[OSGeo-Discuss] Re: Use cases for FOSS-GIS in universities
timmichelsen at gmx-topmail.de
Sat May 12 12:33:21 PDT 2007
Patrick Maué schrieb:
> Hi Tim,
> I am not sure if using open source alternatives for education does
> necessarily mean that your students learn more than just pressing
> buttons in the right order. Actually, I guess this is one of the major
> arguments against open source software: it's the lack of user-friendly
> interfaces which forces you to learn the underlying concepts to let the
> software make what you want.
> choice to challenge of using GRASS instead of ArcDesktop. I would like
> to see that (the mandatory) GIS classes should not force any student to
> learn the functionality of a software package, wether it's free software
> or not.
I can second that. For a normal user a system should be as user friendly
But, as you also state, GIS systems are expert software which require
some sort of understanding of the concept.
Not like read the manual and off you go.
To my observation, FOSS-GIS differs a lot from the proprietary software.
If you are interested in FOSS you'd usually go and learn it by yourself.
And this is not done simply by reading one tutorial. When doing team
work all others rely on the software that was thought and is present in
the labs. And when you are short of time due to a coming deadline you
may just stick to what you already know...
But these issues are really educational matters that seem to be of more
interest for the edu_discuss ML.
I put this topic here becuase I am looking for a more general approach.
Like I described I think that software can be learned once qualified
teaching personel is there. Therefore I'd like to know if it would be
feasible to implement a geodata infrastructure for a whole university
like I described in my first posting. This would avoid buying tons of
licences of a standard product. The money saved could be spend (A) on
the real reseach (e.g. soil samples) or (B) to have a local GIS
developer adjust and develop the software to the needs of the research
groups which would then help others, too.
I think FOSS GIS companies have already implemented geodata
infrastructures in various organisations like governments or companies.
Could the experiences gained on that field be transfered to the academia?
For example: A guy from another department is now looking at introduce
GIS in his department. What he does is checking how many licences of
Arc* he could get for his budget. Maybe he would consider his decision
if he'd knew that he what services (gdi implementation, adaption,
training courses) he could get from a FOSS GIS service provider for the
None of the responsible people will launch a tender that a FOSS and
proprietary vendors apply and the best wins!
ESRI is offering student licences (= Arc* for free during your thesis).
So, students get a software which they know from classes and on which
their supervisors have confidence.
What has FOSS to offer?
A lot of software with a superbe licence! But a very steep learning
curve. To my thinking the GRASS flyer which is currently in development
will not much. People who know linux or have advanced computing skills
may give it a try (see above and previous posts). I can imagine that
building up a mentoring network could help. Voluteering FOSS GIS gurus
(in governmental authorities and companies) could mentor students or
student groups that are interested. Some universities invite external
experts to teach. Therefore I recommend to send a list of possible
trainers in the specific country/region along when you start sending out
flyers like the GRASS flyer.
My university has not only fully equipped labs with Arc*. For remote
sensing they rely (like many others) on the ITT stack (Envi, Idrisi,
IDL). Once the licence is there it *has* to be used to justify the
And please remember that only a minority of users have high comutional
skills. They have other things like in mind like getting samples from
the fields, etc. (see Ari's mail).
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