GEOG 585
Open Web Mapping

Term project submission guidelines


In Geog 585, you are expected to create a term project that takes some data of interest to you and fuses it into a useful web map. The term project can be simple and focused in nature, but must include:

  • a basemap to give geographic context;
  • one or more thematic layers that are separate from the basemap;
  • one or more interactive elements that reveal more information (such as being able to click a feature to see a list of attributes, or selectively filter information in a map layer).

In creating your term project, you should use at least one tool or technique that was not covered in the course materials. This could, for instance, be a tool for (pre)processing the data, or it could be a Leaflet class or method that you explored. You don't have to know this part when you make the proposal, but as you work through the different exercises in the course, you should stay aware of additional functions you could incorporate to meet this requirement.

The project must be built entirely with FOSS. This requirement is not in place to make you a FOSS "purist"; rather, it is intended to compel you to fully practice the skills you have learned in this course and discover new ways of doing things. If there's some piece of your project data processing that you don't think can be completed with FOSS, please discuss it with the instructor.

There are three parts to the term project submission:

  1. an online video demonstrating the project functionality.
  2. a write-up describing the project purpose and approach. This also includes your code.
  3. two brief reviews of other students' projects.

The requirements of the submission are described in detail below. Please see the term project grading rubric on Canvas to understand exactly how these requirements will be evaluated.

Project video submission

To share your project with the instructor and others, you will create an online screen recording "video" explaining the purpose of the project and giving a tour of its functionality. In under 5 minutes the video must cover the following:

  • Give an overview of the purpose of the project and how a user would get benefit out of this map.
  • Explain where you got the data.
  • Describe the preprocessing steps and tools you employed in preparing the data for web map use.
  • Demonstrate how the data is divided into basemap and thematic layers.
  • Describe the approaches you took for exposing the data as web services and why you chose those approaches (e.g., dynamically drawn service using WMS, tiles designed with QGIS, tiles pulled from OpenStreetMap, GeoJSON layer drawn by the browser, etc.).
  • Demonstrate the interactive elements in your web map. Follow the "story" of what a user would do when approaching your map. For example: "Suppose that you are working for _____ and you want to learn ____, so you come to this map and see that you can turn on layer ______ which tells you _______. You then see that ______ is clickable, so you click it and learn that _______ is ________. You now know _________, which helps you make a decision about _______."
  • Describe at least one tool or technique used in the creation of your web map that was not covered in the course materials. This tool or technique should be something different than the GDAL/OGR command you described in homework assignment 3, part2, but it can be related to your FOSS review from homework assignment 8.

It is expected that the video will just record the screen (you don't need to appear on camera). There are many alternatives to produce the video, including free screen recording software and services. As Penn State students, you have free access to Kaltura. Another free option that worked well in the past is Screencast-O-Matic which requires you to run a small program on your computer. The recorded video can be stored as a .mp4 file, or it can be shared via their web site. Alternatively, if you have access to professional screen recording software such as Captivate, Camtasia, Fraps, etc., you may use it. Much of this software is available for free trial periods. An option for Mac users is to use QuickTime; there are descriptions of how to do this out there on the web. For sharing your video, you can also upload it to any other file sharing service, for instance,, GoogleDrive, or OneDrive.

It's strongly recommended that you reserve at least a day or two for creation of the video. This will allow you to accommodate any unforeseen technical challenges and do multiple "takes" if necessary. Things will go more smoothly if you prepare a script or outline of things you want to show, and refer to this during the video recording.

The video is due Sunday evening before the course end date. To submit the video, follow the description on the Term project submission and mini conference page.

Project writeup and code submission

Please also submit a 500+ word writeup recapping:

  • the purpose of your project;
  • the decision process you went through when deciding how to serve the different layers;
  • the ways that your project reinforces and extends the information in the Geog 585 lessons;
  • the things you learned in this project that will be most valuable to you in your professional or academic career.

Please submit all the source code for your project together with your writeup. Please zip the original HTML, JavaScript, and all other files required by your project together. Do not copy & paste the code into your writeup. Optional: If you host your final term project map in your AWS S3 storage as in homework assignment 7, please include the public S3 URL for your main .html file in your write-up. That will then allow us to directly test out your final web map application.

The writeup should follow professional writing and grammar conventions and should be spell checked. The writeup and code are due in the term project drop box by the course end date.

Tip: If you complete the writeup before you do your video narration, the words may come more easily when you are "on camera".

Reviews of other students' projects

The project will no doubt be a learning experience for you, but there is also plenty to learn from other students' experiences and submissions. During the final three days of the course (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), take some time on the "Term project video & review forum" on Canvas to browse other submissions. Select two projects of interest to you and, with each, post a brief review as a reply. Your review should include:

  • strengths that you see in the person's submission;
  • elements that might be improved in the person's submission using information we covered in Geog 585 or other tools you discovered during the course;
  • comments on ways that the project might be applied to other disciplines or real-world problems.

These reviews are due by the course end date.