GIS in Education: Beyond Instruction

Expanding GIS use throughout educational institutions

Typically when people reflect on the incorporation of GIS technology in education, the picture that comes to mind is framed by classroom instruction and research—for instance, a high school world geography class, a community college GIS certificate program, a university urban planning course, and basic scientific investigation that advances knowledge. These and other areas of academic and career instruction and research do, in fact, represent the lion’s share of the GIS activity occurring within educational institutions, and which is vital to fostering successive generations of geospatial leaders and problem solvers. However, these are not the only settings where GIS is providing an essential service within educational entities.

While learning is the goal and learners are the manifest stakeholders, there is typically a place where they intersect: the learning milieu—the physical world of campuses; schools; districts; and associated components; such as buses, emergency plans, and demographic analyses. As we consider the use of GIS in education, we need to include the environments, places, and things connected with these learners and their experiences. Visible brick-and-mortar components are quickly apparent. However, the less evident aspects of our educational organizations are equally vital to the planning, development, operation, and sustainment of them.

On this administrative side of education, the mission is not unlike that of a local government—keeping people and property safe; conducting key studies to support the larger mission; transporting people and goods efficiently; maintaining current facilities and managing resources well; and being wise planners and decision makers, especially in times of lean finances. It is in these areas where GIS is on the rise, but it seems that GIS is still viewed through a lens of niche use or silo placement when, in fact, it can be pervasive and foundational and ultimately serve an array of mission-critical functions within these organizations.

How do we advance the use of GIS within and across mission-critical areas of educational institutions?

George Dailey

About George Dailey

George Dailey has been a manager of the Esri Education Program for the last 19 years. Prior to joining Esri, he conducted early educational efforts for the US Census Bureau and he also worked as a demographer for Oklahoma City.
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  1. Randall Raymond says:

    School districts and school administrators tend to focus their efforts on the documentation of learning that is or is not taking place. Generally, they are less concerned with the effective management of the entire system until such time as the financial aspects of the operations somehow become a limiting factor. At this point they begin to look at ways in which they can reduce “costs” by outsourcing various parts of the systems operations in favor of a more directed focus on the “core” function of higher academic achievement. While much energy is given to “data-driven decision making” at the academic level there is very little energy spent on making effect “data-driven decision making” at system maintenance and the infrastructure improvement level.

    GIS is the perfect tool for strategic planning and facilities resource analysis issues. This, I believe, is the doorway to more use of geospatial tools and analysis by educational institutions and school districts. It is necessary for a directed outreach to occur within the geospatial industry that truly focuses on those organizations that school administrators and school leaders follow. Organizations like the Association of School Business Officials (, the National Association for Pupil Transportation, and Phi Delta Kappa, with all of their state affiliate organizations, need to be targeted. Articles that depict case study activities of school leaders using geospatial tools to better understand student population dynamics, facilities resource needs and utilization studies are needed to engage current school administration leaders so they can learn how and why they should be using GIS within their areas of responsibility (for example,

    Much like the GIS education effort with the NSTA (National Science Teachers Association and NCGE (National Council of Geographic Education), these organizations have great influence among school business leaders. They need to know how GIS is being used and how it can help them in all phases of school district operations. Student population dynamics within any community need to be a focus of analysis at all times not just in periods of financial stress or outside pressure for more school choice. Every school should be a center of educational excellence that is striving to meet the needs of the school community. GIS is the best tool to understand and inform the community that the best education choice possible happens in the neighborhood public school at the most effective and efficient cost to the community.

  2. bill bishop says:

    I am trying to work on a project where GIS can benefit the school system in Newark, NJ. The goal is simple but the task is will require some regulations to change. For years the community based organizations have been working with the school system. But the school system and the community has not been able to improve the kids education or be able to make a bigger impact. The task is to share information between the school and the CBO’s that will give additional education resources after school to help the kids who needs additional tutoring.

    EX: The Principal has five students who needs additional tutoring on Math in the fifth grade. The school should be able to go to a database look up after school tutors that can help. The students address is put in the arcgis online the map then shows the volunteers who are near that students home. The principal then generate a list of tutors who are near the students home. The parent is contacted to setup a tutoring scedule with the volunteers to help the student with his math.

    What I found is the principal do not have a community resource system in place. The school system do not share information with the community organizations.

    Millions of dollars each year goes to safe heaven programs in the city but the two sides do not share information or have a system in place to help both sides.

    So I am creating a community based resource system based on GIS community online map.I think this is the best approach. GIS is the best tool to understand and inform the community that the best education choice possible happens in the neighborhood public school at the most effective and efficient cost to the community.

  3. Van Shelhamer says:

    Bill, I love that idea of a community based resource system. A group of us have been working for years to bring together training and public assistance programs together in once location in Belgrade and Bozeman, MT. We have observed so much duplication of efforts and lack of knowledge about what a large number of non profits are trying to do for youth as well as adults. The same applies to school districts working together. Career Workforce Community Training Center, Inc. recently leased a large building and have begun to bring organizations together to share resources and collaborate on serving the communities needs. The sharing of knowldge and resources is in many cases a foreign concept and is not always easily accomplished nor accepted. We are forunate that the local Superintendent and School Board have bought into the concept and are very supportive. As a result we developed a good working relationship with the school and have students and the school taking advantage of the resources we have pulled together. This was not with out opposition from the businesses in the area. A community based resource system based on GIS community online map should be helpful in large as well as in large land mass school districts with sparse student populations.

  4. HI Bill, I think you are on the right track. “So I am creating a community based resource system based on GIS community online map.I think this is the best approach.” One way to get a jump start on this project would be to find some students that would be willing to work with you on the creation of your Online Community GIS Education Resource System. I have found working with students to be a very successful endeavor. As the GIS Systems Analyst for the City you could approach the schools to identify interested students that would be willing to learn GIS and help you create the system. The ESRI Virtual Campus ( ) has a number of courses that the students could take online that would prepared them to assist you. This type of outreach is exactly what is needed in 21st Century education. This would leverage your desire to engage the system and help the system at the same time. Most Principals will not know how to go about this type of activity. You need to contact members of the local board of education and the superintendent’s office so they can support your efforts. You also need to contact the local news media in your area and let them know what you are trying to accomplish. This makes for excellent press coverage and will draw out support from other GIS users in your community that will give their support to this project. I would be glad to provide some support as I have worked on a lot of these types of activities.

