GEOG 2129 - Introductory Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2020

This course provides an introduction to the theory and practice of geographic information systems (GIS). What is geographic data? What is GIS? How is GIS applied in the study of real world issues? This course will introduce some of the basic concepts of GIS, input of data, storage and management of data and modelling output from GIS. Concepts such as how to model the complex real world in a computer and the difference between data and geographic data are covered. Lectures cover the basics of GIS, vector and raster data models, geographic data analysis, visualisation techniques and geographic overlay. Importantly, the focus of this course is in the application of GIS to solving real world problems using local examples. The practical sessions build basic skills in GIS such as adding, visualising, analysing and modelling data and creating effective map layouts.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code GEOG 2129
    Course Introductory Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
    Coordinating Unit Geography, Environment and Population
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 3 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites At least 12 units of Level I undergraduate study
    Incompatible GEST 2029, GEST 2022 or GEST 3022
    Course Description This course provides an introduction to the theory and practice of geographic information systems (GIS). What is geographic data? What is GIS? How is GIS applied in the study of real world issues? This course will introduce some of the basic concepts of GIS, input of data, storage and management of data and modelling output from GIS. Concepts such as how to model the complex real world in a computer and the difference between data and geographic data are covered. Lectures cover the basics of GIS, vector and raster data models, geographic data analysis, visualisation techniques and geographic overlay. Importantly, the focus of this course is in the application of GIS to solving real world problems using local examples. The practical sessions build basic skills in GIS such as adding, visualising, analysing and modelling data and creating effective map layouts.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Dorothy Turner

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    At the successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
    1 Understand the nature, components and applications of GIS
    2 Develop skills in sourcing, manipulating and interpreting spatial data
    3 Critically discuss the applications of GIS in a variety of fields
    4 Develop an awareness of the underlying theory of spatial information science
    5 Perform spatial analysis tasks and generate outputs using GIS software
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    1, 2
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    3, 4, 5
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
    3, 4
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    Book Title: An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (4th Edition)
    Author: Ian Heywood, Sarah Cornelius, Steve Carver
    Year: 2011
    Publisher: Prentice-Hall
    ISBN-13: 978 0 273 72259 5

    online copies of this book are available from the Adelaide University Library as single use eBooks (i.e. only one person at a time can access each one).
    The Barr Smith Library also holds 7 print copies, with two of these in the High Use Collection available for short term loan. 

    It is highly recommended that you purchase your own copy of this book.
    Make sure you order the book by Heywood - there are other books with the same title by other authors!. 
    It is available from Dymocks:
    • eBook for $47.71
    • hardcopy for $108.99
    Readings are set for all lectures and some workshops, and are expected to be completed BEFORE the lecture or workshop
    Recommended Resources
    Optional/Alternative Textbook

    Book Title: Geographical Information Systems (2nd Edition). 
    Author: Julie Delaney and Kimberley Van Niel
    Year: 2007
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
    ISBN-13: 978-0-195-55607-0 

    There are 3 copies of this book at the Barr Smith Library (1 reserve and 2 for general borrowing) and 1 copy at Waite Campus Library. 
    This book is a useful secondary resource since it is written by Australian authors and provides Australian examples of GIS applications.

    Other Recommended Resources

    Supplementary reading in additional GIS texts is highly recommended to improve understanding of the concepts and procedures behind the theory and practical to which students are exposed each week. I particularly recommend:

    Book Title: Geographic Information Science & Systems (4th Edition)
    Author: Paul A. Longley, Michael F. Goodchild, David J. Maguire, David W. Rhind.
    Year: 2015 
    Publisher: Wiley
    ISBN: 978-1-119-03130-7

    There are currently three copies in the Barr Smith Library.

    Book Title: The Routledge Handbook of Mapping and Cartography
    Editors: Alexander J. Kent and Peter Vujakovic
    Year: 2017
    Publisher: Routledge
    eBook ISBN: 9781317568223

    eBook available in the library.
    More recent. Some sections useful, but a bit heavy in places.

    Any similar basic GIS text would also be appropriate.

    Online Learning


    All lectures will be recorded and available through MyUni.
    All lecture slides, workshop instructions and workshop data will also be available through MyUni.

    Online Textbooks

    There are a variety of online texts available, some of which are extremely comprehensive:


    There are many websites with information about GIS, the industry, and using GIS, including:
    • - a good overview of GIS and geographic thinking. Includes glossary and career links;
    • - GIS Lounge is an information portal, providing links to numerous news items, tips, and resources including introductory texts on all things GIS. This site is run by Caitlin Dempsey who has authored numerous articles about GIS and the spatial industry; and
    • – peak body for the surveying and spatial sciences in Australia. This site provides information about education/careers, and links to local events in South Australia and other States/Territories such as Spatial Information Day ( The Free Student Program offers membership and various benefits to students with an interest in GIS, including access to discounted events held in Adelaide.


    The GIS commercial software that will be used in this course is ESRI ArcGIS Desktop 10.6.1. 

    This software is available in limited teaching labs across the University from 8am – 6pm, Monday to Friday. 

