Charles Chang

Synchronous meeting time: MoTuWeTh 10:00AM – 11:15AM
Office hour: MoWe 11:15AM – 12:15PM
Academic credit: 4
Course format: lecture + lab

Instructor’s information

Instructor: Charles Chang
Title: Assistant Professor of Environment and Urban Studies
Expertise: Computational Social Science and Digital Humanities

Charles Chang’s research interest hinges on the intersections between computation and design. With the rise of smartphones and other internet-connected devices, design choices become increasingly data-driven and dependent on information’s credibility in the construction of the human habitat. Chang’s research focuses on human habitat’s design, environmental impact, and information’s credibility in the Big-Data age. His teaching interests at Duke Kunshan include computational social science, digital humanities, and urban informatics. He has published several articles in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, among which are articles on Big Data and machine learning in natural science, social science, and the humanities.

What is this course about?

Geographic Information System (GIS) are computer-based systems used to collect, store, manage and analyze geographic information. This course will introduce you to the fundamental concepts upon which this technology is based. Through lectures, lab exercises and projects, you will gain an understanding of GIS and how it can be used to solve geospatial problems. You will also learn how to use GIS software to create maps, charts, images and other types of presentations to effectively communicate geospatial ideas and findings. Other related geospatial technologies, such as Global Positioning System (GPS), Remote Sensing (RS), and Cartography will also be explored.

What background knowledge do I need before taking this course?

No prior knowledge of GIS is required. However, general understanding of computation and information science is recommended.

What will I learn in this course?

At the end of the course, students should be able to obtain:
  • Fundamental knowledge of GIS and other related geospatial technologies including RS, GPS and Cartography.
  •    - Be able to identify major sources of spatial data
       - Understand main terminologies in GIS
  • Greater comprehension of maps and the skills needed to manipulate spatially-oriented data in a map format.
  •    - Be able to differentiate different spatial data models
       - Know how to create spatial data
       - Understand map projections
  • Recognizing and identifying geographic data’s four components: position, attributes, spatial relationships, and time to aid in retrieving, manipulating, analyzing and displaying spatially-referenced data.
  • Working knowledge of GIS software and associated hardware to determine the appropriate use of the technology.
  •    - Be able to create spatial data in QGIS
       - Be able to employ proper tools in QGIS
  • Knowledge of geospatial data sources and the availability of online tools for geospatial analysis.

What will I do in this course?

This course is an introductory-level of GIS course.

Students who take this course generally fall into one of two categories:

  • You might be a Computation and Design major who is on the social policy track or a student in another major (e.g. data science or environmental science) who needs to take this class to fulfill requirements. This course will prepare you for the technical challenge of GIS by helping you develop a robust understanding of geographical information systems and how to work with spatial data; this skill will be essential in future courses.

  • You might want to learn how GIS works so that you can bring new ideas back to your own field of study, such as computation and design, environmental science, data science, political economy, or any other majors that involve spatial analysis.

The course contains three components: lectures, labs, and projects. In lectures, you will learn the basic concepts and theories of GIS through lecture presentations and discussions. In labs, you will apply the knowledge in practice to gain hands-on experience in geospatial data collection, management, and analysis as well as map reading/making. In projects, you will synthesize the knowledge and skills learned throughout the semester to finish an integrated GIS project.

How can I prepare for the class sessions to be successful?

Students enrolled in this course should be prepared to read all the required readings before class; participate in course discussions; complete lab assignments and the final project individually with her/his earnest effort; and finish all the quizzes and exams.

What required texts, materials, and equipment will I need?

Introduction to Geographic Information Systems by R. Adam Dastrup, MA, GISP.

  • A free, theoretical OER (Open Education Resources) book covers all the basic concepts in GIS. It is good for this introduction course.
  • The book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

What optional texts or resources might be helpful?

