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ENMT 307 7980 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) (2202)ENMT-307

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Course Description

An introduction to the basic concepts of geographic information systems (GIS). The aim is to apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills to address current environmental challenges using GIS software and develop skills in framing problems; selecting data; creating and building databases; editing, analyzing and presenting data in a spatial context; and interpreting results.

Course Introduction

As the title of this course (Introduction to Geographic Information Systems) indicates, you will learn the basic principles and concepts of geographic systems. Additionally, you will learn how to perform basic operations using a vendor package and explore how this technology enhances and facilitates the special analysis of data for decision making. Applied projects are the main thrust of this introductory GIS course. You will learn by doing.

Initial topics will provide an overview of the definition of a GIS, data structures, spatial data transformations, projections, continuous versus discrete data types, and the history of GIS development. The course continues with a presentation of concepts such as map creation, display, import, data services, metadata, file types, GIS as a decision-making tool, projections of data, editing and addition of data, data clipping, many to one, one to many, overlay analysis, and GIS as a modeling tool. You will compile datasets and analyze them as well as decide upon and use selection criteria for running queries. Different applications of GIS and the differences between GIS (science) versus GIS (systems) will be examined. The course will use vendor software applications to provide hands-on experience.

Course Outcomes

After completing this course, you should be able to

  1. identify and justify appropriate applications of GIS
  2. apply the different functions of GIS software to create and interpret various spatial data representations in order to facilitate decision making

Course Materials

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Class Guidelines

Faculty Contact Information

Important Course Materials Information


 Helpful Course Resources

A. Orientation to Science Courses
Science Learning Center (SLC). You can enter this site from the left-hand side navigation bar under Course Content. The SLC houses a set of instructional and support materials of use across the science curriculum. Currently, the SLC houses two items:

    The Scientific Method Tutorial: This module provides an excellent description of the scientific method. This method is integral to all science, and is important for our course.

    The Science Studies Tutorial: This piece is designed to provide students with some tips and strategies for taking a science course. Some of the strategies in this unit are generic and apply to students' general study habits for all courses. Other segments of the unit are specific to taking a science course. This unit is short and should not take more than 30 to 40 minutes to complete. I recommend that you read the unit during the first couple of weeks of the semester. If you have difficulty with science, then the Science Study Skills Unit is a must-read.

B. Orientation to College Writing
College Writing Essentials
UMGC Writing Resources

You can access helpful writing resources through UMGC's Effective Writing Center (EWC).
The EWC provides excellent information for improving your writing skills, writing a paper, incorporating citation formats, and many other writing skills.

UMGC Assignment Calculator
The Research Assignment Calculator for Time management of your research papers.
C. Library Guide for the Sciences
D. Additional Academic Support
Tips for Success
You may also find it useful to:

Student Participation Expectations

Time Commitment

As you read the syllabus, you will recognize that this course requires active student participation. For each credit hour for this course, you can expect to spend a minimum of two to three hours out of class. For example, for a three-credit course, you should ideally devote a minimum of 6-9 hours to the course each week. One exception to this rule is one-credit  laboratory courses, where you can also expect to devote a minimum of 6-9 hours to course work each week.

Study and Work Habits

Summing Up a Successful Online Student.
An online course places more responsibility on the student (and subsequently more independence) than a face-to-face course.
Therefore, a successful online student must exercise more self-discipline than a face-to-face student.
A successful online student is one who:

Grading Information and Criteria

Meeting deadlines is crucial for success in professional, personal, and community work.  You may read at your own pace, but online participation, homework problems, quizzes, and final exam must adhere to the timetable given in the Course Schedule.  

The academic schedule in this Syllabus is referenced to Eastern Time Zone (local time at Adelphi, MD).  No late online participation, assignments, quizzes and final exam will be accepted.  Note that assignments and quizzes do have an automatic 24 hours grace period. As noted in the syllabus, if you need more than the 24-hours grace period, please ask prior to the due date, and we will work something out.

You are expected to submit your own work for all assignments, discussions, quizzes, and exams.  Submitted assignments, quizzes, and exams that are highly similar in content and presentation will be considered suspect and will be questioned.  No credit will be given for plagiarism.  Please refer to UMGC Policy on Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism (  Please visit UMGC's Academic Integrity webpage ( for further information.

