The Instructor Element of GIS Instruction at US Colleges and Universities


Todd Fagin, Department of Geography, Oklahoma State University, 360 Murray Hall, Stillwater, OK 74078-4073, USA. Email:


Over the last two decades, higher education has made substantial investments in GIS education through equipment and software purchases, upgrades to teaching facilities, and the creation of innovative academic programs such as certificates and degrees. However, comparatively less attention and fewer resources have been directed towards what might be called the “instructor element” of GIS instruction. In this article we look at the preparation and ongoing professional development of GIS educators through a survey of 270 individuals teaching GIS at US colleges and universities. Along with assessing the education and professional background of GIS instructors, we evaluate their perceptions concerning the importance of various GIS subject areas. Our findings demonstrate considerable breadth in the range of education and experience held by faculty members who are presently teaching GIS courses. In evaluating the importance placed on GIS teaching elements, we found little variation among individuals according to their institution type or educational attainment. However, significant differences in the perceived importance of GIS teaching areas were found across disciplinary areas.