ArcGIS Field Maps – Value for Educators & Students

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01-25-2021 07:57 AM
BrianBaldwin
Esri Regular Contributor
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Late last year Esri released ArcGIS Field Maps, the next generation application for viewing AND editing data on a mobile device. There are already several blogs, articles, lessons, etc. to understand what ArcGIS Field Maps is, so the goal of this blog, is to let educators and students understand why it’s a big deal for them. In an educational context, this is a big development for a couple of reasons:

  1. You are licensed to use it!
  2. Provides the ability to introduce students to only 1 mobile application
  3. Supports more in-depth database and survey design
  4. Start introducing the basics of coding/programming (Arcade expression language)

You Have a License!

My reason for listing this first was to make it clear that no barriers or roadblocks are in place for users. Any GIS Professional user types can download the ArcGIS Field Maps application, log in, and start using it. Similar to the other mobile applications (Collector & Explorer), if a user has maps that they have created or that have been shared with them, they can access them, for either viewing or editing. With no licensing or access hurdles in place, you and your students can download Field Maps today and try it out.

One App to Rule Them All

The elephant(s) in the room that many people are probably thinking about are: Survey123, QuickCapture, AppStudio, etc. There are other mobile applications in the Esri ecosystem and many of them are fantastic (I have a great deal of love for Survey123). Yet, when students just need to start understanding the concepts and fundamentals of mobile GIS, it’s a painful process to have them download Explorer, Collector, Survey123, etc. The merging of viewing and editing functionality that takes place in ArcGIS Field Maps helps to remove some of those hurdles. It certainly makes me breathe a sigh of relief to think that students only need to download and log into 1 application to start covering mobile & field GIS lessons.

Database & Survey Design

It may not be the ‘sexiest’ of lessons or labs, but there is no better way to drive home the concepts of database or survey design, then by getting students out into the field and experiencing the ramifications of good, or bad design, first-hand. To help with this, ArcGIS Field Maps has a companion web application that provides a configuration approach for designing the data collection experience in the Field Maps mobile application. Should this field be required? What fields should be read only? Should the user be presented with a pick-list (domains) for this question? If a user selects ‘Yes’, should I present (or hide) this next set of questions? These questions and many others have significant ramifications for data quality, as well as the ease of data collection. With the ability to have conditional logic, grouped questions, read-only, required, and more options, students can build in-depth mobile GIS workflows, and quickly see the good/bad ramifications of those choices.

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Just a couple examples of the different configuration questions a user needs to ponder. "Should this field be required?, Should it have a domain? What length should we allow?"

Introducing Coding & Programming

Even in an introductory GIS class, students can begin to understand the value and need for basic programming skills (as well as starting to apply them). The Arcade expression language has been a part of the Esri ecosystem for a few years now, and it provides a good entry point for building that skill set. Students can start with some very basic fundamental skills like calculations and logical statements, or even jump to declaring variables and building complex scripts. If students want to change the symbology based on time or other attributes, or if they want to build highly customized pop-ups, all of these configurations will display in the Field Maps application. Lastly, the ability to create conditional questions in the Field Apps application requires the use of Arcade. For both the viewing and data collection aspects of a mobile GIS workflow, time spent learning Arcade is certainly not wasted.

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If the 'name' feature is blank... then this question/field won't show up! It's a really simple expression, but it let's students start exploring the possibilities of coding/expressions (what if we remove the '!'?).

In Closing

While certainly not an exhaustive list, I hope you are excited to go and download the ArcGIS Field Apps application and see how it could fit into your section or class. As GIS continues to expand to a wider pool of users, many of those users will only think of GIS as a mobile experience. With this latest release, ArcGIS Field Maps is now THE application that the majority of mobile inspections, map viewing, and mobile GIS work will take place on. Ensuring that students are familiar with it and understand how it works, will only help make then more successful in the long run.

About the Author
Brian works as a Solution Engineer at Esri to support customers in Education. Brian has worked as a lecturer in GIS, supported non-profits through his community planning work, and honestly just loves working with users to help solve their geospatial quandaries!