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New Tutorials for Fall '21

By Jay Bowen

Find all of our educational tutorials here.

Expanding upon the collection of tutorials produced last semester, the BTAA Geospatial Data Project has published a fresh set of tutorials to assist in the instruction and learning of GIS techniques using geospatial data from the BTAA Geoportal. Once again, the tutorials were designed the needs of instructors and students for detailed step-by-step explanations, but with the goal of transferring more advanced GIS skills to learners. This second collection contains the following five tutorials as slides that can be incorporated into in-person, hybrid, or fully online instructional contexts.


Georeference, by Wenjie Wang at the University of Illinois, guides ArcMap users through the steps of georeferencing a scanned historic map of Hyde Park, Chicago. Georeferencing allows GIS users to employ scanned maps as thematically appropriate base maps for geospatial data. It is a particularly useful skill for historical work requiring GIS analysis and mapping. This tutorial explains how to select an appropriate projection, how to add and evaluate control points, how to run the rectification process, how to evaluate the results by making the scanned overlay semi-transparent, and how to publish your output as a tiled map service on ArcGIS Online. Publishing a georeferenced map in this manner allows for easy sharing over the web as well as convenient application in user-interactive web mapping.

Estimated time to complete: 45 minutes


Digitizing, by Nicole Kong at Purdue University, introduces how to use ArcGIS Pro to convert data in raster format, such as scanned maps or aerial imagery, into vector data, like points, lines, and polygons. Through the tutorial, students will get a brief overview of common digitization techniques, including preliminary evaluation of the raster data source, creating new feature classes by using different snapping methods and construction tools in ArcGIS, how to modify created features, and how to add attributes to digitized features. The tutorial also includes an exercise worksheet to reinforce the learned techniques.


Activity Worksheet

Estimated time to complete: 45 minutes

Creating Elevation Surface Models using LiDAR

Creating Elevation Surface Models Using LiDAR, by Milan Budhathoki at the University of Maryland, introduces LiDAR datasets and point cloud processing in ArcGIS Pro. In this tutorial, students will download a LiDAR point cloud from the BTAA Geoportal of the Washington Monument in Washington, DC. They will learn how to load this data in ArcGIS Pro and view it over a 2D map and obliquely in 3D. Following this, students will learn how to symbolize the points so that vegetation and buildings can be extracted from the dataset. Students will also learn how to filter all ground points to create a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) as well as to create a Digital Surface Model (DSM) from all the points.

Build a Zonal Stats Tool

Build a GIS-Free Open-Source Zonal Stats Tool with Python in Jupyter Notebook, by Jay Bowen at the University of Iowa, teaches students with a basic knowledge of Python scripting how to make a free-standing zonal statistics tool that is not dependent upon desktop GIS software. This tool can be run on both MacOS and Windows and produces an input form to handle user inputs to determine the percent coverage of a given raster class range within a given polygon. For teachers and students who do not have time to download and install Anaconda-Navigator and Jupyter Notebook, there is a convenient step-by-step breakdown of the required code blocks that can be run in a Binder through GESIS Notebooks. This is particularly useful for those who want to gain a quick understanding of what the code does, but who do not have the capacity or desire to use storage space on their current computer. This tutorial is designed to initiate Python scripters to techniques for building their own GUI-driven GIS tools, which they can share with others who need simple user-friendly ways to analyze geospatial data.

Estimated time to complete: 45 minutes

Story Maps

Story Maps, by Ryan Mattke at the University of Minnesota, introduces the process of creating a story map by using ArcGIS Online’s StoryMaps interface. This tutorial covers many of the features within this tool that are not readily apparent as well as those that are not very intuitive. Some of these include how to add credits and content attribution, changing text formatting, adding buttons and separators, embedding media, and presenting media using immersive options. The tutorial also links learners to helpful resources for creating compelling story maps.

Estimated time to complete: Variable, depending upon choice of content

Have questions about the tutorials, the BTAA geoportal, or maps and geospatial data in general? Please don’t hesitate to contact our project team!