Introduction to GIS or Spatial Analysis

Geographic Information Systems GY307 Syllabus

GY 307 001 30345 AND GIS510 001 30358
This is  course offering 3 credits by the Department of Chemistry and Geosciences at Jacksonville State University. It is a prerequisite for all GIS courses in the undergraduate curriculum and in graduate programs for the Masters of Public Administration (MPA) GIS concentration or the GIS graduate certificate. If you have no prior experience with ArcGIS from ESRI, you are required to take this class before any of the other courses.

Course Description:
An overview of geographic information systems and a foundation in georeferencing spatial data with coordinate systems, projecting these data to a flat surface, employing map scale, working with layers of information, and making maps. Issues in scale and map projection transformations and in coordinated systems conversions.

This course examines building and understanding maps in digital formats.

Instructor: Dr. Miriam Helen Hill
Office: 205 Martin Hall
Telephone: 256-782-8063 (contact me by e-mail)
Office Hours: by Blackboard IM, e-mail or WWW by appointment in the Blackboard virtual classroom or AOL IM
E-mail addresses: AND (Both go to AOL)

The class homepage is at: and or at

Course Materials:

Course Software: ArcGIS Desktop 10.5, is available for a trial 180-day download for a new textbook, only. It cannot be reused or extended. Be sure to request all trial extensions.

You will need to install both the software from ESRI and the two sets of data (ESRI data and class data). Be sure to comply with the specified system requirements. Please contact ESRI if you have questions on getting the software installed and working. The website for the textbook at the ESRI Bookstore site has important additional instructions if the installation does not go smoothly. Their tech support is better experienced with installation problems and is trained to assist the new owners of its software on their specific computer systems. So, see the text website for support.

One other comment is worth mentioning here in planning your system structure. Do NOT include spaces within the directory structure (path) of any GIS work. So, My Documents is not a valid location for storing any of your work.

Be Forewarned: This course contains a large laboratory component, so it requires more concentrated effort and time commitment than courses that are only lecture courses. This course serves as the foundation for all subsequent GIS (formerly Spatial Analysis and Management, SAM) courses and as a thorough introduction to Geographic Information Science. It emphasizes GIS teaching not training. You are expected to manage your time, use external resources to supplement your studies as needed, seek assistance when necessary, and do what needs to be done to complete the assignments. You should be self-motivated and diligent in your efforts to complete the course work. Stay on top of these assignments, because the term goes very rapidly.

GTKArcGIS is not an ordinary textbook, and it is not a text for GIS. It is not something you read, but rather a book that you work through on the computer. You may want to work through the chapters multiple times and then to explore other dimensions of the software that you encounter. The book is designed with a series of exercises to show you how to use the software. If you have no background in GIS, Chapter 1 will provide you with some concepts and the PowerPoint lectures will help clarify and introduce other key aspects. The activities will help you review and apply what you learn in the chapters. Other materials to guide you will be provided in Blackboard.

Activities:The activities are exercises beyond those in the text. While the text exercises are somewhat "cookbook" in fashion, the activities are designed to demonstrate sufficient proficiency and mastery of the software. The hands-on activities require application of the techniques to enable you to develop the required processing skills. Satisfactory completion of these lessons is mandatory. Allow yourself sufficient time before the deadline to submit the assignments, and if they are unsatisfactory, to have them returned so that you may redo and resubmit without grade penalty. This may be a reiterative process as long as the assignments are still available, so submit the work well before the deadline. After the deadline indicated on the schedule, a one week grace period will be enforced before grade penalties for lateness of submissions. The goal is for you to learn these processes, to apply them, and to master the application of these techniques to build your understanding of GIS and spatial analysis. Early assignments build skills for later assignments. Examples of acceptable submissions may be posted linked to the class homepage at Note that these are SAMPLES and may NOT be the exact answers. Your map designs should not be identical. Plagiarism is UNACCEPTABLE and will impact grades.

Class Expectations: Students are expected to be familiar with basic computer functions such as the use of a browser, Windows OS, and basic software like for word processing and Microsoft PowerPoint. Students will be expected to use the text as a self-learning tool. Start with the Introduction and then proceed to read each chapter and work each exercise. Skills developed in some of the exercises are used in subsequent exercises. Some students have thought that reading through the book is sufficient. IT IS NOT! After completing the chapters, work through the activities indicated in the Course Documents section of Blackboard. Submit your work as requested in the activity. Note: Also, save your maps at the end of each chapter. This is useful material to place in your professional portfolio.

Learning Outcomes: The student will be able to:
1. Explain the basic functions, importance, and application of spatial databases
2. Explain the fundamental concepts of Geographic Information Science
3. Perform heads-up digitizing
4. Use ArcGIS for mapping, spatial analysis, and overlay analysis

Major courses and graduate school differs significantly from undergraduate electives. The goals are to expand knowledge, to develop skills, to undertake research, and to advance the knowledge frontier. Graduate students are expected to be self-motivated learners who will strive to do extremely well in their studies, to explore the topic areas of their classes beyond what is presented in the lectures and textbooks, and to take responsibility to overcome the deficiencies in their knowledge and understanding. The professors are here to help you, but the key to a successful graduate career is doing what it takes for you to master the content of the course topic. (At the masters level, the content of the course topic is the goal; at the doctoral level, the content of the discipline is the goal.)

You are not just learning course content here. You are, also, developing motor skills as you manipulate the keyboard and the pointing device (mouse, touch pad, track ball). These "body-subject" motions are equally important to computer usage, and are built from actually doing the work and making the movements. Sometimes, having incorporated these movements will clue you to errors and problems with the work you are doing. Again, you cannot short cut the necessary learning process. You must put the time into your work. [Did you do an Internet search to find the term body-subject? It's not really relevant to GIS, but a top graduate student who did not know this term would have researched it.]

