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Curriculum and Course Sequence

Students in the certificate program in geographic information systems (GIS) at Elmhurst are required to successfully complete five courses for a total of five credits (20 semester hours).

Students in the GIS certificate program will:

  • Develop a spatial perspective with which to approach concepts, issues and problems in various nongeographical disciplines and professions
  • Gain access to GIS information, expertise and technology that is directly applicable to the issues and concerns facing communities and industry
  • Learn the basics of GIS technologies and obtain hands-on experience in using GIS software in order to effectively import, display, query, summarize and analyze spatial data
  • Explore the interdisciplinary applications of GIS in disciplines including, but not limited to, biology, business marketing, geology, urban planning, which include aspects of cartography, topology, map design and spatial analysis
  • Understand how spatial information and techniques are used to solve practical problems within various disciplines
  • Acquire the knowledge to develop GIS solutions using Python

Program Format

As an adult learner, you come to class equipped with knowledge and skills that enable you to learn at an accelerated pace. This program is designed to meet your specific academic and practical needs and is intended for students seeking to complete a certificate program in GIS. Students complete the online GIS program in less than a year. There are no prerequisites for introductory courses, and you may be able to apply previous college coursework toward your certificate.

Required Courses

One unit of credit equals four semester hours.

This course is an introduction to geographic information systems (GIS), including its development, components, data types, formats and applications. It examines the processes involved in order to capture data, manipulate data, analyze data sets and display spatial data through online lectures and classroom hands-on computer experience. The use of GIS for practical “real-world” applications is emphasized. Students will be afforded the opportunity to learn about the broad applications of GIS, appreciate the usefulness of it and use it as an invaluable tool to visualize spatial patterns not otherwise visible.

Remote sensing is the science of deriving information about Earth’s land and water areas from images acquired at a distance. It usually relies upon measurement of electromagnetic energy reflected or emitted from the features of interest. Advances in detector technology, the public availability of improved datasets from new instruments and new approaches to data analysis will be presented in this course. As such, the ability to work with and interpret remote sensing data is a valuable addition to any spatial project. The emphasis in this class will be on traditional remote sensing techniques such as aerial photography and satellite imagery.

However, an introduction to uses of radar, microwave, gamma ray and neutron remote sensing techniques will also be provided. Explanation of and practical applications of the global positioning system (GPS) are also covered.

Prerequisite: GIS 100.

Utilizing knowledge from the previous courses in the sequence of the GIS Certificate Program, this course will expand upon spatial analyses and include applications for GIS. Students will gather data, build an original database and construct a project including an analysis of the information gathered to solve a practical problem. Projects will be presented and stored in the form of an electronic portfolio. Emphasis centers on hands-on training and solving practical spatial problems.

Prerequisites: GIS 100, GIS 200, ISG 100 and ISG 200.

This course will introduce the student to computer programming, used in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) applications. Using Python, the course initially covers essential programming concepts such as how to set and use variables, how to program using sequence, selection and repetition structures, and how to write and call functions. The basics of using the ArcGIS ModelBuilder component are discussed, including exporting models to Python. Finally, an introduction to writing geoprocessing scripts in Python is presented.

Prerequisites: GIS 100, GIS 200.

This course will introduce the student to geodatabase modeling, relational models, and object-oriented data modeling with universal modeling language (UML). ArcSDE with SQL (and/or Oracle), an industry standard syntax language for querying and manipulating a geodatabase, is introduced. A number of case studies are presented. The student will get a hands-on introduction to building a geodatabase.

Prerequisites: GIS 100 ,GIS 200, ISG 100. 


Fall Term Start
  • GIS 100 Introduction to Geospatial Technologies
  • GIS 200 Remote Sensing Techniques
  • GIS 300 Geospatial Capstone
  • ISG 100 GIS Programming
  • IGS 200 Implementing Geodatabases

If a student chooses to complete a bachelor’s degree with a major in Information Technology, additional major coursework will include IT 228, IT 312, IT 348 and IT 232. Students will also be responsible for completing the University’s Integrated Curriculum requirements to earn their full bachelor’s degree within this program.

Elmhurst University reserves the right to modify courses, schedules and program format without advance notice to students.


Registered students will access the software via the Elmhurst University server. The following software is used: Esri’s ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS Desktop 10x, plus Python for GIS.

Facilities and Equipment

GIS students at Elmhurst University have access to the latest equipment. Students can be in touch with instructors via Skype, e-mail and conference calls. Personal one-on-one attention is encouraged upon request of students.

Students in Elmhurst’s Online GIS Program may access the ESRI ArcGIS software simply by logging in to the Elmhurst server from any computer (including a Mac) with internet access and a Remote Desktop Connection Client. The server does the high-end processing, so students do not require a robust computer to experience high performance. Elmhurst is one of only a handful of colleges in the country—and the only liberal-arts-based institution—with this unique and distinctive access.

Elmhurst University’s A.C. Buehler Library contains numerous resources, including software manuals and tutorials in both hardcopy and digital format. The library also contains a variety of textbooks and periodicals pertaining to geospatial technologies.

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