[OSGeo-Discuss] Maps and the Geospatial Revolution from Jul 17th 2013 at Coursera

Jorge Gaspar Sanz Salinas jsanz at osgeo.org
Sun Jun 30 13:14:52 PDT 2013

On 29 June 2013 19:20, ANTHONY C ROBINSON <acr181 at psu.edu> wrote:
> Hi Cameron,
> I really appreciate you touching base with me about this and sharing your
> discussions on my MOOC.
> I hadn’t yet seen the OSGeo-Live site or packages – this is great to know
> about and I will change my instructions in the class to point to these
> resources instead of the piece-by-piece approach I’d been taking with
> respect to highlighting various open source geo-efforts. While students in
> the class will use ArcGIS Online for 4 of the 5 lab assignments, for the
> final lab assignment I have created a tiered-approach with multiple options
> to hopefully encourage some of the most eager/tech savvy students to try out
> platforms like QGIS, GRASS, etc…
> I’m aware of some OS community angst about my selection of AGOL for doing
> most of the labs in the course. I’ve worked for 10 years in the GeoVISTA
> Center, a GIScience research center that has been very active in developing
> open source systems for geovisualization and geocomputation. In addition, I
> lead Online Geospatial Education programs at Penn State, which to my
> knowledge represent the only Geography programs that provide Open
> Educational Resources for nearly all of its online courses
> (open.ems.psu.edu). So the clear value and innovation associated with all
> things open is not lost on me, and I recognize that there are some important
> considerations to be had with having MOOC students use a commercial
> platform. I won’t answer all of them here ( and I would never claim to be an
> infallible decision maker), but it may be helpful to understand some of the
> motivation for this course and its design:
> ·         The class is designed for people who may use maps but have never
> made their own. It is not designed to teach GIS pros/academics something
> new. It’s designed to encourage new geospatial people to emerge; to rethink
> maps and what they can do.
> ·         It is not designed to train people to use GIS software. The focus
> is on understanding the most basic things about Geography and Mapping. It
> functions much like a 1 credit zero-level class that we might teach here on
> campus.
> ·         A MOOC on Coursera typically reaches at least 30,000 people in its
> first run (mine will be no exception) and includes 60-75% of its students
> from outside the United States.
> ·         I chose a mapping platform that my Grandpa could realistically use
> (he’s signed up for the class) in the first week of the class, and that
> would not require anything to be downloaded.
> ·         Esri is providing technical support in the course forums to ensure
> that nothing blows up and that problems are very quickly remedied. No money
> is associated at all with this relationship, and I approached them first
> because my former boss, David DiBiase, directs their education team and I
> knew he would understand what I did and did not want in terms of a
> partnership. I know they get a bad rap quite often (frequently for good
> reason) but I have to say that every part of this cooperation has been on my
> terms and excellent.
> There are absolutely great ways to re-imagine this type of course with
> purely open source stuff driving lab assignments. Nothing would make me
> happier than to see the OsGeo community develop a second version of this
> class with different ways to complete the labs. I think that would be
> awesome. If I can be useful toward that end, please let me know.
> I’m very interested in any advice folks can give me about the best ways to
> share the content I’ve developed for this course. Coursera doesn’t make it
> easy for me to export the whole thing into a reusable package. We use Drupal
> here in our PSU programs to provide content, so my thought is to try and
> convert everything to that CMS and provide it in that manner. Others have
> suggested using GitHub, but I want to avoid simply uploading a pile of PDFs
> and Videos and assuming that that would be “good enough.” Everything in the
> class will be offered under a CC non-commercial license at any rate – like
> our other open courseware at PSU.
> I also can’t imagine that there would only ever be one MOOC on Mapping.
> That’s crazy. There ought to be just as many as we see now for various
> CompSci and Engineering topics. I’m very excited to share everything I learn
> from this experience, comparing it to how we develop other online courses
> (we offer ~25 here and I have 5 years of teaching geospatial stuff online),
> and considering the meaning of “open” when it comes to such things. I would
> agree with many critics that MOOCs themselves are not necessarily as “open”
> as they perhaps should be. Most of the big platforms (Coursera included) are
> trying to figure out a revenue stream from this stuff, for example, and as
> I’ve mentioned they definitely don’t make it easy to repurpose things
> elsewhere.
> The class is 99% ready to go and opens on July 17th. I would be very happy
> to hear any and all feedback (including, if you think its warranted, that I
> am a colossal idiot) once it’s launched. Each week for five weeks a new
> lesson will roll out, with video lectures, lots of written/graphical
> content, lab assignments, and discussions on things like geospatial privacy,
> the impact of social media on mapping, etc… At the bare minimum it is very
> exciting to imagine what tens of thousands of people will do when they make
> their first maps.
> TL:DR – I’ll definitely point to the live.osgeo resources and making a MOOC
> is complicated but I am very eager to share what I learn. :)
> Cheers,
> -Anthony

Hi Anthony,

Thanks for your comments, they are much appreciated. I didn't wanted
to start a flame or something like that but I'm happy to see you
sharing how your course is being prepared and of course that you
consider OSGeo Live as a valid resource for your students.

As a past coursera student (I've finished three courses) I understand
the problems you can face dealing with so many students, sometimes
forums are pretty crazy. After your comments on your objectives I have
to admit it would be hard to think on another way to start a basic
intro to GIS where people doesn't have to download anything to play
with geodata. Maybe CartoDB could be an alternative but I'm not sure
if it could offer the same functionality than ArcGIS Online. Having
support from esri on your course is great, kudos to them.

Anyway, sharing the lectures and slides of your course will add a
great resource to anyone wanting to learn GIS, that's great from any
point of view, thank you very much. Open access to knowledge is more
important than open source software.

Jorge Sanz

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