Culminating Experiences in Geospatial Intelligence

GEOG 594A Syllabus - Spring 2024

GEOG 594A: Culminating Experiences in Geospatial Intelligence, Spring 2024

This syllabus is divided into several sections. That being said, you must read the entire document. Together, these serve the role of our course "contract."

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


The instructors for this course are Todd Bacastow and Gregory Thomas.

Office hours: Please see the Instructor Information page for office hours and additional information about the instructors.

Course Overview


Geog 594A (1 credit) is a required capstone course for Penn State's:

  • Post-baccalaureate Certificate Program in GEOINT Applications (GEOAPP)
  • Graduate Certificate in GEOINT Analytics (GEOINT)
  • Intercollege Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security (iMPS-HLS)

The course is six weeks in length and requires a minimum of 8-12 hours of student activity each lesson. For those taking the 2-credit Geospatial Intelligence Capstone (GEOG 594B), this course provides the foundation for the geospatial problem you will investigate in greater depth.


There are no specific course requirements to take GEOG 594A, but it does require courses or previous experience in GIS and remote sensing and a conversation with your advisor.

What Is Expected

The course is a 16-week seminar and requires up to 15 hours of student activity each lesson. The first six weeks provide the foundation for the geospatial problem you will investigate in greater depth during the last ten weeks. This seminar brings together the threads of the Geospatial Intelligence program and reinforces the standards of professionalism applicable to geospatial intelligence analysis in government and business. The overarching aim is to enhance your understanding of the role of geospatial intelligence, develop individual competencies, reinforce professional concepts, and improve geospatial analytical techniques and methods. GEOG 594A is the culminating experience for the Intelligence and Geospatial Analysis Option of the Intercollege Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security as well as the final course for the Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence Analytics. As such, the course expects the student to explore and critically analyze a topical area of interest in appropriate depth. This seminar provides an opportunity to apply the technical tools, concepts, and theories learned in previous coursework while investigating a current analytic problem.

Course Objectives

The purpose of GEOG 594A is to demonstrate your ability to:

  • identify a real-world problem,
  • perform an elementary Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis,
  • present and justify the need to study the problem and
  • provide the practical ways in which the proposed study should be conducted.

The final deliverables of GEOG 594A are a 10-minute recorded presentation addressing a geospatial intelligence question and a 5-page research proposal.

Required Course Materials

You might require Esri's ArcGIS software in this course. NOTE: ArcGIS 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. Details on acquiring an educational software license can be found on the GIS @ Penn State Website. If you have questions regarding the software, please contact the instructor.

Assistance with Textbooks

Penn State honors and values the socioeconomic diversity of our students. If you require assistance with the costs of textbooks for this course, please contact your academic advisor. For additional needs, related to socioeconomic status, please visit Project Cahir or visit the Office of Student Care and Advocacy at 220 Boucke Building or call 814-863-2020.

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 email;
  • ...and much more!

To learn more about their services, see the Library Information for Off-site Users.

Assignments and Grading

Course length: 6 weeks

Summary: Below you will find a brief summary of the lesson tasks for this course and the associated time frames. Assignment information will be located on each lesson's checklist - so you will need to check there for the full set of details and deliverables. Sometimes the details for each lesson can change, and it's possible that the syllabus may not be updated as quickly as the lesson checklists, so always check specific lesson checklists for the latest details.

Your grade for this course will be based on your course participation and five (5) deliverables. Each is outlined below. Detailed instructions are located within the online course materials.

Activity Weight
Deliverable 1: Developing Your Research Question 10%
Deliverable 2: Literature Search 15%
Deliverable 3: Exploring Your Data with Maps and Descriptive Statistics 25%
Deliverable 4: Video Proposal Presentation 25%
Deliverable 5: Finalized Written Proposal 25%

Letter grades will be based on the following percentages:

Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)

Acceptable participation:

  • Offers solid analysis, without prompting, to move the conversation forward
  • Demonstrates deep knowledge of the text and the question
  • Actively listens to other participants
  • Offers clarification and/or follow-up that extends the conversation
  • Remarks often refer back to specific parts of the text

Unacceptable participation:

  • Offers little commentary
  • Is ill-prepared with little understanding of the text and question
  • Does not listen to others, offers no commentary to further the discussion
  • Distracts the group by offering off-topic questions and comments
  • Ignores the discussion and its participants

Late Work Policy

One of the many advantages of taking courses online is that it affords you a degree of flexibility in when and how you complete your assignments which might be more challenging to achieve in a face-to-face classroom setting. However, taking courses online does not mean that you've got the autonomy to do and submit the work when you wish.

In order for us to move through the material as a group, it's important that each of you completes your assignments on time. Late is defined as submitted anytime after 11:59 pm on the day on which the assignment is due. This means if you procrastinate and turn it in at 12:05 am the next morning, it is late.

Assignments will be assessed a 10% penalty for each 24-hour period late they are (i.e., 12:00 am on Wednesday through 11:59 pm on Wednesday is 10%, and so on).

Life happens. Inevitably, you will have some legitimate situation or emergency arise during the semester that is going to hinder your ability to complete work on time. You should always communicate these occurrences to your instructor as soon as possible. It takes but a minute to call or email and give me a courtesy heads-up. I'm much more willing to work with you if I know what's going on. Falling off the radar for an extended period of time and then later requesting additional time retroactively is not the appropriate way to communicate a problem with your instructor. Let me know what's happening when it's happening; that gives me the best chance of helping you out.

Procrastination doesn't pay - Technology is far from perfect, and, generally, it only fails when you really need it to work. If you play with fire and wait until the very last second to attempt to submit your work in Canvas, you may get burned. This is an easy enough problem for us to avoid - you have a full week to complete your work, so don't wait until that last second to turn it in.

Make-up Exam Policy

This course does not have any exams

GEOG 594A Course Schedule

image Printable Schedule
Lesson 1: Developing Your Research Question
Date: Week 1
  • Describe the purpose of this capstone.
  • Develop a question you would like to research.
  • Read the lesson material.
  • Read Clark, Chapter 8.
  • Details about your proposed question.
Lesson 2: Literature Search
Date: Week 2
  • Search for relevant literature and data.
  • Evaluate sources.
  • Identify themes, debates and gaps.
  • Prepare your literature review.
  • Read the lesson material.
  • Updated question and annotated bibliography
Lesson 3: Exploring Your Data with Maps and Descriptive Statistics
Date: Week 3 - 4
  • Expand your understanding of the problem by examining your data.
  • Explore possible hypotheses.
  • Test a methodology.
  • Experience a general problem-solving process.
  • Read the lesson material.
  • Data Exploration
Lesson 4: Proposal Presentation
Date: Week 5
  • Demonstrate full knowledge of your topic in an oral presentation.
  • Read the lesson material.
  • Video Presentation
Lesson 5: Finalized Proposal
Date: Week 6
  • Develop priorities to ensure the completion of a research project on time.
  • Document and share your proposed research project.
  • Read the lesson material.
  • Capstone Proposal Report

Course Policies

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the Technical Requirements page. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the Penn State World Campus IT Service Desk.

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 campus 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 in fostering 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 to you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.