Incorporation of Student-Centered, Practical Applications of Geographic Information Systems to Raise Awareness and Generate Solutions for Local Environmental Issues

Monday, 15 December 2014
Nicole A Bilsley, Charlotte Anne Love and Jean-Bernard H Minster, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) offer a plethora of applications for numerous fields, from geological sciences to urban planning. Therefore, developing a practical GIS curriculum for students from a diverse selection of majors can be challenging, especially since time constraints presented by the course term limit the number of projects that can cater to each student’s academic focus. However, open ended assignments that allow students the freedom to personalize their projects present an opportunity to teach the universal functionality of GIS, as well as stimulate curiosity of students from all backgrounds by allowing them to tailor a project to their personal interests. During an introductory GIS course at the University of California, San Diego, projects prompted students to utilize ArcGIS in ways of their choice that raised awareness of local environmental issues, as well as encouraged students to incorporate environmentally sustainable practices into their lives. In view of the frequently stated interest of students to enter careers where they can use their newly learned GIS skills, the educational platform of choice is ESRI's ArcGIS, but the choice of platform remains flexible. As GIS resources become more accessible with the development of programs such as OpenGIS and OpenStreetMap, the potential for GIS to effectively communicate environmental issues to the public is growing fast. Incorporating these environmental issues into a curriculum not only allows students to personalize their education, but also raises awareness of such problems and provides students with the ability to communicate those issues using GIS.