GEOG 883
Remote Sensing Image Analysis and Applications

GEOG 883 Syllabus


GEOG 883: Remote Sensing Image Analysis and Applications - Spring 2020

This syllabus is divided into several sections. You can read it sequentially by scrolling down the length of the document. 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."


Jarlath O'Neil-Dunne, M.S.

John A. Dutton e-Education Institute
The Pennsylvania State University
2217 Earth and Engineering Sciences Building
University Park, PA 16802-6813

Course Overview

GEOG 883: Remote Sensing Image Analysis and Applications

A graduate level course focusing on remotely sensed data for geospatial applications. This course assumes that students have prior knowledge in the basics of remote sensing, mapping, and GIS, and have experience with geospatial software, particularly ArcGIS. Students will develop a strong understanding of the tools and techniques used to display, process, and analyze remotely sensed data. Upon completion of GEOG 883 students will be able to develop analytical workflows to derive products and extract information from remotely sensed data for a broad range of applications. The culmination of this course is an independent final project in which students will demonstrate their ability to apply new skills to a real-world situation of personal or professional interest.


GEOG 480, 482, 483, or equivalent professional experience. A strong working knowledge of desktop geospatial software (e.g. ArcGIS) is expected of students who register for this course.

Students who do not meet these prerequisites may be disenrolled according to Administrative Policy C-5 if you do not have the proper prerequisite override. If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then promptly consult with the instructor if you have not done so already. Students who re-enroll after being disenrolled, according to this policy, are in violation of Item 15 of the Student Code of Conduct.


The course is specifically designed for adult professionals and is offered exclusively through the World Campus and the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Students who register in the course for credit will complete an orientation lesson and seven content lessons with corresponding hands-on assignments, quizzes, and online discussions, in addition to a final project. Throughout the course, students confront realistic problem scenarios that will test their ability to apply the tools and techniques covered in the course.

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

What will be expected of you?

This course will require a minimum of 12-15 hours of student activity per week. You will be glad to know you don't have to show up for class at a certain time as the class is self-paced, but you will have to meet assignment deadlines.

Each lesson consists of a combination of reading assignments from the course website and required textbook, video demonstrations, and links to external materials that may assist you. Quizzes are periodically offered to test your comprehension of this material. The bulk of your grade will be tied to lab assignments. The labs are designed to test your ability to construct and execute remote sensing workflows using geospatial software. Lab instructions for each lesson are provided in PDF form for you to download and print for reference as you proceed through the hands-on exercises with data and software. Prerecorded video demonstrations of the lab exercise may be provided to assist you. You will submit your lab work in the form of a Canvas assessment. You are encouraged to ask questions and post comments at any time in the Canvas Discussion Forums provided for each lesson. Email communication to the instructor should only be used in those cases where the material is not appropriate for viewing by the entire class.

You should get in the habit of checking course email and discussion forums in Canvas on a daily basis. That's where students and instructors share comments, pose questions, and suggest solutions to problems. With only occasional exceptions, instructors check email and forums every day, and will try to respond to your questions and concerns within 24 hours.

For a more detailed look at what will be covered in each lesson, please refer to the Course Content part of this syllabus. Due dates for assignments and activities will be posted on the Calendar tab in Canvas.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of the course, students who excel are able to:

  • process remotely sensed data to make it useful in geographic information systems;
  • perform image enhancement on remotely sensed imagery;
  • extract information from remotely sensed data using a variety of manual and automated techniques;
  • critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of remote sensing instruments and platforms for a variety of application scenarios;
  • develop multi-step remote sensing workflows to solve problems in a variety of application areas;
  • apply acquired knowledge and critical thinking skills to solve a real-world problem with appropriate remote sensing data and processing methods.
  • clearly and concisely communicate findings from the analysis of remotely sensed data through the written word and graphical products.

Required Course Materials

In order to take 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). If you have any questions about obtaining or activating your Penn State Access Account, please contact the Outreach Helpdesk.

Required Textbooks

Campbell, James B. 2011. Introduction to Remote Sensing, 5th edition. New York. The Guilford Press. ISBN 978-1609181765

There is one required textbook for this course.

E-Book Option: An online version of your text is available at no cost as a Penn State Library E-Book. Some E-Books will only be available online, while others will be available to download in full or in part. You may choose to use the E-Book as an alternative to purchasing a physical copy of the text. You can access the E-Book by selecting the Library Resources link on the course navigation, and then selecting the E-Reserves link. For questions or issues, you can contact the University Libraries Reserve Help (UL-RESERVESHELP@LISTS.PSU.EDU).

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.

Supplemental References (No Purchase Necessary)

Additional readings may be provided electronically through the course management system and Penn State library services.

Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing.

Required Software

Be sure to read the Technical Requirements section at the end of the syllabus for minimum system requirements. You need an administrator password for your computer in order to properly install the course software.

