GEOG 885: Advanced Analytic Methods in Geospatial Intelligence - Spring 2019
This syllabus is divided into several sections listed below. You can jump directly to a specific section of the syllabus by clicking on one of the syllabus subheadings below. You can print the entire syllabus by clicking on the "Print" link in the upper right hand corner of this page. You can also just print the course schedule--there is a link for a printer-friendly version of the schedule there. That being said, it is essential that you read the entire document as well as the material covered in the Orientation. Together these serve the role of our course "contract."
- Course Overview
- Course Objectives
- Required Course Materials
- Assignments and Grading
- Course Schedule
- Course Policies
GEOG 885 Prerequisite
The prerequisite for this course is GEOG 882: Geographic Foundations of Geospatial Intelligence, or equivalent by permission of the Geospatial Intelligence Program faculty advisor. GEOG 882 provides an orientation to the geographic foundations of geospatial intelligence and its applications in national security, international relief work, and disaster management.
Mr. Steve Handwerk
- Mobile: (717) 303-7962 (The country code for the United States is 1)
- Office phone: (717) 761-4758
- FAX: (814) 865-3191 (Please send the Fax to my attention. Please note that a Fax is sent to the Univeristy Park Campus, then forwarded to me as an email. If possible, send a scanned copy to me via email for faster turnaround.)
- Email: Please use the course e-mail system - see the Inbox tab in Canvas.
- Availability: Please call or e-mail me to schedule a time that is convenient for you.
- Mobile: (575) 618-7989 (The country code for the United States is 1)
- Email: Please use the course e-mail system - see the Inbox tab in Canvas (in an emergency my PSU email is email@example.com).
- Availability: Please call or e-mail me to schedule a time that is convenient for you. Please note I am located in the Mountain Standard Time zone.
Structured Geospatial Analytic Method (SGAM)
Traditionally, analysts at all levels devote little attention to improving how they think. - Richards J. Heuer, Jr.
We often assume everyone has the ability to think in the geospatial domain. However, it has been long known that without specific prompting, people may be unaware of spatial patterns of an environment (Golledge, 1992). What does this mean? It means that:
- creating accurate and meaningful geospatial intelligence is not typically an innate ability, and
- geospatial analysis is an effortful cognitive act of imagining, identifying, and matching patterns.
Add to Golledge's observation the fact that all people observe the same information with inherent and different biases (see Heuer, Psychology of Intelligence Analysis) and it is clear that geospatial intelligence analysis needs a safeguard. The safeguard is a teachable process that forces the geospatial analyst to address their cognitive limitations.
Geospatial Intelligence, with possibly one exception, currently has no accepted analytic methodology to address these shortcomings. Those in the domain frequently use the word "tradecraft" as a catchall to say that the profession has a shared and documented analytic method. When one really takes a hard look at the "tradecraft" outside the realm of image interpretation, what we find is a collection of high level suggestions and tips. This is unfortunate, since geospatial analysis is an integral part of rendering geospatial intelligence.
The lack of a method for the geospatial analyst to reference is significant. It is a human tendency when confronted with a complex issue and no mental framework to organize thoughts, to unconsciously discount much of the relevant information. We mentally simplify the task and likely oversimplify the results. Further, judging intuitively or consciously, our judgments are subject to unconscious biases, blind spots, and limitations of working memory. When time permits and judgments are important, such as with national security decisions or actions involving the major investments of money, we should break down the complex problem with an established and accepted method that makes the judgment more manageable and more rigorous. The method puts us in control and decreases the probability of error. Moreover, using an analytic method trains the analyst for time-critical situations. It helps develop the right intuitions, so we can make better high-speed judgments.
The Structured Geospatial Analytical Method (SGAM) is offered to solve the problems mentioned above. The method is organized into two major loops:
- a foraging loop aimed at seeking information, searching and filtering it, and reading and extracting information, and
- a sensemaking loop that involves iterative development of a mental model from the schema that best fits the evidence.
The foraging loop recognizes that analysts tend to forage for data by beginning with a broad set of data and then proceed to narrow that set down into successively smaller, higher-precision sets of data, before analyzing the information. The three foraging actions of exploring for new information, narrowing the set of items that has been collected, and exploiting items in the narrowed set tradeoff against one another under deadline or data overload constraints. It is important to note that much geospatial intelligence work never departs the foraging loop and simply consists of extracting information and repackaging it without much actual analysis. In a sense, this is the development of tactical intelligence. Tactical intelligence is the art and science of determining what the opposition is doing, or might do, to prevent the accomplishment of your mission. It is used to support immediate decision making related to operational planning and execution.
