Blue Marble’s academic programs: GIS software for students

heat map of Maine
A heat map of Maine shows the clustering of communication towers in the state.

Each user of Global Mapper® has their own story about how they began using the application. For me, and many other young GIS professionals, exposure to Global Mapper came at a critical time in my career — while I was learning the core GIS concepts in college.

Blue Marble Geographics® offers academic programs, which include free software licenses for institutes of higher education in the U.S. and Canada; a free curriculum with lesson plans and data; and an opportunity to apply for a scholarship.

Image Rectification
A historical map is rectified to the recent open street map of Central Park.
The Image Swipe tool in Global Mapper reveals the accuracy of the rectification process.

Blue Marble’s academic programs introduce Global Mapper and GIS concepts

My exposure came through the academic curriculum or labs that Blue Marble Geographics provided to my university. These labs cover workflows that range from an introduction to the principles of GIS to working with different types of data including LiDAR. While many GIS terms can sound intimidating to a new user, the academic labs are a great way to introduce both Global Mapper and basic GIS concepts in the classroom. As a student, these labs allowed me to get comfortable with the tools and processes in the application by following step-by-step guidelines supplemented with images. There wasn’t a workflow in the six sections that I couldn’t complete, which was certainly a confidence booster to a student taking an “Intro to GIS” course.

I still remember many of the workflows that were covered in the labs. The Georeferencing tool and Heat Map analysis particularly stood out to me. They were not only easy to understand but educational. I was able to learn and apply the concepts of raster processing and rectification in real-time. Due to the user-friendly interface of Global Mapper, I could focus on learning GIS concepts instead of spending my time struggling to navigate within the application.

Another important aspect of these academic labs that may be overlooked is the opportunity to take what was covered in each section and apply them to other situations. At the end of each academic lab, there is a final exercise covering the important concepts, and then gives students basic instructions and data to complete a similar task using different data. For example, in section 1 the final exercise has students take a shapefile of hospital points, along with Maine town polygons and asks to show the distribution of hospitals within each town in Maine. After completing the exercise, I felt confident taking that data and GIS concepts I learned to produce a final product representing that distribution.

LiDAR data before (on left) and after (on right) point reclassification using Global Mapper.

Blue Marble’s Academic Labs Are Constantly Evolving

Blue Marble’s academic labs are constantly evolving with every version of Global Mapper. Many of the updates made to the software were initiated by student feedback. The students from the University of Maine, including myself, have been compiling comments about what they like in the application and what they would like to see changed. These comments have changed throughout the years, as many students using Global Mapper before Version 18 mainly noted that the look and feel was too ‘retro’ and that an updated user interface would be beneficial to Global Mapper. I remember saying the same thing, but when Version 18 was released with a modern and inviting interface, I knew that students would appreciate the change. When I worked at Blue Marble Geographics and updated the academic labs to match Version 19, I considered many of the students’ comments and provided more explanation as to why certain steps are needed. Students also had great suggestions about future tools that should be added to Global Mapper, or changes that would benefit the application which I brought to the Blue Marble developers to consider. Blue Marble strives to have a large portion of its development be user-driven, which also includes students.

A point cloud generated from a 3D mesh of a landfill using the Pixels-to-Points tool for photogrammetric point cloud processing.

Learn more about the Global Mapper academic labs in a webinar

With the latest release of Global Mapper v21, the academic labs now include more lessons and data for advanced point cloud processing, including the Pixels-to-Points® tool for generating point clouds from drone- or UAV-captured images. There will be a live webinar on January 8, 2020, that will explain the lab about photogrammetric point cloud processing in more detail. Folks who are interested in the webinar can register here: http://bit.ly/webinar-gm-academic

Blue Marble’s academic labs are a great way for students to learn GIS concepts while exploring an easy-to-use GIS application. These labs helped me begin my career in the GIS industry and can do the same for you or your students. If you have any questions regarding the academic lab license program or the academic labs, please email orders@bluemarblegeo.com.

Register for the Webinar

 

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