Guideline for Receiving Tutoring Service

We fully appreciate that many of our students may seek tutoring services to supplement our instructional program.  However, it should be understood that tutors may not be used to complete any portion of assignments, projects, quizzes, exams and final exam on behalf of our students.  Students are expected to submit their own work. Students who are suspected of submitting the work of their tutors will be reported to the Dean’s Office for potential investigation in accordance to UMGC’s academic policy on Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism (

If you are to receive tutoring services, please inform your tutor of this expectation and be sure to clarify your tutor’s role and responsibility to your academic endeavors at UMGC.

This course consists of the following graded items:

Participation in Module Discussion (7 discussions x 3% each) 21%
Workbook Lessons (8 lessons x 6.5% each) 52%
FINAL PROJECT: Putting Your GIS Knowledge to Work (submit to the Drop Box and to Module 8 Discussion)

    PART 1 – Planning Phase (3%)
    PART 2 – Final Report and Map(s) (21%)
    PART 3 – Submission and Discussion (3%)

*You must score a 65% or greater on all 8 of the Workbook Lessons in order to be allowed to complete the Final Project.
Total 100%

Do not ask me to “round” your grade up to a higher letter.

Calculating Your Final Grade

Final Grade = (0.21*Discussion average) + (0.52* Workbook Lesson average) + (0.03*Final Project part 1 grade) + (0.21*Final Project part 2 grade) + (0.03*Final Project part 3 grade)

All grades are calculated MATHEMATICALLY and are unrelated to student professed confidence and good intentions.

Due Dates

Please see the Course Schedule for due dates for all assignments.    Each week this class will run from 12:00 am Mondays through 11:59 pm on Sundays.  All assignments are due by 11:59:59 pm (Eastern Time, ET) on the due date. Please monitor your time wisely and pace yourself as NO LATE ASSIGNMENTS WILL BE ACCEPTED unless approved by your instructor PRIOR to the due date.  If an assignment is not received by 11:59 pm on the due date and prior arrangements have not been made, the grade will be recorded as a zero.

Discussion Participation

By registering for a web-based course, you have made a commitment to participate in your course discussions as well as other online activities. Please plan to participate regularly. Participation for this course is defined as proactive discussion in weekly discussion forums and discussion questions. This requires you to actively reflect on weekly module and textbook readings and to develop original ideas
in your responses. You are expected to demonstrate critical thinking and your understanding of the content in the assigned readings as they relate to the issues identified in the discussion area. You are expected to make your own contribution in a main topic as well as respond with value-added comments to at least two of your classmates. You are encouraged to respond to other students as well as to your instructor. You will note in the grading policy that your online discussion participation counts significantly toward your final grade.
You are expected to adhere to the general rules of online etiquette. To prepare to use the online discussions, you should read the notes on LEO Participation and Online Etiquette. Keep those notes handy; you may need to refer to them during the semester.

To receive full credit for weekly participation, you must:

Late Policy

Illness, death, family emergency situations, and TDYs (for military members) are part of our lives and if they occur during the course I do not intent to penalize you for them. It is your responsibility, when you think things are in danger of getting out of hand, to keep me informed about what is going on, what the problem is, and how long it will interfere with your ability to concentrate and participate in the course. I am certain that, in most cases, some sort of accommodation can be reached that will allow you to continue and complete the course, but I must know what is going on. I have to hear about such difficulties before any deadlines are reached, let alone exceeded. You can always contact me by e-mail, provide appropriate documentation that confirms an emergency, and we can likely work something out.

All late submissions that have not been pre-announced will receive 10% deductions for each week after the due date.  For example, if you submit an assignment three days after the due date, it is within the first late week after the due date. If you originally score 9 points, the assignment will be reduced to 8.1 points.

Attendance Policy & Make-up Work

Unexcused Absences from the LEO Classroom

Weekly discussions, workbook lessons, and final projects cannot be made up if you have an unexcused absence.  Therefore, I expect you to participate completely.  If you choose to avoid the LEO classroom for reasons other than a documented medical emergency, court date, death in family, or participation in military duties, you will receive a grade of zero (0) for all work missed— including any discussions, workbook lessons, or projects.

Excused Absences from the LEO Classroom

In order to be considered excused from a weekly discussion, workbook lesson, or project, you must inform me by email BEFORE the absence, and you must submit documentation to me via email immediately after.  Please note that you are allowed only ONE WEEK to make up an assignment from an excused absence.  If the work is not made up within that time frame, you will receive a grade of zero.  Examples of excused absences include: documented medical emergency, court date, death in family, or participation in military duties.

