Computer Science/Geography 60

(Introduction to ArcGIS)


Instructor: Robert (Bob) Earle, MA. Office: Fir 1
Office Hours:
4:30-5:30 pm in Fir 1 (Before Class)
(916) 798-8174 cell (+ msg)
Course Credit: 3 semester hours
Prerequisites: None. Familiarity with MicroSoft Windows recommended
Day and Time: Wednesday 5:30-8:35 pm
Room: Fir 1
Getting to Know ArcGIS (GTKArcGIS) by ESRI; (REQUIRED)        


I. Course Description:


Introduction to basic GIS concepts which can support the various GIS software programs currently available. Students will be introduced to the ArcGIS software package as the main vehicle for learning GIS. GIS feature classes, geodatabases, and maps will be produced from several different data sources. Emphasis will be placed on planning the design of GIS geodatabases which will permit specific types of queries.

II. Course Objectives:


Upon completion of this course each student should be able to:


1. Create ArcGIS shape files, geodatabases, and maps for spatial analysis purposes.


2. Import text, dbf, grid, and vector files into ArcGIS and convert them into shape files and feature classes.


3. Run assigned queries on GIS feature classes, shapefiles, and geodatabases to display the desired text and graphic output (hard and soft copy output).


4. Demonstrate the ability to plan an appropriate geodatabase structure to reach the objectives of a particular assigned problem.


5. Use ArcGIS to run queries on GIS feature data sets created.


6. Demonstrate familiarity with GIS concepts and commands by successfully completing written and practical exams.


7. Design, carry out, and present findings of a research project, in a peer-reviewed format, using

ArcGIS and other software (i.e. PowerPoint, etc.).


Student Learning Outcomes:


·     By the end of the course you will be able to collect, compile, organize, transform, analyze, and make intelligent geospatial decisions from analyzing geospatial and attribute data.

·     By the end of the course you will have worked cooperatively with a small group of peers to design and present a GIS research project to the public.

·     By the end of the course you will learn to summarize scientific concepts using a scientific/technical writing style.

III. Course Content:


Each of the following units will require one to two weeks to complete and will require a minimum of 3 hours per week of student preparation prior to class. It is likely that individual students will need additional time to work on computers during open labs, since computer courses characteristically are very time consuming. See the class Blackboard website for a detailed schedule.




Part 1

Getting to know GIS

Part 2

Getting started with maps and data

Part 3

Displaying and presenting data

Part 4

Database Design, Creating and editing data

Part 5

Getting information about features

Part 6

Analyzing feature relationships


IV. Basic Method(s) of Instruction


1. Lecture and computer time will be intermixed as needed. Basic fundamentals of GIS will be covered by lecture, and where appropriate, they will be illustrated and demonstrated with examples.


2. Lab time will be spent working through the tutorials to learn the fundamental skills necessary to start, carry out, and complete the individual project.


3. All class lectures, exercises, schedules, and supplementary materials will be available on the class website:

V. Methods of Evaluation


1. Lecture and lab material will be covered on the two tests (1 midterm, 1 final) and the project will be assessed on an individual basis, to be turned in toward the end of the semester (see below).


2. Grades:


In Class Assignments









3. Lab exercises and in class work is essential to your success and is your individual responsibility to complete in a timely fashion. I expect you to ask for assistance when needed.


Note: A grading curve will  not be used to determine grades. Grades will be determined as follows:



















< 60%



Project Guide


1.   You will demonstrate organizational, communication, and critical thinking skills

during your presentation.

2.   You will present research findings/conclusions using a combination of media forms your peers and instructor (research and format are described below).

3.   You will demonstrate competence with applying GIS knowledge and skills acquired during this course.





Proposal - A project proposal will be turned in for credit. The proposal will constitute

5% of your total project grade and must be approved by the instructor prior to starting your project. You will turn your proposal in, have it assessed and commented upon, then make changes and iterate the process until it is approved. Click on this link to see the proposal outline:


Proposal Outline

Proposal Example 1

Proposal Example 2


1. Project Ideas:


A) pick a concept where a GIS can be used in the decision-making process


B) think carefully about the scope and sequence of the project (can you complete it by the end of the semester? and in what order will you carry out the tasks that need to be done?)


