GIS for Beginners #1: QGIS Orientation
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GIS for Beginners #1: QGIS Orientation

Introduction to Quantum GIS, Create a Shaded Map, Create a Time-Series Map, Learn to think like a GIS Analyst
3.8 (24 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
2,902 students enrolled
Created by Ian Allan
Last updated 6/2017
Current price: $10 Original price: $40 Discount: 75% off
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
  • 4 hours on-demand video
  • 3 Articles
  • 37 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • You'll learn generic GIS functionality – how to open, navigate and interpret GIS maps and air photos, change how they look on screen, and understand the relationship between a GIS map and the table that lies behind it.
  • You'll get to understand GIS conceptually– why maps have limitations, why GIS maps are also rich databases, what is map overlay and what are the four GIS map objects
  • You'll learn that the shapes and colors in GIS maps and GIS air photos can be surrogates for both socio-economic and environmental information. Why visual clues such as block size, watercourse shape, location, condition and even vegetation reveals all sorts of valuable information.
  • You'll learn how to use Project Files to recreate screen environments from days, months or even years ago
  • You'll learn how to Shade a GIS Map with 9 data categories – understand the need to generalize data for some audiences, how to find a color scheme for your own GIS project, and how to validate your map
  • You'll learn how to create simple GIS time-series maps
View Curriculum
  • You only need a computer, preferably running MS Windows. The software also runs on Mac, Linux, BSD and Android but I cannot support these.
  • Printer to print course notes
  • A notebook and pen, please!

Attention Researchers, College Students And Professionals: Do You Want To Add GIS To Your Toolkit Without Having The Hassle Of Enrolling In A College GIS Course?


Learn The First Five-Steps That All GIS Professionals Learn When They Start Out.

Have you been trying to learn the basics of GIS without any luck?

You have looked for tutorials around the web but the information you find is incomplete, often out-of-date and narrow in its focus.

That’s understandable because the best tutorials are usually for expensive commercial GIS’s and the lessons for the FREE, equally functional, Quantum GIS are mostly written by volunteers.

Fortunately, my GIS for Beginners #1: QGIS Orientation course offers a solution.  I teach you the beginners basics of GIS using videos and downloadable workbooks and datasets, Step-by-Step Follow-Along style.

It is as simple as watching the videos on your computer and following along with the exercises using the FREE Quantum GIS Software

Start now and you could be working on your own GIS project this time tomorrow!

Imagine what would be like to have your own GIS maps on your own computer and under your control.

My name is Ian Allan. I am a Masters graduate from (world top 100) Monash University in Melbourne Australia. While doing my post-graduate research, I co-authored the University’s first two GIS courses and taught both Grid Cell and Vector GIS to both Undergraduate and Graduate students.

Over the last 24 years I have authored and co-authored fifteen peer reviewed publications. I have worked professionally as a GIS researcher, taught GIS to thousands of students, and worked as a GIS consultant on projects as diverse as the following…

  • United Nations: Post tsunami strategic planning in Banda Ache
  • Australian Federal Government: National Broadband strategic assessment.
  • Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet: Housing affordability modelling.
  • Local Government: Environmental sustainability modelling for planners,
  • Water industry: Buried water pipe condition modelling and ease-of-digging modelling

GIS for Beginners #1: QGIS Orientation will teach you…

  • Generic GIS functionality – how to open, navigate and interpret GIS maps and air photos, change how they look on screen, and understand the relationship between a GIS map and the table that lies behind it.
  • How to create simple GIS time-series maps.
  • To understand GIS conceptually – why maps have limitations, why GIS maps are also rich databases, what is map overlay and what are the four GIS map objects
  • That the shapes and colors in GIS maps and GIS air photos can be surrogates for both socio-economic and environmental information. Why visual clues such as block size, watercourse shape, location, condition and even vegetation reveals all sorts of valuable information.
  • How to use Project Files to recreate screen environments from days, months or even years ago
  • How to Shade a GIS Map with 9 data categories – understand the need to generalize data for some audiences, how to find a color scheme for your own GIS project, and how to validate your map

For the past 24 years I’ve been a GIS researcher teacher and consultant.  Over 4600 students have enrolled in my GIS Udemy courses alone.  Here’s what some of of my students say about my teaching style…

"It was very thorough and comprehensive… Ian also covered aspects of GIS Analysis - which increases your learning and appreciation of the capabilities of how powerful the GIS tool can be" – Brian L

"Ian is vast and knowledgeable in what he teaches. I would do another course by Ian if he offered it" - Umar Y

"A very informative course. It helps me review the GIS experience I haven't used in a while and brush up on my skills. Thanks Ian." - Jayram S

"Really great introductory-level course! The examples were simple to follow, but also very useful. All the work can be finished while watching the videos, there was no extra work to be done without guidance. I really look forward to the next course by this instructor. - Cheers and well done!" - Nathan L.