    You should find that ArcGIS is installed in the following locations:
    • Science Students: Any of the science faculty computer suites
    • Humanities Students: Napier 106, Napier 107 and Napier 202
    • Waite Campus Computer Labs in Charles Hawker Building
    • Some computers on level 3 and 4 in the Hub.
      (The short access (quicks) and the training room don’t have ArcGIS, but the longer term use PC's on level 3 should)
    Although ArcGIS is not available for standalone installation on your personal computers, it can be accessed anytime through the University’s ADAPT platform (Any Device, Any Place and Time) from any computer connected to the internet. Please review the setup guides and instructions for using ADAPT. Please contact Technology Services or the course coordinator if you are having problems accessing this. Unfortunately, ADAPT is not a very stable environment when using ArcGIS!

    Please take into account any access restrictions when planning your assignment work.


    It is strongly recommended that you do all coursework on your U drive as this can be accessed from any university computer, or from your home computer through ADAPT, and is regularly backed up.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    Lectures supported by problem-solving workshops which develop lecture material.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    1 x 1-hour lecture (or equivalent) per week 12 hours per semester
    1 x 2-hour workshop (or equivalent) per week 24 hours per semester
    6 hours reading per week 72 hours per semester
    2 hours research per week 24 hours per semester
    2 hours assignment preparation per week 24 hours per semester
    TOTAL WORKLOAD 156 hours per semester
    Learning Activities Summary
    Lecture Workshop
    Week 1 Course Introduction and Overview Getting Started with GIS: Intro to ArcMap
    Week 2 Spatial Data, Projections and Coordinate Systems Scale, Coordinate Systems, Distance Measures and SQL Queries
    Week 3 Cartography and Spatial Data Visualisation  Cartographic Practice
    Week 4 Spatial Data Models Working with Non-Spatial Data
    Week 5 Concepts of Vector GIS Vector Spatial Analysis 1
    Week 6 Spatial Analysis with Vector GIS Vector Spatial Analysis 2
    Week 7 Applications of GIS in Criminology  Digitising and Working with Base Maps
    Week 8 Social Applications in GIS – Guest Lecturer Integrating Census Data
    Week 9 Allied Technologies - GPS and Remote Sensing Data Collection via Mobile Phone
    Week 10 Precision, Accuracy and Error Creating a Web Map of Collected Survey Data
    Week 11 Environmental Applications of GIS and Remote Sensing No formal workshops (Available in lab for assistance)
    Week 12 Course Summary and Exam Preparation No formal workshops (Available in lab for assistance)
    Specific Course Requirements
    This course assumes a basic level of computer literacy and familiarity with Microsoft Windows, Word and Excel.
    Small Group Discovery Experience
    Workshops are designed to create small group discovery
    Students will be working together in the computer lab and are encouraged to discuss analysis ideas and processes for every practical component of the course. This implies group work and discussions for processes.

    The week 9 and 10 workshops require students to collect data in the Campus and then load it and create a web map. Data collection will be done in groups of 3 or 4. ATTENDANCE IS COMPULSORY FOR WEEK 9.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Task Task Type Weighting Learning Outcome
    Weekly Workshop Exercises Formative and Summative 40% 1-5
    2-Hour Practical Exam Summative 60% 1-5
    Assessment Related Requirements
    Students will need access to GIS labs/computer rooms and relevant software. This will be provided by the University
    Assessment Detail
    To pass the course you must complete and submit for assessment all of the components. If you fail to complete all components, you may receive a Fail grade regardless of your achievement in the completed assessment components.

    Weekly Lecture and Workshop Assessments - 40%
    Most weekly workshops will include an assessment task (normally a Quiz and/or Map) which allows students to demonstrate both the successful completion of the workshop tasks, and their understanding and application of the skills and techniques which they are learning week by week. Most weeks there is also a component of short quiz questions based on the lecture material. Full details of the assessment task are made available each week. Many of these assessment tasks will be completed in the workshop. Assessments are due at the beginning of the next lecture.

    2-Hour Practical Examination - 60%
    There will be a 2 hour examination held during WEEK 13 (during your normal workshop time slot). The exam will consist of a series of quiz questions which cover all aspects of the course. This is an open book, PRACTICAL exam, using ArcGIS and a database you will not have seen before. The questions draw mostly on course material from the workshops, with a limited number of short theoretical questions. Examples of the type of exam questions will be made available on MyUni. The exam structure and general content areas will be discussed during the last lecture.

    (OPTIONAL Practical assignment - 60%)
    There may be the possibility of doing a Major Practical Assignment (instead of the exam) if you are intending on continuing GIS in the future.
    This will be decided on an individual basis by the course co-ordinator, and will also be dependent on class numbers.

    This practical assignment would develop your research and report writing skills. It requires students to apply the knowledge and techniques they have learnt to conduct a GIS analysis of the impacts of a new road construction project in Adelaide. This assignment tests student ability to work independently in using basic GIS skills and techniques, and through presentation of the results of the analysis in a formal report, to demonstrate an understanding of spatial relationships and data issues. Full details will be provided separately – all documents and data will be available on MyUni.
    All assessments will be submitted via MyUni.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

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