GEOG 589
Emerging Trends in Remote Sensing

GEOG 589 Syllabus (Fall 2 2022)

Geog 589: Emerging Trends in Remote Sensing (Fall 2 2022)

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 being said, it is essential that you read the entire document as well as the material covered in the Orientation. Together, these serve the role of our course "contract."


Karen Schuckman
Associate Teaching Professor
Department of Geography
The Pennsylvania State University
2217 Earth and Engineering Sciences Building
University Park, PA 16802

NOTE: I will read and respond to e-mail and discussion forums at least once per day, seven days per week.

Course Overview

GEOG 589 is a graduate seminar focusing on the theory and technology associated with emerging remote sensing platforms in geospatial analysis. The focus for a given semester will be adapted based on emerging methods, technologies, and high-impact real-world contexts, but may include topics such as machine and deep learning, cloud-based image analysis, UAS-acquired lidar and imagery applications, synthetic aperture radar for image analysis and DEM generation, bathymetric lidar data acquisition and analysis, and oblique aerial imaging for 3D modeling and analysis. These technologies will be evaluated for their use in applications such as emergency and disaster response, coastal resource management, forest resource management, agricultural resource management, and geospatial intelligence. Students will review current research and operational implementation of these high-performance remote sensing technologies, including project planning, data acquisition and processing, data fusion and analysis, product generation, and information sharing. Students will use state-of-the-art commercial software packages for data analysis and product generation. They will interact by reviewing current research and literature, developing shared knowledge in online discussion forums throughout the course. An individual research project will allow students to explore the impacts of emerging remote sensing methods in a real-world scenario of their choosing.


The prerequisites for this course are GEOG 480, GEOG 481, and GEOG 883.

Students who do not meet these prerequisites may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period after being informed in writing by the instructor (see Senate policy 34-60, Prerequisites and Concurrent Courses). If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then promptly consult with the instructor if you have not done so already. Students who re-enroll after being dis-enrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct.

The course is specifically designed for adult professionals and is offered exclusively through the World Campus and the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. GEOG 589 is one of two electives required to complete the Graduate Certificate in Remote Sensing and Earth Observation. Geography 589 can also be used as an elective in the Certificate of Geographic Information Systems, Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security - Geospatial Intelligence Option or the Master of Geographic Information Systems.

Students who register in the course for credit will complete ten lessons with corresponding reading assignments, online discussions, and a final project. Throughout the course, students confront realistic problem scenarios that incorporate such skills and concepts as the definition of data needs, metadata content standards, data formats and types, and analysis methods.


Our 3-credit online courses normally require a minimum of 12-15 hours of independent student activity per week. GEOG 589 will require attending one webinar presentation each week using Zoom. Sessions will be recorded for those who cannot attend live. Access to and use of Zoom is covered in the Orientation.

Lessons include selected reading assignments, peer-to-peer discussions, and a guided writing assignment on the topic for each week.

You should get in the habit of checking course email and discussion forums on a daily basis. That is where students and instructors share comments, pose questions, and suggest answers. With only occasional exceptions, instructors check email and forums six days per week and will try to respond to your questions and concerns within 24 hours.

For a more detailed look at what will be covered in each lesson, please refer to the course content that is part of this syllabus (see "Course Schedule"). Specific due dates for assignments and activities are posted within the online course management system for registered students.

Course Objectives

Students who excel in this course are able to:

  • Use published research papers to increase basic understanding of remote sensing system design and operation.
  • Critically relate formal education in remote sensing applications to topics that are relevant in today’s world of geospatial science.
  • Engage in strong peer-to-peer relationships with other students in the course using web-based platforms.
  • Discuss the application of newly emerging remote sensing systems and capabilities with other students and representatives from the commercial remote sensing industry.
  • Evaluate the utility of newly emerging remote sensing systems in their own specialty area of study or professional occupation.
  • Identify gateways of entry into careers in the remote sensing profession.

Required Course Materials

Online Lesson Content

All materials needed for this course are presented online through our course website and in 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.

Reserve Materials

This course uses library Electronic Reserves (e-reserves). More information about how to access this content will be presented in the first week of class.


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

  • Participation in a weekly online lecture presented in Zoom.
  • Submission of a 1-2 page written response to a weekly discussion question posed during the online lecture.
  • A 10-20 minute oral presentation on a topic of the student's own choosing.
  • Correct implementation of citations and references according to the Chicago style, as described in the Academic Integrity and Citation Style Guide.

Due dates for all assignments are posted on the course calendar in Canvas.


