Course Format

A Non-Traditional Teaching Model

The Geographic Information Science course uses a non-traditional teaching method.  The online version of this course is offered in a flexible, highly self-reliant format. When compared to previous geospatial courses with a more rigid and structured format, some students may take some time to adjust.


The online version of GSP 270 is an asynchronous course. There are no regular meeting times. Students are free to read chapters and work on activities at times that best fit their needs. However, assignments and quizzes are due on a weekly schedule, typically by Friday, 11:55 pm each week. Dates are posted on the course schedule and on the Canvas interactive calendar. Due dates for this course are considered soft deadlines. You can still submit work after the due dates until the last week of instruction (the week before final exams), though some assignments, like discussion forums, award maximum points for an early submission. All assignments, quizzes, and exams are submitted using the Humboldt State University Canvas Learning Management System.

No assignments will be accepted after the last week of instruction, which is the week before final exams.


Course modules group together a series of related chapters, activities, assignments, and quizzes. Students will see course modules organized this way in the Humboldt State University Canvas System.

Module Prerequisites

You must progress through the modules sequentially. Some assignments, quizzes, or pages will not be available until you have completed earlier steps in the module. Requirements might include viewing the previous page, completing a previous assignment, or completing a previous quiz or exam.

You must complete earlier modules before you will be able to progress to the next in the module in the series.


Course lessons introduce the concepts behind a selection of applied vector and raster analysis techniques. Other topics are presented in this course include a review of geospatial concepts, data collection methods,  and developing a web-based portfolio. Additional topics may be introduced as opportunities or circumstances provide. The lessons topics are presented using online reading assignments and video, with links provided in the Humboldt State University CANVAS learning management system.


Course activities are designed to reinforce the lesson material through a combination of video tutorials, skill drills, writing assignments, and online forum-based discussions.

Discussion Forums

There are discussion forum activities, starting during week one. Some will require research and reading before posting to the forum. Most will also require responses to posts written by other students. In most cases, students must themselves post before seeing other students’ posts.

Discussion board activities are graded based on the timeliness and quality of forum posts. Discussion forums will be open for the duration of the course. However, discussion forums have due dates. Posting early on, well before the due date, is encouraged.  Maximum points are awarded to students who submit a post before the due date. Fewer points are awarded as time goes on.

Lab Activities

Most lab activities will involve some level of writing, either as a summary or as a full lab report. Lab activities will typically be due at the end of the week, by Friday 11:55 PM, unless otherwise noted on the HSU course Canvas page. See the course schedule in Canvas for specific dates.

Lab activity summaries or reports must be turned in as an MS Word document (.docx) file using Humboldt State University’s Canvas system. Other file formats, such as .pages, Google docs, or PDFs, will not be accepted for credit.

Meeting Minimum Word Count Requirements

Most writing assignments require a certain length and will include a minimum word count. The main body text of the document determines the word count calculation. Extra elements, such as a title page, name, date, headers, footers, a table of contents, bibliography, etc., do not count towards the final word count calculation. The instructor will make the final determination when calculating the word count for a writing assignment submission.

Writing assignments that do not meet the minimum word count will receive a 0 grade.

Students may be tempted to submit assignments that do not meet the minimum word count or present work that barely addresses the requirements by a narrow margin. By not meeting the requirements or by skimming the bottom edge of the word count, students risk not receiving credit for their work. To remedy this, students should always expand upon their thoughts and ideas in order to exceed the minimum by a large safety margin.

For more information, review the section Submit More than the Minimum Work to Get an A under Keys to Success.

Student Work Samples

Below are some work samples completed by previous students. Reviewing work samples helps students to understand the scope, length, and quality of work related to writing assignments.

Note: The examples below are not intended to represent the specific requirements or instructions for any particular assignment. Writing assignment activities, instructions, and requirements may change over time. Always refer to the instructions in Canvas when determining the requirements for any assignment.


Each quiz is based on material covered in the course lessons and activities. Pay particular attention to the terminology in bold and take notes on the main points and procedures of the activities. Quizzes will be cumulative, drawing upon all previous lessons, unless otherwise noted on the Canvas course page.

Quiz Start and End period

All quizzes are timed. Once a quiz has begun, students will have a limited amount of time to complete each quiz. Quizzes can be accessed using Humboldt State University’s Canvas system.

Quizzes are open-book, and students are free to view any of the course material during that time.

Students are not allowed to receive help from others during any quiz or exam. Students found collaborating with others during quizzes or exam will be considered in violation of the HSU Academic Honesty policy, which will result in a failing grade for the course.


Approximately halfway through the course, students will be given a midterm exam and a midterm activity. These two components will be added together to calculate the course midterm score.


The midterm exam will be cumulative with questions based on lessons, and activities. The midterm exam can be accessed using Humboldt State University’s Canvas system. The midterm exam is timed and open book. Students are free to view any of the course material during this period. Log into the Canvas LMS for more details.


The midterm activity will cover the GIS Analysis techniques presented during the first three modules, including:

  • Data Acquisition
  • Use of a standardized quality assurance and quality control procedure
  • Selection methods and Boolean operators.
  • How to navigate to and search for tools in the ArcMap toolbox.
  • Overlay operations: clip, buffer, intersect tools.
  • Presenting a professionally written lab report

In addition, a few supplementary concepts will be presented, including:

  • Creating a preliminary outline of planned GIS process workflows
  • Communicating and collaborate with peers to assess workflow plans
  • Creating flow charts to design GIS process workflows.

Final Exam

The final exam will be cumulative with questions based on lessons, and activities. The final exam can be accessed using Humboldt State University’s Canvas system. The final exam is timed and open book. Students are free to view any of the course material during this period. Log into the Canvas LMS for more details.

Academic Honesty

Students are not allowed to work together during any quizzes or exams in this course. Please keep in mind that the Humboldt State University’s Canvas system logs all student activity, including access time and IP addresses.

Evidence of academic dishonesty, including Canvas logs, will result in a failing grade in the course.