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A Detailed Review of MyOpen Source GIS Courses

This review of made by a former student, Brady Woods.  Brady is a GIS Analyst, and after taking my Open Source GIS course, he immediately implemented an Enterprise GIS at his work where he manages 15 GIS technicians.  I was so happy to read his review, but even happier in knowing that a course I created allowed a student to immediately apply the skills in his work environment.  I hope you enjoy reading Brady’s review. – ajl  

My name is Brady Woods, and I am a graduate student enrolled in the Master of Professional Studies: Geospatial Information Science (MPS: GIS) program at the University of Maryland, College Park. I also work as a GIS Analyst at a research institution within the University of Maryland. This past summer the geography department at UMD offered a new selected topics in geography course titled ‘Open Source GIS’ taught by Dr. Lembo. I found the course to be one of the best of my academic career, and would like to provide a review of the course for those who are considering taking Dr. Lembo’s courses either through traditional academic means or through online learning platforms such as Udemy.

The course began with an introduction to open source GIS via QGIS. As Master’s students, most of us were well versed in spatial analysis methods and their applications, especially within the ArcGIS framework. The QGIS assignments revealed the parallels between the two software packages and demonstrated that what we needed to accomplish in ArcGIS could also be done in QGIS – all for the low cost of free. We also touched on the QGIS print composer, a complex suite of cartographic and visualization tools that rivaled the cartography tools available in the ArcGIS Desktop suite.

The remainder of the course was comprised of Dr. Lembo’s Udemy courses, including: Spatial SQL with Postgres: A language for Geographers, Using Open Source Tools to Create an Enterprise GIS, and Internet Mapping with GeoServer, Postgres, and OpenLayers. These courses assumed limited prior knowledge of their subject matter, walking the student through each step and explaining in detail what each step accomplishes. Below are my thoughts on each course:

  1. Spatial SQL with Postgres: The objective of this course was for the student to learn spatial SQL through the use of PostgreSQL (FOSS RDBMS) and PostGIS (spatial extension). Throughout the course you will write SQL code alongside Dr. Lembo, working through the basics of SQL all the way to complex spatial analysis methods such as spatial joins. After this course I was able to implement this in my daily workflows, where I now maintain Postgres/PostGIS databases with tables containing millions of records. Spatial operations that would take hours in other GIS products can be accomplished in minutes using PostGIS.

  2. Using Open Source Tools to Create an Enterprise GIS: The objective of this course was for the student to build on the QGIS/Postgres/PostGIS already learned in order to construct a multi-user enterprise GIS. Throughout this course you will follow Dr. Lembo as you upload data to a PostGIS database, create and manage multiple users and login roles, and finally testing your enterprise system in a multi-user QGIS editing environment. After this course I was able to implement my own enterprise GIS in my workplace with ~15 users performing various tasks.

  3. Internet Mapping with GeoServer, Postgres, and OpenLayers: The final piece of the puzzle. At this point, we now know how to perform desktop GIS analysis and enterprise GIS tasks using FOSS GIS software. Throughout this course you learn how to build an internet map server that serves the data you created in the Enterprise GIS course by using GeoServer to serve the layers, and OpenLayers to display them. After this course I was able provide my workplace with more dynamic cartographic products via basic web map applications compared to static maps.

A final note – although I took these Udemy courses as a geography Master’s student, they are quite accessible and rely on minimal background knowledge to complete. Anyone with an interest in technology and some patience for basic troubleshooting will be able to succeed.  However, if you have an opportunity to take an actual University course from Dr. Lembo, I would highly recommend it, as he adds so much more to the course beyond what you’ll get in the Udemy courses.  Also, Dr. Lembo often spent hours with us before and after the class just shooting the breeze about GIS – it made for a great learning experience.

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