Simon Fraser Professor Introduces GIS MOOC

Exploring Geographic Information Systems is a free course on Canvas from Shivanand Balram, Ph.D. Senior Lecturer, Spatial Information Science at Simon Fraser University. It's under CC-BY-NC-ND, so it's open in the sense of re-use of content.

A badge is awarded to those who complete all the quizzes and receive over 80%. There's a final peer-reviewed map project. The course uses ArcGIS Online but another package can be used for the final project. I enrolled on Tuesday, after some 800 students. (I have no intention of taking the course; I just wanted access to more information about it.) The intro video is below and you can find a few others from the course.  

The course details, including learning objectives, are only available after you enroll. 

Course Learning Objectives

After successfully completing the learning activities for each week, you should be able to achieve the following by the time the course has ended:

  • Identify the components that make up a geographic information system,
  • Differentiate what is geographic data and why it is special,
  • Understand models of spatial data representation and referencing,
  • Find, critically evaluate and use spatial data and databases,
  • Design maps for public communication and dissemination,
  • Demonstrate competence in using a GIS software for analysis,
  • Implement GIS analysis for a problem situation of your choice.


There is no prerequisite knowledge requirements. However, it is assumed that you:

  • have access to a modern computer and internet connection,
  • have proficiency in fundamental computer and internet skills,
  • are willing to spend 3 to 4 hours per week on the learning materials,
  • will demonstrate regular commitment and dedication throughout the course.

Simon Fraser offers a variety of residence and distance learning SIS offerings. Best I can tell this is SFU's first MOOC and the relationship between it and the other offerings is not exactly clear. In February 2013 the SFU News reported:

“We’re definitely not, as an institution, organizing SFU-branded MOOCs at present,” says Driver. “But we are certainly exploring whether there would be some benefit to our students and to us.”

Published Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Written by Adena Schutzberg

Published in


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