Great Basin College

Fundamentals of GIS

GIS 109, 3 credits


Time/Location: Internet, assignments due Wednesdays at midnight.

Please Read through the entire syllabus and print it out for your reference.


Catalog Description: An introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) covering the basic concepts. Principles of cartography and spatial analysis are presented. The intent is to prepare the student for advanced training using specific GIS software. No prerequisites.


Instructor:     Laura Johnson, email through WebCT.  Location: Golden, Colorado


Note on Email: Please allow me 24 hours during regular business hours (9-5 M-F) to respond to your email. I will try to answer as quickly as possible. I do not check email over weekends (Friday 5pm – Monday 9 am). Please plan ahead. Last-minute (night of a due date) emails will generally be fruitless. Start your assignments before they are due and I can help you as much as you need!


Note on phone calls: I do not have an office phone. If you would like to ask questions over the phone, I encourage that. Please send me an email to that effect with your name, number (include area code) and times you are available during office hours if possible. Please see my office hours.


Office hours: See link on class homepage. Will be conducted using chat, phone, and Live Net. I will post the office hours and methods of contacting me on the website within the first week of class. You MUST set up an appointment with me for office hours at least 24 hours in advance for me to be able to meet with you.


**Special Note for this Semester (Spring 2007)**: I will be having a baby at the beginning of this semester. My due date is around Feb. 2nd. If I am not responding to emails or phone calls for a few days (1-4 days) around this time (could be 1 - 2 weeks before or after the possible due date), I am most likely in the hospital. I will try to keep the class as informed as possible. Please be patient and I will catch up with you as soon as humanly possible.


Required Text: Longley, Paul A. and others. Geographic Information Systems and Science. John Wiley and Sons, 2005


Required Equipment: Each student will need a flash drive, 512 mb or higher, to either store (if working in lab) or back up (if working at home) their work. If you choose to work at home, you will also need a computer that meets (preferably exceeds) the following requirements:

  1. 1.5 GB or more of free hard disk space
  2. Windows XP or Windows 2000 operating system
  3. 1.0 GHz processor speed


Working in the computer lab: Assignments are written assuming that you are working from home. If plan on using the High Tech Center open computer lab at the Elko campus to complete your work rather than a home computer, contact me as soon as possible. Opening and saving your work will be different on the lab computers.


Required Software: you will need access to the internet and Microsoft Word or similar word processor for completing your projects. GIS software used in this class will be either available for pickup at your nearest GBC center (Elko, Pahrump, Winnemucca, Ely, Battle Mountain) or if you are not at one of these locations, mailed to you for free around the third week of the semester (instruction on installing this is provided). Zipping/unzipping software will also be provided online during the second week of class.

Who Should take this class:


Important! Things you may not know about online classes:


Learner Outcomes: The student will demonstrate through participation (1), weekly quizzes (2), class discussion (3), projects (4), and testing (5) that he/she has basic knowledge and understanding of:


General Education Outcomes: Students will demonstrate communication proficiency, critical thinking, personal and cultural awareness, and understanding of personal well-being throughout the class. Discussion participation, interview and observation, presentation, graphic communication and Internet searches will be required. Assignments will include, but are not limited to:


Assessments: The student's progress in the class will be assessed using 

  1. weekly quizzes 
  2. class discussion 
  3. projects
  4. hands-on exercises 
  5. testing

More detail on each assessment follows in this syllabus.


Instructional Methods



Grading Policy: I use a points system. Projects (3 total) are worth100 points each; your total weekly participation in online discussions, 150 points; online quizzes, 280 points; hands-on assignments, 270 points. This class is worth a total of 1000 points. Final grades are assigned on the following scale:

Minimum points

Maximum points

Percentage range

Letter Grade


















































Late Policy: Each day (M – F) that a project is late, a late penalty of 10% of the total points available for that project will be deducted. For example, a project or assignment worth 100 possible points, with 89 points earned, would be deducted an additional 20 points for a grade of 69 points after being 2 days late (100 * 10% * 2 days = 20 points deducted).
Weekly quizzes and discussions will not be accepted late. Just try to turn in the next week’s participation items on time.

Your Weekly Responsibilities


Each week, you will have a variety of ways to learn about the topic. You will need to:


Live Net

LiveNet will be available for you to meet live with me or other classmates. I encourage you to work together on everything except your major projects. GIS is often learned best in a group setting. We will use the discussion board to find good times to meet if you desire to work with other classmates. You can set up times to meet with me by reviewing my office hours and then sending me an e-mail.

