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GIS 109
Fundamentals of GIS

Revised: January, 2015
Credits: 3
Instructor: Ed Nickel
Office: HTC 133
Phone: 753-2241 (office with voice mail)
E-mail: due to increased spam my email address will be provided the first day of class
Class Web Page:
Textbook: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, 7th edition, ©2014 by Kang-tsung Chang, ISBN 9780077805401, McGraw-Hill. Search using the title, author, or ISBN for pricing at various discounters/used book dealers, or pay full price at the college bookstore. Please note: you may also use the older 6th edition, ISBN 9780077465438, since the essentials are still the same. However, please do not use the much older 5th edition since the labs in that book give instructions for using ArcGIS 9 and we will be using the ArcGIS 10 in this class. The menu of links in the upper right corner of the class web page includes material relevant to this class.


CATALOG DESCRIPTION: GIS 109 Fundamentals of GIS. An introduction to geographic information systems (GIS) covering the basic concepts. Principles of cartography and spatial analysis are presented. The intent is to prepare the student for advanced training using specific GIS software. No prerequisites.

Welcome to GIS 109 Fundamentals of GIS. This course is an introduction to geographic information systems and is designed to meet the GBC General Education technology requirement. We will cover what GIS is and how these systems are used in various business and government settings. This class is primarily discussion oriented but does include substantial hands on components. The more significant assignments as well as the topics to be discussed are shown in the schedule at the end of this document. All other assignment due dates will be noted when the assignments are given during class. Additional time outside of class will be needed to complete assignments. To complete assignments students may use any open GBC computer lab or, if available, their own computer and appropriate software.

This class assumes you have a basic understanding of computers including how to create, organize, & copy computer files and folders within Windows but would like to learn about GIS and its many uses. If you do not have the background outlined in the previous sentence then IS 101 will be a better general education technology class for you. If, however, you already understand computers and the essentials of GIS but need to learn specific GIS software, such as ArcGIS, then you should probably take GIS 205. If you have any questions concerning which class is best for you please call me at the number shown above.

GIS is one of the fastest growing information systems in computing. It is used in business, emergency management, government, the military, politics, and many other fields. Even if you do not use a GIS directly, data about you is used in many geographic information systems to provide you (or them) with better service by (or for) any number of businesses and agencies from banking and election campaigns to ambulance services and fire departments. In this class we will explore how GIS works, its uses, its limitations, as well as the societal implications of the explosive growth in this field.

As a GBC general education in technology course there are two primary objectives for this class. First and foremost, this class is an introduction to the technology of geographic information systems including the use of some important GIS software. And second, as with all GBC general education courses, you will need to demonstrate effective communications skills including discussion, writing, and information presentation abilities. Please remember, good communications are always two-way, speaking assumes listening and writing assumes reading.

METHOD OF INSTRUCTION: This class may be taught in a live classroom setting, online via WebCampus, or as a hybrid class. You are expected to participate in weekly discussions, exercises, as well as various quizzes, projects, and other class activities. The schedule of reading and assignments is found below. Additional assignments may be given verbally, as handouts in class, or via the WebCampus lesson modules.

CLASS PARTICIPATION: In the on-line version of this class, you are expected to post at least one original discussion and one response to other classmates' posts every week and your posts should relate to some aspect of the material we are covering during each lesson or some related issue. In the live version you are expect to be similarly prepared for and participate in every class discussion. Whether live or online, participation in class discussion is a significant portion of your grade as it indicates how well you understand the concepts being covered.

INSTRUCTOR CONTACT: I can be reached either at my office phone number shown above or via the WebCampus email, you can drop in during my office hours, or make an appointment to see me at other times. Office hours are posted on my office door and on my web site. The schedule of reading assignments, homework and tests is found below. Additional assignments may be given verbally or as handouts in class.

RECOMMENDED EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE: Each student should have a flash drive, 512 mb or larger, to either store (if working in a GBC lab) or backup (if working at home) their data files and work. If you wish to work on assignments at home you will also need a computer that has at a minimum: 1.5 GB or more of free hard disk space, Windows XP or newer, and at least a 1.0 GHz processor. In addition to the software provided with the book and the zip/unzip software freely downloadable from 7Zip, you will also need access to a spreadsheet and word processor such Microsoft Excel and Word or the free, open source OpenOffice suite.

