Modern GIS Faculty Panel: Q&A

2 weeks ago
Esri Regular Contributor
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On April 12th, we held a Modern GIS Faculty Panel that discussed the move to 'modern' tools and methods for teaching GIS. With all of the great content, we ran out of time for the questions that came in. As a follow-up, each of the panelists reviewed the questions and offered their responses.

If you missed the webinar (or want to access the recording and slides), you can find it here: Modern GIS Faculty Panel webinar slides & recording 

Also - please add your own voice into the discussion below! If you have other questions, or want clarification, we would love to hear from you.


  • Dan Farkas - Pace University
  • Nicole Ernst - Harrisburg Area Community College
  • Damien Mansell - University of Exeter
  • Brian Baldwin - Esri


Webinar Q&A


How can college instructors help teach cloud/enterprise concepts if we don't have an Enterprise GIS system to work from?


Brian: Every university or college that has an institutional agreement or a department agreement from Esri has ArcGIS Enterprise included with their license. If you would like to get access to the ArcGIS Enterprise license, just reach out to your local license coordinator (or your Esri Account Manager if you don’t know who that is).

Also, even without teaching students ‘Enterprise GIS’, there are a wide-range of ways that faculty can teach about services, hosted data, AWS, Azure, etc. Using ArcGIS Online Notebooks along with ArcGIS Online is one good way to get started.


What are Learn ArcGIS and Esri Academy? I'm unfamiliar with those.


Brian: Esri Academy ( are courses various topics that are curated and built-out by Esri. These can be trainer led, self-paced, or MOOC courses. They also offer ‘certificates’ for completing the courses.

Learn ArcGIS ( contains learning lessons and learning paths on various capabilities and topics. Many of these are short (~1 hour) applied lessons.


How do you deal with the updates in the availability of ESRI virtual courses? Several courses constantly become unavailable.


Brian: With the technology constantly being updated, we try to ensure that the Learn Lessons and Esri Academy courses are up to date, so they will occasionally be unavailable as courses are updated, or outdated content gets removed.


Does ArcGIS Pro now import all of the data formats that ArcMap does? Is there any reason to run ArcMap and Pro in parallel (which was necessary in the Fall of 2021)?


Brian: Almost every function and capability that was available in ArcMap is now part of ArcGIS Pro. In the vast majority of GIS courses, I don’t think there is any reason to run both ArcMap and ArcGIs Pro in tandem. 


I would be interested in how "modern" we can get when we have a medical student for six weeks who may have an interest in a field like epidemiology and needs to sink their teeth into maps and big data


Dan: The Dashboard created in my example was created in Week 05 of a 7 week undergraduate course.  Components were developed using a variety of visualization and analysis techniques including filtering, summarizing data and incorporating demographic data. The development is online and cloud based (no desktop required).

Brian: The big data portion may be a little tricker in 6 weeks, but there are some great ways to showcase data collection (field tools), web based applications, web based analysis, etc., in a short course.


Is there a single/best resource for those considering shifting from ArcMap to ArcGIS Pro? Will ArcMap eventually go away and what is the timeline on that?


Dan: What worked best for me was a series of online tutorials:

Nicole: I think Wing Cheung (Palomar College/GeoTech Center) put together a nice quick resource that showed how to do common skills in Pro: 

Brian: Yes, ArcMap will eventually be retired. Please see this blog describing the current plan for ArcMap access to universities/schools: Sunsetting ArcMap:


Great variety of examples of incorporating Modern GIS into the curriculum! In going through this process, what did each of the panelists find to be the balance between adding or introducing new ways and workflows versus re-use and one-for-one swapping of web GIS steps for desktop GIS steps? In hindsight, would they even recommend the latter, or is it a good break point at which to re-envision everything in the context of Modern GIS?


Dan: Probably good to reimagine.  However, as the semester began and I decided to switch, I was pretty much able to use my  existing detailed exercises that were developed with ArcMap and re-write for Pro.  The exercises have videos with them and I had to recreate them.

Damien: I suggest spending some time becoming familiar with workflows that enable students to collect, analyse and present GIS content. With the integration of ArcGIS online and Pro there are much more streamlined workflows and improved capability. Although you will be able to get to a point where you have updated your curriculum with new capabilities you don't have to change everything all at once. Transition to Pro, then add in publishing to ArcGIS online and authoring web abbs / story maps.


Creating your own labs or activities is very time consuming, but I find that having students do labs that have step by step directions doesn't actually help them develop skills and retain information very well. And so I'm frequently creating labs that ask students to work out the steps themselves. I don't see a lot of pre-made materials available with that format.


Dan: In my exercises there is a step-by-step component and then with the first part as a model, an “on your own” part with limited direction.

Damien: Problem based learning is the solution to this. I include instructions on workflows but ensure students need to make decisions along the way with regards to e.g. extent, design, resolution, imagery… completely depends on the application.


Interested to know if anyone in higher education is using ArcGIS in virtual environments for students? I often have a number of students that struggle with getting Pro installed and set-up, or their computers can't run it.


Dan: At Pace, we have a Remote Desktop VM with many software tools (including Office) that students can use for ArcMap or Pro.  My experience is that performance is not as good  as working directly on an installed version on a local desktop (home computer or lab).

Damien: At Exeter we start the course using ArcGIS online and then transition to Pro. Students who have Mac’s use remote desktops. Later in the year we teach Q-GIS and it is interesting to note that many students with Mac’s are opting to use Q as their preferred desktop GIS due to accessibility. This however does limit their capabilities with links to ArcGIS online and Pro... 

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!