This syllabus is divided into several sections. You can read it sequentially by scrolling down the length of the document or by clicking on any of the links below to "jump" to a specific section. That said, it is essential that you read the entire document as well as material covered in the Course Orientation. Together these serve the role of our course "contract."
- Course Overview
- Course Objectives
- Required Course Materials and Accessing the Course
- Assignments and Grading
- Course Schedule
- Course Policies
Jim Sloan is the lead instructor of GEOG 484 during this term.
Helping are grading assistant Cassandra Schmick.
GEOG 484 - GIS Database Development. This course is typically the third in a series of four courses that leads to the Certificate of Achievement in Geographic Information Systems. The course consists of activities, projects, readings and discussions concerned with how GIS software can be used to integrate geographic data compiled from various sources. Students who successfully complete the course are able to specify and perform the tasks involved in creating a digital geographic database, including georeferencing scanned base maps, digitizing vector features, entering attribute data, and compiling metadata. Geography 484 requires use of Esri's ArcGIS software. Prerequisite: GEOG 483 or comparable experience
There is an old GIS saw that goes: Eighty to 90 percent of the time spent doing GIS work is getting the data into the system. And, even though it may turn out to be tedious, it is a critical investment in time; you certainly cannot perform GIS analysis without the spatial data being available to the software. So the fundamental knowledge and skills concerning data entry and database creation presented in this course are necessary for the effective and proper use of GIS technology. The goal of Geography 484: GIS Database Development is to help you begin to develop that knowledge and those skills.
What will be expected of you?
Geography 484 is a paced course, meaning that there are established start and end dates for each lesson as well as for the course as a whole. The course is 10 weeks in length (plus an Orientation Week preceding the start of the course). Use of the course website is required. The course is divided into 10 lessons and is scheduled for the completion of one lesson per week. The first six lessons each contain a project, readings, and a quiz. The remaining four lessons comprise a final project. You will work independently on the first six projects and then collaborate with other students on the final project. (If necessary you may exercise the option to work alone on the final project.) The final project takes the place of an examination and gives you the opportunity to put into practice what you learn in the early weeks of the course.
Geography 484 is project-based. Projects involve using the ArcGIS for Desktop (Advanced) software as a tool for data entry and data manipulation. Hence, you will learn about GIS concepts by using GIS software. We have tried to limit your time investment to about eight to twelve hours per week. Your workload may be more or less depending on your prior experience with computing in general, and with GIS in particular.
Learning about GIS over the Internet is not unlike taking any traditional college course, and so the following axiom applies: how much and how well you learn is up to you. Success in this course will be impacted by how well you keep up with the class schedule, and by how well you communicate with the course instructor and with your fellow students. You should take time to check the course discussion forums regularly. The forums are where students and instructors share comments, pose questions, and suggest solutions. I strongly encourage you to get in the habit of logging in to the course website every day to check in on the class. With only occasional exceptions, I check discussion forums seven days a week. Though not every posting requires a response from me, you can be sure that I will read every single message.
The Course Objectives list, the Assignments description and the Course Schedule, found below, will give you a bit more detail regarding the nature of the course content. Also, note that you will need the most recent version of the ArcGIS for Desktop (Advanced) software.
At the successful completion of this course, students should be able to:
- describe the primary methods of capturing spatial features from a paper map.
- use tracing tools to create new point, line, or polygon features in a GIS database.
- make proper snapping settings to avoid common digitizing errors like undershoots and overshoots.
- describe topology and provide examples of topological relationships.
- integrate XY coordinate data stored in a text file.
- recognize various types of digitizing errors (undershoots, overshoots, polygon overlap, etc.).
- correct digitizing errors and poorly digitized features.
- merge and edgematch data covering adjacent areas.
- explain the concepts behind transforming an image from pixel coordinates to geographic coordinates.
- describe rubber sheeting and how it differs from georeferencing.
- georeference an image to match a layer projected in the desired coordinate system.
- georeference an image using explicit XY coordinates (e.g., collected by a GPS unit).
- explain how RMS error reflects the spatial accuracy of a georeferenced image.
- list the stages of database design.
- define database terms like field, record, primary key, lookup table, etc.
- provide examples of possible table relationships (one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many).
- describe the elements of a well-designed table.
- explain in basic terms how SQL is used to bring together information in a relational database.
- implement a database design and define tables and fields to maximize database integrity.