You MUST contact me and tell me what is going on in order for me to excuse you from course-related activities (this includes having computer problems!).  If you disappear from the classroom and fail to tell me what is going on, I will assume it is unexcused.  Please note, this is a computer/software-intense course.  Any absences are likely to impede your progress, and therefore, your grade.


Occasionally, through the course of the semester, either the instructor or a student struggles with a home power outage as a result of severe weather.  In the event of a power outage, please try to contact me via my UMUC email (if you have a smartphone) to inform me of your situation.  Also, if your power is out for several days, please inform me as soon as your power is restored.  Together we will arrange a personal makeup-work schedule for you to get back on track.  You will be required to adhere to the makeup schedule or standard grade penalties will apply.

Project Descriptions

 Workbook Lessons

Learning any new software package takes time and effort.  This is a hands-on class with 8 workbook lessons (exercises) that are the foundation of your GIS exposure.  The basics of creating, storing, analyzing, and displaying data are demonstrated as you tackle a single, multifaceted problem: that of finding a suitable location for a park by the Los Angeles River in Los Angeles, California.  Using real spatial data and realistic requirements, you’ll complete all the essential phases of a GIS analysis project from planning, to execution, to follow-up.

To assess your progress, corresponding lesson assessments (answer sheets) will be available in the weekly module for you to download and fill out.  You will type your answers and paste screen shots directly into this MS Word document, and you will submit this completed document as an attachment to the appropriate drop box.  Some workbook lessons may require additional files to be submitted to the drop box as well.  Workbook lessons must be completed and submitted in chronological order.  YOU CANNOT SKIP WORKBOOK LESSONS BECAUSE THEY EACH BUILD ON THE PROCEEDING LESSON.

    Note, I will accept file submissions in any of the following formats: PDF, DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, RTF, TXT
    Map formats accepted: PDF, JPG, TIF, PNG
    File formats NOT accepted: PAGES, MXD, APRX

Lesson assessment grading rubrics (point values per question) are already included in each MS Word document answer sheet.

The primary teaching philosophy used in this course is to “learn through practice”.  You will notice that the majority of your course grade comes from workbook lessons.*  Since ArcGIS is the best and most widely used GIS software, we will “immerse” ourselves into ArcGIS with each lesson.  Here are some workbook lesson tips to keep in mind throughout the semester:
We will be completing the following workbook lessons this semester:

    Lesson 1: Frame the problem and explore the study area
    Lesson 2: Preview data
    Lesson 3: Choose the data
    Lesson 4: Build the database
    Lesson 5: Edit data
    Lesson 6: Conduct the analysis
    Lesson 7: Automate the analysis
    Lesson 8: Present analysis results

*You must score a 65% or greater on all 8 of the workbook lessons in order to be allowed to complete the Final Project.  If you score below a 65% on one or more workbook lesson, you will not be allowed to complete the Final Project and will receive a grade of zero for the Final Project (27% of your grade).

Final Project

This course will not require a proctored, final exam.  Instead, this course will require a final applied project that addresses the core concepts of the course by requiring you to apply your knowledge of GIS to a given scenario.  

FINAL PROJECT: Putting Your GIS Knowledge to Work

The final assessment for this course is in the form of an Authentic Assessment (AA) where the skills acquired throughout the course will be applied to analyze data, create appropriate maps, discuss the results, and make sound interpretations of the data.

Throughout your final project, you will:

    Synthesize the skills you have learned to collect new data, create new data, explore new tools, and employ previously introduced tools to investigate spatial relationships.
    Provide opportunities for creative exploration through challenges that are not paired with explicit instructions.

“Project planning can be broken down into three categories: questions, methods, and data.
The first step involves formulating questions.  While everything happens somewhere, when does location matter?  Some would argue that location always matters, but it often depends on the relationships you are investigating.
The next step involves determining which methodologies will be most appropriate for answering the questions.  Each type of analysis will require a specific type of data.  Some require vector data, others raster data, and others require both.  Remember, all projections cause some kind of distortion.  The type of distortion you will tolerate will be heavily influenced by the type of analysis you plan to execute.
The last step involves finding the appropriate data to support the analysis that has been carefully chosen to answer the questions.  At this point, you may find that the data necessary for the analysis is unavailable, leading you back to the drawing board.  Project planning is a process” (Indy, Hurt.  GIS Exercise Workbook).

