OSGeo Events, FOSS4G 2008

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The use of open source GI software in teachings

Martin Dresen, Elisabeth Dresen

Building: Cape Town International Convention Centre
Room: Golden Gate Room (Room 2.4a)
Date: 2008-09-30 03:30 PM – 05:00 PM
Last modified: 2008-09-08



The use of geographic information systems in universities, colleges, in advanced or further training became common standard in the last years.
In most of the cases desktop GIS of the main software producers - like ArcGIS by ESRI or MapInfo by PitneyBowes - are used. With its well adopted and easy to use windows-like user interfaces, the numerous extensions and functions and the in many cases easy and cheap price structures and licensing models they seem to offer exactly what is needed or wanted.
So why should open source GI software be used in teachings?
This issue was addressed in a research study that started in 2007 as part of a project at the Applied University Eberswalde, Germany. It includes the evaluation of interviews that were following different GIS courses in universities and other educational institutions.

GIS requirements in teachings

The evaluation of use and potential for open source GI software initially demanded the definition of requirements from an organizational perspective (administration, software administrators) and a user perspective (lecturers, tutors and students). Each perspective was evaluated to understand possible barriers in using open source GI software.
The functional complexity of different software applications were also examined according to environmental analysis as this often includes very complex tasks and questions. The common requirements, however, can be easily assigned to other applications.

The main questions and results of the study will be given in the full paper version.


The use of open source GI software in teachings was proved to be sufficient for the initially defined requirements and problems in environmental applications. Even complex tasks could be handled whether sometimes by using more than one software solution or by combining functionalities. In this regard existing proprietary GI software could be completely replaced by open source GI software.

The use of open source GI software is recommended explicitly to students, to get a general idea of different solutions and the comprehensive methods and functions to be used for environmental or any other application. Students have the flexibility to use open source GI software wherever they want - in the university, at home or at work - to solve their GI tasks.

Within the last years open source GI software has established in the GI market and has become a promising alternative for educational institutions. But the enormous potential must be utilised and promoted in a better way, starting by cleaning up existing prejudices.