- acquire existing GIS data from an online clearinghouse.
- use the Content Standards for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM) as a reference when creating metadata.
- extract the critical elements from a metadata document.
- explain why projected datasets have both projected coordinate system parameters and geographic coordinate system parameters.
- define the coordinate system used by a dataset when that information is incorrect or missing.
- re-project a dataset from one coordinate system to another.
- explain and perform spatial joins.
- calculate summary statistics for geographic areas.
- create various types of thematic maps to convey geographic patterns effectively.
- describe how different classification methods can be used to generate different map patterns.
- define the term “normalization.”
- analyze a geographic problem and develop a workflow to solve the problem.
Required Course Materials and Accessing the Course
In order to take this course, you need to have the required course materials and an active Penn State Access Account user ID and password (used to access the on-line course resources).
After registering you will receive a confirmation email regarding your enrollment in GEOG 484 from World Campus registration. If you do not receive confirmation in a timely manner, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Once you are registered, and once the course begins, you will be able to access the course via the Canvas learning management system: https://psu.instructure.com/
You will need the following software:
ArcGIS for Desktop (Advanced) software
For this course, you will need to have a current version of the Advanced (ArcInfo) version of Esri's ArcGIS for Desktop software installed on your personal computer. If you do not already own or have access to the ArcGIS for Desktop (Advanced) software, you may acquire from us your own educational license at no cost to you. See our program's FAQ for complete ordering instructions. If you have questions regarding the software, please contact the instructor. Currently the software-based portions of Geography 484 are written for version 10.2.x, 10.3.x, 10.4.x and 10.5.x of the software. We expect you all to have access to one of those versions.
Important note: The ArcGIS for Desktop software is a commercial software package that is restricted to personal use by the student. It is unlawful for anyone to use this software package without the appropriate commercial license from Esri Inc. to generate personal or corporate profit or revenue.
Using the Library
Just like on-campus students, as a Penn State student you have a wealth of library resources available to you!
As a user of Penn State Libraries, you can...
- search for journal articles (many are even immediately available in full-text)
- request articles that aren't available in full-text and have them delivered electronically
- borrow books and other materials and have them delivered to your doorstep
- access materials that your instructor has put on Electronic Reserve
- talk to reference librarians in real time using chat, phone, and e-mail
- ...and much more!
To learn more about their services, see the Library Information for Off-site Users.
Assignments and Grading
Students earn grades that reflect the extent to which they achieve the learning objectives listed above. Opportunities to demonstrate learning include the following, and grades will be based on points assigned to each of several components of the course as follows:
- Homework: ArcGIS Software Status - 1% of course grade.
See the eponymous section of the Course Orientation for steps to prove that your ArcGIS for Desktop software is up to date.
- Homework: 6 Lessons and a Final Project - 65% of course grade.
The project component of each lesson involves some aspect of GIS. Projects are designed to be moderately challenging. The key to success is to stay on schedule and follow directions closely. All lessons are revealed at least two weeks before homework is due. The first 6 lessons are individual assignments (i.e., not collaborative).
- Homework: Final Project - 24% of course grade.
A final project will be submitted in stages over the seventh through the tenth weeks of the course. This will be completed in teams of approximately four individuals, or individually. You will find this project to be the most challenging component of the course. The most effective way to ensure success on the final project is to complete preceding projects and quizzes. The final project consists of three intermediate deliverables and a final report that all require collaboration among assigned team members.
- Quizzes - 20% of course grade.
Depending on your previous experience and comfort level with computing, you will find the lessons to be moderately to highly challenging. The key to success is to stay on schedule, pay attention to the grading criteria, and take time to write at a professional level. You will have approximately two weeks to work on each of the homework assignments that accompany the first 6 lessons and the last five weeks of the course to work on the Final Project.
|X||Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)|
Percentages refer to the proportion of all possible points earned by the student.
