Teaching geographic information science concepts with QGIS and the Living Textbook: towards a sustainable and inclusive distance education

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


As part of its Master in Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, Faculty ITC (the University of Twente, The Netherlands), offered a fully online course, Principles and Applications of Geographic Information Systems and Earth Observation, as an essential part of the response given to students that could not travel in 2020 due to travel restrictions imposed by the COVID pandemic. The course was developed around four fundamental principles: (1) The course was exercise led - students were introduced to concepts from the exercise descriptions instead of doing all the readings before the practical exercises; (2) Every concept taught should be demonstrated and operationalized; (3) Use as few software tools as possible to help the students to focus on the science and not on the tools; (4) The software tools should be inclusive and encourage technological independence. Two essential tools were used to comply with these requirements: The Living Textbook - an open-access tool developed in-house that allows the students to explore concepts both as a traditional wiki and as an interactive concept map, and QGIS for operationalization of the concepts described in the Living Textbook. Overall, the experience was successful, with high satisfaction levels from the students reflected in final marks typically higher when compared with the equivalent, in-house course based on proprietary software and a more traditional educational approach. The courseware developed for the course is now offered to the community as open courseware. It is the basis of having the Faculty recognized as a QGIS Certified Organization, thus strengthening the relationship between academia and FOSS4GIS, particularly QGIS. The development of these exercises also led to several bug reports that contributed to improving QGIS. Internally, this experience brought essential insights on how to design online courses successfully. These include but are not limited to (A) consistency – the tools and support materials of the course should remain the same during the course; and (B) accessibility – the tools used should not have any accessibility barrier, especially when it comes to licenses, but also when it comes to imposing operating system platforms or assuming file format preferences. Finally, it is worthy to note that this course made the teaching staff aware and confident about using QGIS. This resulted in a paradigm shift faculty-wide where FOSS4GIS is now the primary choice for teaching.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusIn preparation - 15 Oct 2022
EventFOSS4G Asia 2021 - Kathmandu, Nepal
Duration: 1 Oct 20212 Oct 2022


ConferenceFOSS4G Asia 2021
Internet address


  • Distance education
  • Living Tectbook
  • QGIS
  • FOSS4G
  • Inclusiveness
  • Sustainability


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