GEOG 480
Exploring Imagery and Elevation Data in GIS Applications

Lesson Format


Lesson Format

Remote Sensing - Lesson Format

1. Reading Assignments

Each lesson consists of one or more of the following:

  • Reading assignments on the course website, in the course textbook, and in supplemental materials provided by the instructor.
  • A reading quiz that can be accessed only by registered students using Canvas.
  • A hands-on lab exercise that can be accessed only by registered students using Canvas.
  • An online discussion activity that can be accessed only by registered students using Canvas.
  • Software tutorials and self-assessment activities that can be accessed only by registered students using Canvas.

There are quite a few reading assignments throughout this course. Some of these readings may go into considerable technical depth that may occasionally go beyond the scope of an introductory course. Individual students may be interested in more or less depth, based on their experience and backgrounds. Realizing that it is impossible for the instructor to design "one-size-fits-all" reading assignments, you should employ all reading techniques described below:

  • Scan: Do not deal with all of the content, but search through the material for a specific purpose or a specific word (or its synonym).
  • Skim: Read the headings and first sentences of each paragraph or section.
  • Read: After skimming, reread carefully to understand the detailed concepts and arguments.

Carefully read the introductory, overview, and summary material in each assignment, skim the rest of the assigned section so that you are at least familiar with an outline of the content, scan through the technical details noting specific topics that are included in the online text or on a quiz. Use the online text, crossword puzzles, and objective quizzes as a guide for your reading; they will give an indication of the level of comprehension expected. Approaching the reading in this way will help you develop a relationship with the textbook as an ongoing resource to help with a specific problem or delve deeper into an area of interest, during this course and in the future.

Online Lesson Content

The course website and/or Canvas may contain online reading material authored by the instructor. It can be printed page-by-page or lesson-by-lesson. The course website and/or Canvas contains specific instructions for weekly activities.

Textbook Reading

Each student is expected to acquire the correct edition of the textbook(s) shown on the course syllabus. Specific chapters or pages from the course textbook are assigned on the Reading Assignments page of each online lesson.

Visually impaired students, who have difficulty reading a printed textbook, can contact the instructor or the publisher for alternative forms of textbook delivery. This will require approval from the Penn State Office for Disability Services.

Other Reading

The instructor may supplement the course textbook with other published material. These assignments will also be given on the Readings page of each online lesson. The reading will be provided in PDF format (to be read online or printed) in the corresponding lesson module in Canvas.

2. Reading Quizzes

Each lesson includes a graded reading quiz intended to measure comprehension of the reading material. The quizzes can be used as a guide while reading; the questions often focus on concepts that will be further explored in the hands-on activities. If a question seems vague or unclear, it is fine to ask for clarification in the Discussion Forum, where all students can benefit from additional explanation.

Quizzes are open-book; they are not timed. The quizzes must be submitted only once and should be completed by the end of the lesson week for full credit. All of the quiz questions are objective (multiple choice, multiple select, etc.). The quizzes are automatically graded by the Canvas learning management system and scores are entered immediately in the Canvas grades. Automated feedback is provided for all incorrect responses.

3. Lab Exercises

Online and textbook reading is useful for introducing the fundamental concepts of remote sensing, but working with real data and experimenting with software tools is an important way to learn. The lab exercises that accompany each lesson in this course are meant to provide further demonstration of key concepts, as well as give the student valuable hands-on experience with state-of-the-art software. The lab exercises may be somewhat tutorial in nature because there is no requirement that the student have prior expertise with the remote sensing software used in the course. However, while performing these exercises, the student should be thinking about how each step relates to concepts introduced in the reading. The student will also be expected to refer to the software vendor's documentation (online tutorials and Help) for in-depth instruction in the use of specific tools and operations that may not be completely explained by the lab instructions.

Lab Instructions

Instructions for the hands-on exercises are provided in each Canvas lesson folder. Interspersed with the step-by-step instructions are a series of questions that are to be answered in the associated lab deliverable. Some of these questions will be objective; some will require short written responses or screenshots. Some of the questions (particularly the more simple, objective questions or the screenshots) are intended as "checkpoints" to ensure that you are on the right track. Other subjective questions will ask you to explain or relate what is happening in the lab to a concept you were expected to learn about in the reading.

It is highly recommended that you save the PDF locally to your computer before beginning the lab exercise. Many of the PDFs contain embedded hyperlinks, which do not always behave correctly from within Canvas. It is also highly recommended that you print a copy of the PDF to refer to as you perform the exercise. You can make notes and answer questions on the hard copy as you proceed through the lab, and you will not have to use valuable space on your computer screen for the lab instructions.

Lab Data

Data will be provided for each hands-on exercise. Links to a data package (a ZIP file) are provided in each Canvas lesson folder. These files can sometimes be quite large (up to ~500 MB) and may take some time to download over slower Internet connections. If you are going to be traveling or have limited bandwidth, try to download the files ahead of time or contact the instructor to discuss alternative methods of delivery.

Lab Deliverable

Your lab work will be submitted in the form of a Canvas Quiz, similar to the reading quiz. Like the reading quiz, the lab deliverable can be viewed and saved multiple times, but it can only be submitted once. All of the questions are mirrored in the lab instructions, so it should not be necessary to open or use the lab deliverable link until you have completed the entire hands-on activity.

Some of the answers to the short essay questions require uploading a screen capture to your personal file space. The process for uploading screen captures will be explained in the hands-on activity for this orientation.

A suggested method for completing the lab deliverable is outlined below. Feel free to come up with a process that suits you, but read through these steps first to find a few helpful hints.

  • Download the lab instructions PDF to your computer.
  • Print a hard copy of the lab instructions to follow as you do the lab work.
  • Keep track of answers to the objective questions on this printout.
  • Create a text file to compose your answers to the essay questions.
  • Save all your screenshots with logical names in a single folder. Make sure the file name you use to save the screenshot contains the question number as an easy reference for uploading.
  • Open the Canvas lab deliverable. Enter your answers to the objective questions, cut and paste the essay text, and upload your screenshots.
  • Submit the deliverable.
  • Review the correct answers to the objective questions when they are immediately displayed by Canvas.
  • When the instructor has completed review of the manually graded questions, you will see your final lab score in your grades.
  • View the graded lab by clicking on Grades in the course navigation menu in Canvas, and selecting the lab deliverable. You will be able to see any comments submitted by the instructor for the manually graded items.

4. Graded Discussion

In some lessons, students may be asked to post to a graded discussion forum. The details for the graded discussion assignments will be found on the Activities page of each lesson on the course website. The assignments will usually require the student to do a bit of external Internet research to comment on a topical issue or to find remote sensing data in the public domain.

Live Discussion

The instructor may conduct live sessions in Zoom to supplement course content and address questions about lab activities. Attendance at these sessions is NOT required; however, students find them to be an extremely valuable part of their learning experience. To establish the most convenient day and time for these live sessions, the instructor may conduct a poll during the first week of class. Recordings of these sessions will be available for students who cannot attend the live sessions; recordings will be posted in the Canvas Media Gallery.


If you have any questions now or at any point during this week, please feel free to post them to the appropriate Discussion Forum in Canvas.