Sensemaking is the ability to make sense of an ambiguous situation; it is creating situational awareness and understanding in situations of high complexity or uncertainty in order to make decisions. It is "a motivated, continuous effort to understand connections (which can be among people, places, and events) in order to anticipate their trajectories and act effectively" (Klein, G., Moon, B. and Hoffman, R.F. 2006. Making sense of sensemaking. IEEE Intelligent Systems, 21(4), 70-73. ). In a sense, this is the development of strategic intelligence. Strategic intelligence is information that is required for forming policy and plans at the national and international level. The information needed for strategic intelligence comes from Open Source material.
The below figure represents the Structured Geospatial Analytic Process derived from and incorporating aspects of both Heuer's Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH) and Pirolli and Card's sensemaking process. This is a generalized view of the geospatial analysis process that fits within the larger intelligence process. The rectangular boxes represent analytic activities. The arrows represent the flow from one activity to the next. The activities are arranged by degree of effort and degree of information structure. The overall analytic method has back loops. One set of activities focuses around finding information and another set of activities focuses on making sense of the information.
The diagram summarizes how an analyst comes up with new information. The data flow shows the transformation of information as it flows from raw information to reportable results through the following steps:
Step 1: Question. Developing the question is a two-way interface between the client requiring information and the geospatial analyst supplying it. Critically, the question defines the broad nature of the spatial and temporal patterns the analyst is seeking to ultimately identify.
Step 2: Grounding and Team Building. Grounding is the raw evidence that reaches the analyst. Grounding is building a potential repertoire of prototypical geospatial and temporal patterns from which a number of hypothetical (possible alternative) patterns will selected. Step 2 is where the analytic team is formed.
Step 3: Hypothesis Development. Hypotheses are the tentative representation of conclusions with supporting arguments. This step involves selecting all the reasonably possible geospatial and temporal patterns that might match the pattern envisioned during the development of your question.
Step 4: Evidence Development. Evidence refers to snippets extracted from items discovered in the grounding. Development of the evidence includes developing and applying Schemas, which are the representation or organized marshaling of the information so that it can be used more easily to draw conclusions. This includes developing a smaller subset, which Pirolli and Card call the "shoebox", of the data that is relevant for processing. Much of geospatial intelligence work never departs the foraging loop (Steps 1-4) and simply consists of extracting information and repackaging it without much actual analysis. In short, evidence is the development and accumulation of all facts to reject the hypothetical geospatial and temporal patterns determined in Step 3. GIS assists in the development and accumulation of the facts.
Step 5: Fusion. The multimodal (graphical and text) nature of geospatial intelligence data analysis, which is used to reduce the influence of unreliable sources, is essentially a fusion process. Fusion in this step uses the ACH process to combine graphical and textual data, to achieve inferences, which will be more efficient and potentially more accurate than if they were achieved by means of a single source. Simply put, the fusion process is the comparing of the evidence to each hypothetical geospatial and temporal pattern to determine consistency.
Step 6: Conclusions. The conclusion is a proposition about which hypothetical pattern(s) is (are) most consistent with the evidence and answers the question. Ultimately there is a presentation or other work product.
Basically, the data flow represents the converting of raw information into a form where expertise can be applied, and then converted out to another form suited for communication. Information processing can be driven by bottom-up processes (from data to theory) or top-down (from theory to data). The bottom-up process is as described in steps 1 through 6. The top down process is slightly different in that it follows the sequence of:
- Evaluate conclusion. Inquiries from clients or indicators from signposts may generate re-evaluations of the current conclusions developed by an analyst requiring the marshaling of additional evidence to support or disconfirm the analysis or the generation and testing of alternative outcome.
- Deconstruct the synthesis. Re-examine the table of hypothesis and evidence beginning with the rankings.
- Examine the evidence. Re-examination of collected evidence or the searches for new evidence. Search for nuggets of information that may suggest new geospatial or temporal patterns that generate hypotheses about plausible relations among entities and events.
- Re-evaluate the hypotheses. Looking for new hypotheses may generate new searches, further data extraction or a search for additional raw data.
- Question your grounding in the problem. New hypotheses may cause analysts to broaden their grounding in prototypical geospatial and temporal patterns.
- Question the question. Revalidate with the client the nature of the geospatial and temporal patterns the analyst is ultimately seeking to identify. Re-examine the process, use of tools, and quality.
The next several lessons will address the detailed aspects of each step within the process.
