GEOG 850
Location Intelligence for Business



GEOG 850 Syllabus (Fall 2, 2023)

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."


Daniel W. Steiner

  • Course email: Please use the course email system (see the Inbox in Canvas).
  • Personal email:
  • Availability: Please email to schedule a time that is convenient for you, I will provide my phone contact for our conversation.

John A. Dutton e-Education Institute
2217 Earth and Engineering Sciences Building
College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Penn State
University Park, PA 16802


The Instructor will read and respond to Canvas emails and discussion forums at least once per day during the work week (Monday through Sunday). If you have a question regarding a writing assignment due at 11:59 any evening, I must receive your question via Canvas email no later than noon, Eastern Time, on that day.

As a faculty member of the Penn State University, Dutton e-Education Institute team, I currently teach GEOG 850, Location Intelligence for Business. This course provides a foundation for spatial thinking in commercial settings, experience with contemporary mapping and analysis tools for professional applications of location intelligence. I have also participated in three GEOG 597, Comparative Geospatial Intelligence courses examining the practice of geospatial intelligence in the US, UK, Russia, and NATO member countries.

I hold a BS in Engineering from the United States Military Academy and Masters of GIS (GEOINT Option) from Penn State University. My foundation in the traditional areas of geospatial intelligence is solid with coursework and experience in geodesy, cartography, cultural and political geography, remote sensing, and progressive uses of geographic information systems. It's fun for me to see how geography, mapping visualization, and GIS problem solving have shaped my career from experience in the United State Army Corps of Engineers, pharmaceutical industry, and now as a small business owner.

The Army trained me in terrain analysis, all phases of the cartographic process, and remote sensing at the Defense Mapping School in Virginia and Inter-American Geodetic Survey in Panama. Through 20 years of pharmaceutical operations, sales, and leadership I honed my GIS skills and applied business principles to spatially related risk assessment and decision making. Outside of Penn State, I own and operate Orion Mapping, providing business insights, imagery analysis, and geospatial intelligence/location intelligence to commercial, government, and community clients.

Course Overview

In business, the application of maps and mapping technology ranges from a long-standing presence (commercial real estate, retail, and logistics) to nascent analytical applications across different industries. The momentum for commercial applications that encompass GIS, geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) technologies, and geospatial intelligence analysis is growing. In businesses, geospatial attributes are being combined with enterprise-wide databases. GIS and GEOINT tools and methodologies can now be folded into the more mainstream information technology (IT) applications of business intelligence (BI) to formulate location intelligence (LI) applications, products, and services. This course explores and applies the key geospatial intelligence principles involved in site selection, market analysis, risk and crisis management, and logistics, providing opportunities for students to solve those problems with contemporary geospatial tools and datasets. This course provides a foundation for spatial thinking and analysis in commercial settings, and experience with contemporary mapping and analysis tools for professional applications of location intelligence.

What will be expected of you?

If you are a current student in one of Penn State's online geospatial programs, this course will likely be different from any in the online geospatial certificate or master's programs at Penn State. The course is designed to feel a bit more like a seminar, albeit with an introductory tone. We will have weekly readings and 1-2 class "discussions" per week using Canvas. These discussions will take place in web-based discussion forums where you type posts and responses. Depending upon the class size, we may break into teams and hold teleconferences in a more intimate setting. The Canvas discussions will take place asynchronously, so you won't have to log in at a prescribed time--more about that during orientation. During most weeks, you will complete one or more "hands on" activities relating to the concepts discussed, and there may be a brief quiz (multiple choice or short essay).

In addition, students will work in teams to tackle a case study during the latter half of the course. First, with instructor assistance, teams will identify a problem to solve, after which they will present initial thoughts in a mid-term presentation (no more than 5 minutes with 4-5 slides) using Zoom. The project will culminate with the submission of a group final paper (executive summary, data, and methodology). The final paper is intended to be brief, with students focusing on what methodologies and data they would hypothetically use to solve the problem. Students will have an opportunity for self-reflection on what they learned in the process and will complete a peer review on the project as well. (In special cases, students will have the opportunity to work independently on the term project, with instructor approval.)