Breakdown of Assignment Values as a Percentage of Total Course Grade
Assignment Percent of Grade
Webinar and Discussion Forum Participation 48%
Written Assignments 36%
Student Presentations 16%

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

Letter Grade and Corresponding Percentage
Letter Grade Percentages
A 94 - 100 %
A- 90 - 93.9 %
B+ 87 - 89.9 %
B 84 - 86.9 %
B- 80 - 83.9%
C+ 77 - 79.9 %
C 70 - 76.9 %
D 60 - 69.9 %
F < 60 %

Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)

Course Format

Each lesson will follow the format described below:

  • Guest Speaker Introduction provided in the Canvas lesson module.
  • Links to 3 journal articles or short references relevant to the topic of the week, provided in the Canvas lesson module.
  • A graded assignment requiring each student to submit a written question for the guest speaker based on the reading, due the day before the guest presentation and submitted through Canvas.
  • The guest lecture conducted live in a webinar format. These presentations will be recorded, but student participation in a majority of the live sessions is expected.
  • A graded Canvas discussion following the live presentation, due before the end of the lesson week.
  • A short graded writing assignment or activity, due at the end of the lesson week and submitted through Canvas.

GEOG 589 Course Schedule

imagePrintable 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; each of the eight content lessons is one week long. Two weeks are allotted for individual work on final projects and peer-to-peer presentations. See the course calendar in Canvas for specific lesson timeframes and assignment due dates.

Weekly schedule: For Summer 2018: weekly webinars will be held on Tuesdays at the times shown below and will be approximately one hour long (40-45 minute presentation, followed by 15-20 minutes of discussion). Due to the requirement to participate in weekly webinars and discussions, students will not be able to complete lessons ahead of the published schedule. Late submission of weekly assignments must be arranged with the instructor in advance and in writing.

Lesson 1: Using Object-Based Image Analysis (OBIA) for Conservation Management in Sub-Saharan Africa

Lesson 2: Geiger Mode and Single Photon Lidar

Lesson 3: Understanding SAR and IFSAR Imagery and Terrain Products

Lesson 4: Exploring the World with Google Earth Engine

Lesson 5: Bathymetric Lidar - Theory and Applications from CZMIL (Coastal Zone Mapping Imaging Lidar)

Lesson 6: Managing Statewide MultiSensor Mapping Projects

Lesson 7: Leveraging Oblique Aerial Imagery in Local Government Applications

Lesson 8: Positional Accuracy Assessment: Case Studies

Lesson 9: Deploying Lidar on UAS for High Precision Mapping

Lesson 10: Volunteering GIS Services to Underserved Communities Worldwide

Course Policies

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.

Remote Sensing Program Technical Requirements

Minimum technical requirements for the MGIS program apply to this course. They can be found on the Online Geospatial Education Technical Requirements web page.

The following additional requirements apply to all courses in the remote sensing curriculum:

  • Mobile computing platforms (smartphones and tablets) can be used for reading online material and for some course communications but are insufficient for lab work. Laptop computers that meet minimum technical requirements below can be used for this course.
  • A 64-bit version of Windows 10 or higher is required.
    • Mac users should be able to run all of the course software using a virtual Windows OS, such as Boot Camp or Parallels. Instructors are not able to offer support for Apple OS implementation of course software. Please refer to instructions provided by Esri when installing ArcGIS on an Apple computer.
    • Software at Penn State for students has downloads for Windows and Office 365. You can contact the World Campus helpdesk if you need help with installation.
  • You will need an administrator-level password for your computer to be able to install the software required for this course.
  • An open GL-compatible video card is required.
  • A second monitor is not required, but if you have one available, you will find it very helpful.
  • General program technical specs call for at least 4 GB of RAM. Requirements for the individual remote sensing courses vary based on the software used, but if you are selecting a computer to use for the Remote Sensing and Earth Observation Certificate Program, 8 GB or higher is highly recommended.
  • Your computer should have at least 60 GB of free disk space for course-related materials and data.
    • Storing lab and project data on an internally installed hard drive will yield the best performance with remote sensing software. USB flash drives are useful for archiving lab work but should not be used for active projects.
    • SSD hard drives will yield the best performance with remote sensing software but are not required.
  • You must have a reliable, robust high-speed Internet connection on a daily basis. The course may require you to watch streaming video as well as downloading files that may be as large as 1 GB.
    • It is not possible to send course materials by mail or email. You cannot download entire lessons once a week to work offline.


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


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).

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.

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.


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.

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:

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.