University of Wisconsin–Madison

Online Master’s Program Curriculum

Eight courses. Two tracks.

Our program consists of 8 courses (4 credits each, 32 credits total). These have been designed to maximize your learning and reinforce key concepts throughout the duration of your Master’s. You can attend full-time and graduate in one year. Or you can attend part-time and graduate in two-to-three years.

Full-Time Track

Full-time enrollment equates to 12 credits both fall and spring. These are followed by the Practicum and Capstone courses in the summer. Though by attending full-time you can graduate in one year, if you’re working full-time, this honestly may not be the track for you. (Mental health and a personal life are not to be trifled with!)

Part-Time Track

Part-time enrollment consists of 4 or 8 credits a semester. The Program Director will help you design a course plan right for your needs. Part-time students graduate in two-to-three years. Worried about Federal Financial Aid? No worries! One-course qualifies you as a half-time student.

Course Catalog


Fall Classes


GEOCOMPUTING (Geog 378) 

Learn How to Make GIS Work for You!

In this class you will begin using command line and coding in Python. You will create open-source tools for different GIS applications (e.g., ArcMap and QGIS). We’ll introduce you to free APIs that help make GIS coding a snap (i.e., GDAL). After this starter course, you will be ready to tackle nearly any GIS coding project. Python will never constrict your career again!

Objective: Provide training in scripting for GIS.

Specific Topics: Geoprocessing with open-source GIS utilities. Python scripting with ArcGIS and open-source libraries.

Note: This class is considered a gateway course. Part-time students should enroll in this first, unless they receive an override from the Program Director.

GIS & SPATIAL ANALYSIS (Geog 579)

Ever get confused about when to use certain GIS analytical tools and techniques? Not after this course! This is geo-analysis on steroids, designed explicitly for GIS programmers!

In this class you will acquire advanced statistical and analytical skills to solve all types of geospatial problems. The analytical skills covered include everything from multiple regression to clustering methods, from time series analysis to spatial pattern analysis. We’ll introduce you to exactly the techniques you need to create GIS and mobile programs that analyze the data for you.

Objective: Develop advanced statistical/spatial analysis skills for geospatial data.

Specific Topics: Multiple regression, principal components, clustering methods, time series analysis, computer-intensive methods (e.g., bootstrapping), spatial autocorrelation, spatial interpolation, spatial pattern analysis, and machine learning techniques for geographic data.

GRAPHIC DESIGN IN CARTOGRAPHY (Geog 572)

Not all web maps are equal. Make yours legendary!

You will learn how to design stunning maps for the web. Create and style your own tile base maps. Design visually stunning thematic representations. Create interactive web maps. Learn how to design maps that spark an emotional response from a user. Design web maps that tell stories better than cookie-cutter software ever could. All of this using open HTML5 technologies (HTML, CSS, and Bootstrap). By the end of this course, not only will you be a web design guru, but you’ll be able to design custom map tiles using CartoCSS, styled to fit your visual narrative. As an added bonus, you’ll learn how to use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to professionalize your web map development and create customized layouts and icons.

View Student Projects

Objective: Develop students’ cartographic design skills for visualizing and presenting geospatial information using open web standards.

Specific Topics: Visual perception, visual cognition, visual semiotics, visual aesthetics, and professional ethics, as applied for advanced thematic mapping and visual storytelling on the web.


Spring Classes


SPATIAL DATABASES (Geog 574)

Like big data? Learn to design, create, and manipulate your own GINORMOUS datasets!

Learn how to manage your data in the best way possible. You will learn everything about databases. SQL, NoSQL, PostfreSWL/PostGIS, ArcSDE, MongoDB… Are these acronyms Greek to you right now? They won’t be. You’ll know which type of database to use in different situations and then how to create them.

Objective: Develop student’s skills in geospatial database design, operations and implementation.

Specific Topics: Fundamental database concepts, benefits of using databases, functions of database management systems; Data modeling and database design: Entity- Relation diagrams, relational model, object-oriented database design, object-relational database, georelational model;  Geospatial database creation, query and manipulation through SQL; Usages of modern geospatial databases products (e.g., PostgreSQL/PostGIS and ArcSDE); Usages of NoSQL database (e.g., MongoDB) for big spatial data.

INTERACTIVE CARTOGRAPHY AND VISUALIZATION (Geog 575)

Many mobile map interfaces are confusing. Yours won’t be.

User experience (UX) and user-interface (UI) design are the focus here. You will learn how to design incredible GIS user-interfaces from scratch using the latest HTML5, open-source technologies (particularly JavaScript). Learn how to use JavaScript to incorporate numerous API services into your web and mobile visualizations. Your designs will be based on user feedback and will incorporate the latest in interactive web mapping tools and visual analytics, including Leaflet, MapBox, and D3.

View Student Projects

Objective: Develop skills on the design of interactive interfaces for visualizing geospatial data in a web environment.

Specific Topics: User experience (UX) design, user interface (UI) design, human-computer interaction, usability engineering, web mapping, and visual analytics, as applied for client-side, interactive web map development.

SPATIAL WEB AND MOBILE PROGRAMMING (Geog 576)

The world has gone mobile. Your GIS tools will too.

You’ll learn how to program spatial analytical tools for the web and mobile devices. You will also learn how to create mobile GIS applications using Java, giving you the flexibility to create specific GIS tools for people working on the move.

Objective: Develop skills to program spatial analysis functions in web and mobile environments.

Specific Topics: Software development and Object Oriented Programming: JAVA programming fundamentals; Geospatial programming tools, languages and libraries: Servlet, JavaServer Page(JSP), JavaScript (JS), Google Maps API, Leaflet, HTML, CSS, XML etc; Web and mobile GIS design and development.


Summer Classes


CAPSTONE IN GIS DEVELOPMENT (Geog 670)

Enough lab-based learning… Apply your newfound skills to solve real world GIS problems!

You will collaborate with classmates to solve four real-world GIS problems. You will integrate all of your newly acquired programming, web development, and mobile programming skills to develop GIS tools that solve particular challenges handed to you by faculty. Not only will you build your skills at GIS team work, but when you’re done you’ll have four amazing portfolio pieces!

Objective: Develop integrative skills and the ability to apply the learned programming skills in solving GIS development/support problems.

Specific Topics: Students will be presented with four challenging problems requiring skills in spatial analysis, interactive web mapping, and programming.


PRACTICUM IN GIS DEVELOPMENT (Geog 672)

We know you can do it. Here’s where you prove it.

The practicum offers you a chance to work one-on-one with a member of our renowned faculty and staff. You will identify a unique real-world GIS software shortcoming and develop a tool that helps you solve it. The problem you want to solve will be determined by you and your advisor. It can be of personal interest to you (e.g., a tool for tracking, analyzing, and mapping UFO sightings in real-time) or of consequence to your employer (e.g., keeping track of competitors’ sales). The goal is to help you realize your new GIS coding potential by having you start and finish a GIS development project all by yourself – with an mentor cheering you on!

Objective: Develop the ability to conceive and solve real world programming problems and provide GIS application support independently.

Specific Topics: Conception, development, and implementation of a student specific real world programming project.



Questions? Of course you have some. Please don’t hesitate to ask us.