Syllabus for GTECH 361

Geographic Information Science

Spring 2005

Tuesday and Friday 9:10 Ė 11:00 AM


Instructor: Jochen Albrecht

Office: Hunter N1030††††††††††††††††††††††††† Office hours:We, Th 2-3 PM

E-Mail:†††††††††† Phone: (212) 772-5221


TA: Pyung-Ho Kim†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† E-Mail:


Course Overview:

GIS has become common place in a multitude of disciplines. This course is special in that it not only teaches you how to use the most common GIS software but also provides you with the necessary background to understand how these software packages work. As a result, you should be able to use just about any other GIS software after completing this course.

GTECH 361 addresses both geography and students from other disciplines. Lecture examples, as well as hands-on exercises will cover a range of application areas. The course itself is divided into two equally important parts: lectures, which introduce the theory of GIScience, and lab exercises, which help you to familiarize yourself with many aspects of the software. The lectures discuss concepts, data, tools, and major aspects to assignments. The laboratory sessions introduce the geospatial data and software tools needed for accomplishing the assignments. The course utilizes a variety of resources, including the energy and creativity of students in the course.


Required textbook: none.

However, you might benefit from having a look at any the following:

  • Burke et al 2004. Getting to Know ArcGIS Desktop (updated for ArcGIS 9). ESRI Press (but a lot cheaper from Amazon)
  • Burrough, P and R McDonnell 1998. Principles of GIS. Oxford: Oxford University Press. For environmental science, biology, soil science, or landscape architecture students.
  • deMers, Michael 2004. Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems. New York: Wiley. The best general introduction for a geographic audience.
  • Worboys, M and M Duckham 2004. GIS: a computing perspective. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. Recommended for those with a mathematical or computer science background.


Pre- and co-requisites: GTECH 201.



Attendance is crucial. Given that the class-learning environment is active learning, meaning that most of the student performance is practical assignments rather than tests, adherence to protocols and the course timetable is very important. Lateness in arriving at class, both lectures and laboratory/discussion sections will not be tolerated. Active involvement in the course is evidenced in part by undertaking the mechanics of the practical assignments systematically, and learning the tools by hours of practice. In so doing the tools soon come to be seen as a means to an end, rather than the end itself. For example, you will make many maps, and may get caught up in this creative activity, but remember that the maps are being made for particular scientific purposes. Class participation includes timely attendance at laboratory sessions, participation in organized class discussions, accomplishments of in-class tasks, accomplishment of the preliminary assignment on time, and participation in the map poster display (if this is a part of the course this semester). Remember that a good part of your grade depends on class participation.

Plagiarism is simply not acceptable. Helping other students on use of the software is encouraged. However, do not help other students answer questions from the labs. Many of the problems have a "sample" problem, which includes the answer. The best way to help your fellow students is to work the sample problem. If a sample problem is not available, create an exercise similar to the problem in the lab and solve that problem. You can't actually learn this material unless you do the work yourself. Therefore, do not share your calculations or measurements with other students. You must do your own work (and it is easy to see when students copy work from other students). Students with labs showing copied work can receive failing grades.

Special accommodations for persons with disabilities are provided upon request. Please see the instructor if you feel the need for them.

Lab policies are described in detail in

Assignments are due one week after they are given in class. Late labs will be downgraded by one letter grade. Labs will not be accepted if greater than one week late. It is in your best interests to keep up with the work and meet deadlines for assignments. incomplete grades and time extensions are not an option for this course. There are no "extra-credit" assignments. Unless otherwise instructed, you will submit assignments in electronic form. For all labs, you are expected to show all the work you did in order to complete the assignment. It is more important how you did the work, than whether you got the right answer. Partial credit will be given for good work but incorrect results.


