University Revamps Geospatial Curriculum

HSU is revamping its geospatial curriculum to better prepare students for careers in the geospatial sciences.

The changes—which take effect in fall 2013—include the restructuring of several courses, the addition of two classes and the introduction of a new B.S. degree option in Geospatial Science within the Environmental Science (ENVS) major. This new option will combine the core courses required in Environmental Science with the full suite of geospatial science courses. In this way, geospatial science will be taught within the larger context of Environmental Science, rather than simply as a technological tool in isolation.

The overhaul is based on the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2010 Geospatial Technology Competency Model, which outlines the skills needed for a successful career in geospatial technology. The Department of Labor estimates that the market for geospatial careers is growing by 35 percent a year. The largest consumers of GIS technology are the education, transportation, utilities and telecommunications industries, where skills such as data collection, georeferencing, overlay analysis, programming, and model building are essential.

“As an interdisciplinary tool, geospatial analysis is an important skillset for the present workforce, allowing them to better understand and manage challenges related to socio-environmental issues such as food, energy, public health, and natural resources,” said associate professor of remote sensing and GIS Mahesh Rao, who was actively part of the Geospatial Task Force, which suggested the improvements.

Comprised of faculty and staff from various departments, the Geospatial Task Force was created in 2010 with the goal of examining and restructuring the university’s geospatial curriculum. Utilizing input from across campus, the group drafted a proposal, which was approved by the Integrated Curriculum Committee last year.

One of the most noticeable changes this fall will be the creation of a GSP course prefix. Under the new prefix, geospatial courses will no longer be offered through the department of forestry and geography or the environmental science and management program. Instead, all courses will be part of a new Geospatial Analysis section in the course catalog.

Students will also notice the addition of clearer course sequencing. “With new course sequencing, students will be able to build on their skills and knowledge and also better prepare themselves for careers in the geospatial sciences,” Rao says.

Several courses will also be restructured not only to align them with the competency model, but also to reduce redundancy, Rao says. One important restructured class is Geospatial Concepts (GSP 101), which will be offered as a general education (Area D) option, and will also serve as a prerequisite for other courses in cartography, remote sensing and geographic information systems.

Additionally, students will have two new course offerings. Mobile Mapping (GSP 330) will cover topics in informatics including data processing, GIS integration and differential correction. Intermediate Remote Sensing (GSP 426) will explore image enhancements, processing, classification, accuracy assessment and higher levels of image classification techniques such as object-oriented classifications.

Aside from the 16-unit minor in Geospatial Analysis that will take effect this fall, Rao says that plans are also underway to offer a graduate certificate in geospatial sciences. The certificate would be offered online and administered through HSU’s Office of Extended Education.

The Department of Labor includes geospatial technology in its High Growth Job Training Initiative. Jobs in the High Growth Training Initiative are identified as having the ability to add a substantial number of new jobs to the economy or affect the growth of other industries.

To view the Department of Labor’s Geospatial Technology Competency Model, click on: