Better to use ArcMap or ArcGIS Pro when teaching an Intro to GIS course at the university level?

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12-02-2019 08:51 AM
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New Contributor II

I am teaching an Intro to GIS course at a local university. Looking for advice/opinions on whether it is wiser to use ArcGIS Pro as the desktop platform, or to teach using ArcMap & ArcCatalog. This class will be covering basic geospatial concepts and analysis.

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Esri Contributor

Hi Thomas,
I would recommend teaching with ArcGIS Pro.
ArcGIS Pro has a more modern interface, making it easier for new users to learn than ArcMap.
New features and functionality for desktop GIS will be added to ArcGIS Pro rather than ArcMap. You will also see more training resources for ArcGIS Pro than for ArcMap.

While many organizations have not yet switched their workflows from ArcMap to ArcGIS Pro, they are likely looking to switch in the near future. I believe when your students enter the workforce, experience with ArcGIS Pro will be the more desirable skill.

Thanks,
Heather

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Occasional Contributor

Thomas - I'll second Heather's response. I've been teaching an intro GIS course at our university for the past 21 years and made the move to ArcGIS Pro a few years ago at version 1.4. That first semester was tough. If version 2.0 hadn't come out I was considering going back to ArcMap. With every release since things have gotten better and better and I can't think of any* reason why I wouldn't use ArcGIS Pro in an intro course at this point. 

I personally don't love the huge icons and "smart" ribbon, but there is no denying that students new to GIS like it better than ArcMap. If you use the esri provided training, there isn't much left for 10.x, and the Pro web courses are getting better all the time. 

* I should mention that this assumes that you are capable of running ArcGIS Pro. The hardware requirements are significantly higher than ArcMap. In my experience the requirements are generally beyond what a student laptop supports, and if your lab computers are closer to the "minimum" requirements than the recommended, you might want to hold off.  

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Esri Frequent Contributor

Hi Thomas:


I agree with Heather and Mark.  I serve on the Esri education team and have taught Pro for 3 years in a series of workshops face to face in many universities, and I also have converted all of my ArcMap labs to Pro 2 years ago in my full semester university courses, and 95% of the students respond favorably to Pro, and 100% of students who are new to GIS.  It is more intuitive, it is where all of the future development will be, so more functional, better connected to the web, to the new Jupyter notebooks, better cartography, the list goes on, but Heather's point is well taken that Pro is a 64 bit software so the computer needs to be relatively modern to run it.   

I also want to mention that for introductory students, consider starting with fully online tools such as:  ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Insights, and Community Analyst.  I created for example a intro to GIS course recently for North Park University and there were so many tools and capabilities in ArcGIS Online that we are not going to Pro until Semester 2.

--Joseph Kerski

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New Contributor II

Thanks everyone, for the helpful input! Reporting back that the virtual machines running in the university's labs were not able to handle to hardware requirements of ArcGIS Pro. I won't name names, but the university I'm teaching at is a pretty well-regarded, regional university. So, the fact that their machines couldn't handle Pro is a serious concern that instructors should be aware of. If I could do it over again, I would have tested Pro in the university's computer labs before developing my instruction plan.

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MVP Esteemed Contributor

Since you undoubtedly have a university site license, students should be able to install a copy of ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro on their own machines.  Your site manager can set up access for students for both.  We have used that approach for quite a while now with minimal issues.

Students can simply check the link

Check your computer's ability to run ArcGIS Pro 2.5.

on the help topic page.

ArcGIS Pro 2.5 system requirements—ArcGIS Pro | Documentation 

I would venture returning to traditional classes in the fall may be a challenge in some areas. 

In Canada, summer courses are virtual and I am sure preparations are also being made in the event that that has to carry over into the Fall term (despite the terminally-optimistic opinions of some 'leaders')

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Esri Frequent Contributor

I have created 10 new Pro lessons, Learn Paths, and related resources, here:

10 New ArcGIS Pro Lesson Activities, Learn Paths, and Migration Reflections | Spatial Reserves 

I hope that you find them to be useful!
--Joseph Kerski 

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