Challenges in Global Geospatial Analytics

GEOG 597G Syllabus - Summer 2023


GEOG 597G: Challenges in Global Geospatial Analytics

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 material covered in the Orientation. Together these serve the role of our course "contract."


Fritz Kessler
416 Earth and Engineering Sciences Building
University Park, PA 16082

Beth King
438 Earth and Engineering Sciences Building
University Park, PA 16082

Phone: (The country code for the United States is 1.)

  • Fritz Kessler: (814) 863-1508
  • Beth King: (814) 865-9164

E-mail: Please use course e-mail system (see the Inbox in Canvas).

Availability: Students are welcome to contact the instructors via e-mail at any time. We will usually respond within 24 hours (Saturdays and Sundays may vary). While e-mail correspondence will generally cover the majority of questions and comments that arise, you are welcome to contact us by phone as well. The numbers listed above are our office phones. You are welcome to call between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). After 4:00 p.m., however, you will likely have to leave a message with your number and we will return your call.

Course Overview

This class will be taught as an embedded course focused on data analytics and professional practice in Geographic Information Systems. Penn State students will participate in a collaborative data challenge project to engage with graduate students on a global-scale geospatial analysis problem. Penn State students will develop solutions to analyze spatio-temporal patterns in COVID-19 data. Penn State students will have the opportunity to present their work and develop new connections with EU geospatial professionals via a site visit to a European mapping agency. Students will work in teams to tackle this global-scale data set, and use GeoAnalytics to arrive at a solution to visualize patterns over space and time.

What will be expected of you?

This course follows a blended learning environment. The first two weeks of the course feature Penn State students traveling to European countries to spend time in an immersive environment collaborating with students at a European University. Also included during these weeks will be travels to a mapping agency in the EU. Following this two-week travel abroad. Penn State students will return to their respective homes and further develop the capstone deliverable in both written and video format for the remainder of the class.

Course Objectives

At the successful completion of this course, you should be able to:

  • Collaboratively develop a workable solution to a geospatial problem
  • Work with a large geospatial database
  • Integrate powerful visualization and computational tools (such as GeoAnalytics) to help provide a solution
  • Synchronously and asynchronously collaborate with peers to provide feedback and listen to critiques
  • Formally present a solution to a large-scale geospatial problem

Required Course Materials

You will need to check out the course discussions regularly. That's where students and instructors share comments, pose questions, and suggest answers. We strongly encourage you to get in the habit of logging in to the course every day to check in on the class. With only occasional exceptions, we check Canvas six days a week (Monday through Friday and once on the weekend). You can be sure that we will read, but not necessarily respond to, every single message. We have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. 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 us, as well as with your fellow students. 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 calendar and modules in Canvas.

In order to take this course, you need to have the required course materials and an active Penn State Access Account User ID. 

Specific requirements for this course differ somewhat from the other GEOG courses. In consideration of the fact that this course involves travel to foreign countries, you will need the following:

1. Ability to travel to a foreign country for a period of two weeks.

2. A current passport.

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 visit the Office of Student Care and Advocacy at 120 Boucke Building or call 814-863-4926.

For additional needs, related to socioeconomic status, please visit Project Cahir.

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Assignments and Grading

Students earn grades that reflect the extent to which they achieve the learning objectives listed above. Opportunities to demonstrate learning include the following activities:

GEOG 597G Grading Breakdown
Activity Percentage
Class participation (course discussions) 10%
Submitting weekly group project updates and draft proposal assignments 30%
Engagement in peer-to-peer reviews 10%
Presentation and submission of group project proposal draft 20%
Presentation and submission of final group project proposal 30%

Letter grades will be based on the following percentages:

Letter Grades and Corresponding Percentages

Letter Grade Percentage
A 90 - 100%
A- 87.5 - 89.9%
B+ 85 - 87.4%
B 80 - 84.9%
B- 77.5 - 79.9%
C+ 75 - 77.4%
C 70 - 74.9%
D 60 - 69.9%
F <60%
X Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)

Percentages refer to the proportion of all possible points earned by the student.

Please keep a copy of your work. We cannot assume responsibility for lost items.

