GEOG 488
Acquiring and Integrating Geospatial Data



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 specific sections. That said, it is essential that you read the entire document as well as material covered in the orientation. Together these serve the role of your course "contract."

George Chaplin

409 Carpenter Building
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802

email: Please use the course e-mail system in ANGEL.
phone: Registered Students via ANGEL

Availability: Students are welcome to contact me by email anytime; I usually am able to respond within 24 hours. Although e-mail correspondence is preferred, students may also contact me by telephone at the number above from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. Monday through Friday, U.S. Eastern Time and other times by appointment.

GEOG 488: ACQUIRING AND INTEGRATING GEOSPATIAL DATA. Advanced technical, legal, ethical, and institutional problems related to data acquisition for geospatial information systems. Prerequisites: GEOG 484.

Geography 488 is one of five courses students may choose as their final course in the Certificate Program in Geographic Information Systems. The course is specifically designed for adult professionals and is offered exclusively through the World Campus in the Certificate and Master of GIS degree programs. The course is organized around six modules, a course paper, online discussions, and a capstone assignment. The capstone is at your own pace and is based on a problem-based learning approach, this means that there is less direct supervision than in the previous courses. Each module includes associated readings and discussions about acquiring and integrating GIS data. Through the course modules, students confront realistic problem scenarios that incorporate such skills and concepts as definition of data needs, metadata content standards, legal and ethical issues related to data use, data formats and types, interoperability, field collection methods and contributing data for public use. Those who successfully complete the course are able to "spec out "a GIS project. This involves identifying and evaluating appropriate and cost-effective data sources, assessing and ensuring data quality, creating data dictionaries, determining appropriate data formats given an intended data use, transforming data from one format to another and understanding GIS software functionality related to data conversion. The course is ten weeks in length and requires a minimum of 8-12 hours of student activity each week. It is offered frequently to quarterly (starting in January, April, July, and October) through Penn State's World Campus.

The course materials consist of Esri's ArcGIS and Spatial Analyst, Safe Software's Feature Manipulation Engine (FME), an optional textbook, a GPS unit, and a required course website that contains the on-line lessons and communications tools such as discussion forums and an e-mail system.

What will be expected of you?

This course requires a minimum of 8-12 hours of student activity each week, depending on the speed at which you work. Included in the 8-12 hours each week is time to complete modules and related activities. You'll be glad to know that you don't have to show up for class at a certain time! All you need to do is complete each assignment before the published deadline at the end of the week.

The problem-based learning exercise begins right at the start, builds through the course and is finally published in the course final project. Problem-based learning is self directed and is quite a change of pace from GEOG 483 & 484. It is much more like a "real world" situation and is appropriate for a final course in the Certificate Program. There is much less direct supervision in problem-based learning; by that I mean that I will not be telling you what to do at every step, but I will be there to offer support and help. The good thing about problem-based learning is that the process is the goal rather than a result. Therefore, it is important to report and document your effort. These include difficulties and failures, as well as successes, that is, in relation to the initial expectations of the project you outlined earlier in the course. Consequently, provided you make the effort, it is very hard to fail in a problem-based learning environment.

The courses you've taken in the program until now have been highly structured. This course will rely mainly on input from you. Class discussions and a cumulative document or a class e-portfolios will be fueled by the information you collect. There will also be a larger reading and writing component in this class than the ones leading up to it. I don't need to tell you that good writing and communication skills are an integral part of the profession. In addition to the course project, there is a course paper. This is a fairly low-stakes paper of only 1000 - 1200 words, but it is a way for you to share your knowledge or research while demonstrating your writing skills. We expect quality work - nothing less than an instructor teaching an English class on campus would expect. No busy work will be assigned. When possible, assignments will be focused around your areas of expertise, as related to the course. Everyone in the course, including me, should benefit from course submissions.

You will also need to check out the course discussion forums regularly. That's where students and instructors share comments, pose questions, and suggest answers. 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 usually check discussion forums six days a week. You can be sure that I will read, but not necessarily respond to, every single message.

My colleagues and I have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. How much and how well you learn is ultimately up to you. You will succeed if you are diligent about keeping up with the class schedule, and if you take advantage of opportunities to communicate with me, as well as with your fellow students.

For a more detailed look at what will be covered in each lesson, as well as due dates for our assignments and activities, please refer to the semester-specific course schedule that is part of this syllabus (see "Course Schedule").

