We’re planning a webinar to help train educators to add open source GIS to their curriculum. In this post, I introduce the general idea and share some of the topics we’ll discuss.
In the 90s, many schools were lucky if they had any GIS in their geography eduction. My geography program didn’t offer it, but I could learn PC Arc/Info through the Forestry department. A lot has changed since that time when PC software was just taking off.
In the decade that followed, I used HP UNIX Arc/Info before our company tried to use ArcView and finally landed on ArcMap for Windows. However, I’m sure the company today would be trying to integrate more open source GIS tools that analysts picked up on their own. The most valued professionals can learn what they need and bring that value to their work or businesses regardless of education. How, then, should institutions be helping to increase the value of their students in a similar way.
Many universities and colleges treat GIS training as a technical skill that will help them get a job. While this is certainly true, the dependency on using a single product that students will not have free access to in the future has made it difficult for some academics to feel comfortable with this approach. It’s a huge business and many marketing dollars are spent to continue this approach. Incidentally, that’s fine with us, it’s a big market and we serve a growing group of professionals that are well beyond ‘niche’ status.
Regardless, there has been a continual and increasing push for decades toward using more open software solutions, including open source GIS, in education.
Spreading the word
We started OSGeo to help spread these tools around the world, developing local user groups to support peer groups who weren’t familiar with the options they had. However, it was much more than just a marketing effort, professors and teachers needed solid training material to use in their courses. They weren’t familiar with the options either and it is extremely time consuming to make dramatic changes to an existing GIS course. We helped them find their peers and learn new tools.
This is also why we started Locate Press – to produce material to help courses and trainers teach an open source software approach. Half of our books are geared toward educational users and are designed as workbooks and guides that are used in colleges and universities.
So, if the books, software, and international support groups exist, why isn’t everyone learning, say, QGIS at university?
Because there are several other challenges that make it hard to adapt to these new approaches.
How to add open source GIS to courses
Rather than gloss over those issues in this post, we will dig into them through a webinar instead.
The 90 minute event will cover case studies from teachers who integrated open source GIS training approaches. Our roundtable of speakers will share their varied approaches to making their courses successful. We will identify the issues that remain and need to be addressed going forward. We will discuss what makes a good GIS course in general as well. Here is a rough outline of the topics we are planning to cover:
Top 5 challenges to adding open source to a GIS training program
Who is already using open source GIS in their curriculum?
Why is it difficult to adapt to today’s educational climate?
How did our panelists make the switch?
What standards/curriculums need to be addressed by any course?
What materials are hardest to find and need more focus?
How can cross-product integration help students get the best of both worlds?
How can this tie in to certification efforts, like, GISP?
How can we keep extending the reach of new teaching options?
What questions are we missing? Let us know @locatepress. Or use the Q&A channel the we will have open throughout the webinar.
We hope this will be valuable to any trainer, educator, or professor who has the challenge of leveling the playing field while providing optimal training for their students.
More information is to come. If you want to be informed about the webinar (and our other initiatives), please subscribe to our mailing list and select the “Education” interest checkbox. More information will be shared there when things are finalized.
Here are some of our books that are used in university courses around the world.
The MapScaping Podcast helps deliver new and intriguing geospatial-related topics, many of which are open source or education focused. We are proud to be a sponsor to help support this work going forward.
This recipe assumes familiarity with QGIS styling, labeling, and layout creating basics, so we can focus on exciting new tips and tricks.
Our map uses six layers of the Quantarctica dataset. The geographic context is provided by the ADD Simple basemap and Overview place name layers together with the South pole and Antarctic circle layers.
The historic context is provided by the Five historic expedition routes and Historic stations layers. To show the travel direction of the expedition routes, we can create a trail of small arrow symbols by combining a simple line with custom dash pattern and a marker line:
So far, the map is pretty crowded because we see all five expeditions at once.
Let’s set up the Atlas map series, so we can create a dedicated map for each expedition.
Atlas Map Series
The historic expeditions have been digitized as ten line features in order to be able to distinguish between sections of the routes traveled by sea, land, and even air:
Focusing on the five earliest expeditions, all of them contain sea routes. We can therefore set up the Atlas by filtering the route features to get only the five sea routes:
This setup will ensure that our Atlas will generate a map series with one map per expedition leader.
Make sure to activate the Altas preview mode now.
Filtering Routes & Stations
Back in the main QGIS window, we now can access the @atlas_feature to filter the routes layer accordingly. We want to show the sea route feature, as well as any other route feature that belongs to the same expedition leader:
Fun With Labels
So far, our map only shows basic labels for geographic features. In the following steps, we will add labels to the expedition routes and historical stations. Finally, we’ll use a rule-based labeling hack to put the finishing touches on our map.
Smooth Route Labels
Many of the expedition routes are anything but straight. They twist and turn and so do the letters of any labels we try to put on them. This effect becomes particularly prominent, when using large label fonts.
To create smoother looking labels, we can use the Geometry Generator (in the Label Placement tab) to create a smoother base line for labeling using an expression like:
smooth(simplify($geometry, 100000), 2)
To show the station names and operating years in different colors, we can use HTML label formatting. To do so, we need to enable “Allow HTML formatting” (in the Label Text tab). Then we can build our label expression.
For this label, we combine three column (name, year_start, and year_end). Since year_end is empty (NULL) for some stations, it is important that we use the concat function (instead of the || operator). Otherwise, stations with a NULL value would not be labeled at all:
By creating multiple rules that all apply to the same (land) polygons in our base map, we can create a random snowflake pattern. Randomness is introduced on different levels:
The label font size is randomized, e.g. rand(15, 60).
The label rotation is randomized by using the “free (angled)” placement mode.
Different rules have different priorities, with higher priority values assigned to label rules with larger font sizes.
The snowflake color can be adjusted by changing the project variable flake_color (in Project Properties | Variables). This way, we can change the color of all snow flakes at once, without having to edit every individual rule.
So Much More
There’s much more to discover in this project. For example, the label substitutions used to shorten the island labels or the decorations added in the layout:
Hi and welcome to our short October Newsletter. Whether you are a new subscriber or an old customer, we want to stay in touch. This newsletter highlights one way to save on print orders, how to update your profile, and how to stay in touch. We also include a link to an interesting podcast on Geospatial Python with Anita Graser and MapScaping. Watch our next newsletter for the upcoming e-book sale in November.
Nearing 10 years of being in business
Locate Press has grown a lot in just under 10 years, from 1 title to over a dozen. During that time we’ve moved to more digital products and look for new ways to stay in touch with both e-book and print book customers.
We are using this newsletter forum to help stay in touch but in a focused way – e.g., sharing updates about your favorite books – previously we did not have a way to communicate with focus.
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We regularly look for friends and affiliates that share topics of interest with our members. This MapScaping podcast is a good one. Locate Press author Anita Graser lays out the Geospatial Python landscape. We think you’ll enjoy it.