BETT 2016 Guest Post: Esri UK – From the field to the classroom and into your first job


This BETT 2016 partner blog comes from Esri UK. Not only will they be exhibiting as part of the Microsoft Partner Village, but they are a finalist in this year's BETT Awards! Read on to find out more about the UK's s leading distributor of GIS (Geographic Information Systems).


From the field to the classroom and into your first job – why mobile data and GIS matters.


You might teach a bit of GIS if you are in a geography department but are geography, earth and environmental science the only significant GIS user group in a university? Probably, but it shouldn’t be limited to these so called “core” subjects. GIS skills are used widely in many professions and are increasingly described as “desired” or even “required” in job adverts. In this article we will look at why GIS, in particular mobile GIS and data capture, are important skills for tomorrow’s graduates and why it could increase their employability.

Over the past 5-10 years GIS has advanced massively and matured into a required technology. From Environmental Consulting to Business Analysis, GIS can be used to capture data and turn this into knowledge. Developing GIS skillsets during Higher Education is critical if graduates are going to make the first cut when applying for many jobs. So how can you embed GIS skills into your degree courses?

Capturing data digitally

Technology is everywhere and students expect to use technology in their studies. Smartphones are powerful, multi-functional devices that are increasingly able to replace expensive field equipment. Students can use their own devices to capture their field data through apps such as Collector for ArcGIS, Survey123 or GeoForms. An overview these data collection apps is given in Figure 1 below:


  Survey 123 Collector GeoForm
Works Offline Yes Yes No
Capture new data Yes Yes Yes
Edit existing data No Yes Yes
Anonymous data No No Yes
Group Working Yes Yes Yes
Smart forms Yes (xforms) No No
Data collection style Form Centric (excel) Map Centric Form Centric



Figure 1 - comparing esri's data collection apps

These apps allow students and researchers to collect the data they need with equipment they have and are familiar with. This approach should:

  • Ensure data consistency
  • Reduces blunders during transcribing
  • Link together the data with its location and attachments such as photos
  • Collate data from multiple people in the field.

Analysing data

Understanding what you need to collect and knowing how to collect it is just the beginning of the story. Students need to know how to analyse the data they collect. They need to know how to turn data into information and how to use this to gain knowledge and insight.

Modern GIS applications are simple, straightforward and intuitive. A student’s first foray into GIS need not be a lab sessions where they followed a worksheet until they got lost and had to get a demonstrator to help them back on track. With lightweight web GIS, such as ArcGIS Online, students can visualise their data on base maps or aerial imagery in just a couple of minutes, it can be as easy as drag n’ drop from Microsoft Excel.


Figure 2 - ArcGIS for Desktop and ArcGIS Online interfaces


ArcGIS Online has a range of useful spatial analysis tools including buffering, merging, drive time analysis and view shed analysis. These allow users to perform basic spatial analysis without having to get to grips with more complex applications such as ArcGIS for Desktop.

Presenting results in an engaging way

So you have gathered your data, analysed it and produced some nice looking maps. How are you going to distribute these? Paper? Images in a report? These are fine, but increasingly we consume information through the internet. Why not get your students to create interactive web sites where their data and maps are the focus, not just a little picture. Figure 3 shows a Story Map, you can explore the Story Map gallery.



Figure 3- Visualising data through a Story Map -


Creating an interactive Story Map is simple and involved no coding. To publish your Story Map you need to:

  1. Get your maps sorted in ArcGIS Online
  2. Select your template
  3. Add your maps to each tab
  4. Add the description including pictures and videos from Flickr, Picasa, YouTube or Vimeo
  5. Publish it

Students could easily submit a Story Map to support a project or their dissertation. They could then use this as part of their digital CV to show employers what they did at university and what they can do with GIS.

Find out more

If you would like to discover more about how you can make your students more employable using GIS:

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