Lesson 1

  1. Understand the management processes of defining data needs, evaluating data and data sources, extracting the data, transforming the data, and finally loading the data.
  2. Define data needs by means of a User Needs Assessment, that is, where the required output defines the data needs.
  3. Identify where to find appropriate and cost-effective data source(s) for a given task or project. This is the evaluation of accuracy, precision, and currency of data. This is process intimately tied to metadata.
  4. Determine whether available data are sufficient for a given task, or if new data should be produced.
  5. Recognize situations in which land surveyors should be called upon to produce data and other legal obligations.
  6. Start to think about the problem based-learning project as a short narrative.

Lesson 2

  1. Learn to read, produce and publish metadata.
  2. Identify where to look to check the validity of information found in metadata and software Help Pages.
  3. Start to use Safe Software FME to inspect or explore data.
  4. Find and acquire GIS data using online clearinghouses.
  5. Create data dictionaries and plan what to collect.
  6. Describe current metadata standards.
  7. Look at the timeliness of data.
  8. Understand the currency of the data with regards to editing, such as check-out or concurrent editing and the need for updating data.

Lesson 3

  1. Recognize potential legal and ethical problems related to data use.
  2. Determine appropriate data formats given intended data use by understanding the scale, accuracy, precision of collected data.
  3. Recognize the difficulties of mixing data from different sources, timeliness, currency, scale, projection, and the effects on accuracy.
  4. Different data properties can lead to cascading errors, inappropriate analysis, unexpected edge effects and the modifiable unit area problem.
  5. Extract data once or "on the fly."

Lesson 4

  1. Identify potential data sources for remotely sensed data.
  2. Determine availability and cost for remotely sensed data.
  3. Acquire remotely sensed data.
  4. Feature extraction and delineation and the problem of moving back and forth from raster to vector data.
  5. Course paper finish up.

Lesson 5/6

  1. Start to use Safe Software's FME to explore and transform acquired data.
  2. Describe common data formats.
  3. Diagnose the characteristics of unfamiliar data types.
  4. Incorporate various types of GIS data (e.g., tabular data in printed form, National Map data, GPS data, CAD data, LIDAR or other remotely-sensed data) into a GIS database.
  5. Submit course paper week 5.
  6. Transform data from one format to another "on the fly" or one time only.
  7. Understand GIS software functionality related to data conversion, import and export, editing, updating, and revising.
  8. Explain interoperability and the initiatives that are under way to accomplish that goal.
  9. Use CAD and other data sources to make a composite map by loading the data.

Lesson 7

  1. Collecting our own data with GPS either for your course project or for local cultural points.
  2. Recognize the accuracy of different grades of GPS receivers (recreational, mapping, or surveying) and explain how GPS works.
  3. Use a GPS to find a Geodetic marker explain the accuracy.
  4. Explain how hand-held field units can be used for data acquisition, ex. ArcPad.
  5. Outline various data creation methods. Comment on problem of collecting everything or just the users' current needs.

Lesson 8

  1. Publishing data by describing what is involved in contributing newly created data to The National Map or a GIS portal or within your corporation.
  2. Legal responsibilities and ethical questions in providing data to the public or other entities.
  3. Importance of Metadata.
  4. Publish as propriety, interchange or open formats.

Lesson 9/10

  1. Integrate modules from previous lessons into a flowing, comprehensive presentation of course final project. This is a polished presentation that is constructed from the previous modules.
  2. Create a workflow that outlines the steps, procedures and data necessary for the finished project.
  3. Present lessons learned from, and observations about, completing the Problem Based Learning final project.

Course Schedule

Course length: 10 weeks

Below you will find a summary of the learning activities for this course and the associated time frames. Specific details for each module can be found in each lesson. Key due dates will also be posted to our course Calendar in ANGEL.

Course Schedule by Week
WeekLessonAssinments and Activities

Week 0

Lesson 0: Orientation

Assignments and Activities:

  • Complete the steps outlined in our site orientation. (Required!) (Click on the Orientation link under the Start Here menu on the left to begin the orientation.)

Week 1

Lesson 1: Defining, Assessing, and Evaluating Data Needs

Assignments and Activities:

NOTE: This week the required deliverable is a simple narrative of the problem you are starting to identify. Other than that, you must finish the required readings and participate in the online discussion. Below, you will see a list of things to post to your web page, but these are mostly to get you to start thinking about your project. You should spend the first week coming up with an idea for your project and gathering some contact information for your area. If you cannot decide on a project, post a few ideas to me or the group. If you don't post all the information this week, it should be posted by the end of week 2.