2. Past Student Topics (from Dr. Jeff Tolhurst’s past classes):


A) Mapping Sugar Pine Distribution on the Columbia College Campus

B) Cattle Grazing Determination in the Clavey River Watershed

C) Mapping the Customer Database for an Arnold Restaurant D) Landslide Hazard Analysis in the Stanislaus National Forest E) Mapping Shopping Cart Distribution at Pak-n-Save

F) Using GIS to Decide Where to Attend a Four-Year School

G) Rainfall and Plant Type Correlation in Death Valley

H) Mapping the Most Efficient Truck Route for a Waste Disposal Company

I) Correlating Big Game Elk and Deer Hunting Grounds in Idaho J) Mapping Moving Company Customers By Geographic Region K) Determining Earthquake-Safe Neighborhoods in San Francisco L) Mapping and Analysis of Raptor Habitat in California

M) Mapping and Analyzing Radon Concentration Levels in Madera County

N) Mapping and Analyzing Vegetative Change in the Larsen Fire Area

O) Viewshed Analyses for Potential Real Estate Buyers in Calaveras County

P) Clavey River Hydroelectric Proposal - A GIS Historical Map Archive Project Q) Erodability Potential for Roads Within the North Fork of the Tuolumne River Watershed, Stanislaus National Forest

R) 3D Bathymetric Map of San Diego Reservoir, Columbia College Campus, Sonora, California

S) 3D Flythrough of the Columbia College Campus, Sonora, California

T) Using GPS to Map Fire Hydrants in San Andreas

U) Using a GPS and a Mountain Bike to Produce a Trail Map of New Melones

V) Mapping Oak Woodland Habitat for Oak Mitigation Studies

W) Mapping the Geology and Forestry of Mt.Knight near Jupiter, California X) Using GPS to Map the Dorrington/Sourgrass Debris Flow near Dorrington, California

Y) Mapping Geocache Sites near San Andreas, California

Z) Using GIS and GPS to Analyze a Parcel Split in Sonora, California


These topics are intended to motivate you to generate your own ideas. Make sure the scope and sequence of your topic is manageable for the given time allotment.


3. Project Format:


A) should have an  Abstract (see rules for writing an  Abstract below)

i) a concise, informative summary/statement of conclusions reached ii) not more than 150 words

iii) turned in to me at the beginning of the presentation


B) should have two or more forms of the following media in the presentation:

i) computer simulation, computer maps, audio, video, slides, models, etc.


C) should have a list of  references cited (listing each source of information used; use the online citation machine to cite your sources:  Citation Machine)

i) any statement that is not general knowledge needs to be credited ii) do not just use encyclopedias and textbooks

iii) use primary (scientific journals, interviews with researchers) and secondary sources

(books and review articles that deal with a specific topic)


D) should be professional (clear, audible, legible, neat, high quality, etc.)


4. Presentations:

A) each presentation will be 8 to 10 minutes in length with time for questions afterward from the class

B) each presentation will be evaluated by the members of the class on a  standardized evaluation form to be provided




This project is due to be presented on the date listed on the calendar during scheduled class time. A sign-up sheet will be available for topics, presentation dates and times, and names of group members. Evaluations will be due at the end of each class hour. Credit will be given for completing evaluations.




1. Research

A) In the library there are books and technical publications on many topics; check the catalog or ask a reference librarian for assistance.

B) The internet will be available for research purposes. This may well be one of your most valued resources. See me if you need help searching for information on the world wide web.

B) Within the community there are several professionals with strong interests in GIS

and GPS. Call them up for ideas, resources, answers to questions, etc.