Students who excel in this course are able to:
- Critically assess the limits of automated analysis.
- Apply the basic Structured Analytic Techniques (SAT) that geospatial analysts in the domains of national security, law enforcement, and business can use to overcome mindsets, leverage their imagination, and instill rigor in their analysis.
- Apply the Structured Geospatial Analytic Method.
- Describe how organizations make decisions and how best to include geospatial information.
- Use acquired knowledge and critical thinking skills to solve a real-world problem using the appropriate Structured Analytic Techniques.
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). All (other) materials needed for this course are presented online through our course website and in Canvas. In order to access the online materials, you need to have 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.
Obtaining Verification of Enrollment
Special pricing on textbooks and software is available to GEOINT students. Verification of enrollment will be required by several of the vendors.
- Before proceeding with textbook or software purchase, please visit the Penn State Office of the University Registrar's website.
- Follow the link labeled "Verify Enrollment/Degree Immediately."
- Using the form provided, enter either your Social Security number or your Penn State ID to access your enrollment verification. (If you do not know your Penn State ID number, please contact World Campus Student Services at 800-252-3592 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
- Save an electronic copy of the resulting enrollment verification.
There is no required textbook for this course.
A number of software packages will be used for activities throughout the course. Please refer to the "Technology Requirements" section on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page and to the GeoIntel Program and Course Technical Specifications page to verify that your computer meets the minimum specifications. All of the course software is approved by the vendors for use with VISTA and Windows XP. Some students have attempted to run course software on an Apple computer using a Windows operating system emulator. Neither the software vendors nor the Dutton e-Education Institute provides technical support for this configuration.
You need administrative rights on your computer in order to properly install the course software.
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
Please see Grades tab in Canvas for a complete listing of the course activities and the associated point distributions.
General List of Project Tasks and Deliverables:
- Lesson 2 – Project organization
- Deliverable: Your team's organization (or preparation for individual work).
- Deliverable: An initial list of possible analytic questions.
- Lesson 5 – Problem statement and application of an Imaginative Thinking Technique
- Deliverable: A succinct statement of the question you are investigating.
- Deliverable: A summary of your use and results of an imaginative thinking technique.
- Lesson 6 - Application of a Diagnostic Technique
- Deliverable: A summary of your use and results of a Diagnostic Technique.
- Lesson 7 – Summary of the application of ACH and tentative conclusions
- Deliverable: A summary of your use of the Analysis of Competing Hypothesis (ACH) technique and the tentative conclusions.
- Lesson 8 – Analyst challenge exercise
- Deliverable: Summarize the use of a Contrarian Technique and your results.
- Lesson 10 – Finalize conclusions and develop milestones for future observation.
- Deliverable: A presentation of approximately 20 minutes in length or a 5 page paper.
Acceptable discussion participation:
- Offers solid analysis, without prompting, to move the discussion forward
- Demonstrates a deep knowledge of the topic and the question
- Actively "listening" to other participants
- Offers clarification and/or follow-up that extends the conversation
- Remarks often refer back to specific parts of the text
Unacceptable discussion participation:
- Offers little commentary
- Is ill-prepared with little understanding of the text and question
- Offers no commentary to further the discussion
- Distracts the group by offering off-topic questions and comments
- Ignores the discussion
Letter grades will be based on the following percentages:
|A||90.0% or above|
|F||59.9% or below|
Class participation will be considered in grading for those whose final course grade is close to the next letter grade.
All activity grades in GEOG 885 are posted to Grades in Canvas. To view your grades during the semester, do the following:
- Log into Canvas.
- Access the space for this class.
- Click on the Grades tab.
GEOG 885 Course Schedule
Below you will find a summary of the learning activities for this course.
At the end of this lesson you will be able to:
|Assignments:||Participate in a personal introduction discussion forum.|
At the end of this lesson you will be able to:
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At the end of lessons 5, 6 & 7 you will be able to:
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At the end of lessons 7 you will be able to:
By the end of this lesson you will have:
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For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the Dutton Institute 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).
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.
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.
This course follows Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Guidelines. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting others' work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other students' papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's Academic Integrity training.
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.
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
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.
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:
- Penn State Affirmative Action Nondiscrimination Statement
- Policy AD 85 Sexual and/or Gender-Based Harassment and Misconduct, Title IX
- Policy AD91 Discrimination and Harassment, and Related Inappropriate Conduct
- Penn State Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Penn State Values
- Penn State Principles
- All In at Penn State: A Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
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.