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Viewing: GIS 205 : Spatial Thinking with GIS

Last approved: Wed, 01 Jun 2016 08:18:17 GMT

Last edit: Fri, 27 May 2016 18:28:39 GMT

Catalog Pages referencing this course
Change Type
GIS (Geographic Information Systems)
Dual-Level Course
Cross-listed Course
Spatial Thinking with GIS
Spatial Thinking
College of Natural Resources
Parks, Recr & Tourism Mgmt (15PRT)
Term Offering
Spring Only
Offered Every Year
Spring 2017
Previously taught as Special Topics?
Course Prefix/NumberSemester/Term OfferedEnrollment
GIS 295Spring 201511
GIS 295Fall 20154
GIS 295Spring 20169
Course Delivery
Distance Education (DELTA)

Grading Method
Graded with S/U option
Contact Hours
(Per Week)
Component TypeContact Hours
Course Attribute(s)
GEP (Gen Ed)

If your course includes any of the following competencies, check all that apply.
University Competencies

Course Is Repeatable for Credit
Eric Shane Money
Teaching Assistant Professor

Open when course_delivery = campus OR course_delivery = blended OR course_delivery = flip
Open when course_delivery = distance OR course_delivery = online OR course_delivery = remote
Delivery FormatPer SemesterPer SectionMultiple Sections?Comments

Is the course required or an elective for a Curriculum?
SIS Program CodeProgram TitleRequired or Elective?
15NATREBSBachelor's of Science in Natural ResourcesElective
Spatial thinking and how it relates to the basic foundations of geospatial science and geographic information systems (GIS) are introduced. Students will learn to tell stories through maps using geographic information and geospatial data and analysis by applying spatial reasoning through a series of interactive assignments and discussions. Students will learn to define spatial problems and design solutions across a variety of disciplines, setting the stage for additional technical coursework in GIS and Geospatial Science.

At the undergraduate level, there is currently very limited opportunities for students to learn about GIS and geospatial science. The only other undergraduate course solely focused on GIS (GIS 410) deals strictly with learning the technical aspects of GIS software and its applications. 

There is a strong need at lower levels (Freshman, Sophomore, etc.) to introduce students to more general concepts surrounding spatial thinking and geospatial science to better prepare students for other GIS courses at NC State and beyond (such as GIS 410).  There is also strong interest in such a course from undergraduates and undergraduate curricula.

We have also proposed to allow this course to meet one of the Interdisciplinary Perspectives GEP requirements which will also give students more flexibility to enroll in this course early on in their undergraduate career. Geospatial Science and GIS is inherently interdisciplinary/multi-disciplinary, with applications across the natural and social sciences. Each discipline brings a unique perspective on the use of GIS and spatial thinking to solve domain-specific problems, in addition the development of geospatial thinking processes and geospatial technologies requires interdisciplinary input from mathematics/data sciences, natural sciences, engineering and computer science, and the social sciences. 

We have now offered this course as a special topics several times, and the overall feedback has been very positive. We limited enrollment to allow for ongoing course development based on student feedback, but we would now like to make it a permanent option for students. 

In addition to the overall need of GIS content at this level, we also hope that this course will serve as the building block for an eventual minor and/or undergraduate certificate in GIS down the road, alongside some existing courses and new courses under development. This is something that many students have expressed interest in and this course would go a long way in achieving that goal. 


Is this a GEP Course?
GEP Categories
Interdisciplinary Perspectives
Humanities Open when gep_category = HUM
Each course in the Humanities category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:






Mathematical Sciences Open when gep_category = MATH
Each course in the Mathematial Sciences category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:




Natural Sciences Open when gep_category = NATSCI
Each course in the Natural Sciences category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:




Social Sciences Open when gep_category = SOCSCI
Each course in the Social Sciences category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:






Interdisciplinary Perspectives Open when gep_category = INTERDISC
Each course in the Interdisciplinary Perspectives category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:
Learning Outcome: Describe how different disciplines may use spatial thinking and geospatial science for decision-making

Students will be introduced to several disciplines, generally covering at least 2 natural science and 2 social science areas. Some of the specific disciplines may change from semester to semester based on the background/interest of the students in the course. For illustration purposes, the initial disciplines will include environmental science, public health, anthropology, and political science, along with examples from business, and planning/design. Case studies, along with readings and 2 guest lecturers will introduce these disciplinary perspectives and how they use geospatial thinking in the real-world.
Student assessments for this objective will include:

1. Map interpretation assignment: Students will be asked to view maps generated from several disciplines and discuss the differences in spatial questions and representations presented by the different disciplines based on the map products.

2. Peer to Peer Reflections: As part of several assignments (at least 2), students will be asked to reflect on another student's map creation, the idea being that student's will be creating maps based on their 'discipline' perspectives, exposing the student reflecting on the map to additional disciplinary thinking and approaches.

