Joint educational activities ITC and Penn State University in geovisual analytics

Our international collaboration with research universities from all around the globe is not limited to conducting research together. Also in the field of education, we work close together to develop valuable joint course material and activities. Together with students of Penn State University, ITC students of the MSc programme Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation participated together in the optional course “Geovisual Analytics”.

ITC and Penn State students

Penn State University offers via their Penn State World Campus an online “Master of Geographic Information Systems”. The students who follow this program are mostly mid-carrier students, eg. the work next to their study. One optional course is “Challenges in Global Geospatial Analytics”.

Valuable experience

“We decided to bring these two courses together so the Penn State student could have an international experience and the ITC students can broaden their horizon by working together with their US peers”, says Menno-Jan Kraak, chairman of ITC’s Department of Geo-information Processing. “Working together with renowned universities in these type of exchange programmes underlines the quality of our work and will prove to be a valuable experience to students of both institutes.”

Both groups (each ten students) had some preparation weeks before they met at ITC at the end of June. In addition, a European tour along German and Swiss organizations active in Cartography and Geoinformation was organized for the Penn State students. The common topic was Geovisual Analytics. This offers the opportunity to analyze large data sets with maps using the strength of the computer (fast number crunching) and human (reasoning, and see things hard to compute).

Case study

The case study used was a data set of the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency). It contained information on refugee flows between all countries over eight years (more than 8 million items). Purely mapping the data would result in a map with 8 million arrows indication the individual flows. The objective was to map these flows insightful and answer question like: Where do most refugees go? Did these patterns change over time?

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