  • Read the assigned readings.
  • Read proposal guidelines.
  • Complete module 1.
  • Post a project write-up including:
    1. The required short narrative of the problem or project:
    2. list of local organizations who are using or who should/could be using GIS;
    3. contact information for local person or people you will be interviewing;
    4. list of GIS project specifications for your local area;
    5. list of recommendations, things to consider, potential problems, etc.
  • Discuss the weekly topic in the discussion forum.
  • Start to think about and write your course paper. This should be some aspect of or consideration about : User Needs Assessment, Accuracy and Precision, Timeliness and Data Currency, Ethical Data Use, or Metadata. See the Course Paper Assignment page for more information about this assignment.

Week 2

Lesson 2: Producing and Understanding Metadata to Evaluate and Locate Data

Assignments and Activities:

  • Read the assigned readings.
  • Complete module 2.
  • Post a project write-up including:
    1. metadata for existing National Map layers currency and timeliness;
    2. documentation of the status of the metadata for the data for the PBL identified in Lesson 1 (if no data exist, create metadata for future layers);
    3. comments on whether those metadata conform to FGDC/ISO standards;
    4. analyze and report the data;
    5. data dictionary for the data acquired (or those that will be acquired).
  • Discuss the weekly topic in the discussion forum.
  • Continue writing your course paper.

Week 3

Lesson 3: Locate, Acquire and Extract Data

Assignments and Activities:

  • Read the assigned readings.
  • Complete module 3.
  • Post a project write-up including:
    1. Locate data for your project and list data sources or clearinghouses;
    2. write up report of data formats, accuracy, timeliness, scale etc.;
    3. potential legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of data you have collected with particular reference to public data.
  • Discuss the weekly topic in the discussion forum.
  • Complete Quiz.
  • Continue writing your course paper.

Week 4

Lesson 4: Integrating Remotely-Sensed Data

Assignments and Activities:

  • Read the assigned readings.
  • Complete module 4.
  • Post a project write-up including:
    1. brief discussion of how updated remote sensing data could be used in your project;
    2. browse for existing remotely sensed data freely available for your project area from Web resources;
    3. list availability and costs for acquiring existing and future high resolution satellite imagery from commercial vendors;
    4. map showing boundary of area for which remotely sensed data are to be acquired (at least) and acquired data (if possible);
    5. report on raster resolution, projection and number and types of bands;
    6. explanation of any features to be used for extraction or location.
  • Discuss the weekly topic in the discussion forum.
  • Start to complete the writing your course paper.

Weeks 5/6

Lesson 5/6: Working with Data Formats

Assignments and Activities:

  • Read the assigned readings.
  • Get used to FME
  • Complete module 5/6.
  • Post a project write-up including:
    1. describe common data formats;
    2. complete brief data evaluation report write up;
    3. screen capture or links to data sources found;
    4. discussion of the data formats used in your professional or local geographical area and the interoperability of those data;
    5. diagnose unfamiliar data type characteristics i.e. how to work with data without metadata using georefencing, spatial adjustment etc.
    6. map of georeferenced CAD data;
    7. discuss transform "on the fly" or one time import for data sources found;
    8. explain data interoperability initiatives and how they try to ensure the interoperability of those data.
  • Discuss the weekly topic in the discussion forum.
  • Post your course paper in the course paper drop-box.
  • Complete Quiz.

Week 7

Lesson 7: Acquiring and Integrating GPS Data

Assignments and Activities:

  • Read the assigned readings.
  • Complete module 7.
  • Teams you will be assigned randomly to two person teams. One person will produce a layout quality map of both your points; the other will produce metadata for the map.
  • Each Team Post a project write-up including:
    1. map of GPSed survey control stations for your area;.
  • Submit Project report as a compilation of the data assessment, data acquisition, data integration, and data creation components from the previous lessons and should include:
    1. project specifications;
    2. details of search for data;
    3. complete metadata documentation;
    4. explanation of data formats and sources;
    5. explanation and screen captures of GPS data collected.
  • Discuss the weekly topic in the discussion forum.

Week 8

Lesson 8: Publishing GIS Data

Assignments and Activities:

  • Read the assigned readings.
  • Complete module 8.
  • Post a project write-up including:
    1. map of imported team GPS coordinates from previous week;
    2. metadata for imported team GPS coordinates from previous week;
    3. publishing data by describing what is involved in contributing newly created data to The National Map or a GIS; portal or within your corporation for public consumption;
    4. Legal responsibilities and ethical questions in providing data to the public or other entities;
    5. Importance of including metadata when sharing or publishing data to give credit, and guidelines for use including timeliness, update policy and security suggestions.
    6. When not to publish data.
  • Quiz.
  • Discuss the weekly topic in the discussion forum.

