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USF to offer new GIS course

A non-credit continuing education course on geographic information systems(GIS) will be offered Feb. 15 at USF to provide students the skills needed to understand and work with the computerized mapping method.

GIS is a set of tools for collecting, storing, retrieving, analyzing and displaying spatial data.

“Spatial data are maps. Those maps are compared with other maps on a computer to find patterns in particular areas,” said Paul Zandbergen, assistant professor in the department of geography.

The course will meet one of the entrance requirements for USF’s Graduate Certificate Program in GIS. Upon completion, students will also be awarded four continuing education units.

GIS Introduction, the course offered by the Division of Professional and Workplace Development at USF, will give an overview of GIS applications and offer an opportunity to work with the software program ArcGIS 8.2, the current industry leader for desktop GIS.

The course will be offered every Saturday from Feb. 15 – March 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and can seat 15 students. The fee for the course is $895.

“Continuing Education at USF does not receive any funding from the state. It is entirely self-supporting,” said Les Butler, program coordinator. “The fees collected for the course will be used to pay the instructor, the geography department and the university for the use of the lab, books, marketing and overhead expenses.”

GIS stores information about the world as a collection of themed layers that can be used together. Layers can consist of related items such as customers, buildings, streets, lakes or postal codes. Those layers are combined to give a better understanding of the selected location. What layers of information are combined depend on the purpose of the research.

This analysis tool is often used in political redistricting. By analyzing census population information in certain areas and combining that information with maps of that area, officials can decide where to make new districts and where to expand current ones. Emergency response uses a GIS to pinpoint where calls are coming from. The system is also used in crime prevention by layering populations and crime rates together to find patterns. Some professionals who would use a GIS include engineers, architects and market analysts.

“GIS is a rapidly evolving field and up-to-date training is essential for working professionals who need GIS in their current positions as well as for people who want to move into the GIS market,” Zandbergen said.

GIS Introduction was offered last semester, but there were not enough students to fill it.

“We will offer the course again if there is sufficient demand,” Butler said.The last day to sign up is Feb. 14.

To register for the course, call (813) 974-2403 ext. 817. Additional information is available online at .