3 Ways to Use GIS Mapping in Higher Education

GIS mapping is a powerful technology, and many college and university professors are taking note of its utility as a classroom learning tool. While its uses vary across majors and degree concentrations, GIS provides all students with a range of skillsets, such as problem solving and database management, as well as map creation, data accuracy, and the ability to adapt to technology in ever-changing workforces. How does this translate for students in the classroom? Here are three real-world examples of how college professors use GIS technology.

1. Honing Skills for Further Research

Professors at Dickinson College pair GIS with academics to teach students to think about problems in a spatial context. They encourage students to ask:
  • Where is something?
  • Why is it there?
  • How is it related to the things around it?
  • Why should we care?
GIS plays a daily role in many student projects across academic disciplines at Dickinson College, from environmental studies, archeology and biology to international business. A recent student project focuses on the analysis of gray wolf habitats in Michigan. In their study, students used GIS mapping and spatial analysis to examine habitats by mapping land coverage, road density, population density, farm density and prey density. Students learned to visualize their data on maps and use their skills to determine specific criteria for further research and population control recommendations—all while laying the foundation for further GIS mapping success using in higher education pursuits, such as graduate school and professional research labs.

2. Creating a Health GIS Workforce

When Niigata University in Japan introduced GIS into its health and environmental programs, professors and students dove into its practical applications. They learned to use maps to uncover patterns, interpret data and understand new perspectives. Soon, students were using GIS to investigate diseases, evaluate disaster sites, understand the demographics of suicide and more. Niigata University students learned to gather and evaluate geographic information, optimize workflows, and present collaborative presentations to advance GIS health in their academic field—all before graduation. By mastering GIS in medicine and science degree programs at the college level, students prepare for a health care career that considers the very real implications of geography on human health and safety. Likewise, professors are helping create a workforce—trained in mapping and spatial analysis—that can better care for us all.

3. Prepping for Internships and a Business Career

Recognizing the growing importance for business analytics, many colleges and universities are developing new courses and degree programs that help students learn to analyze, understand and communicate big data. Some universities, such as Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, turn to Mapline for assistance. Mapline provided 60 accounts to business analytics students along with a lesson on the power of GIS analytics. Then, students received a real-world business case and were instructed to leverage Mapline’s data mapping tools to solve for a solution. With their Mapline accounts, students were able to discover geographic insights from tools like radial heat maps, segments and pins, and distance analysis—insights they simply couldn’t gather from an Excel spreadsheet. Because of the hands-on classroom activity, BYU business analytics students experienced firsthand the multiple uses of mapping for the business field. While today’s students are expected to graduate with a proficiency in Microsoft Suite products, including PowerPoint and Excel, BYU business analytics professors are also equipping their students with cutting-edge data mapping abilities they can take with them to sales and marketing internships and beyond. Learn more about GIS mapping and spatial analysis for academics and higher education.