Criteria for evaluation:

Evaluation of your performance in this course will consider both lecture and laboratory components, using the following breakdown:

10 Quizzes (2% each)††††††††† 20%

Lab exercises (14 total) ††††† 50%

Midterm exam†††††††††††††††††††† 15%

Final exam†††††††††††††††††††††††† 15%



Class #





GIScience and GIStudies



Storing geographic information



Lab 1: Getting started with ArcGIS



Geographic data sources



Lab 2: Creating map symbology



Cartographic communication and geospatial visualization



Lab 3: Referencing data to real locations



Datums, projections, and coordinate systems



Lab 4: Organizing geographic data



Basic spatial queries



Lab 5: Creating and editing data



Secondary data



Lab 6: Exploring the geodatabases model



Midterm Exam



Lab 7: Creating a geodatabases



Advanced spatial queries



Lab 8: Creating and editing features in a geodatabases



The third dimension



Lab 9: Adding behavior to a geodatabase



Raster GIS and map algeba



Lab 10: Getting started with GIS analysis



Spatial statistics and data quality



Lab 11: Working with Geoprocessing and Modeling



GIS and society: social, legal, economic and organizational aspects



Lab 12: Designing maps with ArcGIS



Review and final exam preparation



Lab 13: Working with Labels



Lab 14: Working with Annotation



Final (online) Exam

Instructor expectations

Hunter College...

This is a place where students come to learn. Itís a place where knowledge is developed and hopefully itís a place where students can see and participate in its development. Unlike previous schooling you don't have to be here, so we'll assume that you want to be here and that you are here to actively seek knowledge and skills.

With assumptions that you are (a) here of your own free will and (b) are actively seeking to gain knowledge and skills, there is only one fuzzy area (for some) - how to succeed! Itís really quite simple: have fun. If you are enjoying what you are doing, you will succeed; if you are taking subjects or studying in a particular program and not enjoying it, you are unlikely to be successful.

A few words on success and enjoyment. Success is not just measured by your grade (but passing does help!), it is also measured by how you feel about what you are doing. You are the only person who can really judge whether you are successful - have you met your own expectations? Enjoyment does not necessarily mean stress free living (although maybe it is for some!). Taking only subjects that you were told were "easy" doesn't guarantee enjoyment; some of us require a challenge in life! Again, only you are in a position to determine what you find enjoyable.

A final thought on what a university is: this is also a place where faculty comes to learn...

GTECH 361 Geographic Information Science

Students: to be successful you should be taking this subject because you want to take it, not because someone told you that you need to take it and you must be actively seeking knowledge and skills. This subject is a good participation "sport", but itís not a really good spectator event. You need to be proactive, be able to try something new, look at things from a new (spatial) perspective, ask questions, read read read. You need to know when to take a break, get some fresh air, rest your eyes (a Buddhist philosophy is quite useful...). Attend the lectures and practical sessions. when your absence is unavoidable, make sure you catch up on what was missed. Plan your week as best as possible and make the commitment to spend the amount of time needed for you to be successful. get a study partner or three, if this works for you.

Faculty: to be successful, I need to know that I've "made a difference" to at least some of my students, i.e., they feel successful. I'll provide a coherent subject structure, I'll deliver the best lecture possible on the day, and pointers to resources where possible and my tutors and I will provide sound practical instruction and practice our listening skills so that we can understand what difficulties you may be having, so that we can resolve them. Furthermore, we are available and approachable; ask questions in lectures, labs and at other times; use our office hours or make appointments to see us. Faculty have shown disappointing prowess at extra-sensory perception, please help us out!

We often lecture in subjects we are considered to have some expertise in; we are therefore fairly interested in the subject matter. We too are students in that we are continuing to learn new things in our areas of expertise and sometimes we are the ones who develop new knowledge in our areas of expertise!

Theory vs. practice: in lectures I try to provide an overview of the most important knowledge, but this never replaces the reading material. sometimes lectures and readings will cover the same ground, but often, the best that can be done in some fourteen sessions is to provide just a "flavor" of the subject matter, something to whet your appetite, something to set the context for your readings.


The reason for this page of amateur pop psychology is two fold: (a) first I hope that prospective students take this subject for the right reasons (i.e. they believe that they will enjoy it) and are in the right frame of mind to be successful and (b) second, I hope that with a little mutual empathy the learning experience can be made better for both student and teacher. If we are not having fun, we are both doing something wrong!


I wish us a lot of fun in this course,