While we have provided an outline of the course, with specific readings and content to cover, the course may vary from term to term, depending upon the experiences and interests of that term's cohort.

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 me, as well as with your fellow students.

Course Objectives

At the successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • explain common business activities and the geospatial intelligence concepts, technologies, and analysis methods involved in addressing them;
  • describe examples of location intelligence applications used in business;
  • analyze different types of geographical data and show how spatial and aspatial data can be integrated for problem solving scenarios;
  • design geospatial intelligence applications for not-for-profit and government sectors; and
  • compose professional communications for written and spoken presentation of analytical findings.

Required Course Materials

In order to participate in this course, you need to have the required course materials and an active Penn State Access Account user ID and password (used to access the online course resources). Approximately two weeks prior to the course start date, the World Campus will mail a course Welcome Letter to you, which includes important information about the course and step-by-step directions for how to begin!

If you do not receive your Welcome Letter, please contact the World Campus' Student Services group immediately so that they can send you the information you need. They can be reached at 1-800-252-3592 in the US or internationally at 814-865-5403 (country code 1). You may reach them by email at

Required Textbook:

Geography: Why it Matters, Murphy, Alexander, Cambridge, UK ; Medford, MA: Polity Press, 2018. ISBN: 9781509523016 .

Other required readings, research, and assignments will be available through the course website on the first page for each lesson or will be contained in an associated folder in Canvas. There will be other useful URLs listed throughout the course - those will be noted as "optional."

You will be provided access to Esri Business Analysis Online so do not be concerned about loading software on your computer.

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, plaese contact your aceademic advisor. For additional needs, related to socioeconomic status, please visit Project Cahir or visit the Office of Student and Avdocacy 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

Students earn grades that reflect the extent to which they achieve the learning objectives listed above. Opportunities to demonstrate learning include the following, and grades will be based on percentages assigned to each of several components of the course as follows:

A Summary of Assignments for GEOG 850
Assignment Points/assignment Maximum points
Quizzes Three quizzes - 50 points each
(Lessons 2, 4, and 7)
Activities Drop Box Assignments - 30 to 50 point each
(Lessons 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6)
Discussions Discussion Forum Posts - 20 or 30 points each
(Lessons 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10)
Term project Multiple deliverables throughout the term - point vary per assignment
(Lessons 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 10)
TOTAL 1000


Any deliverable portion of the project is due, regardless of absence. In addition, Lessons 2-5 build upon each other--if you chose or need to miss one of those weeks, please review the material so as not to fall behind in succeeding weeks.

Final overall grades will be determined based on averaged grades of assignments. So that you know where you stand, all grades will be posted in Canvas with each assignment. You will be able to track your progress and calculate your average as the course goes along

Letter grades will be based on the following percentages:

Letter Grade and Corresponding Percentage
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.

Grading Guidelines

Specific activities will vary from week to week, though at the beginning of each week you will be presented a check list covering that week's readings, activities, and any deliverables required of you. Each week may be composed of any of the following:

Readings: You will find selected readings pertinent, from a variety of sources, some will provide an international perspective. Some selections are quick reads and some are case studies. Please note that some readings are openly available while others are only available to registered students.

Keep the following in mind: It's a good idea to start on the readings immediately at the start of the week. Some subjects will require that you read a bit, and then complete an activity before continuing the reading--don't let all of the activities pile up at the end of each week!

Activities/Assignments: Many weeks will include one or more activities. These range from accessing and retrieving data from the Internet to using Esri's Business Analyst Online and other tools to create maps and reports. Many of these activities will provide a source, along with readings, for discussion. Those activities will be identified at the start of each lesson.