"Very good background, easy to follow and helpful for a foundation of GIS." - Amelia K

"Simple and very clear lectures with the minimum basics/backgrounds to get a taste of what awaits us further and also making us think of what we can do more." -Boojhawon R

Here’s what you get…

  • You get to eavesdrop as I work, and gain insight into shading GIS maps that you would otherwise likely overlook or possibly never grasp.
  • A zip file of the GIS datasets I use in the videos. Extract these and follow-along with me in the videos.
  • 4 hours of training videos.  In the videos I’ll show you how to navigate Quantum GIS, create shaded maps, create time-series maps, and how to think like a GIS analyst.
  • The course workbooks.  55 pages of screen captures and explanatory text to compliment the videos

Try the course risk free. If within 30 days you’re not satisfied with the course for any reason return it for a 100% refund and keep the dataset and the workbook.

Be sure to click on the "Take This Course" button on the top right corner of this page.

All the courses in my GIS For Beginners series had been developed by me over the last 24 years.  All the techniques and concepts I teach have been proven in the research and consulting environments during that time.  Buying this course is not a risk with my 30 day 100% money back guarantee.


Q. The course does not use ARC. Does this matter?

A. No, it doesn’t matter. I teach you the basics of GIS in a way that’s applicable to ALL GISs, even Arc.

Q. I have no experience with GIS. Does that matter?

A. No previous Geographical Information Systems knowledge needed

Q. I am worried that this course will be like many other technical courses - abstract and hard to follow.

A. All exercises are deliberately based on the type of practical every-day GIS problems that I encounter day-to-day in my GIS consultancy. All my GIS for Beginners courses use datasets covering the same area - Yarmouth in Massachusetts. That means you get to understand how the value and usefulness of maps over an area increases as more maps are added.  Download the dataset and follow-along with the videos.

Q. What Work Materials are there to support the teachings?

A.  A 55 page Text with screen captures and explanations to compliment the videos, and a zip file containing the same datasets I use in the videos.

Q. Do I need to purchase software to do this course?

A. No, there is no need to purchase software. We’ll use the FREE Quantum GIS

Q. I want to buy this course today, but I don’t have time to do the course right now. How long do I have access to the course for?

A. You have Unlimited Lifetime Access to the course (including future upgrades)

Q. What if I decide this course is not for me.

A. I offer an unconditional, no-questions-asked full 30-day money-back guarantee!

Q. If I have a problem, can I ask questions?

A. Yes. I welcome questions because they help me improve the course. Its best to use the course Q&A area for this.

Be sure to click on the take this course button on the top right corner of this page.

I look forward to seeing you inside!


Who is the target audience?
  • Students, Academics and Professionals who want to add GIS to their armoury of data analysis and presentation tools
  • Absolutely no experience is required. The course shows you exactly how to get started with GIS and shade your first map!
  • Hard-of-hearing and english as a second language folk (all videos are close captioned and transcribed)
Curriculum For This Course
45 Lectures
3 Lectures 15:11

Firstly...welcome to my course. 

Every time someone enrolls I feel like I'm having a visitor over for afternoon tea. I do enjoy being a host, and I'd like to think that comes through to my students. Although I'm new to Udemy, I'm not new to online teaching. I pride myself on giving the best student-experience I possibly can so please be sure to make use of the course resources and the Q&A area.  

Q&A area: It would be great if you would introduce yourself in the Q&A area, and let everyone know why you want to learn GIS. And, please don't be too shy to ask questions. If you're having a problem, odds-on someone else in the course is having the same one. Questions can also indicate to me that my explanations are unclear or that I need to add new content. 

Resources: Don't forget to look for resources in each lecture. The Resources Area becomes visible when you move your mouse onto a video - its at the top-left of the video. You can also see them in the Course Content area.

  • Transcripts: Almost every lecture is accompanied by a downloadable transcript of the video that can be downloaded from within the Resources area. 
  • Captions: Almost every video has closed captions. You access the captions by moving your mouse to the bottom right corner of the video - to the left of the volume control is the closed-captions button. 
  • Lesson Texts: Some sections have a Text containing additional explanations, screen captures, etc. This also can be downloaded from the resources area. Where its available I remind you in the relevant section introduction.
  • GIS Maps: The maps I use in the videos can be downloaded in Section 2 of the course. You'll need these if you plan on following-along-with-the-video.

I really look forward to you getting a great result from the course.

See you inside


Preview 01:20

In this video I want to give you an overview of the course.

Shaded GIS Thematic Maps can be created from either Category Data or Numeric Data.  By Category Data I mean things like geology types, planning zones and postcodes. By Numeric Data I mean things like census data, agricultural productivity data and disease rates.

Although this course is about creating a shaded map using Category Data, in this video I want to give you a flavour for the differences and commonalities between the two approaches, and the issues that arise from mapping each. I start by talking about the two things that are common to each approach – GIS maps and the attribute tables that lie behind the GIS maps. 

Don’t forget to leave a review when you’re prompted to.

Preview 12:30

IMPORTANT DOWNLOAD ATTACHED: Attached is a pdf containing the text for this lesson. Its 21 pages long and compliments the videos. I recommend that you download this, print it out and have it by your side as you do the exercises.

