Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)


Spring 2012
01/17/2012 - 05/13/2012

Course Information

Section 004
Distance Learning
Mary Booth

Office Hours

No office hours have been entered for this term


The information on this page does NOT contain all the information on the class syllabus. The complete syllabus is on the class page on the Blackboard class site.

Student Learning Outcomes/Learning Objectives

Course Level Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, the student will

  • define geography and GIS
  • describe scale, projection, and coordinate systems and explain importance of each in GIS
  • differentiate between vector, raster, and object-oriented data structures and explain the appropriate use of each of these data structures
  • describe various types of GIS data capture
  • explain the basics of GIS data storage,
  • differentiate between attribute analysis and spatial analysis and describe the appropriate use of each type of analysis,
  • produce effective maps of analytical results which adhere to established cartographic standards
  • demonstrate proficiency with GIS software


Program Level Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of the Associate of Arts in GIS program, the student will

  • use GIS knowledge to choose appropriate problem-specific spatial analyses
  • differentiate between attribute and spatial queries and describe the proper use of each
  • use GIS technology to retrieve, manage, analyze, and present spatial information  

Course Requirements


Lecture Tests

There will be three online tests but these tests MUST be taken at one of the ACC Testing Centers. These tests cover the reading assignments and the material presented in the lecture videos All the tests are multiple-choice, true-false and short answers. The tests are worth a maximum of 100 points each.


As per ACC’s official policy, these secure online tests must be taken at one of the ACC testing Centers which offer secure online testing through Blackboard on a Respondus Secure Internet Browser. These are the only testing centers you can use: Cypress Creek, Eastview, Northridge, Pinnacle, Rio Grande, Riverside, Round Rock, South Austin, San Marcos, and Fredericksburg Academic Testing Centers. Eastview and South Austin Campus tend to be less crowded.


BEFORE using the testing center, go to this website: Read all the information posted there about the testing centers. Make sure you click on the “Student Testing Center Information” and carefully read all the information posted.


Here is the link to the information about how to take a secure online test at an ACC testing Center: I strongly suggest that you print out this page and read it over carefully before going to the testing center.


Once you have logged into Blackboard at one of the testing centers, go to the main page for this class. Click on the Exams button on the left side of the page and then click on whichever exam you are taking. When it asks if a password is required, click No. You don’t have to click Save after each question, you just have to click Submit when you are all finished the test. Do NOT click the Submit button until you are totally finished the test. Once you have submitted the test, the test will be automatically graded and your grade will be sent to the instructor’s grade book in Blackboard. You will be able to review your test and the correct answers if you wish to.


**NOTE: If you are taking more than one test at a time, students are required to wait again in line, if one exists, to take the next test. See this link for more details:


There are NO make-up tests. There are NOretests.


**NOTE: To get the most points that you can in this course, check the test deadlines carefully and plan ahead so that you can take the tests by the stated deadlines. Cars break down, children get sick, testing centers get very crowded at the end of the semester, bosses want you to work overtime, and babysitters don’t show up. So DO NOT wait until the last day to take the tests. If you do, you run the risk of not getting to the testing centers on time and then you will not be able to take the test.




Test Deadlines



Test Number


Material Covered


March 2

What is GIS?, The Uses of GIS, Scale, Projection, Coordinate Systems, Steps in a GIS Project, and Vector Data Structure


April 8

Raster Data Structure, Data Accuracy, Quality, and Precision, Cartography, and Data Capture


May 10

Database Management, Statistical Analysis, and Spatial Analysis




Lab Projects

There will be two lab projects due throughout the semester. These lab projects will use the skills acquired from the previous lab exercises. The first lab project is worth 50 points and the second lab project is worth 100 points. See the course web site ( for the lab project assignments.


Lab Project Deadlines



Lab Project #




March 25



May 7





Written Assignment

There will be one written assignment, which will be a map critique.  See the class web site for details. This written assignment is worth 30 points.






Written Assignment One

(Map Critique)


April 22



Lab Homework Assignments

There will be 6 lab homework assignments. Each assignment is worth 20 points. Late homework assignments will NOT be accepted. These lab homework assignments test how your mastery of the lab skills and use the ArcGIS software.


Lab Homework Deadlines



Homework #





January 29



February 5



February 16



February 26



March 4



April 8





Grades will be based on the following:


Lecture tests                           300 points

Lab projects                            150 points

Homework                                120 points

Written Assignment                  30 points 

Total Points Avalable           600 points


Final letter grades will be assigned according to the following scale:

A         540 to 600 points
B         480 to 539 points
C         420 to 479 points
D         360 to 419 points
F              0 to 359points

*Note: The grade of “I” (Incomplete) is very rarely assigned in this course. In the event that a true emergency (such as hospitalization) prevents the student from taking the last test, a grade of “I” may possibly be given at the discretion of the instructor. Incompletes must be made up by the deadline published in ACC’s academic calendar (sometime in the middle of the Summer semester, 2012), or the “I” will automatically be converted to an “F”. 

Course Subjects


January 17 - 22


Lesson 1 (what is GIS?)

Homework 1 is due no later than 11:59 pm on Jan 29th



January 23 - 29


Lesson 2 (Uses of GIS)

Homework 2 is due no later than 11:59 pm on Feb 5th.