  1. ArcGIS Pro, Esri
    All students in the Online Geospatial Program receive a student license of ArcGIS valid for one year. Instructions for obtaining a license and installing the ArcGIS are provided in the Canvas folder for Lesson 0 - Orientation.
  2. ArcGIS Online, Esri
    All students in the Online Geospatial Program receive a student account for ArcGIS Online valid for the duration of their enrollment. Instructions for obtaining an account are provided in the Canvas folder for Lesson 0 - Orientation.
  3. ​​​​​​eCognition, Trimble
    All students in this course will receive a fully functioning version of eCognition with a license valid for the duration of the course. Licenses will be issued by the instructor during the first week of class. Instructions for downloading and installing the software are provided in the Canvas folder for Lesson 0 - Orientation.
  4. 7-Zip (or similar)
    You will need a file utility capable of unzipping .zip and .tar.gz files. 7-Zip can be downloaded for free from 7-Zip.
  5. Screen Capture Utility
    SnagIt (paid), Screenpresso (free), or use the built-in Windows Snipping Tool. You will need a file utility capable of unzipping .zip and .tar.gz files. 7-Zip can be downloaded for free from 7-Zip.

Supplemental Software Tutorials

Registered students have access to the Esri Virtual Campus courses free-of-charge. These courses are available for students who wish to review or enhance their ArcGIS skills in preparation for or during the course. Specific Virtual Campus courses may be assigned as part of the weekly lab activities; in which case the instructor will provide access codes. Visit the Penn State Esri Virtual Campus Subscription page to request access codes for any other Virtual Campus courses that are of interest.

Free tutorials for other commercial software used in this course are available directly from the vendor websites.

Using Penn State Library Resources

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.

NOTE: You must be registered with the University Libraries in order to take full advantage of the Libraries' resources and services. Registration and services are free.

Assignments and Grading

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

  • Online quizzes (10% of final grade)
  • Online discussions (8% of final grade)
  • Lab activities (52% of final grade)
  • Final project (30% of final grade)

Lesson weeks begin on Wednesdays per the course calendar in Canvas. Activities are due at the end of each lesson week, at 11:59 PM Eastern on Tuesday. Students who will be unable to meet the deadline for a given week must contact the instructor at least 24 hours prior to the deadline to request an extension. Online sessions will be held in Adobe Connect to review weekly labs and provide feedback; therefore, late submittals will not be accepted if an extension has not been granted and a zero will be entered in the grade book for that assignment.

The final grading scale is shown below.

Letter Grade Percentages Points
Letter grades and percentages
A 93% and above 465 points and above
A- 90% - 92.9% 450 - 464 points
B+ 88% - 89.9% 440 - 449 points
B 83% - 87.9% 415 - 439 points
B- 80% - 82.9% 400 - 414 points
C+ 78% - 79.9% 390 - 399 points
C 70% - 77.9% 350 - 389 points
D 60% - 69.9% 300 - 349 points
F 59.9% and below 299 points and below

Class participation will be considered in grading for those whose final course grade is close to the next letter grade. To view your progress throughout the semester, click on the Grades tab in the Canvas course interface.

GEOG 883 Course Schedule

image Printable Schedule
Lesson 0: Orientation
Date Week 1
  • Navigate between the course website and the Canvas course management system.
  • Express your expectations about how and what you will learn in your online course.
  • Articulate how and what instructors expect you to learn in your online course.
  • Locate key information about the course, including assignments, due dates, technical information, and where to go for help.
  • Locate detailed information about course policies, including academic integrity and accommodations for disabilities.
  • Communicate effectively with instructors and fellow students using a variety of online tools.
  • Orientation Material
  1. Orientation Survey (5 points)
  2. VoiceThread Introductions (5 points)
  3. Lesson 0, Lab 1 (10 points)
  4. Lesson 0, Lab 2 (10 points World Campus, 5 extra credit points University Park)
Lesson 1: The Remote Sensing Analytical Process
Date Week 2
  • Describe the basic principles of remote sensing.
  • Explain the remote sensing workflow.
  • Analyze remotely sensed data using the principles of the remote sensing workflow.
  • Campbell (2011) Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5th Edition. Chapter 1 - History and Scope of Remote Sensing
  • Campbell (2011) Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5th Edition. Chapter 2 - Electromagnetic Radiation
  • Campbell (2011) Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5th Edition. Chapter 3 - Mapping Cameras
  • Campbell (2011) Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5th Edition. Chapter 6 - Land Observation Satellites
  1. Lesson 1 Lab (40 points)
  2. Lesson 1 Graded Discussion (5 points)

Lesson 2: Preprocessing of Remotely Sensed Data
Date Week 3
  • Apply spatial preprocessing techniques to image data.
  • Apply spectral preprocessing techniques to image data.
  • Manage image data using mosaics and compression.
  • Create surface models from lidar data.
  • Campbell (2011) Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5th Edition. Chapter 4 - Digital Imagery
  • Campbell (2011) Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5th Edition. Chapter 8 - Lidar
  • Campbell (2011) Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5th Edition. Chapter 10 - Image Resolution
  • Campbell (2011) Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5th Edition. Chapter 11 - Preprocessing
  1. Lesson 2 Reading Quiz (10 points)
  2. Lesson 2 Lab (30 points)
  3. Lesson 2 Graded Discussion (5 points)

