COVID-19 Educator Support: Resources for online learning

03-10-2020 08:51 PM
Esri Regular Contributor
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COVID-19 has impacted us in many ways. There is an increasing number of institutions who are temporarily postponing or cancelling in-person courses, and on-ground faculty may be faced with having to migrate their courses to online learning. Of course, planning, available support, and clear communication are paramount to helping make such transition and ease both faculty and student anxiety.


We wanted to share several online resources that are available to supplement online learning. You likely know many of them, but they could be a lifeline for those faculty who have not utilized them, as many of these resources are conducive to remote and self-paced student learning.


We would like to express particular appreciation and support to the many colleagues whose role is to support educators across campuses leverage geospatial technology. Folks sitting in libraries, instructional resource centers and technology support offices, may be faced with increased demand to provide support for moving courses to remote instruction. 


Further, we have a close community of GIS educators – a community who has inspired and supported one another. If you have advice to offer, or need advice on approaches to transition courses, please feel free to post here. If a virtual meeting space is a desired mode to share practices, we can help facilitate that. 

Esri Regular Contributor

BTW, a good thread on moving to online courses (general, not GIS-focused) - Jessie Male on Twitter: "My institution is moving to #onlinecourses. In preparation, my students had... 

Esri Regular Contributor

From Olena at University of Delaware, questions and possible answers.

I invite others to share their solutions. 

  1. What if students' PCs are not up to par to run GIS software? 

If we are talking about ArcGIS Pro, indeed the application does have certain System Requirements. Any machine purchased in the last few years that has at least 8GB of RAM should do for some of the basic workflows, but all depends on what is being done. We have seen less and less concerns about this recently, however, it could pose a challenge for students older computers. While we shouldn’t majorly modify courses, an option is to move some of the work to cloud – and whenever possible use ArcGIS Online and other Apps as a substitute, as they won’t be required to install anything. Another creative way that someone mentioned is doing group work, i.e. students work in groups and whoever has the capability to run ArcGIS Pro, drives the assignment. Virtualizing ArcGIS Pro and offering it via Citrix or AWS App-stream-like environment is an option, but that could take some time to test and implement. On short notice, it could be challenging.


I invite others to share.


  1. During the virtual lab time, with 25 students connected to the video conference, what are best practices/software packages to take over their computer to help them with the assignments? 

I am not certain of best free packages, again, if anyone has implemented this, please share. Here is a great thread that does not address this particular question, but does suggest some good considerations for moving to online learning -, leveraging LMS, streaming technololgy, group work, etc.  It is not GIS-focused, but worth perusing. Thanks to @Dawn Wright for sharing it.


  1. This one is easy, I think. Does our ELA allow our faculty/staff to install/run the software on their home (not university purchased) computers? I am pretty sure the answer is yes but I wanted to double-check. 

ABSOLUTELY! With the new Institution Agreement (former site license), now technology can be installed and licensed on any student-owned device. Before, produces were licensed for on-campus use, we are way beyond that. With shift to SAAS and distance learning, technology can be used by anyone affiliated with the institution (students, faculty, staff), on their own devices. It is important to recognize that learning takes place outside of the constraints of physical classroom, and the EA (education agreement) supports that.

MVP Esteemed Contributor

Virtualizing ArcGIS Pro and offering it via Citrix or AWS App-stream-like environment is an option, but that could take some time to test and implement. On short notice, it could be challenging.

Geri, I totally agree that virtualization is too heavy a lift for people like me that may need to spin up from in-person to 100% online in a week. But, getting desktop software installed and licensed on each student's machine is challenging too!  This looks much easier than it used to be (online help) with wizards and such, but virtualization would sure be great for students - they would only need a computer (any OS) with a browser! Also, would be so useful in classes that need a custom, difficult to assemble stack of software (ArcGIS 10.5 with ArcHydro/HEC-GeoRAS for example). This summer I am going to explore this with my IT department for sure.

Thank you for this blog post! I am forwarding it to my consortium members! Very helpful in our moment of extreme need!!!!