Optional Textbooks:

1. GIS Fundamentals: A First Text on Geographic Information Systems, 6th Edition (2019) by Paul Bolstad. (Ebook ISBN 978-1-59399-552-2)

  • A theoretical book comprehensively covers all the concepts in GIS. It also works for the other GIS course at DKU.

2. Discover QGIS 3.x by Kurt Menke. ISBN: 978-0998547763. You can purchase the pdf version from Locate Press.

  • A practical book covers all essential GIS operations with QGIS

3. QGIS Video Tutorials by MangoMap.

4. Discovering GIS and ArcGIS Pro, 3rd Edition (2021) by Bradley A. Shellito. eBook ISBN: 9781319348069, paperbackISBN:9781319230753 .You can rent the book through MacMillan Learning Student Store.

  • A practical book covers all essential GIS operations with ArcPro

Online Learning Resources

How will my grade be determined?

Grading components are listed below. Your final grade will be determined by the points you have earned by the end of the semester.
  • 7 Weekly Discussions: 10 points each, 70 points in total (10%)
  • 2 Exams: 120 points each, 240 points in total (26%)
  • 11 Lab Reports: 10 points each, 220 points in total (44%)
  • 1 final project: 200 points in total (20%)
Final grades will be assigned using a standard scale, as such:

A = 93% - 100%;
A- = 89% - 93%;
B+ = 84% - 89%;
B = 80% - 84%;
B- = 75% - 80%;
C = 70% - 75%;
D = 60% - 70%;
F = 0% - 59%

Note: Weekly discussions often include 3 to 5 simple review questions that you should know from the previous lecture. It also includes a group presentation for a GIS application. Lecture Quizzes will be similar to exams where some of the questions are similar to the review questions and other questions require problem-solving techniques.

Late Submissions

  • Late submission for discussions, lab reports, and the final project report will be subject to a late penalty: for each day past the due date your submission will be deducted 15% of the total points of the assignment. For example, a discussion is 15 points in total. If you turn in your responses 1 day late, the maximum points you may earn is 15-15*15% = 13.

  • Late submission for quizzes will NOT be accepted, EXCEPT you can provide approval there are unpreventable factors and/or unovercomeable challenges that make it impossible for you to submit your work on time. Written documents/proofs are required for medical emergencies, family emergencies, or university-approved absences.

What are the course policies?

You are expected to attend lectures and participate in class discussions actively. If you have questions about the lectures, labs, or course materials, you should ask them in MS Teams or email me. I usually answer your questions in 24 hours if not sooner. If you are currently located outside of China, you are expected to meet with me occasionally over Zoom during my office hours.

Discussion Guidelines:
Civility is an essential ingredient for academic discourse. All communications for this course should be conducted constructively, civilly, and respectfully. Differences in beliefs, opinions, and approaches are to be expected. Please bring any communications you believe to be in violation of this class policy to the attention of your instructor. Active interaction with peers and your instructor is essential to success in this course, paying particular attention to the following:
  • Be respectful of others and their opinions, valuing diversity in backgrounds, abilities, and experiences.
  • Challenging the ideas held by others is an integral aspect of critical thinking and the academic process. Please word your responses carefully, and recognize that others are expected to challenge your ideas. A positive atmosphere of healthy debate is encouraged.
  • Read your online discussion posts carefully before submitting them.
Academic Integrity:
As a student, you should abide by the academic honesty standard of the Duke Kunshan University. Its Community Standard states: “Duke Kunshan University is a community comprised of individuals from diverse cultures and backgrounds. We are dedicated to scholarship, leadership, and service and to the principles of honesty, fairness, respect, and accountability. Members of this community commit to reflecting upon and upholding these principles in all academic and non-academic endeavors, and to protecting and promoting a culture of integrity and trust.” For all graded work, students should pledge that they have neither given nor received any unacknowledged aid.
Collaborative work on weekly discussions is allowed. However, any collaboration on lab assignments, quizzes, and exams is strictly forbidden.
Academic Policy & Procedures:
You are responsible for knowing and adhering to academic policy and procedures as published in University Bulletin and Student Handbook. Please note, an incident of behavioral infraction or academic dishonesty (cheating on a test, plagiarizing, etc.) will result in immediate action from me, in consultation with university administration (e.g., Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Student Conduct, Academic Advising). Please visit the Undergraduate Studies website for additional guidance related to academic policy and procedures. Academic integrity is everyone’s responsibility.

