• M 5:40 – 8:10 pm, TUCC 318

Instructor Info:

  • Prof. Lee Hachadoorian
  • 104 Gladfelter Hall – Inside GIS Studio, knock or enter 103A
  • Office Hours:
    • M 3:30 – 5:30pm, TUCC Suite 215 X1 (note location)
    • W 2 – 4pm
    • R 2 – 3pm

General Information

Purpose of the Course

The purpose of this course is to teach the theory and practical use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  Major components of the course include computer representation of geographic information, the construction of GIS databases, spatial analysis with GIS, application areas of GIS, and social and management issues that concern GIS.  At the end of the course the student is expected to have an understanding of elementary GIS theory, working knowledge of ArcGIS, and the ability to develop GIS-based solutions to geographic modeling and analysis tasks.

Note that this is not just a software training course! You will indeed finish the course with advanced skills in GIS software.  However, broader learning objectives for this course include general scientific literacy and graphicacy (the understanding and creation of maps and other graphic representations), as well as developing critical thinking skills.


There are no course prerequisites; however a working knowledge of Windows and basic file management is expected.


This course meets once a week. Missing any class meetings will hamper your ability to complete the work in this course. Your attendance percentage will also indicate the maximum final grade you can earn in this course. If you miss 3 classes in a once-a-week course, or 6 classes in a twice-a-week course, you have attended 78.6% of class meetings. Accordingly, your final grade will not be higher than a C+, regardless of any other work completed. Please see my attendance policy at


This course will make use of GIS Fundamentals, 5e, by Paul Bolstad. The book is on order with the campus bookstore, and also available directly from the publisher at The publisher sells it in both paper and ebook formats. It contains more material than we will cover, but is fairly inexpensive, and worth keeping as a reference.


Each week will include about an hour of lecture. For classes that meet once a week in the evening, this will be the first hour class. For classes that meet twice a week during the day, lecture will usually be concentrated in the first class meeting of the week, but some weeks may spread over both classes. The lecture is intended, as much as possible, to be an interactive environment.  Please feel free at any time during lecture to ask a question or make a comment.  Conversely, you are expected to respond to discussion questions asked in class. 


The remainder of each class following the lecture will be devoted to lab.  During lab, students work on lab assignments that provide practical experience in applying the concepts learned in lecture.  Most lab exercises will use the commercial GIS software package ArcGIS, which is common in academic, government, and industry settings. Free and open source tools will also be introduced.

Disability Policy

This course is open to all students who meet the academic requirements for participation. Any student who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the instructor privately to discuss the specific situation as soon as possible. Contact Disability Resources and Services at 215-204-1280 in 100 Ritter Annex to coordinate reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities.

Academic Honesty

All submitted work should be your own. Please read my guide to Academic Integrity at

Classroom Environment

All persons participating in the course should be respectful of other students and the instructor in order to facilitate a civil learning environment.  All persons participating in the course have a right to expect respectful treatment in the classroom.

Statement on Academic Freedom

Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic freedom. The University has adopted a policy on Student and Faculty Academic Rights and Responsibilities (Policy # 03.70.02) which can be downloaded from

Assignments and Grading

You will earn points along several tracks. Each track is worth up to 100 points. Your must progress along ALL tracks to be successful in this course. Your final grade is the based on the lowest score earned along any track.

0-100 points. Your attendance score is a straight percentage of class session you are present for.
Lab Exercises (7)
40-100 points. Exercises 1 & 2 will be worth 5 points. Exercises 3-7 will be worth 10 points. The labs are sequenced so that later labs rely upon concepts and skills learned in earlier labs. Accordingly, if any exercise is not submitted, no points will be awarded for any of the following exercises.

Lab exercises will be accepted late. However, if you turn your work in on time, you will be allowed to submit revisions after grading. Nothing is right the first time, and you should know that it is highly unlikely that you will be awarded full points for your first submission, especially for the more complex later exercises. Your goal should be to:

a. Submit your labs on time; and
b. Resubmit them until you get a perfect score.

