Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

The global response to challenges such as pandemics and environment change has highlighted the need for rapid (real-time) and accurate information on the location and nature of human actions and environmental processes. Mapping and Big Data visualisation approaches are now essential tools for understanding complex spatial problems and to inform decision-making in geography and environmental and sustainability matters, public health, urban planning, business/logistics, and more.

In this practical-based unit, students will be introduced to key spatial analysis technologies that are used to explore and explain the world around us. Spatial thinking and confidence in using industry-standard techniques is developed through weekly workshops where students work individually and in teams on a portfolio of mapping and modelling projects that will explore patterns of crime, wealth and spending, health and disease, poverty and education, social disadvantage, and spatial patterns and insights from the humanities (e.g. literature, politics, anthropology, archaeology, ancient and modern history). GEOG312 is an advance-level offering in the Geography, Environment and Society Major, and a unit suitable for any student with an interest in developing the spatial problem-solving and mapping skills needed for a range of graduate opportunities and career-paths.

The aim of this unit is to provide a hands-on introduction to fundamental mapping and geospatial skills, and by the end of the unit, students will have developed solid mapping and spatial analytics and modelling skills and a newfound appreciation of how mapping and geospatial approaches can be applied to many important fields of study and to problem solving in the world today.  

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Apply appropriate spatial analysis techniques and technologies ethically (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA10)

LO2 - Employ critical spatial thinking skills and apply them to different human and environmental phenomena, communicating outcomes in oral, written or visual forms (GA3, GA4, GA6, GA9)

LO3 - Deploy sound map making skills to visualise a variety of interdisciplinary data (GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10)

LO4 - Access and generate, and interpret spatial data using a range of technologies and approaches. (GA8, GA10)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include:

  • Spatial data types and their handling in the social and geographical sciences
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and key tools and their application
  • GPS, smartphones and locative media (including spatial Big Data and Social Media Analytics (SMA))
  • The Spatial Humanities: GIS and spatial thinking and modelling for the humanities
  • Mapping environmental degradation, pollution, and biodiversity
  • Mapping education, health, disease, and poverty disparities, and identifying their causes
  • Modelling social and environmental phenomena with Agent Based Modelling
  • Capture and use of real-time geospatial data
  • Citizen science and using volunteered geographic information (VGI)
  • Using drone and other remotely sensed data products in geographical and social sciences
  • Spatial analysis and modelling in historical and archaeological research
  • Environmental criminology and the geography of crime and disorder
  • The ethical management and use of geospatial data and technologies

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is designed to be offered fully online and will include synchronous delivery of unit content, collaborative online learning activities and other technology-enabled synchronous learning opportunities. The in-class lecture component is used to convey new material and offer students the chance to engage and ask questions in person. The tutorial portion of the course is to be used to gain hands-on experience in key geospatial tools and approaches.

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. Attendance at tutorials is strongly encouraged to ensure that you learn the appropriate tools and techniques in mapping and GIS. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, videos, etc.

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. The assessment strategy allows students to engage in a variety of tasks, each aligned to their own learning outcomes. Assessment in this unit is designed to teach and guide students through the process of conducting a research project. The first assessment in this unit involves the sequential development of new skills in GIS and mapping, remote sensing and modelling spatial problems and using a variety of geospatial data (including ‘Big Data’). Students apply these skills to a range of small projects undertaken in practical sessions each week, towards the production of a portfolio of mapping and modelling work that is submitted for assessment. In the second assessment, students will apply their skills in mapping and spatial data capture to a community-based mapping project. The outcome of this project will be a digital and hardcopy map product, co-created with local community, that addresses a local community need, and a summarising report. In the third assessment, students will complete an end of semester examination that will allow them to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of key theories and practices in mapping and geospatial studies explored throughout the unit. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Geospatial portfolio: exploring different spatial phenomena in weekly practical classes, students will apply spatial analysis techniques and technologies ethically, apply critical spatial thinking to different human and environmental phenomena, and use map making skills to visualise diverse interdisciplinary data. The results of these individual projects are then presented as a Geospatial Portfolio for assessment. The purpose of the assessment is to facilitate skill development and to provide an opportunity to complete a portfolio that demonstrates their growing expertise in spatial thinking and analyses.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA8, GA9, GA10

Research project: In this assessment, students will undertake a community-focused mapping project with the aim of producing a co-created map product. The purpose of this assessment task is to allow students working in teams to apply their growing competency in mapping and GIS to a community-based mapping project. The outcome of this project will be a digital and hardcopy map product, co-created with local community, and that addresses a local community need, and a summarising report. 


LO1, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10

Final examination: A formal end of semester examination, where students will discuss spatial approaches and their application to different human and environmental phenomena, and how spatial data can be used, including the relevant technologies and approaches.


LO2, LO4

GA3, GA4, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Ballas, D., Clarke, G., Franklin, R.S. and Newing, A., 2017. GIS and the social sciences: Theory and applications. Routledge.

Brewer, C. 2015. Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users Second edition. ESRI Press.

Chainey, S. 2021. Understanding Crime: Analyzing the Geography of Crime. ESRI Press.

Cromley, E.K. and McLafferty, S.L., 2011. GIS and public health. Guilford Press.

Fargher, M., 2017. GIS and the power of geographical thinking. In The power of geographical thinking. Springer, Cham.

Frith, J., 2018. Smartphones as locative media. John Wiley & Sons.

Fu, P. and Chang, J. 2020. Getting to Know Web GIS, Fourth edition. ESRI Press.

Manson, S. M. (ed.), 2017. Mapping, Society, and Technology. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing. URL:

Peterson, G. 2020. GIS Cartography: A Guide to Effective Map Design, Third edition. CRC Press.

Yamagata, Y. and Seya, H., 2019. Spatial Analysis Using Big Data. Academic press.

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