  5. James Walker says:

    Howdy all you educational map makers.

    For the past 2 years I have been doing GIS work for Garland ISD. We are a fairly large district with over 58,000 students, primarily serving the cities of Garland, Sachse, and Rowlett in the north east corner of Dallas County Texas. Our primary GIS project has been an ongoing project to convert CAD data to GIS features for school floor plans and usage analysis. We have also used GIS for some demographic analysis and to produce our own series of printed transportation maps saving the district the cost of having them out sourced.

    In addition to working on these, one of my current projects is the development if a browser based GIS portal built In Adobe Flex for the use of our student services and other departments. Unfortunately, this project is only hosted on our internal network so there is no link for me to post.

    I am interested to see how some of the other educational organizations are leveraging GIS tools. Hopefully we can all inspire each other with new and interesting ideas to improve our positive impact on our organizations.

    James Walker

  6. James, I too am working on converting CAD data to GIS features. We have over 50 years of Architectural plans from board pencil drafting to CAD, Revitt, and 3D. It is a monumental task to migrate all this data into a common GIS platform, and than correct it for proper georeferencing. I’d be very interested in learning your techniques and any lessons you can pass on.

  7. Steve Spiker says:

    The simile with local government is very appropriate, and the challenges and barriers are much the same to effective use of technology and data within our school systems. That is after all what GIS really is, it’s a powerful, visual tool for analyzing and communicating data, and it’s a highly technology driven tool. If a district is struggling to adequately implement and leverage good tech and creative uses for data then GIS implementation is going to be tough also, let alone strategic use of GIS tools.

    What we’ve been doing so far with schools (mainly Oakland Unified) includes:
    * analyzing chronic absence levels across the city at a school and neighborhood level- helping to guide the pilot projects to reduce chronic absence and using maps to communicate the disparities in outcomes to exec staff.
    * Examining enrollment patterns in conjunction with proposed school closure locations.
    * Analysis of suspension patterns across the city for African American male students.

    I’d also suggest that school districts could benefit heavily from considering GIS in these ways too (I’ve done these in other places):
    * Analysis of teacher residence v student/school locations, considering both the implications of local community involvement/engagement and also for retention analysis- teachers that are part of your local community with shorter commutes are more involved and tend to stay longer.
    * Track public health birth data by tract/zip to plan for future changes in school populations
    * Gap analysis for after school programs to make sure kids in neediest neighborhoods have equitable access to quality after school programs.

    A group I’m part of also built some very cool tools for Boston public schools last year, one is a great geographic school selection tool for parents:

    So many places that GIS can add value to and help improve our struggling schools!

    Looking forward to more ideas that I don’t have time to implement ;-)

  8. Randall E Raymond says:

    Steve, I like what you have added especially: “* Track public health birth data by tract/zip to plan for future changes in school populations” and want to include the information below for consideration as well. This work is a result of the City of Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion wanting to use more GIS. There are just so many different ways that GIS can be used in education!
    Blood Lead Poisoning, Student Achievement and Environmental Health
    For some time now I have been involved in research that examines the impact of elevated blood lead levels on student achievement. This falls into a category of problems that are related to the impact of environmental health on student achievement and school success. I think it is critical that this area of investigation be given more attention. In many cases these environmental health issues are generational in that the parents of the students affected were also affected by these environmental factors as were their parents. Until more attention is given to these issues large numbers of high poverty, urban students will continue to be left behind while we close schools due to poor performance. Our research shows very clearly, with high significance, that the higher an individual’s blood lead level between birth and 5 years of age the lower they score on all education assessment tests as they grow. Unless we begin to address these conditions through more intensive early childhood education programs these students will continue to struggle and potentially drop out of the education system.
    This is a landmark study of great significance. This project resulted from collaboration between the City of Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion (DHWP) and the Detroit Public Schools Office of Research, Evaluation, Assessment and Accountability. It took 18 months to work out a memorandum of understanding that allowed us to take all of the venous blood lead testing data for individuals living in the City of Detroit from DHWP, 169,301 records, and match that data with a Detroit Public Schools (DPS) student database. The data is from 1992-2008 so it is longitudinal. We were able to identify over 45,000 currently enrolled DPS students in the blood lead testing database. You will find more information at:

    Most large cities with Health Departments have this type of data available as they are required to keep the records. The key to better understanding is the development of the memorandum of understanding that makes it possible to combine the data from the schools and health department so a better understanding of the educational impact can be explored. I believe that this is one of the greatest educational achievement problems that exist in eastern US urban centers of high poverty. More than 25% of the current school population of DPS had elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs) between birth and 5 years old. When the data is examined by school enrollment, DPS has over 40 schools where the more than 35% of the school population had EBLLs. Under no child left behind, declining enrollment and the financial conditions in DPS schools have been closed because they do not make AYP when a high percentage of the population performs poorly due to past environmental health related issues.

  9. James Walker says:


    If you can standardize the input data, then you can save a lot
    of work on the backend by automating the conversion process using
    model builder. A lot depends on what you want to do with the data and
    what format you want to use as your master repository.

    In our case we have several CAD people and I was brought in to work on
    the GIS end. The decision was made that the master data would be
    maintained in CAD so one of our major project concerns was to
    establish and keep standards so that the GIS import could be automated
    and repeated as changes are made.

    We have 7 High schools, 12 middle schools, 47 elementary schools, and several administrative and special use facilities many of these have 2 floors and or ancillary buildings. Much like your situation our data has been accumulated over many decades and although when I came in everything was digital, the drawings had been produced in various versions of CAD by different firms over the years.

    We started with 1 elementary school and worked
    out the layers we wanted; these layers were defined in the CAD
    drawings and are converted to a series of feature classes through
    structured queries that are set up in Model Builder. We have building
    outlines, corridors, rooms, building history, and roof plans.
    Annotation layers in the CAD drawings are read in as points and joined
    to the various polygons to make the attributes such as room numbers in
    the GIS database.

    A lot of planning and some trial and error went into
    getting all of this just right for our needs. The girl who does most
    of the CAD work is not a GIS person and I am not skilled with CAD, but
    with a lot of work we are getting where we need to be. Each of our
    locations has a 3 digit number that is used by the district and the
    State education agency to identify that school, so in our GIS data base
    the location for each room is that 3 digit code followed by a “.” And
    the room number which is unique within the particular campus so
    004.213, indicating room 213 at location 004. This way we can build
    district wide locators that can be run across the whole district
    instead of separately for each school.

