Virtual Classroom Sparks Demand For Geospatial Education

October 25, 2013 -- An internationally renowned academic will visit Singapore next month to reveal how a new global education phenomenon is set to transform the country’s tertiary sector.

Lead Faculty for Online GeospatialEducation at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), Dr Anthony Robinson, has been invited to present at the Esri Asia Pacific User Conference – the region’s largest Geographic Information System (GIS) technology event.

His visit comes following the launch of a global educational phenomenon – a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) called Maps and the Geospatial Revolution – in which Dr Robinson taught geospatial skills to more than 48,000 students from over 150 countries.

Dr Robinson said international interest in geospatial education had continued since the inaugural MOOC on mapping – with 10,000 new students already on the waiting list for his next offering.

“There is a significant demand for geospatial knowledge, which is driven by the fundamental role geography plays in our day-to-day lives,” Dr Robinson said.

“The vast majority of all data has a location component, and people are starting to recognise that geography is fundamental to all that we do – for example, we now have real-time mapping on our smartphones, built in to our cars and integrated into many other facets of our daily lives.

“A key goal for this class was to have students move beyond simply using maps and to begin creating their own.

“Along the way, students learned that mapping is ubiquitous across the public and private sectors, with GIS technology being used to explore climate change; map urban development across continents, countries, and communities; track disease; tell stories about our lived experiences; and assist responders in emergency situations.

“Across all of our online and in-person geospatial education programs, we’re seeing the demand for geospatial competencies grow – and students are lining up for classes like the Maps MOOC to make their first maps and develop spatial thinking skills.

“A MOOC can help feed this demand by allowing anyone to engage with and learn about mapping and geospatial technology online for free.”

Penn State is renowned as one of the most geospatially advanced universities in the world – using Esri GIS technology widely across its campuses for both teaching and research purposes.

Dr Robinson said for Singapore in particular, geospatial education is vital for the workforce – given the valuable role GIS technology holds in many of the country’s major organisations.

“Online geospatial learning can be a long-term investment into building the public’s spatial capacity, so they can understand the importance of geography when it comes to their population dynamics, development projects, and climate risks, for example,” Dr Robinson said.

“This spatial perspective is vital for Singapore, with many government departments and businesses relying on GIS technology to plan for a sustainable future and address the development issues that arise from a growing population in a limited land area.”

Hosted by Esri Singapore, APUC will bring together many global technology leaders from across the Asia Pacific and United States, including Jack Dangermond, the Founder and President of Esri.

The event runs from November 12 – 14 at the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

To register for the Asia Pacific User Conference, visit

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