In Caroline’s previous blog “How satellite imagery supports good governance she spoke about presenting her paper and the conference themes presented when she attended the Sixth International Conference on Remote Sensing and Geoinformation of Environment. Caroline met many prominent leaders in remote sensing from across Europe who presented papers on new developments in remote sensing. Caroline thought it would be great to share some papers from the conference; in this feed she talks about a paper presented by Dr Branka Cuca.

What did I learn at the RSCy 2018 Conference?

The conference was a great opportunity to meet academics from all over Europe and keep up-to-date with new developments in GIS education. Dr Branka Cuca, Department of Architecture Built Environment and Construction Engineering at Politecnico di Milano gave a great presentation on ‘Geo-spatial Information and Geomatics applications in Higher Education: an overview of main trends and recent changes’. Dr Cuco has kindly given me access to her presentation and has allowed me to reference it here.

History of Open Data

For me this is what education is all about; providing the tools to enable further learning and anticipating potential roles post-education/further education. Dr Cuca highlighted the situation in Europe’s education at the moment, by the growth in roles requiring knowledge of spatial data.

“The “Geo industry” is growing at a rate of 30% per year globally, in the following years this figure might be an underestimation.”
“What is the economic impact of Geo services?”, report prepared for Google by Oxera, 2013

Since the slow release of Open Data around the world by various governmental bodies, this has enabled more data to be available, which has stimulated the upswell in the need for spatial knowledge. In the public realm, newspapers and periodicals are generating more spatial infographics and visualisations based on this Open Data.

“What has happened with Open Data release? In the world – 52 governments (17 national and 35 local) 2013”
The International Open Data Charter

In the timeline of Open Geo Data, we have the opening up of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) datasets which began releasing weather information, in the 1970s. This would now be called “open data”, but it wasn’t until 2009 that it became policy to release US Government collected data for public use. In the EU, the INSPIRE Directive in 2009, offered the promise of Open Data across the EU. The UK followed with Ordnance Survey (OSGB) releasing vector Open Data in 2010, which spurred me on to create Clear Mapping Co, basing most of our work on OS Open Data. The European Space Agency (ESA)  began the Copernicus Programme : The Concept of Full, Open and Free (FOF) data in 2013. Providing Open Data has become part of a nation’s good governance and economic development.

Open Source as a teaching tool

Recent trends of digital tools in higher education have delved into Open Source software as well as Open Data. Traditional commercial platforms still have their place in government, however, for everyone else this is becoming legacy software due to the stabilisation of new Open Source software for academics and everyone else. Non-governmental organisations and local authorities are migrating to Open Source software for ease of use and compatibility across versions (everyone can have the same version). The down side is that the learning curve can be steep and there is no software company to call, but there are workshops, blogs and forums for support. YouTube is an excellent resource.

“Open Source solutions
– Although many universities are still reluctant in using open GIS software instead of open source solution, quite a few courses are starting to include both options in their curricula
– Some studies suggest open source solutions and further the cloud based system can be an excellent method to stimulate development of technical and problem-solving skills.”
Dr Branka Cuca

Dr Cuca emphasises the role of the educator to facilitate learning rather than the educator being the font of all knowledge. When it comes to learning and growing in GIS, being able to adapt and problem solve is more important than knowing everything. As Open Source GIS software becomes more stable and students are asked to become more responsive to the requirements of the task, the problem-solving approach becomes more ‘real world’ rather than the traditional ‘follow this work process’. As educators we are teaching for roles that don’t exist yet. This approach is detailed neatly by Dr Cuca in her case-study slides on finding the location of previous and new  ‘Park of the Royal Villa in Monza’:

Being agile: no more GIS silos

Dr Cuca also showcased moving from photogrammetry to building survey with LIDAR to BIM. Here are her top tips for teaching multi-discplinary courses:

  • Integrated lessons and interactive relationships with students: theory content, hands-on sessions, videos, interviews, questionnaires, blog and forums;
  • Use of digital tools: both as sharing platforms as well as content and software applications;
  • Problem-oriented approach: case study for the whole duration of the course;
  • Skill development and creative thinking, essential for the business sector (public and private);


For the future:

  • closer integration of technologies;
  • open/ cloud environments for modelling as well as BIM/GIS approach;
  • more informed and updated knowledge of teaching staff;
  • there is a need for shared information among teachers and professors of geospatial sciences and geomatics – e.g. KIT for teachers.


Upskilling students in GIS?

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