Dr. Hill is available to answer questions. Contact her through the resources available on Blackboard. Be specific with your questions and the information you provide to speed receiving useful replies. Simply saying, "I cannot get something to work," will elicit a response of "What steps are you doing." Common problems may be listed, but if you explain to begin with, specific guidance can be returned without additional exchange. Tools such at the Virtual Classroom, Blackboard IM, Virtual Office Hours, AOL IM, etc. may be used for office hour contacts. Simply arrange a time by e-mail with the professor.

Developing a good understanding of the terms used in explaining the software and those associated with GIS in general is extremely important. Both of these concepts and the use of the software are emphasized in this course.

Academic Dishonesty: Academic dishonesty is defined to include any form of cheating or plagiarism. A discussion of the topic is set forth in the student handbook.

TESTS: A midterm and a final will be given. They will have multiple parts, including content and laboratory applications. All work is submitted into Blackboard. Some parts will be timed. Do not open objective tests without taking them. Lock outs and time overruns (!) will be scored as 0 and will use one attempt when multiple attempts are allowed. Full screen sometimes blocks the submit button, so reduce the size of the window. Be sure to click okay and move to another Blackboard page after your score is reported to you by Blackboard. Check that your score has recorded by going to Tools/My Grades. Plan ahead, though, because if this occurs near the deadline, you may lose access to the test. Allow sufficient time for data packet transmission. Only scores officially registered by Blackboard will count. Work ahead of the schedule!

Icons and !: If you have an icon or an exclamation point showing in your gradebook, click on it to see all of the official score. Icons and ! are zero points and indicate a failed submission or a time overrun and are scored as 0. These count as one test attempt.

Note: All materials presented in this class are done so with educational goals in mind and are not intended to cause distress of any nature. Please be aware that controversial materials, theories, exhibits, etc. will be presented in this class. If you are unwilling or unable to view these presentations in the educational light in which they are presented, then you need to reconsider your enrollment in this class.

Answers and grading will usually be succinct and to the point. No value judgment of you, your personality, character, or your intelligence is intended. Feedback is provided so that you can learn from your mistakes and improve the work that you are doing. The focus will center on what you can improve, and it is up to you not to lose sight of the accomplishments and progress that you are making. Do not get discouraged, but you must work continually to improve your work. GIS is complex and multifaceted, and your work will contain far more things done correctly than the few things highlighted for improvement.

Mandatory Assignments: Completion of a pretest and two post-tests are required. These will be limited to one attempt. Failure to complete these will reduce the final exam grade.

The midterm will count 25% of the course grade.
Activities will count 25% of the course grade.
The comprehensive final will count 50% of the course grade.

The grading scale is above 90% A, 80-90% B, 70-80% C, 60%-70% D, and below 60% F. Grades are calculated to two decimal places.

The final includes a set of essay questions similar to what you may be asked during your comprehensive examination at the culmination of your degree. The exam is posted already. Note that copying sentences from help documentation and the textbook provides inadequate information and detail for masters students. This exam should incorporate your experience with the course. A grading rubric is used and relies on the comprehensive usage and experience gained from use of the software and all course materials. You may review and consider the questions throughout the course, before writing the exam. The exam must be submitted in .docx format using the Word 2007 (2010) version of TURABIAN documentation readable in Microsoft Office 2007 format. However, historically, some students have relied too heavily on quoting Help citations, frequently out-of-context, rather than explaining the key concepts from their knowledge base.

Check your grades under Tools/My Grades to be sure your grades were recorded.

GIS and mapping are complex activities. Instruction will focus on correcting errors and improving processing and design. Read directions carefully and thoroughly. After completing the work, reread the instructions to make sure that you have completed everything requested. Check the examples of satisfactory submissions that are provided. Do not get discouraged by the rejection of assignments. You are learning a new field and the goal is to master the content not only to submit assignments. Computers easily provide output; but, the challenge is to get the right output and to express it professionally in readily communicable formats. This involves a lot of trial, error, and learning. Distance learning adds impediments to the process, but these can be overcome by repeated submissions. You are probably all too accustomed to submission of work, receiving a grade, and moving on right or wrong. You can move on, but you will be required to complete all work at a sufficiently satisfactory level so that you can learn and improve your knowledge, skills, ability, and understanding.

Class Schedule: Review the comments, videos, and PowerPoints, work through the textbook chapters. Complete the activities as indicated in Blackboard. Simply reading the chapters does not suffice. Doing the activities is essential, and carefully follow the instructions and submit the requested materials.

This tentative schedule is presented below. Please install the software, then begin reading the text book and working through the text and course materials. This class moves very quickly. Do NOT fall behind! Better yet, WORK AHEAD OF THIS SCHEDULE.


Dates Lesson Topic Chapters
May 8 1 geography and GIS 1 and 2
9 2 map documents 3
10 3 spatial and aspatial data 4 and 5
11 4 the four file essentials 6
15 5 symbolization 7 and 8
16 6 layouts 9 and 10
18 8 digitizing 11 and 12
22 9 editing 13
23 10 geocoding 14
24 11 tables and queries 15, 16, and 17
25 12 geoprocessing 18 and 19
29 13 models 20

All grades are final at 11:55 p.m. Central time or the time at JSU on Tuesday, May 30, 2017.
The pretest, posttest, and LO are required activities. Do as well as you can each time you complete them. You should note the similarity to the final examination of this course.

This syllabus is in no way binding. All information is subject to change. Any changes made by the instructor will be announced to the class through e-mails or posting to the Announcements area.