In August, 1996 a Working Group of fourteen experienced GIS educators and specialists spent a week at the NCGIA Santa Barbara in an effort to create a framework for the development of the GIS Core Curriculum for Technical Programs.
A number of tasks were put before the Working Group. They included:
In the five full work days of the Work Session, the Working Group was able complete or at least begin mosts of the tasks. The breadth of the CCTP and the groups to be served were identified. A general format for the curriculum was developed and a comprehensive framework of CCTP units was drafted. Some effort was spent discussing the WWW structure for the CCTP and for individual units. This was also continued as a post-Work Session "home work" assignment. We did not get a chance to discuss the evaluation procedure outlined in the grant proposal.
The Work Session Schedule began with an orientation including an overview of GIS resources and applications as demonstrated by those present at the NCGIA, a summary of the status of other NCGIA Core Curriculum projects, and a review of WWW curriculum development options. After this orientation, the Work Group established basic parameters for the CCTP by approaching the issue of breath and depth of content for this GIS curriculum for 2-year colleges. This was accomplished by forming three breakout groups. The first group examined this issue using the original NCGIA Core Curriculum in GIS as a guide. A second group synthesized various specific GIS curricula in use at community colleges into a master curriculum outline. A third group was the "Blue Sky" group which sought to define the curriculum without dependence on existing examples.
It turned out that there was significant overlap between the findings of the three groups both in content breadth and depth and in nature of the CCTP format. The Working Group agreed that 2-year college GIS courses and programs varied widely in discipline focus (eg, Computer Aided Drafting, Geography, Forestry, Computer Science, International Marketing, etc.) and in population served (transfer students, technical certificate students, post-baccalaureate students). Therefore, the Working Group decided that the CCTP should be a broad resource including general coverage of fundamental topics such as using spatial concepts and operation of computer systems. The group decided that individual units would include mastery level information so that college instructors would have a resource that could be used to create a number of challenging technically-based courses, rather than just a general introduction to GIS for technicians. They also wanted the GIS skill components of the curriculum to have a task focus ("How to do") rather than the knowledge focus ("what to know") of the academically oriented NCGIA Core Curriculum in GIS. This task focus in units would be built around real world examples of technical uses of GIS.
This led to a merger of the findings of the three groups in order to create an outline of content sections for the CCTP. Once they came to agreement on the main topic areas of the CCTP, they broke into small groups to identify specific units in each of the topic areas. This effort dominated much of the rest of the Work Session. The final outcome was a draft topic list for the CCTP. It is from this resource that the project staff has created a revised unit list for CCTP development. The units on this list will be developed by a number of Unit Editors and compiled into the preliminary CCTP which will be tested in college GIS programs and revised to create the official World Wide Web version of the CCTP.
The Working Group also made suggestions on how to format the information for access via the World Wide Web. A number of information structuring metaphors were discussed, but in the end a tree metaphor with core information in the trunk and general content information on the branches was agreed upon. The smallest bundle of information corresponding to a unit of information was likened to a leaf (or in the language used in the Work Session, leaflet). As the Working Group developed the unit framework, many types ancillary resources useful to GIS instructors in the 2-year college were identified. These included sample course outlines, lab exercises, articulation agreements, information on textbooks and other pedagogical resources for GIS, and sources of hardware and software. It was agreed that these resources could be accessed in the "root" structure of the CCTP tree. The project staff has used this metaphor to provide access to the CCTP.
Overall the Working Group did an excellent job and accomplished the main task identified for the Work Session. Many of the Working Group members mentioned in their evaluations that we may have been able to achieve a similar amount of work in four rather than the five days if we had compressed the overview material of the first day and had better managed the use of break out group vs. whole groups sessions. At times the whole group sessions slowed progress due to premature attempts to come to whole group consensus. The small groups often were the most productive. Nonetheless, it was very helpful to have the experienced input of 14 leaders in the field serve as the basis of CCTP development. Currently this Working Group is serving in an advisory role for the remainder of the CCTP development. Some of these individuals are also representing the project at various professional conferences.