Perhaps you are not sure what you want to ask yet.  Perhaps you just want to explore information available to you.  “Exploratory data analysis can be completed in the opposite direction.  Starting from the data, you can perform several types of analysis that result in spatial distributions that must be explained.  Exploratory data analysis may reveal distributions that inspire additional analysis or they may help you zero in on an area of interest where additional data should be collected” (Indy, Hurt.  GIS Exercise Workbook).

You will be developing and exploring your own unique project idea.
It is strongly recommended that you A) keep things simple, B) find your data first (before you commit to a topic), C) consider using data that you downloaded for practice during the previous weeks, and D) strive to create a professional-quality map(s) to showcase your project.

There are three parts to your Final Project.

The total final project is worth 27% of your final course grade. 
See the Final Project Grading Rubric below for a detailed breakdown of each of the three parts. 
Specific map requirements are listed in the Final_Project_pt2.doc.

Part 1: Planning Phase
Worth 3% of Final Grade
Due by Thursday (11:59 pm ET), Week 7
Submit via Drop Box
1)  Questions 20 points
2)  Data resources 20 points
3)  Data preparation 15 points
4)  Tools and analysis 15 points
5)  Presenting data 15 points
6)  Predictions 15 points
TOTAL 100 points
Part 2: Final Report and Map(s)
Worth 21% of Final Grade
Due by Thursday (11:59 pm ET), Week 8
Submit via Drop Box and
Post in Module 8 Discussion
1)  What did you do? 15 points
2)  How did you do it? 10 points
3)  What did you learn? 15 points
4) Problems 10 points
See Final_Project_pt2.doc for requirements
Must be produced using ArcGIS Pro
50 points
TOTAL 100 points
Part 3: Submission and Discussion
Worth 3% of Final Grade
Due by Sunday (11:59 pm ET), Week 8
Post in Module 8 Discussion
Discuss classmate’s reports and maps
At least two secondary posts are required
Post in the Module 8 Discussion
Posts must be at least 100 words long
Use correct grammar and spelling

TOTAL 100 points
TOTAL: 27% of Final Grade

*You must score a 65% or greater on all 8 of the workbook lessons in order to be allowed to complete the Final Project.  If you score below a 65% on one or more workbook lessons, you will not be allowed to complete the Final Project and will receive a grade of zero for the Final Project (27% of your grade).

Academic Policies


University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) has adopted a Philosophy of Academic Integrity to guide the university’s commitment to a culture of academic integrity and authentic education encompassing a set of dispositions and behaviors that are socially beneficial, educationally critical, and professionally necessary.

All members of the University community must maintain the highest level of integrity across the academic experience. For students, intellectually honest academic work represents independent analysis, acknowledges all sources of information that contribute to the ideas being explored, and ensures the ability to engage in life and work authentically. Your instructor is your primary resource for how to uphold the highest ethical standards in the context of this course’s specific requirements.  

Your instructor and other UMGC staff may use Turnitin or other technology resources to support the development and assessment of authentic student writing. To learn more about Turnitin, the feedback it provides, and your options regarding the inclusion of your work in the Turnitin database, visit University guides for Turnitin at and

Additional resources to support you in authentic learning are available at


Students are expected to work together cooperatively, and treat fellow students and faculty with respect, showing professionalism and courtesy in all interactions.  Please review the Code of Civility for more guidance on interacting in UMGC classrooms:


UMGC is committed to ensuring that all individuals are treated equally according to Policy 040.30 Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity, and Sexual Harassment.

Students with disabilities who need accommodations in a course are encouraged to contact the Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) at, or call 800-888-8682 or 240-684-2287.

The following academic policies and procedures apply to this course and your studies at UMGC.


Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism - The University expects all members of the university community—students, faculty, and staff—to share the responsibility and authority to report known acts of academic misconduct. Report suspected academic misconduct to your instructor. All cases of academic misconduct will be addressed in accordance with Policy 150.25.

This policy also states that faculty may determine if the resubmission of coursework from previous classes (whether or not taken at UMGC), partially or in its entirety, is acceptable or unacceptable. Faculty communicate these expectations to students in writing. If you are unclear about the reuse of your prior work, consult with your instructor.


