Campus Life

UWF puts Massively Open Online Course on the map

The University of West Florida is set to launch its first Massively Open Online Course – an innovative addition to traditional lectures – on May 18, 2015. The six-week, low-impact, free online course entitled, “Introduction to Geographic Information Systems,” will be open to the public via the Internet.

Led by Amber Bloechle, online GIS director for the Department of Environmental Studies, the MOOC will include both conceptual and hands-on instructional videos demonstrating basic technical skills central to geospatial analysis. Participants can expect to gain an introduction to geospatial science and its everyday applications, including how to analyze locations and understand relationships between things and places through maps.

“We wanted to create a MOOC to spark people’s interest in GIS,” Bloechle said. “We took our existing credit-earning online introductory course, scaling it down a bit, without losing the heart of the program or the hands-on tutorials and real-world education experience our online GIS courses are known for among students.”

The MOOC is open to any person who holds a Canvas account, available free of charge at Students can complete the course at their own pace, any time of day within the six-week offering.

This initiative was made possible by a 2014 PACE Grant Award. Its launch will meet three goals, namely to use experiential learning and other high-impact learning experiences to help students develop 21st century skills; to increase participation in relevant, community-engaging teaching, research and service; and to improve visibility and telling of the UWF story.

The MOOC provides an introduction to a fast-growing technical field, creating an opportunity to recruit students to GIS degree and certificate programs at UWF. GIS Online at UWF is committed to offering quality online GIS education to novice and professional students across the globe.

“We are excited to extend GIS education to national and international participants,” said Matthew Schwartz, associate professor and chair of the UWF Department of Environmental Studies. “As of today, we have over 750 registrants looking to begin the course.”

To register, visit