GEOG 580
Geovisual Analytics

GEOG 580 Syllabus


Geovisual Analytics (Spring 1,  2023)

This syllabus is divided into several sections, as listed below. It is essential that you read the entire document as well as the material covered in the Course Orientation. Together these serve as our course "contract."

  • Instructor
  • Course Overview
  • Required Course Materials
  • Assignments and Grading
  • Course Schedule
  • Course Policies


Amy C. Burnicki, Associate Teaching Professor
Penn State Department of Geography

John A. Dutton e-Education Institute
2217 Earth and Engineering Sciences
College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Penn State
University Park, PA 16802

  • Email: Please use the Canvas Inbox to send messages to the instructor
  • Office Hours: By appointment

NOTE: The Canvas mail system is the best way to get in touch with me - I check my messages often. I read and respond to email and discussion posts during the workweek (Monday through Friday), and I monitor email over the weekend for urgent issues as they arise. 

Course Overview

GEOG 580 is a required course for the Master of Science in Spatial Data Science.
This seminar course focuses on the science of analytical reasoning mediated through human-centered interactive geographic visualization and computational methods. The course engages students with the theoretical and computational frontiers of the emerging science of geovisual analytics, a core subfield in spatial data science. This is complemented by hands-on experiences with the design, implementation, and application of geovisual analytics tools to solve complex problems. Students will read, discuss, and synthesize research articles and design solutions to geovisual analytics problems through a series of lab exercises. Research reviewed in this course will reflect the state-of-the-art in the design and evaluation of geovisual analytics applications and showcase the diversity of relevant application domain contexts. Lab exercises will provide students with experience designing and building geovisual analytics applications in a variety of contemporary technological approaches. Students will apply concepts presented in the readings to critique the effectiveness of current geovisual analytics platforms and will leverage their experiences in development of a semester project.

Prerequisites and concurrent courses: There are no prerequisites for this course.


On average, most students spend twelve to fifteen hours per week working on course assignments. Your workload may be more or less depending on your study habits.

I have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible, but 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.

Specific learning objectives for each lesson and project are detailed in each lesson. The class schedule is published below.

Course Objectives

When you successfully complete this course, you will be prepared to:

  • Characterize and critique the state-of-art in geovisual analytics science through the survey and synthesis of seminal and current literature;
  • Recommend and design geovisual analytics tools and techniques for context-specific applications;
  • Compare, critique, and design methodologies for evaluating geovisual analytics tools that address real-world problems.

Required Course Materials

There are no required books to purchase, and access to all readings and software tools will be provided to you directly by the instructor during the term at no additional cost.

All materials needed for this course are presented online through our Learning Management System, Canvas. In order to access the online materials, you need to have an active Penn State Access Account user ID and password. If you have any questions about obtaining or activating your Penn State Access Account, please contact the Outreach Helpdesk.

Assignments and Grading

This course will rely on a variety of methods to assess and evaluate student learning, including:

Each assignment's value as a percentage of the total course grade
Assignment Percent of Grade
Discussion Forums 30
Labs 35
Literature Review 15
Final Project 20
  • Discussion Forums: individual participation via online discussions. You are expected to contribute to discussions in a timely manner with substantive posts and responses to others' posts. You are also encouraged to post questions and answer the questions posed by others in the discussions. Participation in Discussion Forums is worth 30% of your grade.
  • Labs: labs will give you experience working with geovisual analytics applications and challenge your analytical skills as you evaluate each application. Labs are worth 35% of your grade.
  • Literature Review: written deliverable. You will define a narrowly focused topic or interest and engage the relevant literature to arrive at new insights. The Literature Review is worth 15% of your grade.
  • Final Project: Here, you will develop a project that (a) identifies a problem that could be solved by the use of geovisual analytics, (b) prototypes a geovisual analytics application to solve that problem, and (c) presents a proposal for how to systematically evaluate your design solution. The Final Project is worth 20% of your final grade. The deliverables are:
    • Project Proposal
    • System Evaluation Proposal
    • Demo Video
    • Final Report

It is important that your work is submitted in the proper format to the appropriate Assignment or Discussion Forum and by the designated due date. I strongly advise that you not wait until the last minute to complete these assignments—give yourself time to ask questions, think things over, and chat with others. You'll learn more, do better...and be happier!

Due dates for all assignments are posted on the syllabus and course calendar and are for Eastern Time.

