Culminating Experiences in Geospatial Intelligence

GEOG 594A Syllabus - Summer 2019

GEOG 594A: Culminating Experiences in Geospatial Intelligence

This syllabus is divided into several sections. You can jump directly to a specific section of the syllabus by clicking on one of the links below. That being said, it is essential that you read the entire document. Together, these serve the role of our course "contract."


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

The links above will take you to additional information about these instructors on the Instructor Information page.

Course Overview


    GEOG 594A is a seminar that 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 seminar's 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.The course is ten weeks in length and requires a minimum of 8-12 hours of student activity each lesson. For those required to take the 2 credit Geospatial Intelligence Capstone (GEOG 594B), this course provides the foundation for the geospatial problem you will be examining in greater depth.


    • GEOG 882, Geographic Foundations of Geospatial Intelligence (or an approved substitute)
    • GEOG 883, Remote Sensing Image Analysis and Application (or an approved substitute remote sensing course)
    • GEOG 884, GIS for the Geospatial Intelligence Professional (or an approved substitute GIS course)
    • GEOG 885, Advanced Analytic Methods in Geospatial Intelligence (or an approved substitute course)

    What Is Expected

    This seminar requires a minimum of 8-12 hours of student activity each lesson. You will need to check out the course discussion boards 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 message boards every day. You can be sure that I will read, but not necessarily respond to, every single message. 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").

    Seminar Objectives

    The topic of this seminar is to examine the core analytic competencies of the geospatial professional; this is to say, examine a geospatial analytic method. The goals of this seminar are for you to better:

    • recognize the cognitive, ethical, and professional issues associated with analysis in the spatial domain;
    • evaluate analytic methodologies and apply an analytical method in a geospatial analysis.

    What is a Seminar?

    A "seminar," according to Webster's dictionary, is a group of advanced students studying under a professor, with each doing original research and all exchanging results through reports and discussions. The seminar method of teaching is based on Socrates' theory that it is more important to enable students to think for themselves than to merely fill their heads with "right" answers. This theory led him to regularly engage his pupils in dialogues by responding to their questions with questions, instead of answers. This process encourages divergent thinking rather than convergent.

    In this seminar, you will be given opportunities to examine a common piece of text or idea. After reading the common text or idea, open-ended questions are posed. The open-ended questions allow you to think critically, analyze multiple meanings in text, and express ideas with clarity and confidence. After all, a certain degree of emotional safety is felt by participants when they understand that this format is based on dialogue and not debate.

    Dialogue is exploratory and involves the suspension of biases and prejudices. Discussion/debate is a transfer of information designed to win an argument and bring closure. Americans are great at discussion/debate, but we do not dialogue well. However, once teachers and students learn to dialogue, they find that the ability to ask meaningful questions that stimulate thoughtful interchanges of ideas is more important than "the answer." Dialogue is characterized by:

    • suspending judgment;
    • examining our own work without defensiveness;
    • exposing our reasoning and looking for limits to it;
    • communicating our underlying assumptions;
    • exploring viewpoints more broadly and deeply;
    • being open to disconfirming data;
    • approaching someone who sees a problem differently not as an adversary, but as a colleague in common pursuit of better solution.

    Participants in a seminar respond to one another with respect by carefully listening instead of interrupting. Students are encouraged to paraphrase essential elements of another's ideas before responding, either in support of or in disagreement. This simple act of socialization reinforces appropriate behaviors and promotes team building.

    Course Objectives

    Students who excel in this course must demonstrate an understanding of the integration of GIS and remote sensing into geospatial intelligence analysis.

    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 at the GIS @ Penn State Website. If you have questions regarding the software, please contact the instructor.

    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: 10 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. This course is 10 weeks in length.

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

    Activity Weight
    Deliverable 1: Analytic Question & Peer Review 25%
    Deliverable 2: Question, Assumptions, Method, & Bibliography 20%
    Deliverable 3: Draft PowerPoint 20%
    Deliverable 4: Oral Presentation 25%
    Deliverable 5: Final Presentation and Written Report 10%

    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 a deep knowledge of the text and the question
    • Actively listening 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

    One of the many advantages to taking courses online is that it affords you a degree of flexibility in when and how you complete your assignments that 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 Wednesday on which the assignment is due. This means if you procrastinate and turn it in at 12:05 am on Thursday 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 Thursday through 11:59 pm on Thursday 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.

    GEOG 594A Course Schedule

    image Printable Schedule
    Lesson 1: Question Development
    Date: Week 1
    • Describe the purpose of this capstone;
    • Develop an analytic question and identify the geospatial aspects of your question.
    • Read the lesson material.
    • Read Clark, Chapter 6.
    1. Lesson 1 Discussion Board: Comment on the analytic question.
    2. Post your question and summary of the geospatial aspects of your problem to Lesson 1 Deliverables.
    3. Peer review another student's analytic question submission.
    Lesson 2: Revised Question, Assumptions, Method, & Bibliography
    Date: Week 2
    Objectives: Identify the key knowledge in the domain of your project.
    • Rewrite an analytic question
    • Describe assumptions
    • Outline a method
    • Create a bibliography
    1. Post a revision of your analytic question and a revised summary of the geospatial aspects to the problem.
    2. Post a list of your assumptions and a description of your method.
    3. Post an annotated bibliography of at least 15 quality sources in the categories of:
      • Articles, book chapters, or general references about the topic (5 sources).
      • Articles or book chapters about similar studies (5 sources).
      • Data sets and sources suitable for your analysis (5 sources).
    Lesson 3: Analysis and Conclusions
    Date: Week 3 - 6
    • Compile evidence to estimate of the probability of the truthfulness of the alternative.
    • Analyze the evidence to determine critical missing geospatial evidence.
    • Produce the missing geospatial evidence.
    • Analyze the quality of the evidence you compiled or developed.
    • Read the lesson material.
    1. Complete your analysis and state your conclusions.
    2. Document your work in a draft presentation format.
    3. Organize within the class the dates for the final presentations, based on dates provided by the instructor.
    Lesson 4: Oral Presentation
    Date: Week 7-9
    • Give your presentation.
    • Read the lesson material.
    1. Finalize your PowerPoint presentation.
    2. Explain your analysis in a 10-minute "live" presentation. 
    Lesson 5: Written Assessment and Presentation
    Date: Week 10
    • Submit your capstone project.
    • Read the lesson material.
    1. Finalize your PowerPoint presentation.
    2. Report your analysis in a five-page paper.

    Course Policies

    Technical Requirements

    For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the Technical Requirements page including the requirements. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk

    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.

    Academic Integrity

    This course follows Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Guidelines. 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. 

    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.

    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.

    Reporting Bias-Motivated Incidents

    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 wellbeing.  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.