Weeks 9/10

Lesson 9/10: Final Project


Assignments and Activities:

  • Read the assigned readings.
  • Post Final Project report including:
    1. changes made to report as a result of classmate suggestions;
    2. documentation of the methodology and steps needed to complete your project;
    3. highlight successes or difficulties in the problem-based learning approach;
    4. Map or maps of your final project in final layout format, not screen captures.
    5. Optional publish data on or the Onestop data portal.
  • Discuss the weekly topic in the discussion forum.

In order to take this course for credit, 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) to access ANGEL. Approximately two weeks prior to the course start date, the World Campus will mail a course Welcome Letter to you, which includes important information about the course and step-by-step directions for how to begin!

If you do not receive your Welcome Letter, please contact the World Campus' Student Services group immediately so that they can send you the information you need. They can be reached at 1-800-252-3592 in the US or internationally at 814-865-5403 (country code 1). You may reach them by e-mail at

In addition to the online course materials, you will need to obtain the following items for the course:

  • A GPS Unit

    If you do not already have access to one, you will need to purchase this item from a local or online store that carries GPS equipment. The Garmin eTrex is recommended for this course because it is a common, basic-use receiver with reasonable prices. Garmin eTrex models (non-color) retail for anything between $100 and $325, but can be purchased for less from any number of online or local third-party stores. In some places it is possible to rent a GPS unit. A mapping grade unit like the ones from Magellan are about $1000 but are not necessary for the course. In a pinch, many models of advanced cell phones have built-in GPS. It might be possible to use that for the course, but be aware that the accuracy and ability to receive a signal can be significantly reduced compared to a GPS unit. I suggest that if you are thinking of using a cell phone that you test it out first. Lesson 7 has how to download data for the known location of a Benchmark or Geodetic Survey Point that can be used to test the phone against.

    NOTE: You are on your own for technical support. Learning how to use a GPS unit is a big time investment. There are many different models and manufacturers and your instructor is unable to support them all. There are many web resources available for support.

  • ArcGIS 10.x and ArcGIS Spatial Analyst

    For this course, you will need to have an up-to-date, educational license of Esri's ArcGIS software (and its Spatial Analyst extension) installed on your personal computer. If you don't already own ArcGIS version 10.x, you may acquire your own educational license for just $100 per year. This one-year license includes ArcGIS 10.x with ArcGIS Spatial Analyst, ArcGIS 3D Analyst, and ArcGIS Geostatistical Analyst. In order to obtain a one-year student license, you will need to submit verification of your enrollment to the Esri telesales staff by either fax or e-mail. See our program's FAQ for complete ordering instructions. If you have questions regarding the software purchase, please contact the instructor.

NOTE: ArcGIS 10.x 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.

  • Safe Software Feature Manipulation Engine FME

    For the course, this software will be available to registered students as a free one-time use license that will have a 90 day time-out period.

NOTE: FME is a commercial software package that is kindly donated to students for a limited time and 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 Safe Software to generate personal or corporate profit or revenue. Support for the Safe Software FME is through the course instructor, not Safe Software or World Campus.

The assistance of Safe Software Inc. in providing the FME Feature Manipulation Engine is greatly appreciated.

Highly recommended but not required is this book:
Thurston, J., T.K. Poiker, & J.P. Moore. Integrated geospatial technologies: A guide to GPS, GIS, and data logging. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2003. ISBN: 0471244090 You may purchase this book through a local merchant of your choice or at one of the many online (often discount) booksellers. (Note: It is not available through MBS Direct.) Be sure to get the correct edition! If you need help locating a copy of the book, feel free to contact your instructor for assistance.

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 registered 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 register with the Libraries, and to learn more about their services, see the Library Information for Off-site Users.

For this course we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on our "Program Technical Requirements" page.

Your course grade will be based on a course paper (20 points), your participation in online discussions (10 points), online tests and quizzes (10 points), five class modules (total of 40 points), and a final module (20 points). A total of 100 points is possible. See below for more information about each of these components of the course.

NOTE: Weekly deliverables, that are not in a drop-box, are normally placed in an E-Portfolio. If you want other people to see examples of your work you can use an E-Portfolio. Click here for instructions on "Creating your Web Page (Portfolio)."

However, if your data is propriety or has other security concerns, you can send me the required material in an email. Please inform me when you post your material to your portfolio by sending me the updated URL link. This saves me from checking for empty folders.

Course Paper

- 20% of your grade (20/100 points)

You will be expected to write a course paper in this course. The paper is due by week 5. See the Course Paper Assignment page for more information about this assignment.

Online Discussion

- 15% of your grade (15/100 points)

Each week you will be expected to take part in class discussions, most often through threaded discussions on the course discussion forums. I will use the following scoring rubric to determine your Online Discussion grade.