GEOG 484 Course Schedule
Below you will find a summary of the lesson objectives for this course and the associated time frames. Assignment information will be located on each lesson's checklist. This course is 10 weeks in length, with an orientation week preceding the official start of the course. The 'weeks' of the course are from Wednesday through the following Tuesday. There is one homework assignment due each week.
|Week||Lesson||Assignments and Activities|
|Week 0||Course Orientation & Proving your ArcGIS Software is Up-to-date||
|Week 1||Lesson 1: Georeferencing Raster Images||
|Week 2||Lesson 2: Data Input: Basics of DigitizingData Correction and Integration||
|Week 3||Lesson 3: Data Correction and Integration||
|Week 4||Lesson 4: Design/Build GIS (week 1)||
|Week 5||Lesson 5: Design/Build GIS (week2)||
|Week 6||Lesson 6: Design/Build GIS (week 3)||
|Weeks 7 - 10||Lesson 7-10: Final Project: Reconstructing 1920 Charlottesville, Virginia||Due Week 7: Submit the following (as directed in the lesson)
Withdrawals and Refunds
Students who officially withdraw from the class may be entitled to a pro-rated refund of tuition. For more information, see Refund Policy under World Campus Student Policies.
Use of Trade Names
Where trade names are used no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the World Campus, Outreach and Cooperative Extension, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, or The Pennsylvania State University is implied.
For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on our "Program Technical Requirements" page. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the Outreach Helpdesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).
Access to a reliable broadband Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or wireless hotspot.
This site is considered a secure website, which means that your connection is encrypted. We do, however, link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted. This is called mixed content. By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed. Follow the directions on our technical requirements page to view the mixed content.
This course must be viewed using one of the following browsers: Firefox (any version), Safari (versions 5.1 or 6.0), Chrome (0.3 or later), or Internet Explorer with the MathPlayer PlugIn. If you use any other browser, there will be pages containing equations that do not render properly. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the Outreach Helpdesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).
Penn State E-mail Accounts
All official communications from the Penn State World Campus are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.
This course follows the guidelines for academic integrity of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting other's work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other student's papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students."
I cannot overemphasize the importance of academic integrity. DO NOT copy and paste from unreferenced sources. Without exception: if you use a direct quote from any source, as part of any submitted assignment, the quote must be clearly noted and properly referenced. (In-line references are fine.)
Violations of Academic Integrity Policy:
Violations of the University’s Academic Integrity Policy can include the following:
- Copying on tests or lesson assignments: looking at other students’ quizzes or lesson reports, copying with a plan with another student; exchanging quizzes or lesson reports with another student
- Plagiarism: fabricating information or citations; copying from the internet of submitting the work of others from journals, articles and papers, or books; submitting other students’ papers as one’s own. Any material, regardless of length, that is the work of somebody else and who is not given explicit credit by citation, submitted as one’s own, is plagiarized material.
- Acts of aiding and abetting: Facilitating academically dishonest work by others; unauthorized collaboration on work; permitting another to copy from one’s quizzes or lesson reports; writing a lesson report for another; inappropriately collaborating on assignments or exams without permission or when prohibited.
- Unauthorized possession: Buying or stealing of quizzes or lesson reports or other materials; selling quizzes or lesson reports; photocopying quizzes; any possession of an exam or lesson report without the instructor’s permission.
- Submitting previous work: Submitting a paper, case study, lesson report, or any assignment that had been submitted for credit in a prior class without the knowledge and permission of the instructor.
- Ghosting or misrepresenting: Taking a quiz or exam or performing a class assignment in place of another student; having another student do the same in one’s place; signing in as present in class for another student or having another student do the same in one’s place.
- Computer theft: Electronic theft of computer programs or other software, data, images, art, or text belonging to another.
Penn State awards academic credit, certificates, and degrees to individuals who successfully complete a course and program requirements. It almost goes without saying that "successful completion" involves doing one's own work. Unfortunately, some students attempt to pass off the work of other students or authors as their own. Academic integrity violations are avoided by scrupulously following the citation and reference guidelines published in the Academic Integrity Guide that appears in the Resources menu at the Nature of Geographic Information.
Citation and Reference Style
Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Disability Services (ODS) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ODS Disability Liaison Contact Information (http://equity.psu.edu/ods/dcl). For further information, please visit the Office for Disability Services website (http://equity.psu.edu/ods).
In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation based on the documentation guidelines (http://equity.psu.edu/ods/guidelines). If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.
Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.
In case of weather-related delays at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to weather delays. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.
Connect Online with Caution
Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information with others whom you do not know.
If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to your instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. It is up to your instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If, for any reason, the course work for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.
This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances or University approved activities.
If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Student Code of Conduct
Detailed information about the Student Code of Conduct, expected student behavior, student rights, and the judicial process is available at the Office of Student Conduct (link is external).
Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. All changes will be communicated with you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.