I recently completed the Maps and the Geospatial Revolution MOOC offered by Coursera. This was the second MOOC I started, but it’s the first one that I finished. I even managed to earn a Distinction on my Statement of Accomplishment. I found that the course gave me a great exposure to the free online GIS (Geographic Information Systems) tools that are available. It wasn’t only about the tools, but it also examined the techniques and philosophy behind how to make a good map. Now that I know about these tools, particularly ArcGIS, I’ll certainly be using them more often.
One of the reasons I took the course was to gain a better understanding of GIS so that I could better support the students and staff at my institution who work in this field. I certainly managed to achieve this, and I’m seriously considering enrolling in a postgraduate GIS course next year.
As part of the Mapping with Google course that I’ve been working on recently, we had to create a map. I decided to create a geocaching-related map, so mine shows the ten oldest active caches in Australia. There are two layers – one with the five oldest active geocaches listed on geocaching.com, and the other has the five oldest active caches listed on geocaching.com.au. It was pretty to easy to create, and you can import any .csv file that has location data in it. This could be latitude and longitude coordinates (as in my case), or addresses. Here’s the finished product:
I thought that ten caches didn’t look very exciting, so I made another map with 200 caches on it (100 in each layer, which is the maximum number of points you can have in a layer). I played around with the styling of the markers a bit, and the caches are grouped by difficulty. I’ll embed that map when I’ve finished tweaking it (and when I’ve got more than 5 minutes left in the day).
[Edited 23/6/13: map added]
All up I found the course pretty interesting and enjoyable. It was quite a bit shorter than the last MOOC I enrolled in, so it was easy to keep motivated and working on the modules. Another factor that kept me interested was that I could see practical uses for the skills and knowledge I was learning. I think that was what was lacking from the computer science MOOC that I enrolled in from Udacity.
I’m now on the lookout for library-related applications of my new skills. All I need to do is find some data …