Project evaluation criteria include:

  • Quality: Quality criteria will be posted in the Deliverables section of each project.
  • Completeness: All required elements should be present with every submission. Project reports should be properly linked to your Penn State personal home page.
  • Timeliness: Project reports must be published by the assigned due date. Contact the instructors if you need extra time. Refer to the course calendar in Canvas for the exact schedule. Please make every effort to submit your deliverables on time.

Late Grading Policy

This class is a dynamic group environment. As such, late submission of materials and reports will only hinder the overall performance and success of the group. A late penalty of 10% per day until the assignment has been submitted will be applied to all group members.

GEOG 597G Course Schedule

imagePrintable Schedule

This course is 8 weeks in length, with an orientation week preceding the official start of the course. Each lesson is one week long and opens on Wednesday. This syllabus is subject to change at any time. Students will be notified clearly.

Week Lesson/Topic Objectives Activities/Assignments
Week 0 Orientation
  • Become familiar with course policies and resources
  • Navigate between and within Canvas and Drupal course interfaces
  • Organize group members into leadership positions: Coder/Developer, Research Lead, and Project Manager.
  • Familiarize group with project management software (Asana, Basecamp, Teamwork, etc.)
  • Learn about traveling abroad
  • Introduce yourself to the class and group members
  • Identify tasks, set deadlines, and establish benchmarks for each person through the project management software
  • Define achievable benchmarks for your group for each of the 10-weeks
  • Document your preparedness for travel abroad
Week 1 Week at European University
  • Meet with instructors and students
  • Exchange ideas on proposed solutions to the problem
  • Give mini-presentation on proposed solution
  • Engage in peer-to-peer review of other groups' solution
  • Engage in peer-to-peer discussions with instructors and students
  • Share ideas on how different cultures would approach a solution to the problem
  • Receive peer feedback on proposed solution
  • Post appropriate updates on social media regarding project progress
  • Submit a progress report on the group and each member's assigned tasks status
Week 2 Travel to European countries and visit a surveying/cadastre office
  • Travel to European countries and a mapping organization
  • Travel to European countries and an agency in Prague
  • Submit a progress report on the group and each member's assigned tasks status
Week 3 Background Reading
  • Differentiate unique functionality between GeoAnalytics and other spatial tools
  • Listen to the needs of the client and identify the general nature of what problem is to be solved
  • Describe how GeoAnalytics can be applied to the present problem
  • Use project management software to update client on completed/outstanding tasks
  • Begin to explore the database for this situation
  • Incorporate travel-abroad experiences into proposed solutions
  • Submit a progress report on the group and each member's assigned tasks status
  • Read articles on the development of GeoAnalytics
  • Explore capabilities of GeoAnalytics through selected demonstration software
  • Sift through the available data for the project
  • Explore existing GeoAnalytics software (commercially available, open source, or custom built)
  • Select which GeoAnalytics software will be used
  • Submit a progress report on the group and each member's assigned tasks status
Week 4 Proposal Development
  • Identify which specific variables/data sets could be used to provide a solution to the problem
  • Identify which GeoAnalytics tools will be most helpful in providing a solution
  • Define functionality absent from existing GeoAnalytics tools that will/should be developed
  • Report on specific data that will be used for problem solution and why these data are relevant
  • Draft outline of GeoAnalytics software capabilities and user needs
  • Submit a progress report on the group and each member's assigned tasks status
Week 5 Solution Development
  • Link the identified functional aspects of selected GeoAnalytics and tools with the database
  • Develop a functional plan that solves the identified problem using GeoAnalytics
  • Identify specific existing (or will be developed) software tools that will be needed to solve this problem
  • Submit a report on assigned tasks status through project management software
Week 6 Solution Development
  • Continue to refine the proposed solution
  • Submit a progress report on the group and each member's assigned tasks status
Week 7 Solution Development
  • Continue to refine the proposed solution
  • Submit a progress report on the group and each member's assigned tasks status
Week 8 Group Presentations
  • Formal presentation of project to peers
  • Engage in peer-to-peer review of other groups' solution
  • Reflect on experiences during this class
  • Formal presentation of project to peers through Zoom
  • Report on experiences during this class

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 IT Service Desk (for World Campus students) or Penn State's IT Help Portal (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.

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.