Today I’m going to give you a quick overview of Quantum GIS. 

I’m going to show you how to...

  • Download QGIS  - I show you the QGIS website, download screen, and the version of QGIS you should download
  • Install QGIS -  I show you how to install QGIS and what the installation process looks like
  • Launch QGIS - You can launch QGIS from a number of different places. The installation process installs up to 9 different icons. I show which one to choose.
  • Navigate QGIS - I give you a brief orientation to the software. A more detailed orientation happens in the next lesson
  • How to open a Vector GIS map - Vector maps contain the point, line, polyline and polygon map structures that I spoke about in the first Section. We'll be looking at a map of property boundaries.
  • How to open a Raster GIS map - Digital air photographs are a type of Raster map, as are satellite images. There is also a special GIS data-type known as a Grid. Grids are beyond the scope of this short exercise. We'll be looking at some digital air photographs
Preview 01:21
Step 1: Install the FREE Open Source Quantum GIS and open a GIS map
10 Lectures 38:27

Before we start, I need to talk to you about which QGIS version you should use, and why your QGIS version might look different to mine.


You will learn: Where to find the FREE Open Source Quantum GIS and how to download it.

Downloading files from the internet can be tricky if you haven’t done much of it before. So, in this video I show you...

  • How to find the QGIS web site
  • Where to find the QGIS setup program on the site (and which version to download)
  • And then, what the download process looks like


"Long term release (eg. for corporate users)"


Sorry to all you Linux and Mac users. I’m only showing this for Windows. I assume that the process is fairly similar though.

Setup: How to download Quantum GIS

You will learn: How to install QGIS

Once the Quantum GIS setup file has been downloaded, all you need to do is double-click on it and then follow the prompts. Installing QGIS can be a bit tricky if you haven’t installed many things before, so you might want to watch the video and follow the pdf attachment. 

Quantum GIS gets upgraded all the time so you can expect that the setup screens you see on your computer will be slightly different to the ones in this video. However, the installation process will be the same.

Setup: How to install Quantum GIS

You will learn: How to uninstall QGIS (if ever you need to)

There’s a whole bunch of reasons why you might want to uninstall QGIS. Any program can continually get in a tangle and sometimes the only solution is to uninstall and reinstall it. Here’s how you uninstall!

Hint: If your computer is an old-clunker, you’ll need to do your best to get every bit of performance out of it. So, be sure to defragment your hard disk before you reinstall QGIS.  See this article for a further explanation

Setup: How to uninstall Quantum GIS

IMPORTANT DOWNLOAD ATTACHED: Attached is a zip file containing the maps used in this lesson. You need this dataset if you plan on following along with the videos.

You will learn: How to download the sample dataset and how to UnZip it onto your computer 

The teaching dataset I use covers Yarmouth Massachusetts. It is contained in a winzip file that can be downloaded from the resources area of this lecture.

If you’re comfortable downloading and unzipping a zip file then you don’t really need to watch this video. Just make sure that when you unzip, you end up with a directory structure of...[YourName]Desktop\LearnPracticalGIS\TheChallenge

The first one and a half minutes of the video is about downloading the data files from the Udemy resource area - its a bit clunky because I had to adapt a video that was produced for a different site (if anyone has problems please message me). The remainder of the video is about how to extract the files using winzip and is fine.

At this point I would like to very gratefully acknowledge the Office of Geographic Information (MassGIS), Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Information Technology Division. They have compiled and made available the GIS maps and data you are about to download.

Setup: How to install the sample GIS dataset

You will learn: How to launch QGIS

There are four different ways to launch Quantum GIS. Via...

  • the desktop icon
  • the search area of Windows Start icon
  • the Recently Used area of the Start menu
  • the All Programs area

 In this lecture I show each of them.

Setup: How to launch Quantum GIS

You will learn: About GIS at a conceptual level.

I talk about which buttons set QGIS (and other geographical information systems) apart from basic map "viewers" such as Google Maps and why.

Interface: A quick orientation of Quantum GIS

You will learn: A functionality overview of the Map Window and the Map Layers Window

There’s a whole bunch of stuff you can do in the Map Window. As you would expect, you can display a map! But you can also zoom in and out, pan (move the map sideways), and even do some simple mouse-based query (click on something with your mouse and find stuff out about it).

However, the engine-room for QGIS is the Layers Window. From here you can make maps display (or not), you can change the order of maps (so they appear on top of or underneath other maps), and you can change the map’s properties (eg. its color). This is a good time to have a play with changing the order of maps.

Preview 02:45

You will learn: 1) How to open a vector map, and 2) important information about esri shapefiles and other GIS formats

I reckon that you’re all excited at the prospect of opening your first map in QGIS. Well, I need to show you a bit of stuff before we start looking at the Land Use map that we’ll be shading. 

In this video I want to show you how to open a Vector map of cadastre (property boundaries). In the next video I’ll show you how to open a Raster air photograph. We’ll use both of these maps all the way through this Challenge. In the final section, many of you will be surprised at how relevant these are to our Land Use mapping task!

