Enhance undergrad GIS projects with Web Mapping.

Undergraduate GIS courses offer students a chance to develop a new skillset that they are unlikely to have used before.  This really boosts their employability as employers are increasingly looking for GIS skills in graduate recruits. The days of there being a dedicated GIS team to create an organisations maps are over.

GIS as a discipline is continually evolving and there has been a marked increase in web based GIS over recent years.  How could you integrate some web GIS elements to your current GIS course without doing a major re-write of the course?

Well one idea would be to integrate web GIS into the students GIS projects.  Let’s take a look at how that could work.


Web GIS has been around for a while, we all use it through sites like OSM and Google Maps.  Tools such as ArcGIS Online have made it much simpler to manage GIS data on the web and publish interactive web maps.  If your GIS students have to do a small project as part of their GIS module, why not get them to create an interactive web app through ArcGIS Online that explains the who, what, why and how of their project.

The process is really quite simple:

  1. Get them to do their GIS project as normal
  2. Provide them with an ArcGIS Online username
  3. Get them to upload the results of their analysis to their ArcGIS Online account
  4. They can then create an interactive storymap
  5. Get them to present their work to the group using the storymap as the presentation tool

What are the benefits?

In terms of GIS, displaying information on the web is very different to creating a static paper map.  You need to think about a few extra things such as the size of the datasets you are trying to access but it opens up a number of options allowing the user to explore the data themselves.  Try encouraging the students to:

  •  Experiment with cartography
  •  Allow users to change basemaps
  •  Allow users to turn on/off layers
  •  Embed pictures and videos

In addition to the new GIS skills, the students would improve their presentation and communication skills.  By making the students present their work to the class in a more formal environment the situation would replicate a professional report similar to that from a GIS analyst working for a consultancy or a presentation during a job interview.

Getting started

Getting started with ArcGIS Online is easy, just ask your local admin for a user account. If you don’t know who to ask, email highered@esriuk.com and we will try to help.

For some examples of Story Maps produced by undergraduates to support their GIS projects, please click the following links:

·UWE Wind farm project - https://uwe.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=e1533caf14d541b48f7db92c0380dd7a

UWE Dam location project - https://uwe.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=13b3129ebc834989aae2c7ade27040de