University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Geographic Information Systems

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Computer Information Systems

DESCRIPTION Many types of objects represented in information systems have a position in space and time and are related to each other within a defined space e.g. service providers in a town, vehicles on a road network, health services in a region.

Information about these relationships can be exploited to yield a vast array of knowledge useful to planners, developers, consumers in a diverse spheres of human activity – commerce, public administration, health services, traffic management, forestry, environmental research and planning.

Geographical Information Systems exploit the spatial or geographical characteristics of this kind of data and provide various processing and analytical tools in this respect. GIS components are being integrated into other traditional systems based on text/numerical data as well as internet applications and mobile systems.

This unit will explore the nature of Geographical Information Systems, their purpose, the main features and a number of diverse application areas.

A close look will be given at the hardware and software used for collecting, processing and presenting data in GIS.

Particular attention will be given to the data itself - what the characteristics of spatial data are, how it is collected, processed, stored and analyzed. How can data from different sources be combined in one system and presented for analysis.

Attention will also be given to the visualization of spatial data, with particular reference to cartography and interactive displays.

The unit will include a practical, hands-on component which will involve the actual use of GIS software through the development of a mini system and through a number of lab exercises.

Study-unit Aims:

The aim of this unit is to teach the students of the use and development of Geographical Information Systems and equip them with the skills needed to develop the IT backbone to a GIS system.
Invite experts from the ICT industry to illustrate actual systems used by their organization and inform students about practical related issues.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Understand the concepts behind Geographical Information Systems and how they can be used by today’s information based society;
- Know what kind of application areas may benefit from the implementation of a GIS solution;
- Know what the components of a GIS are and their role in the whole process;
- Understand the characteristics and limitations of spatial data and what can be achieved through spatial analysis;
- Understand how the integration of how data in different formats can be stored in the same system and utilized in integrated way;
- Understand the elements of cartography and other visualisations of spatial data;
- Know what the main steps towards the development and implementation of a GIS are;
- Appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches/solutions to a GIS requirement;
- Make reflection and self-assessment of their phase of study.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Make practical use of a GIS in an applied situation: input data (spatial and non-spatial), manipulate data (spatial and non-spatial), carry out spatial and non-spatial data analysis, present data in cartographic and other formats;
- Analyze a geographic information requirement into the processes, structures and technologies required and design an outline solution;
- Make a case for a GIS based solution for a given information requirement - particularily within a multi-disciplinary non-GIS trained group;
- Discuss/report on the feasibility/applicability of a different GIS approaches/solutions.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Concepts and Techniques of Geographic Information Systems, 2nd Ed.
Lo C.P. and Yeung Albert K.W.
Pearson-Prentice Hall, 2007
ISBN 0-13-149502-X

A number of academic and most cited papers are to be followed by students.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Independent Study

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Project Yes 15%
Examination (3 Hours) Yes 85%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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