Participating in a college course with students from the other side of the world is becoming an impressive norm. NOVA Information Management School (IMS) at the Universidade de Lisboa in Lisbon, Portugal, uses this e-learning approach for its online master’s degree program in geographic information systems and science (GISy&Sc).
Created in 2000 following strong student interest, GISy&Sc is the first formal e-learning degree offered in Portugal with 115 graduates having completed the program to date. During the two-year program, students take a set of required and elective coursework in the first year, and they have the choice of writing a thesis or working in the GIS/GEOINT field and writing about their experience in the second year.
NOVA IMS is USGIF’s first international school to be accredited and joins 13 other USGIF-accredited collegiate GEOINT certificate programs. Through the USGIF Academic Accreditation program, colleges and universities around the globe have the opportunity to seek accreditation for their geospatial intelligence programs and award accompanying GEOINT certificates to students who meet certain criteria. To date, more than 650 students have graduated with USGIF GEOINT Certificates.
“In past years, we have seen an interest from some students in GEOINT,” said Dr. Marco Painho, NOVA IMS program coordinator. “We started paying attention to these questions and demands and observed although GEOINT regionally is very much attached to defense and security, it’s also spreading to other areas of society…We are a competitive program and I believe the GEOINT certificate is a great add-on to what we are already offering.”
For the GEOINT certificate, NOVA IMS students are required to complete courses in science and geographic information systems, applications of geographic information systems, modeling in geographic information systems, remote sensing, and geospatial intelligence. Additionally, students select elective courses based on their personal interests in preparation for their thesis or real-world work experience in their second year. The GISy&Sc program also places an emphasis on data analytics, data mining, geostatistics, and remote sensing.
“Many of our students work in local government, civil protection, hazards, flooding, education, homeland security, forestry, archeology, health, etc.—they come from all walks of life,” Painho said.
The program is designed for individuals currently working in the field and looking to enhance their skills. The online coursework offers assignments, discussions, forums, and exams. According to Painho, some students create their own online communities to better interact with other students and faculty concerning a specific topic or GEOINT application.
Filipe Pinto, a graduate of the program, works with the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympic Organising Committee as a cartographer and GIS specialist. He found the NOVA program to be a great opportunity for his career.
“For anyone interested in geographic information sciences, the master’s [program at NOVA IMS] is a great opportunity to learn and grow as a GIS specialist,” Pinto said. “In the beginning, I was afraid the e-learning system would not work well with me, but the way the classes are set up with the study material and the support of the teachers was very helpful. I’m very proud to have been a NOVA IMS student, and this master’s degree will always be an important tool and big reference in my career.”
The first students to receive USGIF GEOINT Certificates from NOVA IMS will graduate in 2017.