Discussion Rubric
 Exemplary (2 points)Acceptable (1)Unsatisfactory (0)
ParticipationPosted insightful comments and questions that prompted on-topic discussion. Helped clarify or synthesize other group members' ideas. If disagreeing with another group members' ideas, the participant stated disagreement or objections clearly, yet politely.Consistently had to be prompted or coaxed to participate. Usually, but not always, expressed herself or himself clearly.
Posted a late response.
Extremely reluctant to participate, even when prompted. Rarely expressed himself or herself clearly, or was abusive.
Failed to participate.

Online Quizzes

- 5% of your grade (5/100 points)

Some weeks you will be expected to complete online quizzes.

Class Modules

- 40% of your grade (40/100 points)

Most lessons contain a graded module for you to complete. Most of these weekly module assignments will be draft portions of your final project. There will be a few weeks in which there is a mini module to complete and then post maps or write-ups about the module. Each module involves some aspect of GIS. Modules are designed to be moderately challenging. The key to success is to stay on schedule, follow directions, and ask questions and participate in discussions via the discussion forums. All modules are due within one week of the scheduled beginning of each new module. All of the modules are individual assignments. Weekly deliverables are also described in each lesson.

Class modules are worth the following number of points:

Lesson 2 = 5 points
Lesson 3 = 5 points
Lesson 4 = 10 points
Lesson 5/6 = 10 points
Lesson 7/8 = 10 points

I will use the following scoring rubric when grading class modules. NOTE: Multiply by 0.25 for 5 point assignments (modules 2 and 3) and by 0.5 for 10 point assignments (modules 4, 5/6, and 7/8).

Course Module Rubric
 Exemplary (5* points)Accomplished (4*)Developing (3*)Beginning (2*)Poor (1*)
ContentAll criteria of the module are met. It is well balanced, detailed, organized, reflective, and supported by sources.The author provides a detailed, reflective discussion of his or her experience with the module.The module lacks balance and/or detail. A discussion of the author's personal experience with the module is provided, but it is relatively brief and not particularly reflective.The module lacks detail. A discussion of the author's personal experience is very brief and not supported by personal reflections.The module criteria are not addressed. The author does not express his or her personal perspective, or otherwise fails to complete the module.
ClarityThe module is very well-organized. The writing is readable, clear and easy to follow.Some portions of the module are somewhat unclear and lacking in organization and development.Some of the module is unclear and/or lacking in organization and/or development.Much of the module is unclear and/or lacking in organization and/or development.The module is difficult to read, disorganized, and underdeveloped.
MechanicsMechanics (spelling, punctuation, grammar, sentence/paragraph construction) are virtually flawless.There are a few minor errors in format and/or mechanics.There are major and/or frequent errors in format and/or mechanics.There are major and frequent errors in format and mechanics.There are numerous and significant mechanical errors.
PresentationDesign is appropriate for a professional portfolio. It is well-organized, includes polished graphics and a color scheme that aids readability, and is easy to navigate. The presenter uses visuals appropriately to underscore key points.The presentation of the portfolio is professional, including appropriate graphics and colors.The presentation of the portfolio is adequately professional including some appropriate graphics and colors.The presentation is generally well organized.The presentation is poorly organized and difficult to navigate. The appearance of the portfolio is unprofessional, including inappropriate graphics and colors.

Final Project (Lesson 9/10)

- 20% of your grade (20/100 points)

A final project will be completed during the last two weeks of the course. The project spans two weeks and is a culmination of the work done in the weeks leading up to it. The final project is an individual assignment, but collaboration is encouraged.

The project rubric shown above will be used for scoring the Final Project.

Letter grades will be based on the following percentages:

Letter GradePercentage Grade
Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)

Percentages refer to the proportion of all possible points earned by the student.

 Course Policies

  • Late Assignments
    "Late" is defined as anything turned in after the date and time specified in the Course Calendar on Angel. A flat penalty of 10% per assignment will be assessed. For example, if you do not turn in a 10 point writing assignment on time, 1 point will be deducted when you turn in that assignment.
  • 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.
  • Deferred Grades
    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.
  • Academic Integrity
    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 project 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.)
  • Citation and Reference Style
    Academic Integrity and Citation Style Guide here. 
  • Accommodating 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 ( For further information, please visit the Office for Disability Services website (

    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 ( 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.

  • Military Personnel
    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.
  • Inclement Weather
    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.
  • Netiquette
    The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as e-mail and bulletin board postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions, but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of forum messages. Please review Virginia Shea's "The Core Rules of Netiquette" for general guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course.
  • 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.