The successful student in this class will be able to:
  1. describe geographic information systems and use of GIS technology;
  2. identify and explain common GIS terminology, software, data structures, and file types;
  3. properly use critical thinking skills in spatial analysis and GIS problem-solving processes;
  4. use basic cartographic (map-making) principles such as scale and projections;
  5. discuss GIS data collection methods, including GPS, and basic data management and organization;
  6. demonstrate effective communications skills.
Learner Outcome Assessments
Assessment Method Learner Outcomes
Class Discussion 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Assignments & Hands On Exercises 1, 3, 4
Quizzes/Exams 2, 3, 4, 5


GRADING POLICY:This is a letter grade class an A=90-100%, B=80-89%, C=70-79%, D=60-69%, F=59% or less or W=Official Withdrawal if done before the withdrawal deadline. There is no curve in this grading scale. Your grade will be based 30% on class participation and discussion, 30% on your assignments, and 40% on quiz/exam results. All assignments are due by the beginning of the next class unless otherwise indicated by the instructor when they are assigned.

QUIZ/EXAM PROCEDURES: All quizzes/exams will be objective, e.g. true/false, multiple choice, fill-in the blank, etc.

ATTENDANCE POLICY: The instructor must agree in advance to any excused absences unless there are strong extenuating circumstances. Three (3) unexcused absences can result in a failing grade, in an on-line class an absence is one week when you do not participate in class or contact the instructor.

OTHER POLICIES: The student rights & responsibilities policy stated in the current GBC Catalog apply to this class. Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated and can result in a failing grade. This syllabus is not a contract and is subject to reasonable changes as the class proceeds.

ACCOMMODATIONS FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: Great Basin College is committed to providing equal educational opportunities to qualified students with disabilities in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. A qualified student must furnish current verification of disability. The Director of Services for Students with Disabilities will assist qualified students with disabilities in securing the appropriate and reasonable accommodations, auxiliary aids and services. For more information or further assistance, please call (775) 753-2271.

CAMPUS SECURITY: GBC is committed to the safety of our students and has a duty to promote awareness and prevention programs for violence on campus under the Jeanne Clery Act as well as the Campus SaVE (Sexual Violence Elimination Act) and VAWA (Violence Against Women Act), which are amendments to Clery. Acts of violence include, but are not limited to, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. Acts of violence can occur on the physical campus or centers of GBC in addition to field placement sites, clinical practice settings, and other places where college or class activities occur. As well, the online environment at GBC is considered a GBC site. If you experience any incidence where your safety has been threatened or violated, or if you feel threatened or harassed, immediately report this to me, any center director, faculty, or staff member, or directly to the Director of Environmental Health, Safety & Security (775-753-2115) or the Vice President for Student Services (775-753-2282).


In the live version of this class, you should have read and be prepared to discuss each week's topics by the beginning of class; while in the online version of this class, you should read each week's topics before posting your discussion comments.

We will have significant hands on experiences during many lessons. Online students will find various options and instructions for completing the assigned labs on the Welcome and Expectations webpage.

In addition, to help the online version of this class, I may create occasional podcasts and RSS feeds (downloadable mp3, video, and text supplements) on topics that lend themselves to online delivery. These will be multimedia explanations and other commentary related to specific lessons to augment various topics. You will be able to download the audio and video files to your computer, in addition the audio files can be used with any mp3 player by adding this URL to iTunes or similar podcast receiving software.

Readings, topics, major assignments, & quizzes/exams by week:
(Please note: this schedule is subject to change based on class progress & other factors)
Week    Chapter(s) Topics Tasks*
Week 1: Chapters 1 & 2 Introductions & coordinate systems 1:1, 1:2, 2:1, 2:4*
Week 2: Chapter 3 Vector data model 3:1 - 3:5, 3:3*
Week 3: Chapter 4 Raster data model 4:1, 4:2, 4:3*
Week 4: Chapter 5 GIS data acquisition no labs due, Quiz 1*
Week 5: Chapter 6 Geometric transformations no required labs
Week 6: Chapter 7 Spatial data editing 7:1*, 7:3*
Week 7: Chapter 8 Attribute data management 8:2*, 8:6*
Week 8: Chapter 9 Data display & cartography no labs due, Quiz 2*
Week 9: Chapter 10 Data Exploration 9:1*, 9:2*
Week 10: Chapter 11 Vector data analysis 11:1*
Week 11: Chapter 12 Raster data analysis 12:1*, 12:2*, 12:3*, 12:4*
Week 12: Chapter 13 Terrain mapping & analysis no labs due, Quiz 3*
Week 13: Chapter 14 Viewsheds & watersheds 13:1*, 14:1*
Week 14: Chapter 15 Spatial interpolation no labs due
Week 15: Chapter 16 Geocoding & dynamic segmentation 16:1*
Week 16:     Quiz 4*

*The tasks marked with an asterisk (*) are the ones you are required to turn in. Although tasks 1:1 and 1:2 are not required, you will not be able to complete any subsequent labs unless you complete those introductory tasks. To get the most out of this class you should do all possible tasks at the end of each chapter. On-line students should refer to the Welcome and Expectations webpage of this class for instructions on how to submit the required labs.

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Original content on this website created by Ed Nickel
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
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