Vector GIS maps are maps of points (eg. power poles), lines (eg. roads) and polygons (eg. property boundaries). The format of the map we’re about to open is called a Shape file. Although shape files are an unsophisticated GIS format, they’re also an industry standard and so are compatible with most (if not all) GIS’s.

PS. Before you watch the video be sure to download the sample dataset so you can practice what I show you. If you haven’t already downloaded them, I show you how to download it in the “How to install the sample dataset” lecture.

Techniques and tips: How to open a GIS vector map

You will learn: 1) How to open a raster (air photo)  map, and 2) important information about raster GIS formats

In this video I show you how to open a GIS air photo. The air photo we'll be using is one that has been processed to remove photographic distortion and be geographically correct.

Techniques and tips: How to open a GIS air photo

Questions about installing & launching QGIS, and opening a GIS map. Answer the MOST correct

Quiz Two: Install QGIS and open your first GIS maps
6 questions
Step 2: Introduction to the QGIS desktop
7 Lectures 24:29

IMPORTANT DOWNLOAD ATTACHED: Attached is a pdf containing the text for this lesson. Its 9 pages long and compliments the videos. I recommend that you download this and have it by your side as you do the exercises.

There’s a whole bunch of buttons in Quantum GIS. In this step I’m going to take you on a cook’s tour of some of the interactive ones. By interactive I mean things you can do with your mouse. The functionality I'm about to show you is available in most, if not all, GISs.

  • How to start the day with your screen looking the same as it did at the end of the previous day.
  • How to color your map.
  • How to zoom and pan your way around a map.
  • How to click on something and find out things about it.
  • I’ll finish this tour in the next section.

Introduction: The QGIS desktop

You will learn: How to use Project Files to recreate screen environments from days, months or even years ago

Every GIS has its own version of the Project button pad - its generic GIS functionality. 

Projects allow you to begin work in the morning with your QGIS desktop looking exactly as it when you finished work at the end of the previous day. Watch and see...

Productivity: Recreate QGIS work environments from any time with Projects

In the next step we going to do a cooks tour of QGIS. I'll show you generic functionality that's available in most (if not all) GIS software, including the likes of ESRI, MapInfo, Maptitude, etc..

  • Zoom: Using your mouse, zoom into and out of an area on a map
  • Pan: Using your mouse move a GIS map sideways or up and down without changing the display scale 
  • Query a map with your mouse: For example, click on a land parcel and find out who owns it
  • Change the color of a map: And its style...from pink to purple or any other color if you like...and line colors and line styles...even fill styles (eg.cross-hatching) and colors
  • Open a QGIS project: Recreate a map exactly how it looked the previous time you worked on it, whether that be days, weeks, months, or even years ago.
What's in Section 2

You will learn: How to change the color, and line and fill styles of a map

From within the Layer Properties dialog box you can change the look of a map... its color, line styles and fill styles. There’s a fair bit for you to play with in here so you should take the time to do that.

Techniques and tips: How to change your QGIS map's color and style

You will learn: How to Pan and Zoom in the map window

The Navigation button pad has all the tools to help you move around the map canvas. To me, these tools are so much easier to use than the ones on so many web mapping systems. Now the differences between a true GIS and a web based map browser begin to emerge!

Basic QGIS tools: Zoom, pan, and more....

You will learn: How to find out information about a polygon in a map by clicking on it with your mouse 

You’d better get used to hearing “this is really exciting” from me because I seem to say it a lot. In this case what’s exciting is the database that lies behind the map.

The database that lies behind a GIS map what sets GIS a GIS map apart from a paper map. Here I show you the most basic GIS query functionality... You get to click on a polygon and find out stuff about it. It may seem a bit lame that I’m getting so excited about this, but imagine the sorts of things this functionality is setting us up for... Imagine being able to query very large GIS maps all at once. Hmmmm. Maybe you can’t imagine that sort of stuff yet, but trust me, it actually is very exciting!

Preview 03:32

In the next step of the 5 Step GIS Challenge I’ll be talking about GIS Data Query and GIS Map Interpretation. Its very much a continuation of the Cooks Tour of Quantum GIS that we started in this lesson. I’ll show you...

  • Different ways of searching for and selecting items on your map.
  • Different ways of searching for and selecting items in the table lying behind your map.
  • How to measure distances and areas using your mouse
  • How to get general information about your map
  • Tips on interpreting GIS maps and GIS air photos.
Whats in Step 3

Questions about the QGIS desktop. Answer the MOST correct.

Quiz Three: The Quantum GIS desktop
4 questions
Step 3: More Buttons and How to Interpret Maps
8 Lectures 44:16

IMPORTANT DOWNLOAD ATTACHED: Attached is a pdf containing the text for this lesson. Its 13 pages long and compliments the videos. I recommend that you download this, print it out and have it by your side as you do the exercises.