Weekly assignments submitted to a Drop Box will be graded according to the following rubric:

Drop Box Assignment Rubric
Criteria Ratings Possible
Clarity of thought 9 points
Addresses the topic with clarity; organizes and synthesizes information thoughtfully; and draws logical conclusions from available information; reader can easily follow the line of reasoning.
4.5 points
Addresses the topic; lacks substantive conclusions; sometimes digresses from topic; reader may struggle at times following line of reasoning.
0 points
Presents little to no clarity in formulating conclusions and/or organization
9 points
Application of course material and models 9 points
Shows a high level of accuracy when interpreting and/or applying course materials or models; presents the correct response.
4.5 points
Shows an acceptable level of accuracy when interpreting and/or applying course materials and models; answer may not be completely correct, but shows understanding.
0 points
Inaccurately interprets and/or applies course materials or models resulting in incorrect answers.
9 points
Comprehension of subject matter/course content 6 points
Demonstrates substance and depth; is comprehensive; shows comprehension of material.
3 points
Covers topic; uses appropriate sources; demonstrates basic level understanding; is objective.
0 points
Does not give adequate coverage of topic; does not demonstrate even basic level understanding; lacks sources.
6 points
Clarity of Presentation 6 points
Is free or almost free of errors (grammar, spelling, and writing mechanics); appropriately documents sources.
3 points
Has errors, but they don't represent a major distraction; documents sources.
0 points
Has errors that obscure meaning of content and adds confusion; neglects important sources or documents few to no resources.
6 points
Total Score --- --- --- 30 Points

Discussions: Discussions will arise from readings and activities. Normally, you will be asked a question or to seek out relevant data to a concept and report back. Discussions will be in written form in Canvas and may include PowerPoint presentation(s). You will find instructions at the start of each lesson.

Students are expected to participate in in online activities and discussions. Because of the importance of discussion to meeting the objectives of the course, students will be evaluated on the frequency and quality of their participation, including the level of preparation for discussion and student analysis and integration of the assigned materials. Students are expected to communicate their ideas clearly and persuasively. This rubric provides the levels of quality expected in this course.

Discussion Assignment Rubric
Contributions Description Points
Provocative Response demonstrates a high quality level of participation, goes beyond simply answering the prompt, reflects insight and depth of understanding of course materials, and attempts to stimulate further thought & discussion. 30
Substantial Response includes periodic and timely contributions to class discussions, provides most of the content required by the prompt, shows some analysis, but does not promote further exploration of the subject. 24
Superficial Response provides obvious information without further analysis of the concept; lacks depth of knowledge or reasoning. 18
Incorrect Response does not accurately address the prompt; rambling and/or without consistency. 12
None No response provided to the prompt within the associated timeframe. 0

Term Project: The term-long project requires early planning and deliverables throughout the semester. As with any important scientific project, the process starts with identifying a problem - in this case a geospatial, or location-based challenge or opportunity. Through a series of discussions, I ask you to brainstorm ideas for your project and provide useful feedback to each other on your early project topic. There's a whole range of possible topics you may choose and it can even relate to a work project or personal interest you have.

Late Grading Policy

Because much of the weekly coursework requires you to interact with your cohort on your findings in each activity, late assignments are generally not accepted (outside of EXTREME emergencies communicated to the instructor in a timely manner). Recall that your lowest week score will be dropped.

Make-up Exam Policy

Because this course has no exams, there is no Make-up Exam Policy.

GEOG 850 Course Schedule

imagePrintable Schedule

This course is 10 weeks in length, with an optional 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.

