reminder and a brief history of why mapping has long been valued.   I then discuss the chief reasons why GIS merits inclusion as a framework and a toolset, not just in GIS programs, but in sociology, mathematics, geography, engineering, health, business, environmental, planning, and other programs and subjects.  I focus on how using GIS as an instructional tool opens the door to inquiry, content, skills, and perspectives. 


After reviewing the progress of how GIS is used in education around the world, the article returns to the essentials:  GIS is a powerful tool for analyzing the whys of where, and for understanding our changing Earth:  Students use GIS to understand that the Earth is changing, think scientifically and analytically about why it is changing, and dig deeper:  Should the Earth be changing in these ways?  Is there anything that I should be doing or could be doing about it?  This captures the heart of spatial thinking, inquiry and problem-based learning.  It empowers students as they become decision-makers to make a difference in this changing world of ours.


It is my hope that the article will be useful to many throughout the educational system, to geomentors, to GIS professionals, and beyond. 

GIS in education - Photos by Joseph Kerski

All photos by Joseph Kerski.

Esri Fall 2018 and Winter 2019 MOOC News


Change is afoot! I want to update you about changes to how you register for our courses and the latest course schedule. That map above? It's one of the maps you make in the Cartography. MOOC. 


Registration: Smoother than Ever


Esri MOOCs are now managed like other Esri training courses. You’ll find them in the Esri training catalog. Here’s a link for MOOCs by date


Once signed in to Esri training site with your Esri credentials, you can find your course and register with a single click. I encourage you to check which e-mail address is associated with your Esri credentials. Many e-mails sent to MOOC students bounce due to inactive e-mail addresses. Most individuals can review and change your e-mail address by clicking on your name at the top right to open the menu and then selecting Profile and Settings. If you are part of an ArcGIS Online organization you may need to contact your organization’s administrator.


Remember that registration closes at the end of the second week of each course. We cannot enroll students after registration closes. My advice: when in doubt, register! There are no downsides to registering: it’s free and no notation is ever made on your training record unless you complete the course. If you do not start the MOOC or complete only part of it, the MOOC will simply disappear from your My Schedule page after it closes.


System Check


Earth Imagery at Work and Cartography. require ArcGIS Pro. All students registered for those courses should have a computer that can run the software. MOOC students are provided with software and a named user license; the license is revoked when the course closes.Here’s a test to see if your computer can run ArcGIS Pro


2018 Third and Fourth Quarter MOOCs


Do-It-Yourself Geo Apps: Sept 5 – Oct 3, 2018 (four weeks; all content opens on the first day)


John Shramek, who helped develop and has been teaching The Location Advantage MOOC, will teach this offering. While much of the course has not changed and focuses on building apps without any programming, John enhanced the exercises to introduce students to Survey 123 and Operations Dashboard.


Cartography.: Sept 5 – Oct 17, 2018 (six weeks; new content opens each week)


This is the second offering of the course from Ken Field, Edie Punt, John Nelson, Wes Jones and Nathan Shephard. Student feedback suggests this course, which highlights ArcGIS Pro’s cartographic features, is also a great introduction to the software.


Earth Imagery at Work: Oct 31 - December 12, 2018 (six weeks; new content opens each week)

Kevin Butler leads students through scenarios highlighting how imagery is used in a variety of disciplines including disaster response, agriculture and commercial business. Students are often surprised at how many imagery exploitation tools are available in ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Pro.


2019 First and Second Quarter MOOCs



Do-It-Yourself Geo Apps: February 6 - March 6, 2019 (four weeks; all content opens on the first day)


Cartography.: April 10 - May 23, 2019 (six weeks; new content opens each week)


Earth Imagery at Work: April 10 - May 23, 2019 (six weeks; new content opens each week)




The training site includes MOOC Common Questions and a form where you can ask specific questions. 


Educators can contact me directly via GeoNet or e-mail at


I’ll see you in class!


Adena Schutzberg

MOOC Program Manager

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