There’s a whole bunch of buttons in Quantum GIS and in this step I’m going to continue our cook’s tour of them that we started in Step 3. Here’s what we’ll be talking about

  • Different ways of selecting items on your map.
  • Tables
    • Different ways of selecting items in the table lying behind your map.
    • How to modify the table that lies behind your map.
    • An introduction to the link between maps and tables.
  • Measuring distances and areas interactively
  • General information about your map
  • Tips on interpreting GIS maps and GIS air photo
Introduction: QGIS Buttons and map interpretation

You will learn: 1) How to select a map object interactively with your mouse, and 2) why geographical selection functionality is important. 

This series of tools is very important because they allow you to interactively select objects you’re interested in. For example, a water utility could click on the properties next to a water pipe and find out who to notify about maintenance works.

Basic QGIS tools: Why the Geographical Selection buttons are so important

You will learn: 1) How to open the attribute table that lies behind a GIS map 2) That each row in a attribute table relates to an object on the accompanying map 3) You can query a table and then display the results on your map.

Map objects (eg. a land parcel) and their attributes (eg. the owner of the land parcel) are linked in a GIS. 

While Geographical Selection buttons allowed us to click on a land parcel and find out who owns it, in contrast, from within the attribute table dialog, you could type in someone’s name and get a map of all the land they own.

Basic QGIS tool: Why the Open Attribute Table button is so important

You will learn: How to use measurement tools to measure lengths and areas with your mouse

Measuring things on-screen is bread and butter for many government agencies. For example, when someone applies for a building permit, government might want to know how big a block is, or how far it is from sensitive environmental areas or conflicting land uses.

Basic QGIS tool: How to measure Areas and Lengths

You will learn: Five pieces of information you can get from the map Status bar.

When you’re working on a map, there’s a whole bunch of stuff about the map that you need to keep an eye on. From here you can see things such as the display scale, the coordinate of the mouse and the coordinate system the map.

Basic QGIS tool: Four important things the bottom Status Bar tells you

You will learn: That the shapes and patterns you see in vector maps can be surrogates for other important information.

Here’s my first attempt to get you to think like a GIS analyst. I’ve talked about being a “tourist” before. So...don’t be a tourist!   When you look at a GIS map, pay a bit of attention to what some of the shapes you’re looking at might mean.

There are many tricks for interpreting vector maps. I like to think in terms of “surrogates”. Here’s three examples....

  • Areas on a cadastral (property) map that show... 
    • lots of slightly larger parcels of land: Most often this indicates a rural-residential area (and rural-residential planning issues such as, for example overstocking). 
    • lots of large parcels of land: Most often this indicates a rural area (and rural planning issues).
    • lots of small parcels of land: Most often this indicates an urban area (and urban planning issues such as schools, higher management requirement of development, etc.). But not always because there are such things as “paper townships” (towns that haven’t been developed).
  • Rounded shapes indicate water features: Watercourses, lakes and coastlines all require different types of management.
  • A drainage map with “straight” watercourses: These indicate areas that are prone to flooding. Straight watercourses are rarely anything other than drains that have been built to drain flat areas. They are straight because there is little slope.
Techniques and tips: Three things to interpret from shapes in a GIS vector map

You will learn: That the shapes, shadows and colors, you see in air photos can be surrogates for other important information.

Guess what. The time for pressing buttons is over. Now I want you to think! To me, this is the most fun part of GIS. You pull a bunch of maps and databases together and you get to figure out the puzzle! If you look closely and “think”, air photos can provide many clues about what’s going on in an area both environmentally and culturally.

Some examples...

  • The river in the photo must be deep:  Otherwise there would not be a boat mooring so far up the river! 
  • Many houses in the photo are single storey: Otherwise they would cast longer shadows
  • Some of the housing estates in the photo are old: Otherwise local streets would not have cracks in them
  • Brown lawns suggest the photo was taken in summer: Also that in some places the soils are very sandy 
  • And more...

The air photos we use in this exercise are packed with examples like this.

Techniques and tips: Eleven things to interpret from our GIS air photo

What's in Step 4?

Answer the MOST correct

Quiz Four: Buttons and map interpretation
6 questions
Step 4: How to shade a map
6 Lectures 41:53

Welcome to the Fifth Step of the 5 Step GIS Challenge. We’re finally going to shade our map. As you’ll see, that’s the easy bit. Here’s what I'm going to talk about...

  • How each polygon in our Land Use map relates to a row in the accompanying table.
  • How each column in the table can be used to create a different map theme.
  • Map generalization and why you would do it.
  • How to shade our map.
  • How to choose a color scheme for our map.
  • How to validate our Land Use map using a cadastral map and air photos.
  • How to create a visual time-series to show us how Land Use has changed over time.

There’s a fair bit to cover so be sure to stick around for the nitty-gritty.


You will learn: Every column in a table has the potential to be a shaded map.

In this video, I'm going to talk about tables. Tables are very important because every GIS map has a table associated with it. If you're not sure what I mean by the term “Table”, imagine an Excel spreadsheet and you're on your way to understanding, at a basic level, what a table is.