Be sure to read the LiveNet instructions link on the class home page before the second week of class!


Online Discussions:

            A significant part of your grade (150 points, or 15%) comes from participating in online discussions. However, you cannot pass this course (will receive a grade of F) if you do not participate in any online discussions. It is a vital part of the learning process. Also, you cannot post discussion comments ahead of time or after time, the topics are only open for one week. To access discussions, go to the Course Menu on the left-hand side of your screen.

 Participation consists of the following:

Your weekly participation will not count if:


Online quizzes

Along with online discussions, online quizzes make up the rest of your participation grade (another 28% of total grade for the course). These are available from the link on the course home page. You can't complete them ahead of schedule - they are available for one week only!

These weekly quizzes allow for instructor feedback on different concepts and especially software operations that you will be learning in class. Quizzes are not accepted late.

Remember, you have approximately 15 chances to turn in discussions and 14 chances for weekly quizzes. Don’t let yourself get behind!


WebCT Email

Be sure to check the class email regularly, as I will send messages to the entire class that you will need to read. This is also where you can contact me with your questions (see below).


Hands-on Exercises

As you work through the course, you will be asked to complete some hands-on exercises, which count for another 270 points (27% of your grade). Many of these will come directly from the ESRI Virtual Campus course in ArcView we will complete during the semester. Some will also come from other course work (file management, internet GIS, etc.). Be sure to read each exercise carefully. Exercises will be accessible both from the weekly schedule page as well as in the assignment drop box. Be sure to turn things in using the correct format. The format will likely be different for each hands-on exercise so be sure to read the instructions carefully.


Major Projects:

1.      GIS in the Workplace. 100 points. Students will conduct an interview with a GIS professional, write a paper, and discuss results online. Details are on the project page.

2.      GIS in Society. 100 points. Students will read and summarize two articles on GIS helping society, write a paper, and discuss findings online.

3.      GIS Layout. 100 points. Students will choose from several topics given by the instructor, elaborate on the topic, and create one or more layouts using AEJEE including a map and text.


How to successfully complete and turn in major projects:

You will need to use the Assignment Dropbox (same place as you will turn in weekly hands-on exercises). This link is available on the left-hand side of the WebCT window. Do not turn in by email.

The projects and assignments each have a link, and are available until their due dates and times. The attached information on the web page about each project outlines very specifically what is expected for your project. If you follow the guidelines and look at the grading rubric provided, you will most likely get a good grade. Once the due date or time has passed for a project, you can still turn it in late (but only up to 10 week days late). See above for the late policy.


Projects must be submitted in Word (*.doc) or Rich Text (*.rtf) format! Projects submitted with an incorrect format will not be graded.


Please allow one full week for grades to be posted. This would certainly apply in a traditional class where we only met once or twice a week, so I will need at least the same amount of time to properly grade your projects and assignments.

How to get help in this class

First, consider your question. Is it:


Working Ahead
You can work ahead to some extent in this class, based on how much information I have posted, however, a large part of your grade (quizzes and discussions) can only be completed on a scheduled week-by-week basis. You may complete your projects early, however, they will not be graded until after the due date. You can also read ahead, view presentations ahead of time, and work on and turn in your GIS hands-on exercises ahead of time.

General Policies


Attendance: GBC General attendance policies are in effect. See 2005-2006 GBC general catalog page 49 for policies on excessive absences and religious holiday absences. This class requires regular participation. This is not a purely self-paced class, it requires regular weekly participation. If classes are missed, students must still complete assignments on time or make appropriate plans with the instructor ahead of time, or as soon as possible in case of a legitimate emergency.


Computer Lab: Use of GBC computer labs is a privilege and not a right. Students are advised to abide by lab rules that are posted in the labs and on the GBC web page.


Academic Integrity: Students are expected to adhere to the Student Conduct Policy as outlined in the 2005-2006 GBC general catalog, page 27. Cheating and/or plagiarism will not be tolerated under any circumstances.


Accommodations: GBC supports providing equal access for students with disabilities. An advisor is available to discuss appropriate accommodations with students. Please contact the ADA Officer (Julie Byrnes at 775-753-2271) at your earliest convenience to request timely and appropriate accommodations.


Field Work: GIS classes typically require some amount of field work for data collection. Students are advised to dress appropriately for the weather, including sturdy footwear.