American Sentinel’s GIS Program Chair to Speak at Association of American Geographers

Congratulations to Dr. Stephen McElroy, American Sentinel University’s GIS Program Chair, who has been asked to speak at the 2013 annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) about an innovative development in GIS education.

A Geospatial Learning Lab gives people seeking a GIS masters degree or a graduate GIS certificate a way to explore a given topic in depth through exposure to materials that go beyond what one can find in a typical classroom environment. The Geospatial Learning Lab is a forum in which students can interact with instructors and each other. In addition, students gain access to additional educational material — including advanced tutorials and case studies, GIS data downloads, and geospatial innovations — to develop a greater mastery of concepts and how they are applied.

As important as the materials are, so are interactive capabilities for students and teachers that form what Dr. McElroy likens to a learning commons. Using such multimedia technologies as VoiceThread and Yammer, all those involved in the learning process can exchange ideas, information, critiques, and insights to multiple the opportunities for all involved. As part of the process and to better track achievement, students receive badges to signify increased competency, like a university’s equivalent of scouting merit badges.

There are three levels of badge — basic, intermediate, and advanced — and students can gain them in five concept groups: geoprocessing tasks, GIS applications, remote sensing, spatial statistics, and emerging technologies. The badges go into an ePortfolio that documents each student’s academic progress. The end result is a virtual environment that goes beyond what an in-person lecture or discussion could provide. Interactions aren’t restricted to given time slots and whatever materials are on hand. Students can engage each other and teachers without artificial time restrictions. They can also bring to bear a wealth of materials that can help all involved expand upon their grasp of topics.

The AAG is a non-profit scientific and educational organization, founded in 1904, dedicated to advancing geographic theory, methods, and practice. The annual meeting, which takes place April 9 through 13 in Los Angeles, is one of the organization’s primary ways to allow its members from 60 different countries to discuss, exchange ideas, and advance their understanding and careers. Dr. McElroy’s talk will be part of the Cyberlearning, Geogames, and Geodesign meeting track.

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