Each polygon has a row in the table that's associated with it. In terms of what we’re doing in this Step, the really important thing to understand is that every column of information in a GIS table can be used to create a thematic map - a map and legend that’s coloured according to the values that are within a column.

Techniques and tips: GIS tables

You will learn: How to simplify a map without losing its detail.  

In this video you’ll see that the appearance of our Land Use map is heavily influenced by the way the data in it is categorized. There's two facets to this...

  1. Map Generalization: For the purpose of this exercise I’ve collapsed 21 Land Use categories into 9 Land Use categories by generalizing them. I’ll talk about my reasoning for doing this and how I approached the map generalization task.
  2. Time Series: The map is formatted to be used as a time series. That means that instead of having separate maps for each year that Land Use was interpreted, we can have a single map that's capable of mapping each year that Land Use was interpreted.

You need to watch this video to understand the details of this.

GIS techniques and tips: Map generalization

You will learn: How to shade a map from a table containing categorical data

Now, let's look at shading our map. There's three options in here.

Single Symbol: Shading the map all in the same color - really important if you're just doing simple map overlay.

Graduated: This is by far the most tricky of the three. It's a shading technique for numerical data. For data such as critter density or tons of fruit per hectare, or numbers of teenagers living in towns. How you go about dividing the data into classes will vary from project-to-project.

Categorized: As the name suggests, this is shading according to categories or names. This what we’ll be doing today - mapping Land Use categories such as Agriculture, Recreation and Urban uses. Aside from showing you how to map our Land Use categories I’ll also show you how to approach determining a Shading Scheme for your map.

In the video, I also suggest some starting points to finding a good color scheme for your map categories.

GIS techniques and tips: How to shade a map of categorical data

You will learn: Tips for validating the information in maps

In this video I want to talk about validating our map. Too often, maps look convincing and authoritative because they're shaded and presented nicely. People take maps at face-value too often without considering the quality of the information within them. I want us to spend some time comparing our Land Use map to other maps we have at our disposal, just to see if there's any data quality issues going on

GIS techniques and tips: How to validate a map

You will learn: How to create a series of maps that show Change Through Time

In this video I’ll show you a technique for doing a visual analysis of Land Use change. There are undoubtedly far more sophisticated techniques for doing this that would also produce quantitative data. But I just want to use this visual technique to start getting your minds turning over with some of the possibilities of GIS analysis. This same technique could be used for other types of studies. For example, you could have qualitative maps representing change over time of vegetation quality or habitat quality or health outcomes. The possibilities are endless!

Preview 05:11

Questions about shading a GIS map and the tables that lie behind GIS maps. Answer the MOST correct.

Quiz Five: How to shade a map
6 questions
Step 5: What is a Geographical Information System (GIS)
3 Lectures 28:14

You will learn: that although maps can add a wonderful dimension to studies, they should not always be accepted at face-value.

John Snow if often referred to as one of the Fathers of GIS. His 1854 Cholera study included a mapping exercise is important to the study of GIS. During the outbreak over five hundred people in the Soho district of London died in just ten days. Simplistically, with the aid of a map, John Snow was able to convince local officials that a water well was the source of the infection. They removed the pump handle from the well and the outbreak ended. It’s not quite that simple though. A purely GIS-style technology solution would not have yielded a result that would have convinced Town Officials to remove the pump handle. As you watch the video, look out for four parallels with modern-day GIS...

  • Parallel 1 - geocoding: He mapped where people were when they became symptomatic of cholera. The idea of taking a list of people's addresses and putting them on a map is what's called Geocoding. We do that all the time in GIS, and he was doing that in the 1850's.
  • Parallel 2 - field validation: The importance of field validation to address data quality issues. In some places the pattern of the cholera outbreak could only be explained when human behavioral issues were understood. This understanding could only be gained by interviewing local residents.
  • Parallel 3 - map quality issues: The importance of map quality issues. In some places Dr Snow found that the map he was using was incomplete. Maps that are important to your study results should not be accepted at face value. Accepting “canned” GIS maps at face value is where a lot of GIS users fall over.
  • Parallel 4 - network analysis: Dr Snow did Network analysis. By network analysis I mean the google maps functionality that allows you to work out an optimal route between two points on a map.

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Preview 10:29

You will learn: 1) The importance of making the effort to assemble the maps that are important to your study, and 2) the principle of Map Overlay. 

In McHarg is also often referred to as another Father of GIS. We're about to have a look at one of his 1960s Environmental Planning studies. As with the John Snow example, Ian McHarg developed a spatial technique – GIS is just a tool that made the technique more efficient.

In the previous video about Dr John Snow's cholera mapping exercise, I asked you to look out for the following GIS parallels...

  • Dr Snow geocoded the subjects for his study.
  • Dr Snow did field validation to address data quality issues.
  • Dr Snow paid a lot of attention to map quality.
  • Dr Snow did network analysis

  • In the same vane, I want you to look out for two things in this video about Ian McHarg.