Exams (7 content modules)
30 + 10 points per completed content module. The exams will consist of 7 content modules, roughly corresponding to the material related to a given lab exercise. You will earn 10 points for each completed content module. You will be allowed to retake a content module on a later exam. There will be two exams during the term. An optional final will allow you to repeat earlier content modules for a higher grade.
Practicals (5)
75 + 5 per completed practical. These will be simple, hands-on GIS tasks that you will complete in front of me during any lab period. They will not involve complex analysis, which is what the exercises and project are for.
Term Project
50-100 points. The term project will be completed in milestones. Points will be awarded for each milestone. The full specification will be detailed separately, and separate standards will apply to graduate students and undergrads.
Extra Credit
Variable. There will be some extra credit opportunities offered during the term. This may include things like attending geospatial meetups in the Philly area, attending department events, or writing short, nontechnical essays on GIS ethics or policy. Full details will be posted later. Suffice it to say that extra credit will help you if you are struggling in certain areas, but will not make up for things like not turning in assignments or not coming to class.

Lab Information


Part of each week (about 1-1/2 hours of a 1 class per week section, or the 2nd meeting of a 2 class per week section) will be a lab period where you will be expected to complete a computer-based exercise.  These assignments will likely require additional time outside of class to complete.  All computer labs administered by the College of Liberal Arts (see for a list of CLA labs), offer access to the GIS software and data used for the course, including the large drop-in lab located in the lobby of Anderson Hall. The TECH center also hosts GIS software, but is not connected to the CLA network drives with the course data.

Lab Reports

Each lab contains an assignment which you are expected to complete.  Labs 1 & 2 are focused on familiarizing yourself with the software. Lab 3 and later will be focused on an analysis task. 
For each lab assignment you should submit a brief report electronically via Canvas in PDF format. I will grade and make comments on your report where applicable. Exercises which are submitted on time may be redone and resubmitted. Your goal should be to earn full points for all lab exercises.

The lab report must be approximately 500-1000 words. The document should be single-spaced 12-14 point font. It should have your name, date, and lab assignment number (e.g. Lab 1) at the top of the page. Sloppy or unreadable labs will be marked sent back to you (i.e. marked Incomplete) for revision.

The report must contain the following five sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Methods
  3. Results
  4. Conclusion
  5. Tables and Figures

Each section should be set off with a larger font. It will be easiest if you use built-in styles in your word processor to assign the “Heading 1” style to the section.
The introduction section should state the objective – what you are trying to accomplish in your assignment.  Here, your objective is the goal of your analysis, not the learning objective.  The introduction should not state that your objective is “To learn GIS” or something similar!
The methods section should state how you did the analysis, what analytical steps you took to complete the assignment.  This is not a tutorial and should not state every buttons that you pushed. Rather, it should summarize what analytical operations you used. For this you should use the GIS jargon we learn in class, e.g. buffer, overlay, and the parameters employed.
The results section should report the results of your analysis. This section is often very brief, as it should be devoid of substantial commentary—just the facts.
The conclusion section should offer some interpretation of your results as well as report on any assumptions and limitations of your analysis and what other steps could be taken to improve the analysis.
In addition, the lab may require the creation of maps, tables, and/or charts, as specified in the lab assignment.  These graphics should be appended onto the end of the written report and referred to in the text.
For help with writing visit the Temple University Writing Center.  For information visit them on the web at

Due Dates

Due dates will be posted to the course website. Early labs will be shorter and be expected to be completed in about one week. Later labs will be more complex and will be given two weeks to complete. In general, labs will be due by midnight the day of a lab class meeting. I will begin grading them the following day.

Working with Other Students

I encourage students to work together on lab assignments and assist each other in understanding the course material. However, all contents of each student’s lab reports (text and graphics) must be authored solely by that student.


Labs will be graded based not only on whether you get the “right answer”, but also on your ability to express yourself in a coherent fashion through both writing and graphics (i.e. maps). Incomplete labs will receive comments and can (should) be resubmitted.


Each lab assignment will indicate how to access data for that lab assignment.  Exercises will typically take longer than one or two lab sessions to complete, so you will need to save incomplete labs so that you may continue to work on them at another time.  It is the student’s responsibility to understand how data and projects are saved, and to manage and back up their own data and assignments. Please bring a USB flash drive or external hard drive with you to all class meetings. Storage has gotten so cheap that I would not even consider getting less than a 16GB flash drive, which will probably cost under $10. For each assignment, I suggest you copy all relevant data files to that device in a folder (e.g. named “Lab_01”) and then perform the lab assignments by working off the device.

Course Schedule