GEOG 884
Spatial Data Science and Intelligence Analysis

Geography 884 Syllabus


GEOG 884 Syllabus: Spring 1 2023

Spatial Data Science and Intelligence Analysis

This syllabus is divided into several sections. It is essential that you read the entire document as well as the material covered in Lesson 0. Together these serve the role of our course "contract."


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. Changes will be posted to the course message board.


Todd Bacastow
Todd Bacastow, Ph.D.
Teaching Professor

Department of Geography
The Pennsylvania State University
2217 Earth and Engineering Sciences Building
University Park, PA 16802-6813

  • Phone: (814) 863-0049 (The country code for the United States is 1)
  • E-mail: Please use the course e-mail system in Canvas
  • Availability: My office hours (in person or phone calls) are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time. My public calendar is found here. Please email first, and then suggest times when a Zoom session or phone call could work.

Instructor: Dan Steiner

Dan Steiner
Adjunct Instructor

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

  • Phone: (508) 259-9570 (The country code for the United States is 1)
  • Course email: Please use the course email system (see the Inbox in Canvas).
  • Availability:  If you wish to discuss a concern or question, please email me to schedule a time that is convenient for you.

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 geospatial 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.



GEOG 884 focuses on spatial data science as a framework supporting intelligence analysis. The integration of spatial thinking and spatial data science in a professional work environment defines the geospatial intelligence tradecraft. Here spatial data science makes analysts more effective by distilling geographical knowledge from data and providing a basis for challenging biases. Importantly, a key objective of this course is to prepare you with the agility to quickly and smoothly adapt and integrate newer, different, disruptive, expansive or convergent technologies.

Prerequisites: Geography 882

Students who do not meet these prerequisites may be disenrolled according to Administrative Policy C-5 if they 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.

Geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) leverages geographic information science and technology (including cartography, geographic information systems, remote sensing, and global positioning systems) with intelligence tradecraft to develop intelligence products that support national security, disaster response, and international relief efforts.

Students who successfully complete GEOG 884 will have a basic understanding of spatial data science and intelligence analysis. These data products will be used in a variety of application scenarios, using commercially available and open source software tools. Finally, each student will complete a capstone project demonstrating their mastery of the basic concepts acquired in the course.

What will be expected of you?

This course requires a minimum of 12 to 15 hours of student activity each week, depending on the speed at which you work. Included in those hours each week is time to complete projects and related activities. You'll be glad to know that you don't have to show up for the class at a certain time! All you need to do is complete the assignments before the published deadline at the end of the week.

You will need to check the course discussion forums 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 into the course website at least once a day to keep up with the ongoing discussion. With only occasional exceptions, I check discussion forums seven days a week. You can be sure that I will read, but not necessarily respond to, every single message.

My colleagues and I 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.

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 course schedule that is part of this syllabus (see "Course Schedule"). Due dates for assignments and activities will be posted on the Calendar tab in CANVAS.

Course Objectives

Students who excel in this course are able to:

• Critique empirical and theoretical scholarship related to intelligence analysis;
• Assess statistical and cognitive methodologies to identify an optimal approach;
• Evaluate data representing complex spatial phenomena;
• Judge a geospatial intelligence product relative to the nature of current and potential future threat using data science, cognitive analytic techniques, and theoretical concepts of geography to inform decision-making processes;
• Create written work that clearly and succinctly synthesizes and communicates existing information, insights into complex phenomena, and recommendations for action

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 Textbook

There is one required textbook for this course:

Paul Bolstad, 2019, GIS Fundamentals: A First Text on Geographic Information Systems, 764 pages, ISBN: 978-1-59399-552-2

You're encouraged to purchase the 6th edition if you haven't already acquired the book, but the prior version is also acceptable. You can order the text from the author's website. The book also comes with a digital version. You can also find sample chapters and additional resources on this website. If you purchase the text from another retailer, make sure it is at least the 5th edition.

E-Book Option: An online version of one or more of your texts is available at no cost as a Penn State Library E-Book. Some E-Books will be available only 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.

Required Software

A number of software packages may be used in the course. There is one that you are required to have access to and a few freeware programs that we will use. If not already installed, you need administrative rights on your computer in order to properly install the course software. In addition to the minimum technical requirements for the program, please ensure that the graphics card on your computer is OpenGL-compatible and that the appropriate drivers are installed

Esri ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced 10.6+ or ArcPro: Check that your Esri license is current. If not, since you are a registered Penn State student you have access to the free Student Trial edition of the required version and extensions. Please follow the instructions on this page to download ArcGIS Pro and/or ArcMap: (link is external) You must also have access to the 3D Analyst and Spatial Analyst extensions in order to complete this course. For complete information, see the GEOINT Program FAQ.

QGIS Desktop 3.x: QGIS, formerly known as QuantumGIS, is a free and open-source GIS software package we will use in addition to ArcGIS. It can conduct many of the GIS operations in ArcGIS and is particularly good at import/export of a wide variety of vector data formats. Download the software for Windows and Mac.

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 e-mail
  • ...and much more!

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

Assignments and Grading

Table of Lessons
Lesson Lesson Focus READINGS
1 Spatial Data Science and Intelligence Analysis Specific items are identified in the READINGS page of each lesson
2 Geodesy for GEOINTERs Specific items are identified in the READINGS page of each lesson
3 Data Quality and Standards Specific items are identified in the READINGS page of each lesson
4 Vector Data & Analytics Specific items are identified in the READINGS page of each lesson
5 Vector Analysis Specific items are identified in the READINGS page of each lesson
6 Advanced Spatial Analysis Specific items are identified in the READINGS page of each lesson
7 Raster Data & Analytics Specific items are identified in the READINGS page of each lesson
8 Raster Analysis Specific items are identified in the READINGS page of each lesson
9 Introduction to the Capstone Analysis & Recent Deveopments in the Discipline Specific items are identified in the READINGS page of each lesson
10 Capstone Analysis Project

Students earn grades that reflect the extent to which they achieve the course learning objectives. Opportunities to demonstrate learning include quizzes, labs, reflection papers, and a course project. The point scheme and grading scale are shown below.


Please refer to the Syllabus in Canvas for the course schedule.


Assignments and Point Totals Table
Lesson and Length Points
Lesson Length Quiz Lab Discussion Paper CAPSt Lesson Total Cumulative Points
1 1 week 10 25 10 45 45
2 1 week 10 25 10 15 60 105
3 1 week 10 25 10 45 150
4 1 week 10 25 10 45 195
5 1 week 10 25 10 45 255
6 1 week 10 25 10 15 60 300
7 1 week 10 25 10 45 345
8 1 week 10 25 10 45 390
9 1 weeks 10 10 30 50 440
10 1 week 60 60 500
Total 10 weeks 90 200 90 30 90 500
Total (%) 18% 40% 18% 6% 18% 100%


Grading Scale
The final grading scale is shown below.
A Above 90% 450 - 500 points
A - 87.5-89.9% 438 - 449 points
B+ 85.0-87.4% 425 - 437 points
B 80.0-84.9% 400 - 424 points
B - 77.5-79.9% 388 - 399 points
C+ 75.0-77.4% 375 - 387 points
C 70.0-74.9% 350 - 374 points
D 60.0-69.9% 300 - 349 points
F 59.9% or below 000 - 299 points
X Unsatisfactory
(student did not participate)

Class participation will be considered for those whose final course grade is close to the next letter grade.

To view your grades during the semester, you need to do the following:

  • Log into Canvas
  • Go to the course dashboard
  • Click on the Grades tab

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 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 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 camps 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 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 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 with you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.