Spring 2017  |  PA 5271 Section 001: Geographic Information Systems: Applications in Planning and Policy Analysis (55392)

Class Component:
3 Credits
Grading Basis:
Student Option
Instructor Consent:
No Special Consent Required
Instruction Mode:
In Person Term Based
Times and Locations:
Regular Academic Session
01/17/2017 - 05/05/2017
Tue 06:00PM - 08:45PM
UMTC, West Bank
Hubert H Humphrey Center 85
Also Offered:
Course Catalog Description:
Introduction to GIS. Applications in public planning and policy analysis. Operational skills in GIS software. Mapping analysis of U.S. Census material. Local/state government management/planning. Spatial statistical analysis for policy/planning. prereq: Major in urban/regional planning or instr consent
Class Notes:
Non-MURP students should contact Stacey Grimes (grime004@umn.edu) to be added to a waiting list. http://classinfo.umn.edu/?yingling+PA5271+Spring2017
Class Description:

There is no required textbook for this spring 2017 class. All course readings will be information available from online.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is an increasingly growing field, providing spatial data management and analysis services to a broad range of business and public organizations. US News identified the GIS occupation as one of the "21 hot jobs for the 21st century", claiming that the number of GIS positions in local governments alone will increase 6% per year.

The use of GIS is inevitable in urban planning and public policy as both fields involve exploring location-related trends and issues. For instance, planners routinely conduct geo-spatial analyses to study residential clustering, to explore the spatial mismatch between jobs and workers, and to identify suitable land for urban transition, infill development, or environmental conservation. To public policy professionals, GIS facilitates spatial visualization of poverty, crime, pollution, and health patterns, allowing those who on the front line of public services to distribute tax money more fairly and to protect life and property more effectively. In simple words, GIS skills are a valuable asset in today's competitive job market.

This course covers GIS basics (e.g., map projections, coordinate systems, spatial data manipulation & visualization, and geodatabase management) as well as advanced GIS applications (e.g., network analysis, raster & TIN models, socio-demographic analysis, 3-D analysis, hot-spot analysis, spatial interpolation, and other spatial statistics). It gives special attention to making GIS useful to urban planners and policy analysts. It is not intended to make students into GIS coding, spatial modeling or spatial statistics experts - those interested in a GIS-based career path should continue to take programming and database courses in Computer Science and advanced GIS offerings in the Department of Geography.


Students are evaluated based upon performance on a series of small assignments and a larger final project. All the assignments should be done independently. For the final project, I strongly encourage you to select a planning or policy analysis problem that is the closest to your area of interest. Attendance as well as active participation and contribution to class discussion is required and counts in the final grade. Missing three classes will result in an at least 10-point deduction from your final grade. The relative weights for grading purposes are as follows:

  • Final Project (26%)

  • Eight Assignments (64% - each 8%)

  • Class Participation (10%)
Exam Format:
Not applicable.
Class Format:

To achieve student learning outcomes above, the course features hands-on learning in classroom, laboratory, and homework exercises. The class time will be divided into lecture and laboratory sessions that cover both theory and practice of topics of interest. Lab and homework exercises comprise of real-world tasks faced by planning and public policy practitioners.

Students will be using a Geographic Information System software package known as ArcGIS 10.3, published by Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI). There are many competitors, but ArcGIS (and ESRI's older software ArcView) is the most commonly used. In addition, students will be using various ArcGIS extensions (e.g., Spatial Analyst, 3D Analyst, Geostatistical Analyst, Network Analyst) and a few smaller 3rd party extensions (e.g., XTools Pro).

Note that you will never learn to use GIS unless you put time in learning how to use the software! Just like sports, GIS is learned through practice and repetition. In this course, you are expected to spend 4-6 hours every week to ‘practice' GIS skills. I will also try to reduce lecture length so that you have more in-class time to work with the GIS software.
4-6 hours every week
Instructor Supplied Information Last Updated:
14 November 2016

ClassInfo Links - Spring 2017 Public Affairs Classes

To link directly to this ClassInfo page from your website or to save it as a bookmark, use:
To see a URL-only list for use in the Faculty Center URL fields, use:
To see this page output as XML, use:
To see this page output as JSON, use:
To see this page output as CSV, use:
Schedule Viewer
8 am
9 am
10 am
11 am
12 pm
1 pm
2 pm
3 pm
4 pm
5 pm
6 pm
7 pm
8 pm
9 pm
10 pm
Class Title