GIS Specialization, Coursera

Geospatial and Environmental Analysis

GIS Data Formats, Design and Quality

Part of the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialization

Provider: Coursera (University of California, Davis)

Tutors: Nick Santos

I have already wrote here about my reservations on the MOOCs provided by Coursera. However, a few weeks after my last assignment in South Sudan, I decided to give it another shot trying two of the GIS specialization courses provided on the platform by the University of California, Davis. On one hand, I already had some experience working in GIS with QGIS, but never tried my hand with ArcGIS. I also hoped that it could help in understanding a bit better the nuts and bolts of GIS, that as a self-taught user I somewhat miss. And I wanted to know if it can be a good resource for whoever starts from zero and wants to learn about GIS.

In this last regard, I think that the courses fit the bill quite properly. Workflows are explained properly and the teaching materials are adequate, as well as the exercises provided. While I was already familiar with most of the procedures dealt with (of course within a different program), some of the modules dealt with workflows I never happened to work with. The fact that the course comes with a ArcGIS student license of course adds to its appeal – and you will have one year to mess around with it and learn by doing (on a side note, after years messing around with QGIS, I wasn’t that impressed working with ArcGIS). About the limits of the final exercitation, the remarks I made for the Data scientist course are also valid here.

All this being said, it is important to note that, as far as the two courses I undertook are concerned, this is first and foremost a resource to learn how to properly and intelligently use ArcGIS and master its workflows. Perhaps the last course of the specialization, Imagery, Automation, and Applications, offered more than this, and I think I will sooner or later go through it, but at the moment my interests lay somewhere else.

Final line: it is a great resource for whoever needs a crash introduction to GIS applications in general or to ArcGIS in particular. This is a skillset that I believe anyone working in aid or public policy should master, and that will probably be increasingly in demand in the job market. But if you are looking for a more in-depth approach to spatial analysis, especially in other environments – say in R – you should probably to keep looking. On a side note, I bought a similar course on Udemy that promises to deal with other environments. I will probably not complete it soon, but when this will happen I will review it and make a comparison. The courses on Udemy come with a huge price tag, but the platform offers massive discounts every other week (as of date of publishing the course is discounted), so if you are interested you should keep monitoring the page and sooner or later will come with a price in the range of 10-20 USD.

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