Free GIS How-To​ Resources to Save You Time (and maybe save the day!)

March 11, 2021

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Even though pervasive use of the internet is less than 30 years old, we’ve easily adapted to searching and teaching ourselves many skills thanks to experts and well-intentioned folks sharing their experiences on blogs, YouTube, social media and more. GIS and other geospatial skills are no different. 

 Before you start searching, perhaps it’s worth evaluating your skills with the GeoTech Center’s Personal Assessment Tool, learning more about the GISP, or reading the top five skills needed in a successful geospatial career. The internet is replete with free, reliable how-to resources.

 Both educational and non-profit organizations, along with businesses, offer training and task-specific content videos, blogs, etc. Organizations like the GeoTech Center have curated collections of resources - Concept Modules and Demonstrations. Companies like Esri continue expanding their educational resources and videos, while passionate professionals share tutorials like this one on QGIS. Caitlyn Dempsey shared a list of good options in 2018 entitled “Learn GIS for Free.” Sites like Coursera offer many free and paid opportunities. The University of Arkansas, like many universities, has a page dedicated to self-service tutoring in GIS.

 In the actively adapting geospatial arena, the need for a myriad of scenarios is great. When you are searching for resources, try to be specific. For example, “how to GIS videos” returns too many basic introductory items, whereas “geocode rooftops” reveals more service related entries. You might be interested in generally bringing some spatial context to your work or perhaps something specific like using GIS as a forester or create a distance matrix in QGIS. Perhaps you’d like to explore R or dig deeper into how GIS impacts your brain. No one site will give you all that you’re looking for. Even some service providers are creating their products with a how-to mindset. At DirectionsMag, we have years of examples in our article collections:

 And then there are 11 years of webinars waiting for you as well.

 In addition to learning specific skills, perhaps you want to understand how you learn or what’s needed. Start simple, one thing at a time. The geospatial community continues to be a thriving collaborative space that encourages learning and sharing, and believes that we can make a difference in the world together…with data and maps of course.

Reposted from The DirectionsMag Geospatial Community Blog, an extension of Directions Magazine. Visit us for daily geospatial news, exclusive articles, geospatial webinars, and podcasts. If you are interested in contributing, please email  


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