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An Activity-Based Learning Approach for Key Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Concepts

Partners' Institution
Limerick Institute of Technology
Reference
An Activity-Based Learning Approach for Key Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Concepts
Thematic Area
Artificial intelligence (computer science and mathematics), Systems thinking-Theoretical framework and assessment
DOI
10.1080/03098265.2012.654468
Summary
This study presents the effect of active learning methods of concepts in geographical information systems where students participated in a series of interlocked learning experiences. These activities spanned several teaching weeks and involved the creation of a hand drawn map that was scanned and geo-referenced with locations’ coordinates derived from virtual earth systems. These activities engaged students’ attention, and the completion of the activities provided opportunities for formative feedback and summative assessments. The effect of the group of activities on students’ learning was quantified through the collection of summative assessment data which was compared to performance in other assessment tasks.
Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
The main outcome of the research highlights that the inclusion of physical activities such as drawing maps and converting them to a digital GIS map using modern spatial tools. It noted that linking learning activities with assessments (formative/final) aids in developing students’ confidence to complete tasks will aiding in their overall confidence and positive attitude of GIS and in turn see the benefits of this program within their own respective disciplines. It notes that a multi-dimensional approach addresses recommendations from GIS curriculum literature and several pedagogical principles from modern education research.
The Training for the GIS program was completed in 6 phases which included the hand-drawing phases (one at the beginning and one after they learnt about cartography), comparison of maps between students which allows students to learn from each other and evaluate themselves on what they have learnt, cartographical principles, digitization and geo-referencing and the development of a geo-registered bitmap image.
The development of an online discussion board was set up on BlackBoard to both assist with their queries and reassure students, who had concerns but had not asked, this allowed open discussions and development of student comradery.
Point of Strength
The research is based around the model of active and authentic learning where students utilise real world examples, which allows students to develop a great understanding of the principles of GIS by converting what they know into a GIS dataset.
The method of getting students to draw maps are different stages of learning also enables students to see how their learning is applied as each map gets better.
The online discussion board provided instant feedback from trainers and support from their peers by showing that issues/achievements were shared among all students.