GEOG 2053, Mapping a Changing World

Dr. Kenneth E. Foote, Instructor

Office Hours: 10-11 MW (right after class) or by appt. in Guggenheim 102B, Phone: 303-492-6760, Email:

Li Xu, Teaching Assistant

Office Hours: TuTh, 9:30-10:30 AM in GUGG 301B or by appt., Email:

Class and Lab Meeting Times and Places

Class: MWF, 9:00-9:50 AM in GUGG 205, Lab meetings: Monday, 11-1:50 PM and Wednesday, 3-5:50 PM in GUGG 6 (KESDA computer lab).

Note: In addition to attending lab every week, you can also work on your assignments with ArcGIS in GUGG 8.  There are other accessible labs offering ArcGIS.  Visit to find available labs.

I will also provide each student with a 1-year license for ArcGIS software.

On this page: Overview | Grading | Lab Meetings | Textbooks | Required Supplies | Identikey, Internet Access and E-mail | KESDA Laboratory Access and Use | Disabilities Assistance | Religious Observances | CU Classroom Behavior Policy | CU Discrimination and Harassment Policy  | CU Honor Code

Related pages: Schedule | Lecture and Discussion Notes | Assignments | GEOG 2053 Homepage | CU Geography Homepage | CU Homepage |


Mapping a Changing World  provides an overview of modern cartography and the important roles maps play in today's world.  In the sciences, maps are vital to the exploration of spatial and environment patterns and processes from Anthropology to Zoology.  Maps are essential to commerce and business for marketing, sales, distribution, locational analysis, and strategic planning.   In government, maps are used for urban planning, infrastructure management, census-based demographic analysis, redistricting of political jurisdictions, and many other applications.  Mapping a Changing World is organized to give you a hands-on appreciation of some of these many ways in which maps, geographic information systems, air photographs, and satellite imagery are used in contemporary society.  By the end of the semester, you should be able:

1) To create maps for research and term papers and professional reports

  1. To know the basic principals of cartographic and visual communication and apply them to the composition of classroom projects
  2. To understand the strengths and weaknesses of various methods of statistical mapping
  3. To be able to use cartographic symbology to depict spatial relationship of location, direction, distance, and movement

2) To gather and analyze information from maps for study, research, and personal enjoyment

  1. To be familiar with the coordinate systems used most widely where you live and within the US as a whole
  2. To understand why and how map projections effect the display of cartographic information
  3. To be familiar with methods for using maps in exploratory data analysis
  4. To understand conventional systems of map symbology used by agencies like the US Geological Survey

3) To master the digital skills needed to find, compile, edit, and create useful maps

  1. To know the most important starting places for cartographic information in the Web
  2. To create useful  maps using simple graphics and word processing software
  3. To develop a working knowledge of at least one software package for cartography and GIS

Mapping a  Changing World
is organized around active-learning assignments and exams.  The active-learning assignments emphasize ways that cartographers and other researchers use maps to address real-world research issues.   The issues have been selected so that they raise a variety of technical and methodological problems related to the theory and practice of cartography.  In this way, you will learn by experience how cartographers gather and weigh evidence about natural and human processes, employ maps and databases to represent and model real-life situations, analyze spatial, temporal, and functional relationships, and communicate findings cartographically and graphically and in written and spoken presentations.  The assignments stress analytical reasoning and how such reasoning is supported by the use of maps, computers, and information technology.

Most of the course materials for Mapping a Changing World have been developed in hypermedia format as an on-line "electronic" textbook and lab manual  in the Worldwide Web.  The course does not assume previous experience with geographic information systems, mapping technologies or the Internet,  though experience with Windows-based computers is valuable. The course is built around lectures, discussion and, of course, hands-on laboratory experience. The active-learning assignments make uses of popular software systems for mapping, graphics, and GIS.   Practice with these systems will be of value in your future academic and professional work.


Your course grade will be based on six active-learning projects (65% of your final grade), two exams (each 15% of your final grade), and  lab attendance (5% of your final grade).  The active-learning projects are:

Final score is the weighted sum of Assignment 1 + Assignment 2 + Assignment 3 + Assignment 4 + Assignment 5 + Assignment 6 + Exam 1 + Exam 2 + Lab Participation.  Each assignment is scored on a 100-point scale, then weighted by that assignment's portion of the total grade as listed in the first and second rows of the table, usually 5%, 10%, or 15%.

All fractional point scores were rounded UP to next highest point.

Participation was based on percent lab attendance.  

Ranges of Final Grade: A (93 and above), A- (90-92), B+ (87-89), B (83-86), B- (80-82), C+ (77-79), C (73-76), C- (70-72), D+ (60-69), D (55-59), D- (50-54), F (49 and below).

The deadlines for assignments are given in the course schedule.  Please contact me as soon as possible if you will miss a deadline owing to a health, medical, or family emergency.  Assignments handed in late lose 10% of point value per day.

