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Advanced Geographic Information Systems


Admission requirements

Required course:

  • Geographic Information Systems

  • Quantitative Research Methods


Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is an integrating framework that utilizes spatial data to characterize and analyze past, present, and future patterns and behaviors of a range of environmental and social phenomena. GIS is a powerful analytical tool utilized across many disciplinary and multidisciplinary scientific fields, such as sustainability, environmental modeling, planning, political science, public health, and international development. Some common applications of GIS include, for example, predicting ecosystem change caused by climate change, land degradation caused by land cover change, modelling the spread of infectious diseases in relation to environmental and sociological indices, or examining the impact of flooding on different socioeconomic classes. All of these applications utilize spatial information (locational data) as a basis for analyses, which are then further characterized by various qualifying indices (attribute data).

As Advanced GIS assumes a solid knowledge of GIS (200-level course), the focus of A-GIS is primarily the manipulation and analyses (‘sub-system’) of GIS. The course adapts both a conceptual and applied approach. Most of the class will focus on raster analyses and modeling, which is then integrated with appropriate vector based analyses. Formally the class is based around three labs and a final project, each of which serve as a single coherent topic. Each lab includes a range of analytical and technical GIS related skills, which progressively increase in sophistication and are inherently cumulative. Specific spatial data types and analytical procedures will be presented via the interface of ESRI ArcGIS and other appropriate software. Students are expected to work independently and with a partner. And as A-GIS is a ‘methods’ course for three LUC BSc majors (EES, GPH, GED) the focus is on technical procedures, which are reviewed with various ad-hoc examples (e.g., environmental, health, political…). It is expected, therefore, that students provide an appropriate thematic context for each respective lab and final project that is solidly based within their major.

Course Objectives

After the course, students should be able to,


  • Develop, manage, and carry out a scientifically sound GIS project,

  • Acquire skills and knowledge on the selection, integration, spatial analysis/modeling and visualization/communication of spatial information using GIS and spatial analytical methods,

  • Effectively demonstrate scientific writing related to a spatial topic within the students BSc major.


  • Learn to identify and translate a spatial research question into a GIS modeling problem and solution,

  • Recognize and critically evaluate specific spatial issues in GIScience related to research.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The typical weekly format is a class lecture on Tuesday that emphasizes concepts, whereas Thursdays will be spent on practical applications and laboratory assignments. (subject to Leiden University rules: Students are encouraged to attend lab hours with the student assistant in the Digital Lab and/or other times in the Wijnhaven lab.)

Assessment Method

  • Two labs (data management, technical/analytical, scientific writing, production): lab 1 (20%), lab 2 (30%): 50%*

  • Final Project (as above, and project design): 25%*

  • Objective quiz: 10%

  • Final exam: 10%

  • Class participation (e.g., discussion/presentation, weekly demonstrations): 5%

Late labs and final project will be assigned a 5% grade penalty per day.

Reading list


  • Foote and Lynch (1995). GIS as an Integrating Technology,

Additional materials, including chapters from Tempfli et al. (2009) and Huisman and de By (2009), will be indexed to specific PPT lectures and laboratory assignments,

  • Tempfli, K., Huurneman, G. C., Bakker, W. H., Janssen, L. L. F., Feringa, W. F., Gieske, A. S. M., Woldai, T. (2009). Principles of remote sensing: an introductory textbook. (ITC Educational Textbook Series; Vol. 2). Enschede: International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, the Netherlands.(

  • Huisman, O., & de By, R. A. (2009). Principles of Geographic Information Systems. (ITC Educational Textbook Series; Vol. 1). Enschede: International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, the Netherlands. (

Review materials:
Students should review and refresh their notes from the 200-level GIS course. The following materials serve as a useful refresher:

  • GIS concepts related to map projections, spatial data models, data sources, data management, and cartography from the . See Huisman and de By (2009):

  • Coordinate Systems by P. Dana (1995),


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Achim Häger, (Semester 1)
Dr. Paul F. Hudson, (Semester 2)


Each student will have a personal folder on the Leiden network under their student i.d.# to be used for data storage and related class work (read and write permission), and will also have access to a general course folder to obtain data (read permission) for labs and assignments. The directory structure is: \vuw\public\Workgroups\FGGA\LUC-ArcGIS_Course.

The labs and final project require quite a bit of effort (and time), so you should plan accordingly with a clear view of your overall schedule and the deadline. Each lab is intended to be a complete finished research project, which means that you are required to do a (brief) literature review for each lab assignment to provide a rationale and context for your results. For the lab and final project you will work with a partner, which means that cooperation and communication are vital. The final project will include several components, including a literature review, very brief presentation and a final report that draws upon sophisticated GIS analyses that should be anchored to your LUC major.

Assignments are due before midnight. This includes both the report uploaded to Blackboard and the associated GIS data within your class folder. Late labs and final projects will be assigned a 5% grade penalty per day.

It is not possible to do well in this course without spending considerable time outside of class working with GIS on the computer. Students are advised to load version 10.* of ESRI ArcGIS software on or QGIS on their personal computer prior to the start of the course. All enrolled students are provided a free digital (online) license key for ArcGIS about one week prior to the start of the course. QGIS is freeware, and students will be directed to appropriate download sites. Students who do not download the software will be expected to utilize the laboratory to complete assignments. Students are advised to have access to a modern Windows based computer outside of class hours for the completion of assignments. If you’re using an Apple computer you’ll need to either install Parallel or Bootcamp to install the Windows operating system to run ArcGIS, or run QGIS, which is written native for Apple. It is advised to frequently backup data on a large capacity USB drive (32 GB or so).

While in class (on screen) it is expected that you will devote your time to the course materials, whether individually or through interaction with other students. Unless specified, the use of phones and computers for anything not related to the course is prohibited.