My teaching objective is to educate the students to become confident, skilled and thoughtful professionals. While the Remote Sensing and GIS fields have a strong theoretical side, most employers and many students are specifically looking for “job-skills.” However, it is an illusion to think that we can provide students with a full “skills” package that will last them a lifetime in this very rapidly changing area of expertise. With this in mind, I consciously have made the choice to provide the students with three main areas of expertise:
- Theoretical base knowledge of the topic we are covering. For example, in the Fundamentals of Remote Sensing class, we extensively discuss the physics of light, including wavelengths, energy and scattering properties. The ultimate goal is to provide the students with a base layer of knowledge to fall back on when they are trying to understand imagery.
- Practical skills to get the students comfortable with data and data analysis. Lots of GIS and Remote Sensing skills are focused on data analysis. Over two semesters I guide the students to the point where they are comfortable searching for, downloading and ultimately processing satellite imagery and GIS data. While many basic lab manuals focus on the application of software to analyze data, I intentionally teach the students to find their own data and start from scratch. I have found that while students are often quite capable working with a variety of software packages, they are uncomfortable working with unknown data types and data which behaves differently, e.g., it is in a different projection system or format from what they have seen in a simulated classroom environment. As such, I spend a fair bit of time on basic data science principles, e.g. I teach them data formats, file sizes, coordinate systems, metadata and simple automation techniques.
- Lastly, I emphasize to the students that the most important skill for them to acquire in class is to problem solve and ask the right questions. This means that I do not always provide them with an answer when they are asking questions, instead I guide them on how they would be able to find the answer on their own. I work side-by-side with them on solving problems. We also practice writing reports or presentation materials in a professional and succinct manner.