GEOG 480
Exploring Imagery and Elevation Data in GIS Applications

Welcome to GEOG 480 - Exploring Imagery and Elevation Data in GIS Applications


Quick Facts

  • Instructors: Karen Schuckman, CP, PLS, MGIS and Bradley Doorn

  • Course Structure: Online, 12-15 hours a week for 10 weeks

  • Class Size: Limited to 25 students on a first-come, first-serve basis.

  • Prerequisite(s): 482 and 483 (or equivalent professional experience). It is expected that students are conversant in fundamental concepts of GIS and have hands-on experience with ArcGIS Pro. The following bullets are examples of knowledge and skills you should have before starting this course.

    • explain the concept of map scale
    • explain the concept of a map projection
    • describe the difference between a vector and a raster data set
    • explain the difference between an Esri SHP file and a feature class
    • explain the difference between a 2D and 3D SHP file or feature class
    • manage GIS data files in the Esri interface
    • access data management, data conversion, and data analysis tools in the Esri interface
    • add a vector data layer to a project file
    • add a raster data layer to a project file
    • create a new SHP file or feature class
    • edit a SHP file or feature class using the Editor toolbar
    • change symbols for a SHP file or feature dataset using Symbology Properties
    • view and edit the attribute table for a SHP file, feature class, or raster layer

Course Description

GEOG 480, Exploring Imagery and Elevation Data in GIS Applications is an introductory-level course focusing on the use of remotely sensed imagery and elevation data in GIS applications. Students enrolling in GEOG 480 should have a solid conceptual foundation in geospatial information science and technology (equivalent to GEOG 482 and GEOG 483). GEOG 480 is appropriate for those who are already working in the geospatial profession and wish to use imagery and elevation data in visualization and spatial analysis.

The course is specifically designed for adult professionals and is offered exclusively through the World Campus and the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. GEOG 480 is the first required course in the Graduate Certificate in Remote Sensing and Earth Observation. GEOG 480 also fulfills a remote sensing requirement for the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in GEOINT Applications, and can be used as an elective in the Certificate of Geographic Information Systems, Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security - Geospatial Intelligence option or the Master of Geographic Information Systems. Students who register for the course for credit will complete eight lessons with corresponding hands-on assignments, online discussions, and an independent final project. Throughout the course, students confront realistic problem scenarios that incorporate such skills and concepts as definitions of data needs, metadata content standards, data formats and types, and analysis methods.

Topics of Study

An orientation is conducted during the first official week of class and includes graded assignments. There are eight subject lessons to be completed in sequence. The final project will be developed over the entire ten-week session, with the final week of the course devoted entirely to completing the final project and written report.

  • Lesson 0: Orientation (1 week)
  • Lesson 1: Introduction (1 week)
  • Lesson 2: Sensors, Platforms, and Georeferencing (1 week)
  • Lesson 3: Production of Digital Image Base Maps (1 week)
  • Lesson 4: Production of Digital Terrain Models (1 week)
  • Lesson 5: Validation of Imagery and Elevation Data (1 week)
  • Lesson 6: Management of Imagery and Elevation Data (1 week)
  • Lesson 7: Image Enhancement, Interpretation, and Analysis (1 week)
  • Lesson 8: Terrain Modeling and Analysis (1 week)
  • Final Week: Review and Discussion (1 week)

Course Objectives

  • Describe the basic principles of image and elevation data acquisition.
  • Summarize the basic operational characteristics of commercial imaging systems.
  • Critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of optical imaging instruments and platforms for a broad range of application scenarios.
  • Perform orthorectification of digital imagery.
  • Perform simple image enhancement, image interpretation, and automated analysis using digital optical imagery.
  • Perform simple terrain analysis using digital elevation/terrain models.
  • Describe the quantitative methods and industry standards for geometric accuracy assessment of imagery and elevation data products.
  • Describe the qualitative methods and industry standards for quality assurance and quality control of imagery and elevation data products.
  • Use acquired knowledge and critical thinking skills to create visualizations and perform analysis of imagery, elevation, and supplemental vector data in GIS.

Course Overview Video (1:57)

Welcome to GEOG 480
Click here for a transcript of the welcome video.

KAREN SCHUCKMAN: Exploring imagery and elevation data is a very important course for those who desire to make effective use of imagery and DEMs in GIS analysis. Imagery has become widely available from so many sources from satellites such as Landsat and sentinel, to digital aerial photography to very detailed imagery from unmanned aerial systems.

The number and size of pixels, the spatial resolution, defines your ability to identify distinct features on the ground. Even casual users of imagery are aware of how this affects the utility of image data sets in real world applications. On the other hand, even many experienced GIS users are less aware of the finer points related to the positional accuracy of imagery pixels and how this positional accuracy is achieved.

It is quite possible, for example, for features within a high-resolution image to be in the wrong place in the world. For example, if lane markers on a highway that are clearly visible in an aerial photograph are not in the correct location due to hills and the terrain, the GPS location of a car traveling along that lane may not appear to be between the lane markers in map display.

Students in this course will learn how elevation models are created and how they are used to improve the positional accuracy of imagery by correcting for relief displacement. They'll also perform slope, aspect, and hydrologic analyzes and overlay imagery on elevation models to create realistic 3D visualizations. Many students comment that this class was one of the most immediately useful courses in the curriculum and that they were able to put what they learned to use right away at work or in their research.

Credit: © Penn State University is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Want to join us? Students who register for this Penn State course gain access to assignments and instructor feedback and earn academic credit. For more information, visit Penn State's Online Geospatial Education Program website. Official course descriptions and curricular details can be reviewed in the University Bulletin.

This course is offered as part of the Repository of Open and Affordable Materials at Penn State. You are welcome to use and reuse materials that appear on this site (other than those copyrighted by others) subject to the licensing agreement linked to the bottom of this and every page.