My introduction to GIS

Having wrestled with the open source QGIS package a few weeks ago, my first attempt at modelling Portus in Minecraft, I decided it couldn’t hurt to give myself the introduction to GIS I so sorely needed. By happy circumstance, Esri, developers of the ArcGIS packages had just started a MOOC in conjunction with Udemy. So I signed up for that and, for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been catching up (I started four weeks late) and completing the course.

It made for a brilliant introduction to GIS (for GIS virgins like me but also, it seems from the comments, for more experienced users). Taught (mostly) by Linda Beale, with introductions from David DiBiase. I noted with interest that the Udemy MOOC engine (of course not really MOOC software, as most of Udemy’s courses are paid for) incorporated a time-stamped comments feature a bit like Synote, the one my colleagues are developing, but not quite as capable.

David and Linda introduce the course while I play with the notes function
David and Linda introduce the course while I play with the notes function

There were song titles to look out for, smuggled into Linda’s lectures, and quizzes that were the right level of challenging, to help review your learning. The songs and some trick questions in the quizzes betrayed a mischievous sense of humor, which I enjoyed. Some students didn’t – upset, I guess, at spoiling a 100% record, but these were quizzes not exams.

Each week included one or two case studies, wherein we got to use an online version of Esri’s ArcGIS to solve data analysis problems: where to locate a distribution centre, or monitor Mountain Lions, or build mixed use accomodation, for example. These case studies were great fun… to begin with. But,  as I caught up with my fellow students, and we all started working on the ArcGIS servers on the same day, the software couldn’t cope, and timed-out or returned errors on analysis. So in fact I haven’t done the three case studies. Which I found very frustrating.

I’ve got a few weeks to go back and try them again when its not so busy, but I’ve spend the greater part of the last couple of months studying MOOCs and not getting on with my own work, so I was hoping to call it quits today. Next week, I’m going to experiment with Twine.

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