January 30 – February 9

Lesson 3 (Scale Projection and Coordinate Systems)

Homework 3 is due no later than 11:59 pm on Feb 16th



February 10 - 19

Lesson 4 (Vector Data Structure and Steps in a GIS project)

Homework 4 is due no later than 11:59 pm on Feb 26th

            Test 1 must be taken at one of the ACC Testing Centers by the close of business on Friday March 2nd.


February 20 – 26

Lesson 5 (Raster Data Structure and Data Accuracy, Quality, and Precision)

Homework 5 is due no later than 11:59 pm on March 4th.

Start working on lab Project 1



February 27 – March 11, March 19 - 25

Lesson 6 (Cartography)

Project 1 must be submitted by 11:59 pm on March 25th.




March 26 – April 1


Lesson 7 (Data Capture)

Test 2 must be taken at one of the ACC testing Centers by the close of business on Monday April 8th.

Written Assignment One (Map Critique) is due no later than 11:59 pm on April 8th  



April 2 – April 15


Lesson 8 (Database Management)

Homework 6 is due no later than 11:59 pm on April 22nd

Start working on Lab Project 2



April 16 – April 22


Lesson 9 (Statistical Analysis)

Continue working on Lab Project 2



April 23 – May 10


Lesson 10 (Spatial Analysis)

Project 2 is due no later than 11:59 pm on May 7th

The final exam must be taken at one of the ACC testing centers by the time the testing center closes on May 10th.


***NOTE: ACC is closed for Spring Break March 12-18, so you will not be able to take tests during this time


Lesson 1 (What is GIS?)


Chapters 1 and 2 in the "Getting to Know ArcGIS Desktop" lab book


GIS Definitions

"What is GIS?"( from ESRI (the company that makes the ArcGIS software). This includes a short video about GIS and links to additional information about GIS

Overview of GIS( from the GIS lounge

GIS Definition poster(  from the United States Geological Survey (USGS)

"What is GIS?"( from      


Features and Attributes

GIS dictionary(  including definitions for features and attributes

Characterizing Geographic Features( by David J. Buckey


Lesson 2 (Uses of GIS)


Sidewalk Planning: A GIS-based Approach in Austin, Texas(



Uses of GIS

ESRI's Overview of How GIS is used in many, many industries
( Please explore this website - it has a lot of valuable information!

Texas General Land Office (

Capital Area Planning Council's GIS Services(

Classification Methods

This website explains the classification methods used in ArcGIS in more detail. Make sure that you click on each of the links to explore all the classification methods

Standard Classification Schemes (ArcGIS Desktop Help) (


Lesson 3 (Scale, Projection, and Coordinate Systems



Map Scale - Measuring Distances on a Map(


ArcGIS Resource Center's article on Map Projections(

Coordinate Systems

ArcGIS Resource Center's article on Coordinate Systems(



Map Scalesby the United States Geological Survey



The National Atlas' article on Projections

Map Projection Posterby the United States Geological Survey

Learning about Map Projectionsby the United States Geological Survey


Coordinate Systems

Coordinate Systems Overviewby Peter H. Dana, The Geographer's Craft Project, Department of Geography, The University of Colorado at Boulder

UTM Gridsby the United States Geological Survey


Lesson 4 (Vector Data Structure)


Vector Data Structure

ArcGIS's article on GIS Data Structure Types

GIS Data Accuracy, Quality, and Precision

Data Accuracy and Quality articleby David Buckey


Vector Data Formats


Geodatabase Feature Classes




Data Accuracy, Quality, and Precision

The Geographer's Craft article on Error, Accuracy and Precision


Lesson 5 (Raster Data Structure)


ArcGIS Online Resources about Raster Data Structure

What is Raster Data?

Discrete and Continuous Data



ArcGIS Online Resources about Raster Data Structure

Cell Size of Raster Data

How Features are Represented in a Raster


Lesson 6 (Cartography)


Cartographic Communication.This website was developed by Kenneth E. Foote and Shannon Crum, The Geographer's Craft Project, Department of Geography, The University of Colorado at Boulder


Lesson 7 (Data Capture)


How GPS Works

The Feature Construction Toolbar



LIDAR Overview

Digitizing Tablets


Lesson 8 (Database Management)


Overview of geodatabases

Single-user geodatabases



The Top Nine Reasons to Use a File Geodatabase

Essential Geodatabase Readings(ArcGIS 10 Desktop Help)



Lesson 9 (Statistical Analysis)


Statistical Analysis (ArcGIS 10 online help)


Free online statistics tutorial

Summary statistics in ArcGIS 10


Lesson 10 (Spatial Analysis)


What is geoprocessing? (ArcGIS 10 Desktop help)

An introduction to the commonly used GIS tools(ArcGIS 10 Desktop help). Read this web page and also click on the links for Overlay and Proximity Analysis and read those pages as well. For the Proximity Analysis page, you can stop reading after the information about the buffer tool (stop at the Near Tool).


For a scholarly look at Spatial Analysis, "Geospatial Analysis" by de Smith, Goodchild and Longley addresses the full spectrum of analytical techniques that are provided within modern GIS and related geospatial software products.