Spring 2022 - GEOG 255 D100

Geographical Information Science I (3)

Class Number: 4749

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 10 – Apr 11, 2022: Mon, 12:30–2:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 14, 2022
    Thu, 3:30–6:30 p.m.

  • 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 Spring 2022. The theme for Spring 2022 is open access GIS for everyone.

COURSE COMPONENTS (see next page for more detail)                                                                                                            

Weekly remote video Episodes

Weekly Unpack the Episode live video discussion/Q&A

Weekly Lab video exercise introduction and instructions

Weekly Remote Lab Q&A with TA

Remote online midterm and final exams

Final project

Course logistics for meaningful remote student experiences                                                                                                   


To continue a safe transition back to eventual face-to-face learning, GEOG 255 Spring 2022 will be delivered remotely. While this remoteness is critical to keeping everyone safe and healthy, I am determined that this course is meaningful, engaging, and worthwhile for all students and their education/training. In the following sections, the scope of the course components, and how they will work remotely, are described

COURSE DELIVERY - REMOTE LECTURES, LABS AND EXAMS                                                                                                      

Lectures as weekly Episodes

Weekly lectures will be delivered as asynchronous and synchronous video episodes via Zoom and accessible via Canvas. These episodes 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.

Producing them as online videos, means that they 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.

Weekly live discussion in Unpack the Episode

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 ‘Unpack the Episode’ live video discussion these will occur in a combinations of available lecture time and office hours. These meetings will use Zoom and/or Canvas BB collaborate Ultra.

Remote Labs

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 available as a combination of recorded guides and live session, made available as videos on Canvas, and Zoom sessions.


We will tune the lab/training to students’ computing/access context. 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).

Normally, our GIS labs are conducted as in-person sessions in physical computing labs, with software installed on PCs. In this remote context, computing will have to be done remotely. There are 2 options to achieve this:

Option 1: student uses off-campus computer to access SFU computing labs (and installed GIS software), via internet/VPN.

Option 2: students download and install a local copy of software on their personal machine. (QGIS runs on PC, Mac and Linux)

Remote Exams
There will be two exams: a midterm exam; and a final exam.


These exams will both be administered remotely, as online exams, delivered through Canvas. The schedule of the exams will be synchronous (i.e. all students will take the exam during the respective scheduled class timeslot).

The midterm (students allowed 1h45m up to complete) will take place (online) during scheduled lecture time in WK 5 or 6. The final exam (students allowed up to 2h45m to complete) will take place (online) during scheduled final exam period.

FINAL PROJECT                                                                                                                                            

A key component of this course will be the production of a small 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:
Given the need for remote computing in the ongoing COVID-19 transition, students should thoroughly evaluate the computing resources (computer; internet access and bandwidth) that they will have access to for Spring 2022. See details above. We will poll students in Week 1 to make sure everyone has a feasible arrangement with which to successfully access/perform lab work.

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.

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.

Spring 2022 courses will be delivered in person based on information available at the time of publishing the outline; please note the delivery mode is subject to change following Provincial Health Officer (PHO) and/or SFU recommendations and orders.


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.


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



A+ 97 or higher
A 91-96
A- 85-90
B+ 80-84
B 75-79
B- 70-74
C+ 65-69
C 60-64
C- 55-59
D 50-54
F 0-49



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.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site 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


Teaching at SFU in spring 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with safety plans in place.  Some courses will still be offered through remote methods, and if so, this will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the spring 2022 term.