    1. SPATIAL DATABASE CREATION: By this, I mean the attention that Ian McHarg paid to bringing a bunch of maps together at the same scale

    2. MAP OVERLAY: Map Overlay is only possible once a spatial database is in place. If you understand map overlay then you are a long way along the path to understanding GIS. Map overlay is the idea that you can overlay maps onto each other and see different bits of information relating to the same place. It’s used day-to-day in so many organizations these days. At its simplest, someone might overlay property outlines onto an air photo. At its most complex, researchers might relate multiple maps to each other using map weighting or statistical techniques.

Concepts: The power of map overlay - Land suitability mapping in the 1960s

You will learn: The four types of spatial data in a GIS – points, lines, polylines and polygons. 

They sound simple, but they are very powerful!

Preview 03:36

Questions about the GIS concepts - Answer the MOST correct.

Quiz One: What is a Geographical Information System
6 questions
Course Summary and Where To From Here
1 Lecture 18:18

In this final video I want to do a quick recap of the topics we've covered, and then I want to ask you…”where to from here?” – that’s going to take a bit of teamwork, and when we get to that bit of the video I think you’ll see why.

We have covered a lot of ground…

We started out by looking at historical examples of mapping studies to demonstrate how firmly modern GIS is rooted in manual mapping techniques...

  • Maps are not always right: John Snow’s cholera study showed us there is a need to interpret maps and not take them at face value, and…
  • Map overlay: We saw how important map overlay is.
  • Maps as databases: I demonstrated that GIS maps can be rich databases
  • GIS data types: I also showed you the four simple, yet so powerful GIS data types

Then I showed you…

  • How to set up Quantum GIS: Don’t get hung up on what version of QGIS we’re using. I’ve been teaching you “generic” GIS. Things like installation techniques are similar for all GIS systems, and they don’t date.
  • How to open a GIS map: Importantly, here you saw that Quantum GIS can import many different file formats. Even if you don’t use Quantum GIS beyond this course, it will always be there as a file conversion tool, that will help you overcome the file import glitches that are common in GIS – trust me on that!
  • How to do some basic GIS map interrogations and manipulations using your mouse: Once again, zooming, panning, clicking on something to find information about it…is all generic GIS functionality.
  • Map interpretation: I gave you a quick insight into map interpretation. By that I mean using the information you see in GIS maps and air photos (colors, shapes, etc) as surrogates for other information that can be important to both environmental interpretations and social interpretations.:

And finally…

  • Shading a map: We created a nine category shaded GIS thematic map, 
  • Tables: We talked about the tables that lie behind GIS maps and how each row relates to an object in the GIS map (and a column to a map theme)
  • Map validation: We talked about the importance of map validation (we also covered that topic when we talked about John Snow),
  • Map generalization: We talked about why you sometimes need to generalize maps
  • Time series: And we created some simple time series maps.

Of course, we have only just touched the surface of what you can do with GIS. But I’d like to think that we’ve also made a good start together.

This Udemy course is a bit of an experiment for me, and this is where you and I need to work as a team on the “WHAT NEXT” bit.

I am currently running six other similarly detailed GIS lessons as an entire GIS course on another site. Each follow-along-with-the-video lesson covers a stand-alone topic that I could fairly quickly add to Udemy if there was enough demand. Examples of topics are…

  1. Traps with Maps: Most GIS maps have their origins in paper maps. Over the years I’ve been horrified to discover how many GIS professionals are oblivious to issues relating to map pedigree.
  2. Shading GIS maps using numerical data: A very tricky and necessarily detailed lesson that uses the US census as an example. Great for those of you who want to understand census information, and also for those who just want to understand how to go about mapping numerical data.
  3. How to geocode: Turning an address (or some other geocode) sitting in a spreadsheet on your computer into a dot on a map. 
  4. How to get a paper map into a GIS (and how to reinterpret old paper maps by referencing newer GIS maps).
  5. How to overlay maps, create buffers, and combine database query with spatial query.
  6. Project completion: How to present a map to various audiences and how to hand over a GIS project to a client.

If enough of you show interest I’d be happy to upload the most requested lessons to Udemy too, so I’d be grateful if you’d indicate if any of these appeal to you. Just let me know in the Q&A area.

Please write a Review of this course for me: Testimonials and reviews are the currency of Udemy. The more of them I get, the more students I get, and so the more time I can devote to adding new courses and improving existing ones. As you can see, Reviews are good for everybody! So, now that you’ve finished this course, PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW . 

Thank you and I hope to see you in another course soon.


Preview 18:18
Bonus Materials
7 Lectures 26:06

Download the 68 page Environmental Mapping With GIS eBook

Bonus eBook

This video describes the content of five new educational videos on my own site. You will need to signup so I can notify you as the videos are released. The address is shown inside the video…

  • Video 1: Discover a Free GIS that's replacing Commercial GIS in Government, Universities and Business
  • Video 2: Traps with GIS Maps that you should ignore at your own peril!
  • Video 3: How to digitize a paper map using equipment every office has.
  • Video 4: How to create a Meaningful Shaded Map of DATA CATEGORIES
  • Video 5: How to create a Shaded Thematic Map of NUMERICAL DATA that’s sensitive to the problem that you're mapping
Preview 03:59

If you've enjoyed my course, it would be great if you would leave a review for me.  