    At this point we are still validating room numbers for some of the schools so we have not yet been able to make full use of this data but we are getting closer all the time.

    One of the layers that was surprisingly challenging was
    adding the graphics for door swings, millwork, plumbing fixtures and
    such. When these little lines are just brought strait in out of CAD
    and laid on top of the other data and that is published as a web
    service, 30 – 50,000 little polylines on top of some drawings, over 1.6
    million for the entire district was bogging down the server. The final
    solution was that I added a few steps to the import model so that it
    takes all of these graphic lines as it processes them for a particular
    drawing and makes them into a single multipart line feature. This
    allows us to have all that CAD artwork that people spent so much time
    creating with only a few hundred features across the district. This
    runs a lot better on our server.

    Several months ago we did gather detailed usage data from the administrators of three of our high schools that are preparing for additions. Maps made using this data were given to the administrators and architectural firms to help them visualize the actual usage of those campuses and help them optimize their proposals for the additions.

    You also mentioned the Geo-referencing and that is a whole other can of worms that will depend to some extent on exactly how you plan to use the data and from what data future updates will originate. 1 option is to use the geo refinancing tools in arc map. If you use a simple 2 point matching on building corners from an aerial, this is the easiest solution, but the
    scaling of your drawing is not exact and the resulting square footage
    will be affected. If that is not important then go with that method.
    In our case knowing square footage for rooms and buildings is critical
    so we had to scale the drawings by a calculation. The default unit of
    measure in most of our drawings was inches and our local state plane
    coordinate system that we work in is in feet so by scaling the
    drawings by .08333 we were able to maintain the CAD established
    geometry accurate to several decimal places. Then just drag the
    drawing into position and adjust the declination manually to match the
    imagery. This is the work flow we have used for our floor plans and it
    has worked well for us but we have another option. Using the ArcGIS
    for AutoCAD extension to our auto cad software we are able to consume
    our ArcServer services as base layers in AutoCAD. We recently obtained
    current 6 inch imagery for our district and are using this imagery as
    a service to apply spatial coordinates to our data in AutoCAD. If I
    were to restart our project today I would chose this last option for
    our floor plans as well since it alleviates the issue of keeping up
    with world files that become invalid if the CAD technician changes the
    name of a drawing. When that happens the program reads the data in and draws the school out in the pacific ocean.

    I hope I haven’t rambled too much, If you have any particular
    questions feel free to write me at


  10. Vivian Wasson says:

    How do we advance the use of GIS within and across mission-critical areas of educational institutions?

    Revive the study of ‘Planning for a GIS’ which Dr. Roger Tomlinson advocated in 2001.

    Tomlinson’s Thesis: The success of any organization’s GIS implementation depends on thoughtful planning.

    In the Course Overview for ‘Planning for a GIS’ Thomlinson stated “Over the years, many GIS systems have been implemented by organizations at great cost, only to end up being disappointing or underutilized and failing to meet the organizations expectations.” Then he asked “How does this happen? Is there a common reason why GIS implementations don’t always work?” The common reason is, most often, “Lack of Planning.”

    The GIS’s in existence at educational institutions probably have ad hoc architectures which are the result of technological and administrative evolution.

    The use of GIS within and across mission-critical areas of educational institutions can be advanced by assisting these institutions deal with the ad hoc architectures and introducing them to map resources i.e. the ESRI on-line base map gallery.

    Vivian A. Wasson, M.S., LSIT
    Springfield, Missouri

  11. GIS is an immerging Technology in India. Only Govt. Sectors and some leading private sectors are working on these technology. As an Educationist i observed that only 1% students aware of GIS technology.To innitiate and motivate the students of India, there is a need of various basic programs on GIS at minimum cost.

  12. Vivian Wasson says:

    Randall E. Raymond, thank you for providing the links to the articles published in School Business Affairs and ArcNews and the ESRI User Conference Proceedings.

    I think others in this roundtable seeking information about the use of GIS in education should take time to review these articles.

    Vivian A. Wasson, M.S., LSIT
    Springfield, Missouri

  13. Forrest Lamb, CFM says:

    My primary role is a certified facility manager for the US Marine Corps in New Orleans. Working with the Louisana Department of Education, Communities in Schools of Greater New Orleans, and ESRI, Louisiana just signed a state license with ESRI. In addition we in Louisiana just assembled a team of professional from many areas to forward the cause of GIS in education; from non-profit, industry, education and ESRI. We’re excited to begin this bold new joint venture. Louisiana GIS in schools is on the “map.” Please stay tuned.

  14. Hello Vivian Wasson, your welcome!

    Hello Ashish Sasankar, I have used the ESRI Virtual Campus ( ) with all levels of students. It is an excellent online education resource to introduce GIS to students. I would encourage you to take a look at this site. I am certain students in India would benefit from the GIS courses available.

    Hello Forrest Lamb, CFM, the State of Michigan also has a statewide K-12 license of ESRI GIS software. You also will have Unlimited access to all ESRI courses on the ESRI Virtual Campus ( ). You will find this online learning environment an excellent place to introduce a wide range of students and school administrators to the power of GIS. I would be glad to be of assistance to you and your team as you move forward with this wonderful opportunity. I have worked extensively with the Virtual campus in a wide range of training activities in the K-12 education area. Feel free to contact me:
    Randall E. Raymond,
    Geographic Information Specialist
    1425 E. Warren
    Detroit Public Schools – OREAA
    Support Services Complex – Building A
    Detroit, MI 48207
    Cell Phone: 248-910-7830
    Office Phone: 313-576-0063
    Email: or
    Authorized ESRI K-12 Instructor

  15. Scott Sires says:

    For many years the focus of GIS professionals in education was to grow geospatial technologies within instruction. However, we now have resources and benefits that reach far beyond instruction. At Brookhaven College, students have produced consumable tables, maps, spatial data sets and increased understanding of our campus to yield value beyond instruction. This is a value for the students given that their goal is to become prepared for highly skilled careers.