I will use the Canvas grade book to keep track of your grades. You can see your grades in the grade book, too. Overall course grades will be determined as follows. Percentages refer to the proportion of all possible points earned.

Letter Grade and Corresponding Percentages
Letter Grade Percentage Range
A 93-100%
A- 90-92.9%
B+ 87-89.9%
B 83-86.9%
B- 80-82.9%
C+ 77-79.9%
C 70-76.9%
D 60-69.9%
F <60%
X Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)

Late Assignment Policy

I do not accept any "late work." In exceptional circumstances, you should contact me. The earlier you contact me to request a late submission, the better. Requests will be considered on a case by case basis. Generally, late assignments will be assessed a penalty of at least 10% and will not be accepted more than one week after the original due date.

Make-up Exam Policy

There are no exams in this course.


Grades will not be curved in this course.

GEOG 580 Course Schedule

image Printable Schedule

Below you will find a summary of the primary learning activities for this course and the associated time frames. This course is ten weeks in length, with an orientation week preceding the official start of the course. Each lesson is one week long and opens on Wednesday. See the weekly modules for specific lesson time frames and assignment due dates.

Lesson 1
Date Week 1
Topics Introduction to (Geo)Visual Analytics & Overview of the Research Landscape
Readings Articles listed in lesson
Assignments Reading Discussion
Lab: ArcGIS Pro - Visualize Social Distancing Across California
Lesson 2
Date Week 2
Topics Introduction to (Geo)Visual Analytics & Overview of the Research Landscape, cont'd.
Readings Articles listed in lesson
Assignments Reading Discussion
Lab: Insights for ArcGIS - Prescribed Drugs & The Refugee Crisis
Lit Review: topic selection due
Lesson 3
Date Week 3
Topics Characterizing Insight & Supporting the Sensemaking Process
Readings Articles listed in lesson
Assignments Reading Discussion
Lab: CARTO - Analyzing Barcelona's Bikes, Predicting Trends & Volatility, Calculating Clusters
Lesson 4
Date Week 4
Topics Decision-Making & Dealing with Uncertainty
Readings Articles listed in lesson
Assignments Reading Discussion
Lab: Tableau - Bird Strikes
Lit. Review: due 

Lesson 5
Date Week 5
Topics Facilitating Collaboration in Geovisual Analytics Environments
Readings Articles listed in lesson
Assignments Reading Discussion
Final Project: project proposal due
Lesson 6
Date Week 6
Topics User-Centered Design & System Evaluation
Readings Articles listed in lesson
Assignments Reading Discussion
Lesson 7
Date Week 7
Topics User-Centered Design & System Evaluation, cont'd.
Readings Articles listed in lesson
Assignments Reading Discussion
Final Project: system evaluation proposal due
Lesson 8 
Date Week 8
Topics Social Media Applications
Readings Articles listed in lesson
Assignments Reading Discussion
Lesson 9
Date Week 9
Topics Geovisual Analytics in Personal Contexts
Readings Articles listed in lesson
Assignments Reading Discussion
Lesson 10
Date Week 10
Topics Artificial Intelligence, Big Data Perspectives, and the Future of Geovisual Analytics
Readings Articles listed in lesson
Assignments Reading Discussion
Final Project: demo video and report due

Course Policies

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from Penn State 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.

Academic Integrity

This course follows the procedures 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 others' work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other students' 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 Academic Integrity Training for Students

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.

For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.

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 Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for Campus Disability Coordinators at every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Office for Student Disability Resources 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. You will participate in an intake interview and provide documentation. See documentation guidelines at Applying for Services from Student Disability Resources. 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.

Change in Normal Campus Operations

In case of weather-related delays or other emergency camps disruptions or closures 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 these delays or closures. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.

Reporting Educational Equity Concerns

Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via Report Bias.

Counseling and Psychological Services

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional well-being.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  Services include the following:

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741

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.

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 to others whom you do not know.

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the World Campus Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Internet Connection

Access to a reliable 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 Wi-Fi ® hotspot.

Mixed Content

This site is considered a secure web site 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 the latest version of Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or Edge. Internet Explorer is not supported. If you use any other browser, or if you are not using the latest version of your browser, some pages containing equations may not render properly. In addition, javascript must be enabled for equations to render properly. If you have any issues with equations not rendering properly, please update your browser to the latest version or try using a different browser. If you need additional technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period.  It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion within policy.  If for any reason, the coursework for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect

Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming, and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.

For additional information, see:


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.

Mandated Reporting Statement

Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework. For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response website.

Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.


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.