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GIS 301
Geographic Information
Systems Essentials

Revised: August, 2013
Credits: 1
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: There is no textbook for this class, readings and assignments will be provided in class or via WebCampus.


Course Description: This course is designed for non-GIS majors and covers essential concepts in database management required for a manager of digital technology systems. Students will start work on individual portfolios of their achievements during this degree program. (Prerequisite: an AAS with either a Graphic Communications, Information Specialist, Network Specialist, Office Technology, or Web Specialist Emphasis; or equivalent degree from another community college)

Welcome to GIS 301, Geographical Information Systems Essentials. This course provides an essential foundation for digital information technology management students with a strong IT background but who do not have much background in geographical information systems and science. A GBC AAS in COT with either CADD, Graphic Communications, Information Specialist, Network Specialist, Office Technology, or Web Specialist Emphasis; or equivalent degree from another college is the prerequisite for this class. Various GIS principles, best practices for managing GISs, and the tools for spatial analysis will be introduced in various lesson with some hands on evaluation of each. You will need time each week to complete readings and labs. Some of the computers available at the GBC open labs have the software used in class for your to complete assigned exercises. You can order a 60 day evaluation copy of the software to do your assignments at home if you have an adequate computer system. To successfully complete this class you are required to complete all 8 GIS labs available via ESRI's website as well as write a concluding post on the three main purposes for GIS visualization: interpretation, validation, and exploration. Successful completion of these labs and your participation in the weekly discussions will demonstrate your understanding of the GIS concepts covered in this class.

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, 1 GB or larger, to either store (if working in lab) or back up (if working at home) your work. (If you wish to work on assignments at home you will also need a computer that has at a minimum:1 GB RAM, a 2.0 GHz or faster processor, 2.5 GB or more of free hard disk space, and Windows XP or more recent.) In addition to the software provided with the book and the zip/unzip software provided in class, you may also need access to a spreadsheet and word processor such as Microsoft Excel and Word.


The primary objective of this class is to provide students who have a strong information technology background but little in GIS with a working knowledge of geographic information systems concepts, terminology, and principles. Students who successfully complete this class should be conversant in essential GIS concepts and software. The more important topics include:

  • the strengths and weaknesses of geographic information systems
  • spatial analysis and the tools use in GIS data analysis
  • techniques used in creating & symbolizing high quality maps
  • the principle purposes of visualization: interpretation, validation, & exploration
The successful student in this class will be able to:
  1. use clear and concise map symbology;
  2. georeference data to real locations;
  3. create, edit, and organize GIS data;
  4. perform GIS data analysis using geoprocessing and modeling tools;
Learner Outcome Assessments
Class Discussions 1, 2, 3, 4
Assignments & Hands On Exercises 1, 2, 3, 4


GRADING POLICY: This is a pass/fail class a P=70-100%, F=69% or less or W=Official Withdrawal by the official withdrawal date. There is no curve in this grading scale. Your grade will be based 50% on class participation and discussion and 50% on the hands-on exercises. All assignments are due at the beginning of the next class.

ATTENDANCE POLICY: The instructor must agree in advance to any excused absences unless there are strong extenuating circumstances. One (1) unexcused absence 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.


In order to keep up with the posted web discussions, you should read and understand each week's topics and complete the labs as they are assigned. All labs and discussion posts will be due at the end of the week they are assigned. As instructor, I get a notification from the ESRI training center when you successfully complete each lab.

*Readings, topics, & major assignments by week:
(Please note: the following schedule is subject to change based on class progress)
week 1 Modules 1 & 2: Navigating ArcGIS & Understanding map symbology
week 2 Modules 3 & 4: Georeferencing & Organizing geographic data
week 3 Modules 5 & 6: Creating and editing GIS data & GIS data analysis
week 4 Modules 7 & 8: Using geoprocessing and modeling tools & Designing maps
week 5 Your conclusions The three main purposes of GIS visualization:
interpretation, validation, & exploration


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Original content on this website created by Ed Nickel
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
United States License
based on a work at
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