    The potential value of geospatial data became clear to the campus once we included campus staff and administrators in our proposal of student projects. The first time we contacted the college director of facilities it was clear we could help. He needed an updated ADA accessibility map and we were able to create it. That led us to create a routing solution that could be used by all students. From that we recognized the need for interior space routing and mapping which, once created, enabled us to route room-to-room, point-to-point. We then joined a committee charged with developing a new exterior signage plan. Student data were used to visualize the campus, to determine sign placement and sign content. The committee plans to install 6 “You Are Here” maps at strategic entrances to the campus. The college director of institutional effectiveness approached the GIS program to inquire about demographic studies for our service area which resulted in the use of online business analytic tools. Knowledge of campus detail is also of value to our city emergency responders and thus our data have been shared with the city GIS staff.

    The question: how does one grow the use of GIS across a campus? The simple answer: utilize a campus basemap to visualize the spatial and temporal relationships that exists among the faculty, administrators, staff, students, the campus and its assets.

  16. Michael Gould says:

    I am one of George Dailey’s colleagues on the Esri education team, but I also teach GIS to international students on a university campus in Castellon, Spain. On campus we are experiencing many of the same issues mentioned earlier –institutional support, CAD to GIS conversion, etc.

    Two comments: First, we won over our vice-rector of infrastructure, who now supports the “campus GIS” project, by showing how other schools have applied GIS to manage building spaces, and therefore energy consumption. He said “I want that; tell me who I need to get trained in GIS”.

    Second, I really recommend you have a look at the Esri “Community Maps” program.

    Designed to help local governments to prepare and serve their data to the world (via ArcGIS Online) WITHOUT losing intellectual property rights, it has become a popular vehicle for schools and universities to get the same job done. Related to this, are the campus templates (Placefinder and editing) which help you to create smart campus maps that support search, navigation, etc.:

    The Community Maps team is eager to help get more schools (+districts) and universities “on the map”.

    Hope that is of use to you.

    Michael Gould

  17. Wow, there’s a lot of really good information here. I would like to chime in on the topic of expanding the use of GIS to all facets of the school system. Bridging the gap between academic and business units in an educational institution can be quite a challenge. This applies to both K-12 and the university model. In Palm Beach County School District, GIS was primarily used in the Planning department for demographics, attendance boundaries, student enrollment, etc. In an attempt to broaden the uses of GIS a project charter was developed and approved by the Chief Academic Officer and the Superintendent. As the GIS Coordinator I spearheaded this effort and gathered folks from various departments and units such as Curriculum Planning, Choice Programs, Transportation, Educational Instruction, etc. Espousing the benefits of GIS both operationally and educationally, in addition to showing a cost benefit analysis won over the group. The overall project was rolled out in phases and included tasks which benefited school centers, students and the public at large. Some included items similar to the ones mentioned here, on this site, like CADD conversion and special projects using health data for teen pregnancies, dropout prevention locations and other well-being student analysis projects. One phase included teacher training, and setting up classrooms so that GIS could be taught to middle and high school students as an elective or part of the science/social studies curriculum. The overall project has been successful on both fronts as GIS has expanded to assist additional operational departments such as Research and Evaluation, Information Technology, School Police and we are currently looking at integrating Esri GIS for Transportation routing and bus stop development. In addition web based GIS applications have been developed that benefit school centers, staff/management and the public. From the academic standpoint, a study conducted in Palm Beach County 2010 indicated that middle school students who had GIS instruction significantly outperformed their counterparts who did not. The goal here is to have a champion, and upper management support – with vision and a little persistence the GIS application can provide countless benefits for both sides of the educational house.

  18. Vivian Wasson says:

    Michael Gould | Professor and Esri education manager, University Jaume I | mentioned the CAD to GIS conversion issue.
    Please describe the difficulties being faced today. What do clients want to do with the CAD information after it is migrated into GIS?
    Vivian A. Wasson, M.S., LSIT
    Springfield, Missouri

  19. Michael Gould says:


    James Walker (above) spoke to some specific and more technical CAD conversion matters, but in general we are talking about an institution which normally has loads of CAD files from their architects and engineering department, but who have not even heard of GIS. To move the files (drawings, after all) into GIS format they need to create polygons to create building features, properly connect roadways for connectivity, and add attributes describing each feature….beyond the mere tag associated with typical CAD files. Nothing groundbreaking, but it requires some retraining and then some time to get the job done. Administrators need to understand this necessary component of the “campus GIS” project, because often they ask only how much the software costs.
    So like any sizable GIS project one needs to clearly describe the problems to be solved, the estimated total cost, and the expected ROI.


  20. Randall E Raymond says:

    Hello Vivian Wasson “I | mentioned the CAD to GIS conversion issue. Please describe the difficulties being faced today. What do clients want to do with the CAD information after it is migrated into GIS?” In my position with Detroit Public Schools I have converted a lot of CAD to GIS layers. In fact I am currently working with the Detroit Public Schools Police Department on a project where the CAD drawings containing the locations of the video security cameras being installed in 9 new schools are being converted into GIS video camera layers. These GIS video camera layers are being used to enable the individuals that operate the DPS Police command center to view the video camera layers as ArcGIS video camera map layers. This enables them view the video camera map layer of a facility to know exactly where in a facility the video camera is located. They also can “click” on any video camera on the video camera map layer and view the video feed from that camera. Currently we are connecting the entire security system to ArcGIS map layers. I do not think it is so much about “difficulties” as it is about the time it takes to do the conversion and georeference the CAD to GIS that causes the “difficulties”. It is just a time consuming process. However there is great value in the final product so the time being spend is well worth the time and effort it takes. It is much more useful as ArcGIS map layers to all involved. Other uses of the conversion include the creation of emergency evacuation plans as well as facility resource needs and analyses to name just a couple. I have submitted an abstract to do a presentation at the ESRI EdUC this year about this project. I hope you will be able to attend this year’s ESRI EdUC conference
    ( ).

  21. Scott Sires says:

    Hello All. Hi Vivian. I am one of the contributors to this Spatial Roundtable and coincidentally I am also James Walker’s professor. Garland first approached Brookhaven College needing some help to prove a concept; that concept was that GIS could help manage facilities and related work-orders. Specifically, as a pilot proof of concept, the GISD wanted to map roof top A/C chiller units to rooms of an elementary campus. It seems the school was experiencing maintenance issues and there was no available source to quickly ascertain which A/C chiller was in need of maintenance. GISD had CAD files for the school and some tabular data about the school’s construction phases. Once the CAD files were converted to GIS features the tabular data were added to the new features as attributes. At that point the school district was able to both prove the pilot concept and to quickly identify which A/C chiller was associated to what rooms within the elementary school.