C) Other students and faculty at Columbia College may be able to help guide your search

D) I'll be able to provide a certain amount of support and guidance - use me as a resource


2. Materials

A) Columbia College may be able to provide some materials on a check out basis, otherwise see me if you need support in this area.

B) The College has multimedia equipment (computer, data projector, software, etc.)

available for use.


Remember - the main goal is learn something new while becoming familiarized with Geographic Information Systems and to present your findings to others in the class. Pick something interesting and fun - and enjoy being creative with this project!



Computer Science 60 Midterm Exam


Directions: Please answer the 2 questions circled below for the midterm. Limit your responses to one, two-sided piece of paper - front and back. Use diagrams and examples to clarify your descriptions and explanations. Follow the grading rubric

below for guidance. I will review any rough drafts of your responses up to the weekend

before the midterm due date if you’d like me to.


Here are the midterm questions:


1. Discuss map datums, map projections, and coordinate systems.  Explain in your own words what each concept is, how each is used, and the importance/significance of each.  Also include the relationship in GIS between datums, projections, and coordinate systems. Include some examples to strengthen your claims.


2. Discuss the vector data model and vector data inputInclude in your discussion how the model works and why it is used as well as its importance/significance. Also include a discussion of data input/output, data quality, and topology and its significance to GIS. Include some examples to strengthen your claims.


3. Discuss the differences between  ArcMap, ArcCatalog, ArcGIS Online, ArcScene/ArcGlobe, and ArcGIS for Server, and ArcPad. Explain what each does/does not do, the main functions of each, and the overall design of ArcGIS. Also explain the difference between the Basic, Standard, and Advanced ArcGIS license levels that ESRI makes available. Give examples of how each software app is used and what each is best used for in terms of a geographic information system. Also discuss some of the limitations of each.


Exam Examples (for organization/format)


Grading Rubric – Same as Final Exam Grading Rubric, see below



Computer Science 60 Final Exam


Directions: Limit your responses to one, two-sided piece of paper - front and back. Use diagrams and examples to clarify your descriptions and explanations. Follow the grading rubric below for guidance. I will review any rough drafts of your responses up to the weekend before the final due date if you’d like me to.


Exam Examples (for organization/format)


Final Exam:


1. Discuss how attribute data is input and managed.  Include in your discussion the importance/significance of a database management system as related to a GIS.  Also include data quality issues and the relational data model in GIS.


2. Discuss the raster data model and raster data inputInclude in your discussion how the model works and why it is used as well as its importance/significance. Give examples to support your understanding.


3. Discuss GIS  analysis functions.  Include in your discussion  transformations, conflation, edge matching, editing functions, query functions, overlay operations, neighborhood operations, and connectivity functions. Give examples to support your descriptions.


Grading Rubric


High-quality responses contain:


• an overview of what you’ll discuss including a statement defining the main point

• specific examples supporting your ideas

• carefully labeled  diagrams depicting important processes

• accurate statements about content of material being discussed

• good organization, well-developed arguments, few mechanical errors

• a conclusion/summary statement


Medium-quality responses contain:


• an overview of what you’ll discuss

• a general example supporting your ideas

• one or more diagrams poorly labeled

• a few accurate statements (some inaccurate statements) about content being discussed

• loosely organized thoughts, moderately developed arguments, some mechanical errors

• a poor conclusion/summary statement


Lower-quality responses contain:


• no (or a poor) introductory overview

• no (or minimal) examples supporting your ideas

• no diagrams, or diagrams with no labeling

• inaccurate statements of the content discussed

• disorganized thoughts, weakly developed arguments, some mechanical errors

• no conclusion/summary statement


Lowest-quality responses contain:


• no overview

• no examples

• no diagrams

• inaccurate statements of content

• unorganized, undeveloped arguments, mechanical errors throughout

• no conclusion/summary statement



“For students with disabilities, (i.e. physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, occupational, financial, etc., in nature), who believe that they may need special accommodations in this class, I encourage you to discuss options with me within the first 10 days of instruction