Code of Student Conduct




The following policies describe the requirements for the award of each degree:

Degree Completion Requirements for the Graduate School

Degree Completion Requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree

Degree Completion Requirements for an Associate’s Degree


Policy on Grade of Incomplete - The mark of I is exceptional and considered only for certain courses. Students who have completed 60% of their coursework with a grade of B or better for graduate courses or C or better for undergraduate courses and request an I before the end of the term. The mark of I is not available for noncredit courses.


Course Withdrawal Policy - Students must follow drop and withdrawal procedures and deadlines available at under Academic Calendar.


Procedures for Review of Alleged Arbitrary and Capricious Grading – appeals may be made on final course grades as described herein.


Intellectual Property  - All university faculty, staff, and students must comply with University guidelines on the use of copyrighted material. Uploading UMGC or faculty copyrighted material without authorization degrades and corrupts the integrity of the teaching and learning experience and is a potential violation of UMGC policy and copyright law. You must obtain permission to post UMGC or other's copyrighted material to third-party websites, including social learning network sites. UMGC reserves the right to take appropriate action to remove copyrighted material uploaded without authorization.


Calculation Of Grade-Point Average (GPA) for Inclusion on Transcripts and Transcript Requests - Note: Undergraduate and graduate courses have different Grading Policies.  See Course Syllabus for Grading Policies.


Acceptable Use - The security of the online classroom is critical to ensuring a strong culture of academic integrity and authentic education at the University. It is a violation of the University’s policies for anyone to share logon, password, and any other secure information about a UMGC online account, including credentials required to access the online learning environment.


According to UMGC's grading policy, the following marks are used:
      Undergraduate     Graduate
A      90-100      90-100
B      80-89      80-89
C      70-79      70-79*
D      60-69      N/A**
F      59 or below      69 or below
FN      Failure-Non attendance      Failure-Non attendance
G      Grade Pending      Grade Pending
P      Passing      Passing
S      Satisfactory      Satisfactory
U      Unsatisfactory      Unsatisfactory
I      Incomplete      Incomplete
AU      Audit      Audit
W      Withdrew      Withdrew

* The grade of "B" represents the benchmark for graduate courses. Students must maintain a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher. Classes where final grade of C or F places a student on Academic Probation must be repeated.
** UMGC does not award the grade of D in graduate courses.


UMGC values its students' feedback. You will be asked to complete an online evaluation toward the end of the term. The primary purpose of this evaluation process is to assess the effectiveness of classroom instruction in order to provide the best learning experience possible and make continuous improvements to every class. Responses are kept confidential. Please take full advantage of this opportunity to provide your feedback.


Extensive library resources and services are available online, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at to support you in your studies.  The UMGC Library provides research assistance in creating search strategies, selecting relevant databases, and evaluating and citing resources in a variety of formats via its Ask a Librarian service at


This course may contain links to external sites neither owned nor maintained by UMGC. UMGC bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of external sites or for that of subsequent links. In addition, the terms of use, security policies, and privacy policies may differ from those of UMGC. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content, terms of use, and policies.


Those requiring technical assistance can access Help@UMGC Support directly in LEO under the Help menu.  Additional technical support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week via self-help and live chat at or by phone toll-free at 888-360-UMUC (8682).


All items on this syllabus are subject to change at the discretion of the Instructor and the Office of Academic Affairs.
Class & Assignment Schedule

Please note that in setting due dates and times for classroom assignments, the Eastern Time Zone (ET) is used in the schedule and class calendar.  To see how your local time zone aligns with Easter Time Zone (New York time), please see world clock at:

Our "weeks" run from Tuesday to Monday.

Week 1 – Module 1 – What is GIS? (Mar 16-23)

Due Dates:

Week 2 – Module 2 – Spatial Data and Projections (Mar 24-30)

Due Dates:

Week 3 – Module 3 – GIS Data Formats and Data Quality (Mar 31 – Apr 6)

Due Dates:

Week 4 – Module 4 – Spatial Analysis (Apr 7-13)

Due Dates:

Week 5 – Module 5 – Network Analysis and ModelBuilder (Apr 14-20)

Due Dates:

Week 6 – Module 6 – Map Making (Apr 21-27)

Due Dates:

Week 7 – Module 7 – Maps and GIS in Action (Apr 28 – May 4)

Due Dates:

Week 8 – Module 8 – Final Projects (May 5-10)

Due Dates:
*Please note, this schedule is subject to revision at any time, and I will notify you of any changes.             

**Our "weeks" run from Tuesday to Monday                                    

***Last day to withdrawal from this course is April 20, 2020.