    With my District of 7 independent colleges, the Dallas County Community College District, we also have a wealth of CAD data, both archived and recent. We have converted all our available CAD data into GIS features so that we could implement the Esri Campus Map Template (mentioned earlier in a prior post). With the campus map template we can now provide access to consistent campus maps that can be queried. Our staff members can query the GIS layers by type of room, by room name or number, by staff member or by room utilization. Again this became possible once we first converted CAD to GIS features and then added attribute data.

    The CAD to GIS feature conversion workflow can be different depending upon the age of the CAD data. Older CAD data may be oriented to ‘paper’ coordinates (lower-left 0,0) while newer CAD data will likely already have real-world coordinates.

    One note I want to add is that James, also an accomplished user of the Adobe Creative Suite products, knew Adobe Illustrator could open a PDF of floor plan data and could export the PDF content as CAD data. Then the CAD data was added to a GIS project at which point the CAD to conversion was possible.

    To summarize my understanding of the primary purpose in converting CAD data to GIS features is to have features to which rich data attributes can be added. This is important in order to provide online data access, query capabilities, and campus visualization. GIS features are the common denominator on top of which a variety of data can be layered.

  22. Donna Goldstein says:

    Historically, the Palm Beach County School District primarily used GIS as a planning tool, focusing on demographics, boundary studies, enrollment, and school capacity. However, over the past decade in addition to mapping capabilities, administrators recognized the potential and power of GIS as an analysis tool – one which could provide benefits to a multitude of stakeholders. During the past 10 years the benefits of GIS have fanned out from the Planning office and become widespread throughout the organization, providing us with the ability to streamline manual processes, coordinate efforts that span departments, and bridge the gap between academic and operational units. With the advances of technology, new GIS applications have been developed that assist parental/community stakeholders as well as school personnel. The Find My School GIS application has exceeded our expectations by creating a platform for more efficient student registration and contains a plethora of pertinent address specific data all of which is useful to school administrators, parents and the public at large. (See An additional Flex based GIS web application allows us to spatially analyze student populations and determine where attendance boundaries need to change, ensuring compliance with concurrency and school loading.

    The GIS system continues to assist staff in depicting enrollment trends (see Enrollment and Growth Category ), and helps us to determine where student growth is likely to take place based on a number of factors including the issuance of building permits from the local county agencies. Using the demographic projections along with a developable vacant land layer assists with site selection process for new schools.

    Overall GIS has elevated our customer service to all stakeholders, and provides us with the opportunity to allocate our resources more wisely, thus saving time and money.

  23. Vivian Wasson says:

    Hi All,
    I understand from the responses to my request to Michael Gould on February 16, 2012 to: “Please describe the difficulties being faced today. What do clients want to do with the CAD information after it is migrated into GIS?” that the difficulties arise from the complexity and inconsistency of data in the CAD files and that the purpose of migrating CAD to GIS is to provide clients with useful information.

    As I read the responses, several concerns came to mind.

    1. CAD to GIS – Just because it can be done, it doesn’t follow that it should be done.

    2. The CAD files most likely have not been conformed to construction records.

    3. Locate ‘as-built’ (construction records) construction drawings for each building of interest

    4. ‘As-built’ construction drawings are the paper (hard copy) ‘blue prints’ marked up by the authority that oversaw construction of the building to record information where what got built differed from the design drawing. (Before GIS even before CAD architects and engineers made sets of drawings (called plans) for public buildings.)

    5. Scan the ‘as-built’ of the site-plan (typically the first sheet after the cover sheet in a set of drawings for a building), hyperlink the image file to the polygon of the building site

    6. Consider security issues which could arise if anybody could see detailed ‘as-built’ floor plans

    7. Seek permission of Architect before migrating CAD files to GIS
    8. Seek permission of Engineer before migrating CAD files to GIS

    10. Other issues: data completeness, data accuracy, data currency.
    11. Avoid creating a set of geographic information that cannot be maintained.

    12. Consider safety issues which could arise if the architectural information within the walls of a building are incomplete, inaccurate, or out-of-date.

    Submitted by,
    Vivian A. Wasson, M.S., LSIT
    Springfield, Missouri

  24. Randy you’ve already helped me. I wasn’t aware that virtual campus was part of the package. I didn’t know that there so many people with like passion working to develop GIS for K-12. I’m humbled by this audience. We’re just starting in Louisiana and welcome all help or ideas.

    FORREST C. LAMB, CFM (Certified Facility Manager)
    CEO – Principal
    Metroscape, LLC
    PO BOX 2588
    2801 Manhattan Blvd
    Harvey, LA 70058-9998

  25. Scott Sires says:

    Hello Forrest, thanks for your active participation in the Spatial Roundtable.

    Regarding passionate people in GIS I want to make sure you are aware of the Esri user group in our region. Please consider checking into the South Central ArcInfo Users Group (SCAUG), and perhaps contact the Louisiana representative to let him know how connecting with other users might be of help to you. The representative for Louisiana is Shane Diaz, Columbia Geospatial Service Center, Louisiana Representative

    Louisiana also has a statewide geospatial data set that is quite impressive which I believe was developed by several GIS entities in the state.

    And I invite you to contact me if you need help getting connected.


  26. Greg Davis says:

    As a 26 year user of the technology and 20+ year business partner with Esri focused exclusively on the use of GIS in K-12 administration, I thought I’d put my thoughts into the discussion.

    We all know that GIS technology in general, and Esri software in particular, is well-suited to the critical thinking and exploration involved in the learning process. Thinking about the problem to solve, exploring and gathering data to develop a workflow to solve the problem as well as analyzing solutions to the problem is well-suited to the relatively unstructured and flexible software platform that Esri provides. In many cases, the learning process from both the instructors side and the student’s viewpoint can evolve into different directions with the primary goal to teach the technology and/or to get students to think critically about the particular subject(s).

    However, from an administrative standpoint in K-12 school districts, that unstructured exploratory approach using GIS, in most cases, does not work. Administrators are interested in solving very focused, specific problems (where to build the next school, which school to close, how to save money on transportation, etc) often with very tight timelines and resources to find solutions. They do not have the time to learn the technology basics, search out data, develop applications and find solutions. Many times they are putting out the proverbial “fire”.

    Unlike the goals in the classroom, administrators have to quickly justify a return on investment balancing cost versus benefit. For example, the benefits of finding transportation efficiencies is more easily quantified with GIS and that is why bus routing and scheduling is one of the more common known uses of GIS. But ask anyone in the school transportation department who they think of first—Versatrans, Transfinder, Edulog. Why?, because they are known to have specific transportation application solutions.