Example Assignment: The following 4 maps represent a series of approaches to addressing spatial problems in environmental science, anthropology, public health, and design. Your task is to identify the spatial problem being addressed in the map and write a short paragraph contrasting the approach used in each map.
Learning Outcome: Employ concepts related to spatial thinking, problem-solving and spatial decision-making

These concepts include:

Mental Mapping – The ability to recall a geographic area based on spatial cues and relativism using the core ideas of paths, edges, districts, and nodes and landmarks. The use of mental mapping to understand a person’s perception of an area (with examples from planning, public health, and others).

The geographies of life, physical, and intellectual spaces – understanding how space and place define a person’s relationship with locations and the connections between them and how those connections lead to spatial decisions. For example, the connection between urban sprawl and water quality, requires connections between planning, environmental science, ecology, and engineering.

Using Spatial Data – What does spatial data ‘look’ like and how can it be used. For example, layer analysis allows different layers of information to be combined into a map for analysis. These layers represent different disciplinary approaches to data collection and representation that are combined into a cohesive picture of a problem.

Map Stories/Communication – How to describe what a map represents related to a specific problem for decision-makers. Students will gain the ability to describe a map based on its many layers and the multi-disciplinary aspects that make up the map and how it applies to the problem at hand.
Throughout the course students will be exposed to varying case studies from multiple perspectives in the natural and social sciences. To identify and apply connections between 2 or more of these disciplines students will be assessed on their ability to 'decompose' maps into its individual layers (with those layers representing a contribution from a particular field or discipline. This will be done through a homework assignment and forum discussion.

An example assignment prompt: In this assignment, you will be presented with a map published in a peer-reviewed research article. Your job is to dissect the map into the individual layers that were needed to create the final product. You may use clues from the research article to help in identifying the layers. For each layer, you should describe it's contribution to the overall map and how it helped to answer the research question posed in the article.
Learning Outcome: Produce problem/project narratives based on maps and geospatial concepts

These concepts include defining a spatial problem, identifying the types of data needed, which disciplines would supply the data, managing the data and connecting data sets from different disciplines, identifying the types of analysis needed, and communicating results via maps combined with narratives.
Examples will come from the disciplines listed above (obj 1) as well as additional examples depending on the background of the students. In the final project, the primary discipline will be up to the student, with connections to other disciplines determined by the spatial question as defined by the student.
The primary assessment for this outcome and objective is a final project where students must identify a spatial problem of interest (from any discipline), identify the data and analysis needed to solve the spatial problem, and create a map story communicating their approach. Exam and discussion questions, such as the example below, will also be posed to assess students.

Example discussion prompt: Using your knowledge of GIS as a 'system' for understanding spatial problems, describe how scientists from computer science, engineering, math, and environmental science would use their individual expertise to design a geographic information system to answer the question: How does urbanization influence water quality in Wake County?
There are basically 2 interdisciplinary perspectives within this course: 1) The interdisciplinary nature of GIS itself. This course will introduce students to the idea that in order to develop and nurture a Geographic Information System for problem solving, it requires input from computer science, mathematics, engineering, and the sciences (social and natural) to develop the technologies and tools needed to collect, analyze, and map data. 2) Interdisciplinary approaches to applying GIS. GIS can be applied across a number of disciplines in the natural and social sciences, the perspectives that we discuss in this course will partly be determined by the make-up of the students in the course. I will let their interests drive some of the interdisciplinary perspectives. However, I will also consistently include discussions from at least 2 natural and 2 social sciences (such as environmental science and biology, and political science and anthropology).
The material will be presented in a variety of ways: 1) Hands-on map making activities that allow the student to view the 'pieces' of a map and how they work together to tell a complete story 2) Through the introduction and in depth discussion of specific case studies (4-6) that highlight disciplinary perspectives as well as different techniques 3) Through potential guest 'experts' from multiple disciplines to describe how they apply spatial thinking to their work 4) Exposing students to geospatial research articles and published maps 5) Open forum discussions
Visual & Performing Arts Open when gep_category = VPA
Each course in the Visual and Performing Arts category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:






Health and Exercise Studies Open when gep_category = HES
Each course in the Health and Exercise Studies category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:








Global Knowledge Open when gep_category = GLOBAL
Each course in the Global Knowledge category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to achieve objective #1 plus at least one of objectives 2, 3, and 4:


Please complete at least 1 of the following student objectives.






US Diversity Open when gep_category = USDIV
Each course in the US Diversity category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to achieve at least 2 of the following objectives:
Please complete at least 2 of the following student objectives.