Lesson Objectives Activities/Assignments
0. Orientation
  • Become familiar with course policies and resources.
  • Navigate between and within Canvas and Drupal course interfaces.
  • Introductions.
  • Fill out "I Want to Know About You!" survey
  • Participate in "Personal Introductions & Discussion"
1. Introduction to Location Intelligence
  • Provide examples of the use of geography in business strategy/decision-making.
  • Identify sources of data used in analysis in business geography.
  • Discuss Census geographies, demography, and the origins of market segmentation.
  • Explore U.S. Census Bureau data
  • Locating a coffee shop in Atlantic City
  • Where do you fit in?
2. Business Modeling and Market Segmentation
  • Discuss how location relates to consumer behavior.
  • Discuss the historical antecedents to segmentation.
  • Define cluster, variable, and attribute.
  • Locate and enumerate demographic attributes of a given zip code.
  • List the attributes for a selected cluster and compare clusters based upon variables.
  • Define demographic and psychographic profiling.
  • PRIZM "You Are Where You Live"
  • Compare clusters across PRIZM, MOSAIC, TAPESTRY, ACORN, etc.
  • Explore Claritas P$YCLE and ConneXions
3. GIS and Geospatial Analytical Modeling
  • Identify physical and man-made (such as transportation networks) features in a region and discuss how these features can create a barrier to trade.
  • Identify a trade area based upon demographic profile.
  • Identify a trade area based upon psychographic profile (i.e., Experian, Nielson, etc).
  • Describe how geocoding, thematic mapping, and buffer zones apply to market research.
  • Differentiate geographic aspects for delineating trade areas including coarse distance (“crow flies", ring, buffer) and specific distance (drive-time).
  • Esri Business Analyst activities
4. Competitive Factors in Business
  • Discuss the factors which contribute to site selection.
  • Discuss sales forecasting as it relates to site selection.
  • Discuss the scalar relationship between site/pad, zip code/census division, and region.
  • Esri Business Analyst activities
5. Risk Assessment Factors
  • Identify variable inputs to spatial interaction models.
  • Describe sales forecasting models including distance decay/Gravity, analog/store sales, proximal, space-sales ratio.
  • Discuss impacts to existing store network in terms of cannibalization, merchandising, seasonality, and both spatial and aspatial attractiveness features.
  • Demonstrate the application of market research and site selection principles using a case study scenario.
  •  Anti-Money Laundering/Counter Threat Finance (AML/CTF) Case Study, Part 1
6. Risk Assessment Case Study
  • Describe when/how a city/community behaves like a business/firm in the context of location intelligence, demographics and planning.
  • Discuss market research and demographics as “indicators”.
  • Define a “healthy community”.
  • Anti-Money Laundering/Counter Threat Finance (AML/CTF) Case Study, Part 2
7. Sector Applications of Location Intelligence, Part 1
  • Describe network routing and scheduling and distinguish between point-to-point and multi-point methods.
  • Describe mobile, location-based applications including field service management and mobile asset management.
  • Describe the mobile technologies (GPS, AVL) used to support transportation applications.
  • Identify industries and their associated logistics applications including trucking/delivery, airline, train, and utilities.
  • Routing and scheduling case study
8. Sector Applications of Location Intelligence, Part 2
  • Define and contrast crisis and risk management.
  • Describe spatial data and methodologies employed in risk management including the positing of scenarios and assessment of costs to the organization.
  • Describe spatial data and methodologies employed in crisis management including damage assessment, response needs assessment and prioritization and communication.
  • Examine the geospatial analyst's role in decision making
9. Emerging Trends and Technology
  • Define and describe emerging technologies as used in commercial applications.
This term we will consider a selection from:
  • cloud computing
  • mobile computing
  • social networks
  • "big" data
  • indoor mapping
  • augmented reality
  • LiDAR and 3D
10. Term Project
  • Completion of Term Project.

Class Support Services

Penn State Online offers online tutoring to World Campus students in math, writing, and some business classes. Tutoring and guided study groups for residential students are available through Penn State Learning.

Course Policies

Late Policy

Late homework is accepted under the following circumstances: (1) if prearranged with the instructor; (2) if the result of a documented emergency; or (3) if documented illness (see PARTICIPATION AND ATTENDANCE SECTION below). The exam will be a zero unless these conditions are met. Other excuses are not valid.

Citation and Reference Style

Academic Integrity and Citation Style Guide

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.


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 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.