    With apologies to the firms listed above, check out for an extensive and cool Esri-based solution.

    In many cases, classroom use is helpful as it introduces administrators to how GIS can potentially be of assistance. But unless the district has a well-established IT and/or facilities, planning or transportation department, efforts to implement GIS come in fits and starts. I would estimate that 95% of the school districts in the U.S. do not have large dedicated departments to develop a fully functioning GIS on their own. Administrators need applications and training designed for their jobs and solutions to their immediate information needs.

    Two brief examples come to mind. One Colorado district had acquired Esri desktop software through knowledge from the curriculum side of the house as well as use in the county. After almost a year of developing data and trying to develop applications, they decided to change course and explore commercial applications designed for their specific needs. They could not justify the continued time and expense when solutions were readily available. A second district in Montana had obtained ArcView and were trained using typical GIS software training methods. Nothing “clicked”, and their GIS implementation efforts were floundering until they received training specific to their needs and tasks as school administrators (after all, how could they relate to geometric networks, sewer lines and perennial streams using typical GIS training data or virtual coursework?).

    So “how do we advance the use of GIS within and across mission-critical administrative areas of educational institutions?” Here are my thoughts:

    • Make sure that the District can start with a small focused-benefit application of GIS that will immediately find a ROI. This can be an internal GIS app or hosted web app–it doesn’t have to be something in-house at the district. Any successful use of the technology will breed more needs and acceptance.

    • Get the proper training that is specific to their administrative jobs and information needs. Use data administrators can relate to.

    • Make sure that the expectations of GIS and what it can do for the organization is well-grounded and that the resources and commitment are in place.

    • Search out applications already developed that will get the district up-and-running quickly so that administrators will not get disillusioned over time with what GIS has to offer. After a while, the mindset of frustration sets in if progress is not made in having GIS help solve problems.

    With all the above being said, we have 200+ school district administrative clients…feel free to check out what we do at:

    Many times we will set up data and offer complimentary trial versions of our Locator and/or desktop extensions to show immediate results, create a much faster ROI and make it easier for school districts to get up-and-running with the technology.

    I welcome your comments, thanks for letting me post…


  27. M?no Simeone says:

    The advancement and use of GIS at City College of San Francisco by the administration was the combination of a highly-motivated instructor (yours truly) and the need to address the district’s need to improve its facilities to accommodate persons with disabilities. However, I was not successful in receiving funding for the project until I was able to: 1) Educate administrators about GIS and its benefits; and 2) Convince such administrators a ROI existed by using GIS.

    The first step in advancing GIS should be to perform an analysis of systems, workflows, and data types being used throughout various departments. One needs to have a broad understanding of how their institution performs operations on a day-to-day basis but also understand their long-term goals. Knowing how data is stored, collected, and managed is critical to discovering how GIS can either replace or integrate into existing systems. Then one can begin to assess how or if GIS can be beneficial – it’s also important not to try to force GIS.

    In my discussion with administrators the first hurdle I encountered was the lack
    of knowledge about GIS. Administrators simply had no experience with GIS or how it could benefit them. In addition, there was an initial discredit of GIS simply because they believed it would cost too much to implement and the lack of staff to support GIS activities.

    The issue of ROI can be difficult because GIS is on-going cost of hardware, software, and staff. In addition, an institution might already be invested in other systems to manage their data. However, I believe a case for ROI is made when one considers the impact GIS can have on retaining institutional knowledge, improving staff knowledge of facility needs or issues through analysis and reports, and disseminating this information in an efficient and effective medium for consumption by staff, students, and community.

  28. Stephen Gervais says:

    Hello All,

    I am a K-12 Academic Researcher for San Bernardino City USD, a large urban district in Southern California. For the K-12s in the US , I think Donna Goldstein’s comment above about the difficulties in bridging the gap between the business and academic units is right on target. My district has a facilities and planning group on our business side that is actively using GIS.

    For the academic units, there are only a few case studies and examples demonstrating how GIS can be used to affect instruction. Federal and state compliance does not demand this level of analysis so it is not on the radar of the typical administrative leaders. Those districts large enough to have a dedicated research staff with resources to devote to GIS for academic studies are going to need good models that can help make the case for this type of use.

    Putting effort into building a foundation of case studies that highlight how GIS can be used to improve those areas for which schools and districts are held accountable is an important and necessary step.

  29. Hello Stephen Gervais you stated:
    “For the academic units, there are only a few case studies and examples demonstrating how GIS can be used to affect instruction.” I just want to point out that the ESRI Education Team has a website devoted to GIS education including instruction at:
    If you point your colleagues to this site they will find many excellent examples that they can use immediately. You will find many case studies and links to a variety of sites.

  30. Scott Sires says:

    Hi Stephen. Everyone here may have already read Learning to Think Spatially: GIS as a Support System in the K-12 Curriculum, but if not I thought I would mention it. I believe it to be a collection of information worthy of reading. While this spatial roundtable is about GIS Beyond Education I think this text, while written for K-12 curriculum, can raise issues that might help administrators and facilitators ‘see’ the strength of GIS and of geospatial technologies.

    Also, I would like to know what you all think about this text. Are you all aware of other texts that discuss GIS as an applied technology to manage education facilities and assets?

    And, as we plan calendars, I want to mention I am attending the July conferences (Esri Education Conference and the Esri User Conference) in San Diego and would like to be able to meet face to face as a group if you all are likewise interested. Much of what I get to do is due, in part, to what I learn from colleagues. Perhaps we can extend this conversation beyond the online spatial roundtable.


  31. Stephen Gervais says:

    Thanks Randall/Scott for your response.

    Randall – Yes I have reviewed the Ed Community website. I guess should have further specified in my comments that the academic unit of a district includes both the instructional and academic compliance components.

    I totally believe that there are plenty of resources for instruction and ESRI has done a great job of promoting them. I have pointed out GIS resources whenever possible to those who appear interested in moving into this area of study.

    In my comments I was thinking about academic compliance. My job includes reporting on such varied topics as compliance for state and federal reporting like AYP/API, analysis of graduates and dropouts, identifying indicators of future performance or need for intervention, student suspensions, and some occasional real research questions…. Some larger districts have dedicated people for this work. Many rely on the district student information system to generate these reports.

