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Bridging the gap between supply chain management practice and curriculum: A new examination of location analytics in education

06-05-2023 03:16 PM
Esri Notable Contributor
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A new article that three professors from James Madison University and I co-authored in the Journal of the Decision Sciences Institute examines why and how location analytics can be effectively used in education.  This article, entitled "Bridging the gap between supply chain management practice and curriculum:  A location analytics exercise," is available for open access, here, and explores how and why location analytics should be taught in business schools.

This research and development was another example of how GIS bridges boundaries:  Between research and instruction, and between disciplines:  GIScience, computer science, mathematics, and business.  Even the article itself evokes the collaborative nature of location analytics in education, as each of the co-authors hailed from different departments:   William J. Ritchie is a professor in the Department of Management at James Madison University (JMU) with a focus on supply chain management; Joseph Kerski is education manager at Esri, Luis J. Novoa is a professor in the Department of Computer Information Systems and Business Analytics at JMU, and Mert Tokman is a professor in the Department of Marketing in the JMU School of Business.  

"Spatial analytics provides a whole new methodology to analyze and visualize data in business disciplines...information systems, strategy, and supply chain are areas where its application is's high time GIS is infused into these areas of study," says one of the article's authors, Dr Ritchie.  

My three co-authors and I were thrilled the prestigious Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education chose to publish our article.  Dr Ritchie and I have presented in the past about location analytics in education at past Decision Sciences Institute (DSI) conferences, which led to collaborations with faculty and a webinar focused on Supply Chain Management in education for the DSI community.  

In our article, we first made a strong case for the importance of including location analytics in the business school curriculum—especially in the field of supply chain management. Second, we demonstrated the lack of GIS-based location analytics methods in business school curricula. Third, we created and presented a three-part location analytics exercise for the supply chain management curriculum. The exercise, which was implemented at JMU, utilizes the output of a GIS-based location analytics software (namely, Esri's ArcGIS Online) as the input for a location set covering problem that can be solved using an integer programming solver. The exercise can also be used as a stand-alone example of GIS in a supply chain management course.  Our article aimed to (1) demonstrate a new method to use in teaching location analytics in supply chain management and analytics courses and (2) bridge an important gap between supply chain management practice and curriculum.

We intend to keep collaborating on location analytics in education, and look forward to further development of approaches and curriculum.



Drive-time analysis from one of the lessons featured in the article, focused on determining the fewest distribution centers to place into service in order to serve a specified set of customers. This translates into formulating a location set covering problem (LSCP).

What is your reaction to this article and these initiatives? Are you doing research or instruction with location analytics?

About the Author
I believe that spatial thinking can transform education and society through the application of Geographic Information Systems for instruction, research, administration, and policy. I hold 3 degrees in Geography, have served at NOAA, the US Census Bureau, and USGS as a cartographer and geographer, and teach a variety of F2F (Face to Face) (including T3G) and online courses. I have authored a variety of books and textbooks about the environment, STEM, GIS, and education. These include "Interpreting Our World", "Essentials of the Environment", "Tribal GIS", "The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data", "International Perspectives on Teaching and Learning with GIS In Secondary Education", "Spatial Mathematics" and others. I write for 2 blogs, 2 monthly podcasts, and a variety of journals, and have created over 5,000 videos on the Our Earth YouTube channel. Yet, as time passes, the more I realize my own limitations and that this is a lifelong learning endeavor and thus I actively seek mentors and collaborators.