Department launches online Professional Masters in GIS and Web Map Programming

robinSmilingTowardDanielIn October, the Department of Geography officially announced the launch of its new Online Professional Masters in GIS and Web Map Programming. This is the first online degree offered by our department and we are excited to expand our educational outreach to new audiences and deliver globally in-demand geospatial development training. The initiative is led by A-Xing Zhu (Faculty Director) and Ian Muehlenhaus (Program Director), and receives vital intellectual support from professors Rob Roth and Qunying Huang, as well as Jim Burt (now emeritus).

The degree offers working professionals around the world a chance to earn a non-thesis M.Sc. in less than one year. It builds upon and differentiates itself from our successful GIS Certificate Program by focusing on GIS and web map programming, rather than GIS application. The new master’s is catered to working GIS professionals who weren’t formally trained in web GIS, programming, or web mapping when they completed their education.

Those accepted into the competitive program can complete the eight pre-selected courses (32 credits total) by attending part- or full-time.

Six of our traditional courses were adapted for web distribution by our faculty and University of Wisconsin experts in instructional design. These represent core skill courses and include:

  • Geocomputing (Geog 378)
  • GIS and Spatial Analysis (Geog 579)
  • Graphic Design in Cartography (Geog 572)
  • Spatial Databases (Geog 574)
  • Interactive Cartography and Geovisualization (Geog 575)
  • Spatial Web and Mobile Programming (Geog 576)

Additionally, two new courses were created to help ensure students learn how to apply their newfound skills. The Capstone course presents groups of students four different GIS development problems – one each in database design, programming, spatial analysis, and web mapping. Students will be forced to apply all of the skills they’ve learned in the core courses to solve these coding challenges. The Practicum course asks students to come up with a GIS programming problem, figure out a solution to the problem, and then use their programming skills to implement the solution.

“The idea is to not only send students off with modern-day GIS programming and web mapping capabilities. We want students to be able to think; to use their newfound skills to solve problems. We want students to leave with the knowledge of when and where they can apply their new skills. We know that this will give them a leg up in the workforce,” says Dr. Ian Muehlenhaus, the new Program Director of the Online Professional Master’s Program.

“A lot of online programs offer to teach skills quickly. Quick is good. We do that too! The problem is, you learn by using skills, not just acquiring them. In our program we spend time making sure students realize the full potential of their skills. We make certain students understand how, where, and when to apply their different skills to solve any GIS problem that arises. In a nutshell? We teach our students how to solve GIS problems using code.”

The online program is a supplement to our traditional program. Rest assured, the traditional thesis-based Master’s of Cartography/GIS is here to stay. The online master’s was created due to popular demand for our courses among those who cannot relocate to Madison, and the need among professionals throughout the industry for GIS programming skills. The income raised through this program will be funneled directly into the department to enhance our traditional programs with new assistantships and hires.

Interested in joining our new master’s? Know someone who might be? We’re accepting applications for a Fall 2016 start date. You can wave up to eight credits based on previous formal education and work experience.

Find your inner coder today! Visit us at to learn more.

Author: Geography Staff