    Having been doing this for more than 10 years now, I can tell you that this area of academics has great potential for spatial analysis and visualization. However, I can find only a few examples in the published body of GIS education work cover this aspect of education.

    Scott – Yes I have reviewed the book. I remember downloading it from the NAP website when it was first released. Again, with the focus on curriculum, I think it a great resource for instruction and helping explain the importance of a spatial perspective.

    I understand there are a number of materials available discussing facilities and boundary line planning. My focus is not on these things – I am charged with analysis and reporting of student outcomes. Often, I am on the hunt to help explain why our district results differ so much from neighboring districts or the other 10 large districts in California.

    I attended last year’s user conference and, depending on available financing, will probably go again. K-12 school districts in California are having to cut more from the budget so I cannot definitely commit at this time. I definitely think that having an opportunity to move this conversation into a public forum might be a great start to better understanding the scope of possibilities and the issues that are most critical in each area of education.

    Several years ago, I got tired of talking about this and started a MS degree in GIST. I am now done with my coursework and nearly finished with my thesis. It has taken a while to align my responsibilities and support from administration so that I can begin looking at these topics from a spatial perspective – I have some interesting research projects in mind which I think will showcase how GIS can be used in education for administrative purposes.

  32. Randall E Raymond says:

    Hello Again Stephen

    I have worked in the area of your interests for many years. I hope you will take a look at the materials in this presentation:

    In ArcGIS 10.1 there are a number of significant statistical analysis tools that have been added that will really be important to the types of analyses that relate to student achievement and educational impact.

  33. Stephen Gervais says:

    Thanks Randall.

    Yes! I’ve downloaded your work and will gladly review it. From what I saw at a glance, I think this is exactly the type of collaborative project in which schools need to be partners. Thanks for sharing it.

    I’ve been using the 10.1 beta too and also believe that the new tools will be important for types of analyses that will relate to student achievement.

  34. Hope everyone is aware of the annual GeoTech event hosted by Bishop Dunn HS in Dallas March 2-4, 2012. If you support K12 you must attrnd.

    We offer resources including Model courses developed by 50 GIS educators nationwide. Free access is found here:

  35. Daniel Sward says:

    The University of Minnesota’s University Services administrative department manages over 28 million gross square feet of space plus accompanying utilities, roads, communications and other infrastructure assets. Since 2008, GIS has become increasingly recognized in University Services as a core tool for managing infrastructure assets and achieving its mission of making the University of Minnesota work for students, faculty, and staff.

    A number of things have helped us along the way. We have champions at a very high level in the organization that advocate for GIS solutions. Without this key high level stakeholder buy-in and support, we would have gone nowhere. We have been careful to prioritize and implement very visible projects that serve our long term goal of establishing a robust set of GIS tools and data. As an example, delivering a public facing interactive campus map application required us to build out a solid technical infrastructure and necessary GIS base map data. This same technical infrastructure and base map data now serves many other purposes. GIS is a new topic for many folks in administration – we must be very cognizant of this. For us, GIS interest and understanding has grown almost exponentially in the last year through simple word of mouth, communicating our project successes, and putting a stronger emphasis on educating colleagues about GIS. Finally, we have documented and widely shared a very positive ROI for our water utilities GIS users. Money talks as they say, and our facilities administrators are listening.

    The maturation of the GIS software suite, rapid evolution of cloud based solutions, excellent mobile options, and improved GIS integration with other key enterprise software tools make this a great time for campus administrators to adopt GIS.

  36. Scott Sires says:

    Hello New Friends,

    I want to share a few college GIS case studies with you. In each of these links you will find each institution’s approaches to, and successes with, applied geospatial technology for managing assets and facilities. University of New Hampshire, Campus Planning GIS. One of the cool things here is a browser based Campus Accessibility Map. University of Georgia, Office of University Architects, GIS Mapping Project. This site is full of links to a rich set of campus content; an interactive campus map, historic maps, planning maps, transit maps, and a host of other resources. UC Davis Campus Care. This site is an index of many projects to which UC Davis applies GIS. One of the interesting items here is a GIS Services work order creation system. Also check out the links at the bottom of the page in the Administrative & Resource Management Organization pane. Western Kentucky University, Office of Planning, Design and Construction, GIS/GPS Services. On this site there are links to a map of the main campus, a campus bus stop and bike rack map, and a map of campus emergency phones. There is also another cool link; a pdf document that details their approach to using GIS complete with their mission, experience, current tasks and future plans. MIT Department of Facilities. On this site one of the useful items is a pdf of MIT’s guidelines to using spatial data and to its value in building interior space management (BIM).

    I hope this information helps paint a clear picture and perhaps helps us move several steps forward.

    Best regards,

  37. Duane Marble says:

    Nearly two decades ago at Ohio State we had excellent success with the administration by utilizing spatial analysis approaches and GIS tools to significantly improve the Freshman admissions process. There are several papers on this and the most accessible may be found by going to: and searching on the phrase university admissions.

  38. Donna Goldstein says:


    As you mention bridging the two side of the house; academic and operations was a monumental task which was why I carried it out very methodically and developed the project charter in an effort to get everyone’s buy-in. I understand the difficulty with demonstrating how GIS can benefit instruction so I prepared a research paper on this topic for the academic folks in the group, (aka the GIS Steering Committee). After developing the charter I worked with IT to get the software in a few schools and provided professional development for teachers in GIS. A year or two later I was able to substantiate my claims that GIS was in fact, beneficial for academic achievement. As the GIS Coordinator for the district, having access to the student data provided me with the ability to conduct research on students in a middle school here where GIS was being taught. The results of that research indicated a significant increase in standardized reading scores for the students who had GIS, especially the English Language learners. There were additional academic gains in science and social studies. Unfortunately Florida has been extremely hard in the housing arena; the local contribution to education has been slashed significantly. This economic situation has impacted the upward movement we were experiencing with getting GIS into the classroom. However, the systems are in place and once we begin to recover so will the GIS instructional program.

    Just to pipe in on the K-12 admin side. The discussion earlier regarding CADD files is something that we have embarked on here as well. Turning these files in GIS will assist us with our overall CAFM system (Computer Aided Facility Management). We will be able to tie this in with our work order system as well as the obvious use for school police. The project has just begun so thanks for the input above. As far as using the system for the admin side, along with the demographic aspect of boundaries, student achievement, health related issues and related research projects we are also using the data and network analyst for walk zones and bus stop locations, combining student addresses and a layer for offender/predators. With the software advances we will also be looking at developing an in-house solution for bus routing.

