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Open Source GIS

Module titleOpen Source GIS
Module codeGEOM184
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Diego Panici (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Discover the fast-growing market of GIS beyond commercial and proprietary GIS, enabling individuals, small and medium enterprises to enhance their work through communicating and engaging with spatial data. Discover CARTO, Mapbox, Google Earth Engine as powerful geospatial tools enabling non-GIS specialists to create online interactive map and share them with the wider world. Students will be exposed to open-source data sites and learn the importance of authentication and data curation. Discover open-source platforms including Q-GIS and libraries such as GDAL made available through the Open Source Geospatial Foundation. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to give an overview and critical knowledge of how open-source GIS can be utilised to conduct a variety of GIS applications. The module has the following broad aims:

  • To introduce you to principles and capabilities of open-source GIS software, and how it can be used for a range of GIS tasks.
  • To equip you with knowledge and skills to use open-source GIS software for data management, manipulation and spatial analysis.
  • To support you with the ability to critically evaluate the results obtained from open-source GIS software, and to make valid conclusions and suggestions for further research.

The module includes a combination of extensive practicals and group work that aim to develop the following skills:

  • Communication skills – by writing a technical report as part of the final assessment and by visual representations and designs for maps
  • Ability to work collaboratively in groups and online – by working together on an individual group project, and by assisting and providing feedback to other students for the formative assessment
  • Critical-thinking and problem-solving – by connecting the principles explored during the lectures to comprehend and practically apply the analysis of geographical data
  • Raising awareness of environmental concerns, natural disasters, threats to natural and built environment, and ecological processes in the UK and internationally, in order to promote a better world for everyone - utilising data-sets from the UK and abroad and applying them to model and understand natural phenomena

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Understanding of the principles and capabilities of open-source GIS software, and the ability to use it effectively for a range of GIS tasks.
  • 2. Knowledge of data management and manipulation techniques, and the ability to import, export, and manipulate various types of spatial data.
  • 3. Application of open-source GIS tools to cartographic design principles, web mapping, remote sensing, and image processing techniques
  • 4. Retrieve and modify secondary data sets using open-source geospatial technologies such as digital mapping, GIS, and remote sensing.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Ability to critically evaluate the results obtained from open-source GIS and make valid conclusions and suggestions for further research.
  • 6. Identify and critically analyse the collection of geographical information with the aim of quantifying physical phenomena and risk assessment.
  • 7. Describe a variety of methods to generate knowledge and understanding, focusing on the natural environment and environmental processes.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Effectively use digital tools and software to perform geospatial analysis and data management.
  • 9. Communicate technical information and results effectively, both verbally and in written form.
  • 10. Develop interpersonal skills through interactive discussion, hands-on activities, and group evaluation to work well in groups.
  • 11. Undertake independent, self-directed study and research.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

This module will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction to the need for Open-Source GIS and open-source plug-ins
  • Collaboration, Workflow Management, and Version Control in Open-Source GIS
  • QGIS – basic and advanced, tools and libraries
  • Google Earth Engine and remote sensing
  • Accessible Open-Source mapping
  • Open-Source GIS applications to Physical Geography and other applied sciences
  • Natural hazard mapping in Open-Source GIS

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching 8Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching 12Computer-based practicals
Scheduled learning and teaching 8Workshops to support learning and assessment (4 x 2).
Scheduled learning and teaching 2Discussion seminars (formative).
Guided independent study 12Computer-based practicals.
Guided independent study 75Computer work in support of practicals and producing project work.
Guided independent study 33Reading relevant literature, online research to support learning and assessments.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Implementing a collaborative open-source repository 15 minutes2, 5, 9, 10 Peer-to-peer and in-class feedback from lecturers
Practical discussions 8 hours (4 x 2 hours) practical discussions All Orally through staff and peer evaluation

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Applied problem-solving coursework 40Equivalent to 1600 words 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11 Written
Technical report (Individual group project) 60quivalent to 2400 words 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Applied problem-solving coursework Applied problem-solving coursework 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11 Referral/deferral period
Technical report (Individual group project) Technical report (Individual project – different from group project) 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 50%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Open-source, GIS, QGIS, mapping, spatial analysis 

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date