Student-centered Geographic Information Science education
Castellucci, Emily Snow
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Geographic Information Science (GIScience) has undergone rapid change in the past several years, and this has introduced new challenges for teaching and learning geographic information systems (GIS) technology. The projects presented here are intended to examine three of these new challenges in greater detail, particularly with a focus on substantial learning and especially student-centered learning. The first research project applies the “flipped” classroom model as an alternative to the traditional lecture/lab model. Specifically, this project addresses how instructors and students engage with first-time attempts at flipping the classroom in GIScience courses. It also considers how these experiences inform future research into the appropriateness of the flipped classroom approach for teaching and learning GIScience. Most and least favorable flipped classroom experiences are discussed. Results indicate the importance of instructor buy-in and incorporating accountability measures into the flipped classroom design. The second research project gathers graduate students’ reflections, via one-on-one interviews, on their past and desired learning experiences in GIScience, considering recently completed courses offered by the Geography Department at the University of Georgia. These interviews are examined to determine how graduate students’ reflections might inform curriculum revision and enhancement, both at the departmental level and beyond. Participants’ responses indicate a strong interest in more preparation for careers after graduation, both academic and especially non-academic. As part of this, participants expressed a strong desire for more opportunities to develop programming skills. The third research project addresses the potential for free and open source software for GIS to facilitate significant learning experiences, since demand for graduates with free and open source software experiences continues to grow. A standalone workshop experience, emphasizing participants’ learning of color for cartographic application using QGIS, a free and open source software, was designed and facilitated ten times. Feedback from participants was gathered using surveys. Results suggest that substantial learning was achieved, that QGIS was beneficial for participants’ learning, that QGIS can and should be incorporated into regular GIScience curriculum, and that concepts and software previously reserved for advanced courses can be taught to students in introductory courses.