Requisites and Scheduling
a. If seats are restricted, describe the restrictions being applied.
b. Is this restriction listed in the course catalog description for the course?
List all course pre-requisites, co-requisites, and restrictive statements (ex: Jr standing; Chemistry majors only). If none, state none.
List any discipline specific background or skills that a student is expected to have prior to taking this course. If none, state none. (ex: ability to analyze historical text; prepare a lesson plan)
Additional Information
Complete the following 3 questions or attach a syllabus that includes this information. If a 400-level or dual level course, a syllabus is required.
Title and author of any required text or publications.
Please see attached syllabus
Major topics to be covered and required readings including laboratory and studio topics.
Please see attached syllabus
List any required field trips, out of class activities, and/or guest speakers.
We will hold 2-3 Google Hangout/Collaborate Sessions in real-time (or face-to-face meeting) for periodic discussion after assignments and to review for the Mid-Term. These will generally be optional and scheduled with students' schedules in mind.
No additional resources are expected for delivery of this course. It will be assumed as part of the normal teaching load for the instructor.

This course serves as a general introduction to spatial and geospatial thinking within the context of Geogrpahic Information Systems (GIS), exposing students to the foundational concepts of geospatial science with a focus on multi-disciplinary spatial problem-solving and reasoning applicable in a wide range of fields.  Students will be exposed to a variety of geospatial concepts to develop a solid foundation for applying geospatial thinking to everyday problems through demonstrations, lectures, and hands-on experiences using a variety of GIS tools, while gaining the knowledge necessary to pursue additional coursework in this field.

Students taking this course will be introduced to:

  • Spatial and Geospatial thinking and problem-solving

  • Map anatomy

  • The nature of Geographic Information and Systems

  • Map Narratives and Analysis

  • Interdisciplinary, Real-world applications 

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completing this course, students can be expected to: 

  • Employ concepts related to spatial thinking, problem-solving and spatial decision-making

  • Define terms and best practices for using geospatial data to solve problems

  • Demonstrate understanding of geospatial software tools and technologies available

  • Produce problem/project narratives based on maps and geospatial concepts

  • Describe how different disciplines may use spatial thinking and geospatial science for decision-making

Evaluation MethodWeighting/Points for EachDetails
Homework20%There will be 7-8 assignments based on the lectures and assigned readings in each unit. Assignments will generally be in the form of hands-on activities and spatial exercises related to the topics discussed in each unit.
Quizzes20%There will be 3-4 quizzes throughout the semester. Each quiz will be timed and generally consist of 4-5 questions related to the topics covered in that unit.
Midterm25%There will be one Mid-Term exam. This exam will be proctored and you will be required to take the exam at one of the DELTA proctoring centers on-campus or make other proctoring arrangements off-campus. Proctoring details will be provided closer to the Mid-Term date. Content will consist of concepts and exercises learned through the quizzes, lectures, homework assignments, and readings up to that point. A review session will be held for interested students.
Participation10%Students are expected to view lectures, readings, and homework assignments on a weekly basis, as well as participate in events. The participation grade will be based on each student's participation in a series of forum discussions or group discussions conducted throughout the semester. There will be a total of 100 possible participation points for the semester, generally broken down as:
10 points for each Forum discussion/event
Project25%Spatial Narrative & Map Story: In lieu of a final exam, students will be asked to prepare an 8-10 page research prospectus on a topic of their choice related to geospatial science corresponding with a Story Map highlighting the chosen topic.
TopicTime Devoted to Each TopicActivity
Course Introduction1 dayReview of syllabus and course policies, welcome video, student introductions.
Spatial Thinking Concepts (Golledge's Principles, The Geographic Eye, Foundations)3 weeksLecture videos and demonstrations, 3 readings, 2 discussion forums, 2 Assignments, 1 quiz.
Defining Geographic Information (spatial representations)2 weeksLecture video and reading. One Assignment. Discussion forum.
GEOspatial Thinking (map anatomy, place and space, the meaning of 'geo', geographies of life, pysical, and intellectual spaces)3 weeksLecture videos and 3 readings. One quiz. Collaborate/Google Hangout activity.
Spatial Data Types; Data Capture; Data Management1 weekLectures, 1 reading. Discussion forum. ArcGIS Online demonstration and assignment; Lectures, 2 readings, 1 assignment; Lectures, 2 readings, 1 assignment.
Geospatial Analysis Theory1 weekLectures, 1 reading, discussion forum, 1 assignment.
Geospatial Analysis Techniques2 weeksLectures, 2 readings, 1 assignment, discussion forum, Google Hangout, and 1 quiz.
Geospatial Applications and Case Studies (place, relationships, locations, patterns, predictions)2 weeksMultiple case studies from a variety of disciplines with short exercises related to each case. One major assignment.
Map Stories and Communication1 weekLecture, 1 reading, brief assignment, consultations on final project.

Key: 7275