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School of Environment, Education and Development

Student and lecturer in a geography lab
MSc Geographical Information Science
Gain thorough expertise in spatial data analysis for a range of specialist careers.

MSc Geographical Information Science

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
GIS and the Web

Unit code GEOG70611
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


During the past decade, GIS has become increasingly dependent upon web technologies, and a variety of novel forms of GIS and mapping have become available online including neo-geography, neo-cartography, and online participatory GIS.

This course will aim to give students a full appraisal of the variety of online GIS, a foundation in the principles of web-based GIS, practical experience in the implementation of web-based GIS, and transferrable skills including the use of web-based GIS platforms, the use of geospatial databases and the creation of dynamic web-based content using programming languages such as JavaScript.


• Introduce students to GIS on the Web.
• Allow the students to understand the nature of GIS on the web, and the opportunities and challenges that arise from using GIS on the web.
• Allow students to engage with contemporary developments in GI Science, such as Openness, the Social Media, Neo-geography, Neo-cartography and VGI.
• Introduce students to geospatial databases such as PostGIS
• Allow students to develop transferrable JavaScript skills in a web-based GIS environment.

Teaching and learning methods

As with any applied GIS or programming module, GI and the Web is a practical course that incorporates both traditional lectures and computer lab-based practicals. Students will be learning to program web-based GIS using JavaScript, in addition to learning theory, and so a typical week will comprise:

  • A one-hour lecture on the GISc theory underlying the topic for that week, often incorporating the critique of case studies drawn from the recent literature.
  • A 2 hour computer lab-based practical during which student will work through a web-based hand-out in order to gain experience with JavaScript and apply this experience to the iterative production of web-based GIS using a variety of technologies including the Google Maps API.
  • Students will interact with their peers and lecturer via an online programming forum, which may be used for collaboration in solving programming challenges that they encounter.
  • Students will learn to develop websites for specific clients, including the Manchester Museum Vivarium.

Knowledge and understanding

• Understand how GIS on the web works, and how it both differs from and relates to more traditional desktop GIS.
• Understand when web-based GIS is the most appropriate solution for the delivery of GI or GI services.
• Understand how data are delivered online.
• Understand the impact that developments in web-based GIS have had upon GI Science as a discipline.
• Understand the technical challenges relating to delivering GI on the web.
• Understand the challenges relating to dealing with the Public

Intellectual skills

• Establishing user requirements from real-world clients.
• Formulating an appropriate design rationale to meet specific user requirements.

Practical skills

• JavaScript Programming.
• SQL Querying.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

• Presentation Skills
• Working in Groups
• Dealing with clients.

Assessment methods

Whilst studying JavaScript programming, the students are expected to participate in an online forum based upon Blackboard. Based upon industry practices, students will be expected to post issues that they are having with their code, and determine answers between them either based upon their own experiences, or through cross-posting with forums such as Stack Overflow.

Students will be expected to produce code that is well-documented and presented with respect to appropriate indentation and the ‘rule of thirds’. Verbal feedback on this will be provided on an individual basis in the practical sessions throughout the course. The feedback from this will ensure that students fully understand the guidelines prior to submitting their summative assessments.

SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT 1 (Website + 500 words) 40%

Produce a targeted website including one or more web maps designed to meet the requirements of a real-life client. Following a meeting with the client, a design rationale must be determined and then a website produced to meet with that rationale.

The project should be accompanied by a 500 word report detailing the design rationale and reflecting upon the design process.

Submission Deadline: To be arranged

SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT 2 (Website + 1000 words) 60%

Produce a targeted website including one or more web maps designed to meet a set of self-defined design criteria. Following the definition of the target audience, a design rationale must be determined and then a website produced to meet with that rationale.

The website may be intended to collect data, disseminate data, or both. The project should be accompanied by a 1000 word report detailing and reflecting upon the design process and rationale.

Submission Deadline: To be arranged

Feedback methods

Feedback for Formative Assessment 1 will be given via the online forum (hosted on Blackboard).

Feedback for Formative Assessment 2 will be given verbally during practical sessions.

Feedback for Summative Assessment 1 and 2 will be given via Blackboard.

Recommended reading

Longley, P, A.. Goodchild, M. F., Maguire, D. J., Rhind, D. W. (2015). Geographic Information Science and Systems (4th Ed.). John Wiley and Sons. Chapter 10 (pp. 217-236).

Svennerberg, G. (2010) Beginning Google Maps API 3. Apress.

Dincer, A., Uraz, B. (2013) Google Maps JavaScript API Cookbook. Pakt Publishing.

Huck, J., Whyatt, D., & Coulton, P. (2014). Spraycan: a PPGIS for capturing imprecise notions of place. Applied Geography, 55, 229-237.

Getting started with the Google Maps JavaScript API:

Mozilla Introduction to JavaScript:

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Practical classes & workshops 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 120

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jonathan Huck Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Other Scheduled teaching and learning activities will include a tour of the Vivarium at Manchester Museum.

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