Fall 2022 - GEOG 255 D100

Geographical Information Science I (3)

Class Number: 2888

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 10:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    SSCC 9000, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 7, 2022
    3:30 PM – 6:30 PM
    AQ 3005, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    GEOG 100 or 111 or permission of instructor.



A basic overview of Geographical Information Systems and Science; GIS software, hardware, data structures and models; spatial data, operations and algorithms; practical applications and limitations. Students with credit for GEOG 354 may not take this course for further credit. Quantitative.


COURSE DETAILS                                                                                                                                                                        

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Geographic Information Science (GIScience) cover a wide range of topics surrounding the measurement, characterization, data representation, visualization and analysis of spatial phenomena.

GIS software and hardware are pivotal tools used by scientists, natural resource managers, urban planners, government agencies, environmental monitoring groups, crime analysts, forestry and agriculture, and many fields where spatial data are key. Given the proliferation of spatial data and technology throughout business, research and society, it is not surprising that demand for people skilled with GIS has increased. More jobs are created in GIS than any other field of Geography, and the market continues to grow.

The power of GIS hardware and software is maximized by people who understand geographical information science. This includes: how to conceptualize spatial phenomena; how to observe and record phenomena with multiple data capture methods; understanding how to integrate different forms of spatial data; the analyses you can perform; the analytical visualizations you can produce; the spatial narratives you can communicate; and the value you can deliver to research, business and society. In short, the there is an increasing need for GIS users who are more than just capable at using software and hardware – but who have high quality GIScience ‘brainware’.

This course is designed for, and welcomes students with a wide variety of interests, and provides a solid foundation for excellence in GIScience and GIS. We will cover key concepts and considerations that underpin the use of GIS and spatial data use, spatial analysis and map production, with a set of practical GIS training labs, applied to different topics. GEOG 255 has been updated for Fall 2022. The theme for Fall 2022 is open access GIS for everyone.

COURSE COMPONENTS (see next page for more detail)                                                                                                    

Weekly presentation of concepts, technology, methods, applications, and critical reflection of them

Weekly Lab with TA (incl. Weekly Lab exercise introduction and instructions)

A set of Lab assignments

Weekly office hours with Professor (by appointment)

Weekly  office hours with TA

One midterm and one final exam

Final project

COURSE DELIVERY - LECTURES, LABS AND EXAMS                                                                                                      


Weekly lectures will provide a narrative of GIScience ideas, concepts, methods and perspective. In each episode, GIScience concepts, methods will be introduced, explained, demonstrated, discussed and sometimes critiqued. You will also be introduced to GIS project management skills. The material/topics/issues or examples covered in weekly episodes will form the core of midterm and final exams.

I will also make available a set of previously recorded videos, made during the remote version of this class. These will be accessible/downloadable from our online class platform (Canvas), allowing asynchronous viewing/ playback/pausing/viewing/review control for everyone, to suit each student’s personal schedule.

Office hours and discussion

It is also essential, however, that you (my students!) can benefit from live discussion and clarification of lecture topics and questions. Therefore, I will also host weekly office hours/discussion during office hours. These meetings will use my, er, office, and/or Zoom where necessary.


Once a week you will have assigned lab training activities, where you will work through a sequence of exercises that introduce you to GIS software use. There is a strong resonance between lab topics and the GIScience narrative in lecture, but understand that the sequence of labs are not intended to match the lectures exactly. Think of them as a foundation in GIS software training, whose progression runs parallel to lectures, and is informed by the ideas, concepts and perspectives discussed in lecture.

In each lab you will: i) work through selected applied methods identified in lecture and lab; ii) apply principles you have learned to data sets; and iii) answer a brief set of questions related to the GIS operations you have just completed. We will also introduce you to GPS use for field data collection in GIS work, and the use of numerous digital data formats. There will be a lab introduction in Week 1. Tutorials begin Week 2. Lab training will be made primarily via live lab meetings. Any support materials or recorded material will be posted on Canvas.

Our primary software will be QGIS – a leading open-source GIS platform. (I reserve the right to also show examples using ArcGIS, another key GIS software platform).Our GIS labs are conducted as in-person sessions in physical computing labs, with software installed on PCs.

Exams (midterm and final) will be in-person and synchronous (i.e. all students will take the exam during the respective scheduled class timeslot). The final exam will take place during scheduled final exam period.

FINAL PROJECT                                                                                                                                            

A key component of this course will be the production of a small but portfolio-quality applied GIS project. The final project enables you to integrate and demonstrate the GIS skills/methods (and GIScience thinking) you have learned, focused through one of a collection of applied thematic topics (designed/tuned to the interests of students in the course). Proactive planning and time management are important to produce a great project. Deliverables will be submitted digitally.


Technological expectations: to maximize opportunities to thrive/succeed, students should evaluate their computing resources (computer; internet access and bandwidth) that they will have access to for Fall 2022. I will poll students in Week 1 to make sure everyone has a feasible arrangement with which to successfully access/perform lab work, in combination with the scheduled lab sessions in our GIS computer labs.

Student conduct and integrity: We expect all students to hold themselves to the highest standards of scholarly practice and integrity. Your exams and GIS work should be completed by YOU and nobody else. We reserve the right to use plagiarism detection software. Here’s why you should not attempt to cheat in this remote course. Even if you get away with cheating on exams or deliverables now, it WILL come back to bite you in the future, when, despite getting a good grade in this or other remote courses, you don’t ‘know your stuff’ when it is put to the test in future courses, job interviews, or jobs. Do yourself a favor - thrive in this course through your own effort, a positive attitude, and with maximum integrity. There is certainly a learning curve with GIS, but you will gain skills and experience rapidly, once you get going with our guidance!

Recommended familiarity: For maximum benefit, students should be familiar and comfortable with the Windows desktop environment especially using files and folders in Windows and navigating to folders and files from within specific applications; Microsoft Excel or other spreadsheet software experience would be an asset.


EDUCATIONAL GOALS                                                                                                                                                        

This course will introduce you to what GIS and GIScience are. We will discuss key methods, key concepts and critical considerations/implications underpinning their use. Students will be introduced to using GIS software through practical training exercises. By the end of the course you will have developed a solid understanding of GIS and GIScience concepts, have working knowledge/experience of GIS software, and be able to design and perform a range of geographic analyses, and map production. You will have completed a set of technical labs, 2 exams and an independent GIS project.

It is my objective to provide opportunities for all types of student to find a path to build GIScience skills and knowledge - that aligns with their interests and objectives. In Fall 2022, I will be using some new content this (a range of software and data experiences; a range of applied examples; a range of exercises) designed to support folks who may have interests in physical landscapes, urban environments, transportation, archaeology, environmental mapping, human movement in space, crowdsourced data, mapping for social and environmental justice….and many other topics.


  • Lab deliverables/assignments: 30%
  • Remote Exam 1 (midterm): 20%
  • Remote Exam 2 (final): 30%
  • Final project: 20%





97 or higher























Recommended GIScience reference for GEOG255 and beyond: Geographic Information Systems and Science (4th edition, 2015). Paul A. Longley, Mike Goodchild, David J. Maguire, David W. Rhind. 496pp. Wiley. ISBN 978-1118676950

Free QGIS online documentation and support:

Additional readings will be recommended/provided as needed.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html