It is my policy in all my classes to abide by the CU Honor Code ( This means that I will penalize with course failure anyone who engages in "academic dishonesty." Academic dishonesty includes, among other offenses, plagiarism of the writing of others, cheating on exams, falsification and fabrication of data, and submitting the assignments or papers of others as your own.

Lab Meetings

Attendance is required at all lab sessions. 


One book is required for this course:

Brewer, Cynthia A.  2005.  Designing better maps: A guide for GIS users. Redlands, CA: Esri Press.

This book can be purchased through the bookstore.  It can also be ordered, instead, directly from the publishers' Web pages ( or you may wish to comparison shop among Web bookstores such as or

Other study materials are online in the Web or will be distributed by email. The following are optional sources that you may wish to purchase if you find them useful:

Optional texts and resources.  If you would like more information about any of the topics covered in this course, there are a number of other useful books and online materials such as:. 
  1. Kimerling, A. Jon, Aileen R. Buckley, Phillip C. Muehrcke, and Juliana O. Muehrcke.  2009.  Map use: Reading and analysis.  Redlands, CA: Esri Press.
  2. Krygier, John and Denis Wood.  2011.  Making maps: A visual guide to map design for GIS, 2nd ed.  New York: Guilford Press.
  3. Peterson, Gretchen. 2009. GIS cartography: A guide to effective map design.  Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
  4. Many good books are available for ArcMap.  Search in Amazon or other booksellers for "ArcMap" and the version you are using.
  5. Esri, Getting to Know ArcGIS. An online course offered through ESRI's Virtual Campus. Visit the Virtual Campus ( ).

Required Supplies

During the course of the semester you will need to purchase about $20 in computer supplies for the laboratory exercises. You will need to buy one memory stick (at least 2 GB of free space) and 6-10  empty CDs or DVDs for backing up data and projects. These should be purchased immediately for use in lab. 

Identikey, Internet Access and E-mail

You will be making extensive use of the Geography Department's KESDA computer lab, the Internet, Worldwide Web, and E-mail.  Be sure that you have a valid CU Identikey password and working email account.  For more information see: 1) and
2) Getting Started with Campus Technology (

Laboratory Access and Use

The course requires you to spend time working in the department's KESDA computer lab on the ground floor of Guggenheim Hall.  You should plan to spend at least 3-5 hours in the laboratory every week, in addition to your time in lab/recitation, or you can practice with the software at home if you load the free software. Please follow the rules for laboratory access posted in the lab and discussed in class. Violation of the rules can result in loss of laboratory privileges.

Other policies:

Disabilities Assistance and Accommodation

If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit to me a letter from Disability Services in a timely manner so that your needs be addressed. Disability Services determines accommodations based on documented disabilities. See http://www.Colorado.EDU/disabilityservices

If you have a temporary medical condition or injury, see guidelines at

Disability Services' letters for students with disabilities indicate legally mandated reasonable accommodations. The syllabus statements and answers to Frequently Asked Questions can be found at

Religious Observance

Campus policy regarding religious observances requires that faculty make every effort to deal reasonably and fairly with all students who, because of religious obligations, have conflicts with scheduled exams, assignments or required attendance.  In this class, please make arrangements with me at least ten days in advance of the observance so that plans can be made for your participation. See full details of CU policy at at

Classroom Behavior

Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment. Those who fail to adhere to such behavioral standards may be subject to discipline. Professional courtesy and sensitivity are especially important with respect to individuals and topics dealing with differences of race, culture, religion, politics, sexual orientation, gender, gender variance, and nationalities.  Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student's legal name. I will gladly honor your request to address you by an alternate name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records.  See policies at and at

Discrimination and Harassment

The University of Colorado at Boulder policy on Discrimination and Harassment, the University of Colorado policy on Sexual Harassment and the University of Colorado policy on Amorous Relationships apply to all students, staff and faculty.  Any student, staff or faculty member who believes s/he has been the subject of sexual harassment or discrimination or harassment based upon race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status should contact the Office of Discrimination and Harassment (ODH) at 303-492-2127 or the Office of Judicial Affairs at 303-492-5550.  Information about the ODH, the above referenced policies and the campus resources available to assist individuals regarding discrimination or harassment can be obtained at

Honor Code

All students of the University of Colorado at Boulder are responsible for knowing and adhering to the academic integrity policy of this institution. Violations of this policy may include: cheating, plagiarism, aid of academic dishonesty, fabrication, lying, bribery, and threatening behavior.  All incidents of academic misconduct shall be reported to the Honor Code Council (; 303-735-2273). Students who are found to be in violation of the academic integrity policy will be subject to both academic sanctions from the faculty member and non-academic sanctions (including but not limited to university probation, suspension, or expulsion). Other information on the Honor Code can be found at

Last revised 2012.8.19.  KEF