Academic Disruptive Behavior and Community Standard:
Please avoid all forms of disruptive behavior, including but not limited to: verbal or physical threats, repeated obscenities, unreasonable interference with class discussion, making/receiving personal phone calls, text messages or pages during class, excessive tardiness, leaving and entering class frequently without notice of illness or other extenuating circumstances, and persisting in disruptive personal conversations with other class members. Please turn off phones, pagers, etc. during class unless instructed otherwise. If you choose not to adhere to these standards, I will take action in consultation with university administration (e.g., Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Student Conduct, Academic Advising).

Academic Accommodations:
If you need to request accommodation for a disability, you need a signed accommodation plan from Campus Health Services, and you need to provide a copy of that plan to me. Visit the Office of Student Affairs website for additional information and instruction related to accommodations.

What campus resources can help me during this course?

Academic Advising and Student Support
Please consult with me about appropriate course preparation and readiness strategies, as needed. Consult your academic advisors on course performance (i.e., poor grades) and academic decisions (e.g., course changes, incompletes, withdrawals) to ensure you stay on track with degree and graduation requirements. In addition to advisors, staff in the Academic Resource Center can provide recommendations on academic success strategies (e.g., tutoring, coaching, student learning preferences). Please visit the Office of Undergraduate Advising website for additional information related to academic advising and student support services.

Writing and Language Studio
For additional help with academic writing—and more generally with language learning—you are welcome to make an appointment with the Writing and Language Studio (WLS). To accommodate students who are learning remotely as well as those who are on campus, writing and language coaching appointments are available in person and online. You can register for an account, make an appointment, and learn more about WLS services, policies, and events on the WLS website. You can also find writing and language learning resources on the Writing & Language Studio Sakai site.

IT Support

If you are experiencing technical difficulties, please contact IT:
  • China-based faculty/staff/students 400-816-7100, (+86) 0512- 3665-7100
  • US-based faculty/staff/students (+1) 919-660-1810
  • International-based faculty/staff/students can use either telephone option (recommend using tools like Skype calling)
  • Live Chat
  • Email

What is the expected course schedule?

Date Class topic Pre-class work for students Planned in-class activities Assignments due
W 1 S 1 Introduction to Geographic (Geospatial) Information Systems Read Chapter 1 Quiz 1
W 1 S 2 Introduction to QGIS QGIS training materials Module 2 and Module 3 Lab 1
W 2 S 1 Understand Geospatial Data Read Chapter 2 Quiz 2
W 2 S 2 Making a print map QGIS training materials Module 4 and Map Projections Lab 2
W 3 S 1 Displaying Geospatial Data Read Chapter 3 Quiz 3
W 3 S 2 Creating Vector Data QGIS training materials Module 5 Lab 3
W 4 S 1 Creating Geospatial Data Read Chapter 4 Quiz 4, Exam 1
W 4 S 2 Vector Analysis QGIS training materials Module 6 Lab 4
W 5 S 1 Managing Geospatial Data with Spatial Database Read Chapter 5 Quiz 5
W 5 S 2 Rasters and Raster Analysis QGIS training materials Module 7 and Multispectral Analysis (NDVI) Lab 5
W 6 S 1 Intro to Spatial Analysis Read Chapter 6 Quiz 6
W 6 S 2 Intro to WebGIS Introduction to Spatial Data Science and Web Cartography Lab 6
Week 7 Finishing your own project Exam 2 Data processing and analysis
Visualizing project results
Note: each session is now split into two classes