Lesson 3: Feature Extraction 1
Date Week 4
  • Define the elements of image interpretation (EII).
  • Interpret remotely sensed data using the elements of image interpretation.
  • Construct an image interpretation key.
  • Discuss pixel and object-based approaches to feature extraction.
  • Discuss supervised and unsupervised approaches to feature extraction.
  • Use the EIIs to perform automated feature extraction.
  • Oliva, A. 2005. “Gist of the Scene.” Neurobiology of Attention 17.
  • Olson, C.E. 1960. “Elements of Photographic Interpretation Common to Several Sensors.” Photogrammetric Engineering 26 (4): 651–656.
  • Olson, C.E. 2009. “Is 80% Accuracy Good Enough?” In Proceedings of the ASPRS 17th Pecora Conference.
  1. Lesson 3 Reading Quiz (10 points)
  2. Lesson 3 Lab (30 points)
  3. Lesson 3 Graded Discussion (5 points)
Lesson 4: Feature Extraction 2
Date Week 5
  • Analyze multispectral imagery and lidar using object-based techniques.
  • Create a workflow for extracting information from multiple types of remotely sensed data.
  • Campbell (2011) Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5th Edition. Chapter 12 - Image Classification
  • Campbell (2011) Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5th Edition. Chapter 14 - Accuracy Assessment
  • Campbell (2011) Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5th Edition. Chapter 20 - Land Use and Land Cover
  1. Lesson 4 Reading Quiz (10 points)
  2. Lesson 4 Lab (30 points)
  3. Lesson 4 Graded Discussion (5 points)

Lesson 5: Change Detection
Date Week 6
  • Detect thematic change over time from two dates of multispectral imagery.
  • Detect thematic change over time using lidar data.
  • Detect thematic change from radar data using coherent change detection techniques.
  • Campbell (2011) Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5th Edition. Chapter 16 - Change Detection
  1. Lesson 5 Lab (40 points)
  2. Lesson 5 Graded Discussion (5 points)

Lesson 6: Accuracy Assessment
Date Week 7
  • Discuss the principles of classification accuracy assessment.
  • Construct an accuracy assessment error matrix.
  • Apply the principles of classification accuracy assessment in a typical application setting.
Readings Campbell (2011) Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5th Edition. Chapter 14 - Accuracy Assessment
  1. Lesson 6 Lab (40 points)
  2. Lesson 6 Graded Discussion (5 points)
Lesson 7: Urban Heat Island
Date Week 7
  • Formulate a workflow for mapping surface temperature from thermal satellite imagery.
  • Integrate remotely sensed and vector GIS data.
  • Analyze geospatial data to uncover patterns and trends.
Readings Campbell (2011) Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5th Edition. Chapter 9 - Thermal Imagery
  1. Lesson 7 Lab (40 points)
  2. Lesson 7 Graded Discussion (5 points)
Final Project: Leveraging Remotely Sensed Data to Confront Contemporary Challenges in Geospatial Analysis
Date Week 9-10

This project will challenge students to apply knowledge and skills acquired in the earlier lessons in a realistic problem scenario that requires the acquisition and analysis of remote sensing data. Project activities will span the final four to five weeks of the session. Students will work individually to scope a problem, determine the appropriate combination of remote sensing data and application software needed to support analysis, propose a processing and analysis workflow, and move to a solution. The students will then produce a final report that discusses their understanding of the problem, a detailed discussion of the workflow steps, and the results of their study.

Readings None
  • Final Project Idea (10 points)
  • Final Project Idea Peer Reviews (5 points)
  • Final Project Proposal (30 points)
  • Final Project Proposal Peer Reviews (5 points)
  • Final Project Presentation (25 Points)
  • Final Project Presentation Peer Reviews (5 points)
  • Final Report (35 points)
  • Final Project Data Deliverable (30 points)
  • Final Project Abstract (Optional)

Course Policies

Use of Software

In this course, you are provided with access to both software and data. Under no circumstances should you use either the software or the data for purposes other than this course without written permission from the instructor.

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the World Campus Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Internet Connection

Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot.

Mixed Content

This site is considered a secure web site which means that your connection is encrypted.  We do however link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted.  This is called mixed content.  By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome.  This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed.  Follow the directions on our Technical Requirements page to view the mixed content.


This course must be viewed using one of the following browsers: Firefox (any version), Safari (versions 5.1 or 6.0), Chrome (0.3 or later), or Internet Explorer with the MathPlayer PlugIn. If you use any other browser, there will be pages containing equations that do not render properly. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

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 for undergraduate students and Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Guidelines for graduate students. 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.