Reviews are the air that Udemy Instructors survive on. Good reviews not only give instructors encouragement, they also lead to more students in our courses. Bad reviews...well, perhaps send me a message and give me the opportunity to address your concerns first. 

Udemy asks you 6 general Yes/No/Not Sure questions about the quality of the course. There's also an area where you can give additional feedback. In that area, it'd be great if you could...  

  • Tell me what you've liked about the course. 
  • Tell me what you would like to be included or excluded in this course? 
  • Tell me about yourself... what’s the project that you plan on using GIS for? 

This sort of information helps me to improve the course, and seeds ideas for new courses.

You can leave a review by either responding to Udemy’s quick surveys that pop-up from time-to-time while you’re doing my course, or by clicking the stars on this course in your My Courses page. 

Otherwise see this Udemy article called “Leaving and Editing a Course Review” for more detailed instructions.

Thankyou so much


How to leave a review

Once you have a dot on a map you can relate that dot to any boundary you want. In this video I turn house sales into GIS dots on maps and relate them to GIS maps of grid squares from a local street directory. 

Point data are very, very flexible!  The types of analysis you can do using point data are only limited by your imagination. 

To get a point on a map you must geocode it. That is to say, convert your geocode (in this case address) into a GIS dot by relating it to a GIS map that has an address with the exact same address details in it. 

In this example I compare one real estate agent’s house sales in an area to a database of all house sales to analyse their share of sales. Market share is the number of houses sold by a real estate agent within an area, compared to all the sales made by all agents in the same area.  So, if 10 sales were made in an area and five of those were made by our real-estate agent, then our agent will have a 50% market share. Another measure of market share could have been an agent’s share of the total dollar value of sales.

This GIS project involved analysing all the house sales made by one real estate agent in 1991 and 1996.  First I geocoded all the sales made by the Hocking Stuart real estate agent (realtor) and then I geocoded all property sales for metropolitan Melbourne. Both point datasets were then related to a GIS grid of a local road atlas.

The resulting time series maps showed that the Hocking Stuart real-estate agent had expanded over a five year period and while it was expanding it lost market share on the home front.  It’s very important when you look at data such as these to think behind the scenes. 

  • Inner city house values (and sales commissions) are far greater than those in the outer suburbs.  So a loss of market share in the inner city may have a far greater impact on the bottom line then again in markets year on the periphery.
  • Some gains in market share might be from a low number of sales. A change in market share for a grid with a few sales of low value had a different meaning to the agent than a change in a grid that has lots of high value sales.

PS. The examples were from days prior to QGIS being as stable and usable as it is today so I used MapInfo to produce these maps. That said, nowadays, the maps in the video could easily be produced using QGIS!

Bonus video: GIS applied to Real Estate Analysis

Many GIS maps have their origins in paper maps, so it is important to understand the pedigree of the maps you're using in your GIS

Bonus video: Traps With Maps

Learn the 6 Easy Steps for converting any Paper Map into a GIS Map using equipment every office has. Its a process called digitizing.

Use this coupon to enroll in "GIS for Beginners #2: Learn Digitizing using QGIS" for $10


or, go to the course page... and enter this coupon code   GIS-COURSE-1-STUDENT

Promotional video for "GIS for Beginners #2: Learn Digitizing"

Bonus Lecture: Coupon Code for "GIS for Beginners #2: Learn Digitizing"
About the Instructor
Ian Allan
4.1 Average rating
29 Reviews
4,794 Students
3 Courses
24 yrs GIS Educator & Consultant: 2 Courses, 4600+ Students!

Hi. It's great to meet you.

My introductory GIS courses use the free Quantum GIS, and comes from the place of an experienced GIS consultant.

* I teach Professional people how to incorporate “spatial” into their projects.
* I teach GIS technicians how to work with the non GIS savvy.

I have worked with Geographical Information Systems for over two decades. In the 1990's I co-wrote Monash University’s first two GIS courses – Social Applications of GIS (using census and other data) and Environmental Applications of GIS (using grid and satellite imagery). Both courses were ahead of their time - multi-media and delivered online. They were taught to undergraduate and postgraduate students.

GIS is a very broad topic and there are many ways to teach it. My approach is that of a geographer who uses GIS as a tool to solve geographical problems.  Most GISs these days are similarly capable, but for me there is a problem in that too many GIS professionals do not understand the data they manage. Too often I see professionals discussing this-or-that modelling algorithm while failing to understand that the data they’re using for their modelling is not up to the task.

Currently based in Victoria, Australia, I have consulted on a diverse range of projects – environmental, sustainability planning, and human. Clients have included the United Nations, the Australian Federal Government, Victorian State Government, Local Governments, Australian Universities, and Water Utilities.  

My refereed publications are diverse…

* Environmental sustainability modelling for Local Government planning.
* Housing affordability modelling for State Government planning.
* Buried asset condition modelling for the water industry