Basic Course Information

Courses numbered 1 - 49 are remedial or college preparatory courses which do not apply toward an A. A. Degree and are not intended for transfer. Courses numbered 50-99 apply toward an AA Degree, but are not intended for transfer. Courses numbered 100 and higher apply toward an AA Degree and/or are intended for transfer to a four-year college or university.

Discipline: GEOG
Course Number: 120
Title: Digital Earth: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems

Units and Hours

Units: 4.00
Grade Option: Grade/Pass/No Pass
Course Length in Weeks: Min Weeks - 16 Max Weeks - 18
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Grading Basis: Grade/Pass/No Pass
Basic Skills Requirements: Appropriate Language and/or Computational Skills.


To satisfy a prerequisite, the student must have earned a letter grade of A, B, C or P(Pass) in the prerequisite course, unless otherwise stated.

Prerequisite: None
Corequisite (Course required to be taken concurrently): None
Prerequisite: (Completion of, or concurrent enrollment in): None
Recommended Preparation: None
Limitation on Enrollment (e.g. Performance tryout or audition): None

Catalog Description

An introduction to the mapping sciences with a primary focus on Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Covers the trends, history, structure, applications, hardware and software, and basic operations of GIS in order to provide a foundation for the use of GIS software. Related geographic technologies to be examined include mapping, aerial and satellite imagery, and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). The lab portion will provide introductory training in the use of ArcGIS software including identifying, evaluating, and inputting spatial data, developing and using raster and vector data sets, converting data from one form to another, and applying programming with GIS software.

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, the student will be able to:
  1. Students should be able to explain the concept of "projection on the fly," and its role in data analysis.
  2. Students should be able to identify the three basic geometries of vector objects.

Specific Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand and apply basic geographic principles such as locations, projections, attributes, and spatial relationships.
  2. Identify basic types of maps and related spatial data.
  3. Demonstrate proficiency in map reading, interpretation, and design.
  4. Explain and demonstrate the general applications of GIS in society.
  5. Compare and contrast methods of data input including uploading software with numerical and attribute data, scanning maps and images, and digitizing from existing maps.
  6. Input, organize, and manipulate raster and vector datasets and be able to deduce the most appropriate uses of each.
  7. Compare and contrast various types of data including geospatial and attribute data.
  8. Construct simple attribute tables and relational databases.
  9. Identify, access, and obtain sources of spatial data for Geographic Information Systems.
  10. Apply editing functions to existing GIS data.
  11. Effectively convert data from one data model to another.
  12. Comprehend and apply basic GIS analytical functions.
  13. Define key concepts and terminologies related to the function of Geographic Information Systems.
  14. Identify basic components required for GIS use in the workplace.
  15. Identify and analyze GIS data, support, and career resources.
  16. Use GPS units to collect field data, and import such data into GIS for further analyses.
  17. Document and organize spatial data in a professional manner.

Methods of Instruction

Methods of Instruction may include, but are not limited to, the following
  1. Group Projects/Activities
  2. Lab
  3. Learning Modules
  4. Lecture
  5. Lecture/Lab
  6. Other (Specify)
  7. Demonstration
Other Method(s)
Research projects

Content in Terms of Specific Body of Knowledge

  1. Basic geographic principles
    1. location
    2. attributes
    3. relationships
  2. Use of spatial data in society
  3. Map products
    1. types
    2. purposes
    3. designs
  4. Map projections
    1. coordinate systems
    2. datum
    3. scale
  5. Basic map interpretation and analysis
  6. Introduction to GIS
    1. definition
    2. history
    3. links to related technologies (i.e. remote sensing)
  7. Sources of spatial data
    1. paper maps
    2. satellite
    3. aerial imagery
    4. GPS
    5. field surveys
    6. COGO
  8. Downloading GPS data into a GIS
  9. Spatial data capture
    1. photogrammetry
    2. digitization
    3. vectorization
    4. rasterization
    5. georeferencing
  10. Managing and querying GIS databases
  11. Basic spatial analysis with GIS
  12. Principles of map production utilizing GIS
  13. Basic applications in research and the workplace
  14. Current trends in GIS
  15. Organizing and displaying data in a GIS
  16. Data input using GIS software
  17. Creating and using data
  18. Working with distance
    1. area
    2. scale relationships
  19. Querying functions including the use of Boolean operators
  20. Managing tabular data
  21. Creating and editing maps and charts
  22. Documenting GIS data using established metadata standards
  23. Using GIS on the Internet



  1. Harvey, Francis. A Primer of GIS: Fundamental Geographic and Cartographic Concepts. 1st Guilford Press, 2008.
  2. Longley, Paul A., et al. Geographic Information Systems and Science. 2nd John Wiley & Sons, 2005.
  3. Clark, Keith C. Getting Started with Geographic Information Systems. 4th Prentice-Hall, 2003.
  4. Ormsby, Tim et al. Getting to Know ArcGIS Desktop. 3rd ESRI Press , 2013.
  5. Bolstad, Paul. GIS Fundamentals: A First Text on Geographic Information Systems. 4th XanEdu Publishing Inc., 2012.
  6. Bolstad, Paul. GIS Fundamentals: A First Text on Geographic Information Systems. 3rd Atlas Books, 2008.
  1. ArcGIS ArcView (Software). Software. 10.2. ESRI,


Required Reading:
Trade publications relating to the current applications of GIS. Examples of reading materials are case studies of innovative GIS applications at local governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations. These case studies can usually be found in publications such as ArcUser and ArcNews.

Required Writing:
One or more assignments chosen from the following options: - Article Review (2 - 3 page essay) - Case Study Analysis (2 - 3 page essay) - Semester Project (8 - 10 page term paper)

Critical Thinking:
Students will complete laboratory assignments that require them to synthesize lecture and required reading information. In preparation for their projects, students must research current usages of GIS in various fields and identify their limitations.

Outside Assignments:
Outside assignments will include reading texts, review of lecture notes, writing assignments, GIS computer lab assignments, and exam preparation. 8 hours per week.

Students are expected to spend a minimum of three hours per unit per week in class and on outside assignments, prorated for short-term classes.

Methods of Assessment

Methods of Assessment may include, but are not limited to, the following:
  1. Class Participation
  2. Class Work
  3. Exams/Tests
  4. Lab Activities
  5. Oral Presentation
  6. Research Projects

Open Entry/Open Exit

Not Open Entry/Open Exit


Course is Repeatable for Reasons other than a Deficient Grade? No

Contact Person

Wing H. Cheung