UniServe Science News Volume 18 October 2001


An Online Virtual Campus Course for Urban and Regional Planning

Christopher Pettit
The University of Queensland

The online virtual campus course titled 'Introduction to Urban and Regional Planning using ArcView GIS' is a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) applications course recently released at the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) International User Conference in the USA, where over 10,000 delegates attended. The online course is part of the ESRI Virtual Campus where over 100,000 people from across the globe are enrolled in a range of science, technology and applications courses. The authors of this course - Chris Pettit and David Pullar - are from the School of Geography, Planning and Architecture, The University of Queensland and have spent over two years developing a number of modules containing both planning theory and practical exercises.

Figure 1.

Figure 1. Opening screen for enrolled students

The course focuses on how a GIS may be applied to core urban and regional planning tasks including; urban management, site selection, impact assessment and strategic planning. Successful completion of the course endeavours to arm students with a suite of spatial techniques for addressing environmental, social, and economic issues associated with the Triple Bottom Line approach to planning. The course comprises six modules which include both theoretical and practical components. In total the course covers over 100 theoretical planning concepts along with over 20 associated exercises. Practical exercises address real world social, economic, and environmental planning problems and show how a GIS can be used as a key tool for planners to perform 2D, 3D, spatial and temporal analysis in solving these real world problems.

Figure 2.

Figure 2. Sample 3D Visual Impact Assessment Exercise result

The course has been designed for both students and professionals interested in urban and regional planning. For professional urban and regional planners in either private consultancies or public organizations (e.g., local government authorities) the course can be undertaken to augment continuing professional development. For college and university students the course can be undertaken to learn about fundamental urban and regional planning concepts and tasks and how they can be managed using GIS.

At the completion of each module students are required to pass a multiple-choice test. These tests are based upon the theoretical content and practical exercises contained within each of the lessons undertaken within a module. There are also short quizzes available at the end of each lesson to enable students to brush up on what they have learnt. When students successfully pass all six module examinations an ESRI certificate of completion is awarded.

Figure 3.

Figure 3. Sample of theoretical content

The course is currently being incorporated into the curriculum of a number of schools and universities both locally and internationally. Since the release of the course three months ago there has already been a considerable number of institutions from around the globe who have student enrolments including: The University of Queensland, University of Iceland, Galesburg High School, University of New Orleans, Arizona State University, Edgewood High School, Florida Atlantic University, Los Angeles Trade Technical College, Ohio University Planning Department, Texas A & M University, Westark College, and Yokohama National University.

'Introduction to Urban and Regional Planning using ArcView GIS' requires a Web browser and ArcView 3.1 software (a trial version package is available on purchase of the course). All datasets required to successfully complete practical sessions are downloaded at the beginning of each exercise. The first module of the course is free, whilst the cost of completing the remaining five modules is US$100.00 (discounts are available for teachers and students). Visit: the ESRI online Virtual Campus - Introduction to Urban and Regional Planning using ArcView GIS

Christopher Pettit
School of Geography, Planning and Architecture
The University of Queensland

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UniServe Science News Volume 18 October 2001

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