Back to the Virtual Geography Department

Getting Started in the Virtual Geography Department

What is the Virtual Department?

The Virtual Geography Department (VGD) incorporates a wide range of instructional materials by a number of contributors from around the world. Modules may contain lecture notes, slide collections, classroom and laboratory exercises, ideas for term projects, sample datasets, virtual fieldtrips, and examples of reseach not available elsewhere. Modules are available for topics in the geographic information sciences including cartography, remote sensing, and statistics, cultural geography, introductory human geography, physical geography, the history and philosophy of geography, and world regional geography. Working groups have also been established to prepare materials on the Earth's environment and society, regional and area studies, urban geography, and virtual fieldtrips. The VGD also maintains a comprehensive list of Web-based geographic data sources, geography departments, and courses with on-line materials. For more information about the project, see the Quick Guide to the Virtual Department.

What are Modules?

The modules are designed as free-standing units so that instructors may pick those materials that will best serve their courses, and use them in any order. Some modules are lecture notes, some are slide collections, some are laboratory activities, some are virtual fieldtrips. The contents of a module are always clearly outlined in the Abstract that appears at the beginning of each. There are prerequisite skills for some modules, but those are always noted in the Module Overview at the beginning of each module. In addition, each module's Facts of Publication file identifies modules in the VGD that might serve as good background.

How do I find Modules that will work in my class?

While you may find the materials you are looking for simply by browsing working group and focus group pages, you can refine your search by using one of the two indexing systems developed for the project. One is a text-based index similar to those in books and is maintained at the University of Texas, while a keyword-driven searchable index is maintained at the University of Wisconsin--Eau Clair. If you cannot find a Module that covers a topic you normally teach, you might consider contributing to the project.

What can I expect to find in the Modules?

Although the instructional content of the modules covers a wide range of topics and encompasses a wide variety of media (text, slides, diagrams, video, audio), each of the modules adheres to a standard format in order to facilitate use. Every module begins with an abstract that briefly describes the contents of the module. This is followed by a Table of Contents and Module Overview. The Module Overview always contains a list of the module's educational objectives, materials requirements, the key geographical concepts it deals with, the specific activities it will ask students to undertake, time requirements for completion of the module, and the level of difficulty of the module along with any skills prerequisites.

Also among the important features of each module is the Facts of Publication file mentioned above. This file identifies the author(s) of the module, as well as complementary modules, index words, key words, and the module's revision history.

Plans for the future.

The goal of the Project is to have enough modules on-line by 1999 that materials for 30 undergraduate classes in geography are available to everyone with access to the World Wide Web. Project staff is currently engaged in developing the facilities for on-line testing and student evaluation.


If you have questions about the Project in general or how to use the materials please contact us at
Created 8/29/96 by Shannon Crum. Last updated 8/29/96 by slc.