  39. Stephen Gervais says:

    Hi Donna,

    It is encouraging to read about what you are doing with GIS. I was excited to read about Randall’s collaborative project too.

    I am still in the “building my case for GIS” phase. Things are moving forward and I am expect that within the next year, I will be able to share some specific pieces as well.

    Where I’d like to see GIS/spatial thinking get attention is at a conference such as the annual CERA (California Educational Research Association) conference. At least in California, the attendees are the folks driving educational research in our schools, districts and at the state. As you can see from past agendas (, much of the focus is on assessment, NCLB, Value-Added, etc.

    At last year’s CERA conference, I had some interesting conversations about GIS this past year in some breakout groups and I think there is more awareness about spatial issues. What I heard is that people are looking for specific examples related to the big picture items that they are focusing on. I’ve set a goal for myself to present an appropriate spatial project at next year’s event. Waiting to see what the conference theme is going to be.

  40. Eric Carroll says:


    Currently we are working on the same type of project as you are with integrating CAD files into our GIS to display floor plans for schools. We currently maintain 168 schools throughout the Polk County Florida area. As you can imagine this is a heavy process.

    Upon the beginning of my tenure here there was a small amount of the GIS technology being used. Within the last 2 years we have been able to deploy a web-based application that will allow contractors to view concurrency data, permit parents of students to obtain their currently zoned school, as well as potentially zoned schools for areas they might be moving to.

    This product was built using Silverlight and WPF on the .NET framework. We originally chose Silverlight because of the API support provided by ESRI back in the 2.2 era. However, today we are exploring some options with FLEX. I am curious to know if anyone can compare and contrast the two?

    With our newest project, we are taking the CAD floor plans and integrating them into our GIS using the ESRI campus editing templates. It has been quite a process, and we have discovered how essential it is to streamline the workflow and follow it to the exact detail. Once the plans have been inducted, we will develop an application that will permit users (maintenance techs, computer techs, project manager, site surveyors, and fire inspectors) to access the floor plan detail, interact with a UI that allows them to make function specific annotations, modify work order events, and update spatially related information (outlet locations, asset re-locations, cable re-routing, building modifications etc.)

    As you can tell, we have our hands full. I am always open to advice, as well as providing assistance when and where I can.

  41. Randall E Raymond says:

    Hello Eric, Steve, Donna et al

    I wanted to share with you a project that I worked on with Yichun Xie, Director of the Institute for Geospatial Research and Education at Eastern Michigan University funded through the National Science Foundation ITEST program. I think it has great application to the types of projects you are doing or interested in doing. Whenever it is possible to combine the teaching of GIS and real world work experiences that enable the learners to use their newly acquired skills on projects that advance the administrative needs of the school district I think these activities should be encouraged. This first link directs you to information about the ITEST funded project and the ITEST Learning Resource Center. Here you can gain information about how to find funding to support your work and include students in the process:

    These next two links bring you to the home page of the Mayor’s Youth Technology Corps program and a PDF summary of this project.

    If you are interested in learning more about these types of collaboration please let me know.


    Randall E. Raymond,
    Geographic Information Specialist
    1425 E. Warren
    Detroit Public Schools – OREAA
    Support Services Complex – Building A
    Detroit, MI 48207
    Cell Phone: 248-910-7830
    Office Phone: 313-576-0063
    Email: or
    Authorized ESRI K-12 Instructor

  42. Michael Alires says:

    The Clark County School District is the 5th largest district in the nation with roughly 310,000 students. With the depressed economy, we’ve been forced to do more with less in many arenas. I began with the school district in the Demographics, Zoning and GIS Department. Our primary goal was in the development of Attendance Zone boundaries that provided the best utilization of facilities in accordance with a public commission. However, we were also involved with other entities of the district including those affecting student safety. We participated in project where we overlaid and converted CAD files of school sites and floorplans for GIS use. We also developed a Geodatabase of the locations of important shut-offs throughout the sites to aid in the support of first-responders.

    Since then, I have moved from Demographics and Zoning to the Transportation Department to help develop a new routing system based on ESRI Software and the Network Analyst extension. Most routing software available relies on more internal mapping solutions and do not easily integrate with the ArcGIS platform. It became an arduous task to constantly transfer files between different systems. We believed that it was important to move to a system that was capable of easy integration with ArcGIS and eventually decided upon using US Computing’s Compass software.

    The Network Analyst solver has many of the necessary elements for modeling transportation behaviors. We were able to effectively model underpasses and overpasses, restricted turns, and prefer interstate travel when covering long-distances. One of our crowning achievements was being able to convert the actual GPS data our buses were collecting to actionable street speeds based on time of day with the aid of custom Python scripts and utilize this information to drive routing decisions.

    Regarding the advancement of GIS use in the education realm, I would like to see an adjustment made in the Network Analyst solver to more easily allow for school bus routing. The standard solver fits better for package delivery and takes a “loop mentality”. The idea being that I begin at a depot with a full load and visit sites along the way to drop my widgets and return to the depot. The plan at the end is to return back to depot of origination. The solver works towards making the way out to the furthest location while hitting stops along the way but often saves some to hit on the way back to the depot. A loop is the resultant feature.

    However, with budget cutbacks, we do not want our buses just servicing one school and returning to the depot. Instead, we want them to begin a depot, then pick up students, drop them and school and then begin with the next set of students. The idea is to have them service multiple schools in a row. This creates more of a vector process that I move towards a school location and then move towards a secondary location. My depots, thus, are not places of replenishment and instead are only points of destination and completion. We need to generate individual runs (i.e. a single group of high school students to their school) that link together well with other runs (a single group of middle school students to their school) to create a full morning route (grouping a HS, MS and ES together) while considering the spatial relationships between all three sites and their corresponding students.

    Hopefully, this makes some level of sense. I believe that there is a great opportunity for movement within and throughout the operational aspects of educational decision-making. However, there are some areas in which the needs of business customers differ from educational customers. Expansion will require adjustment for the best fit.

  43. Scott Sires says:

    Hello Eric, I want to let you know James will be attending the summer EdUC and Esri UC, as will I. If you are able to attend perhaps you and he can chat to exchange ideas. I hope those who have posted and are able to attend the conference will be able to meet face2face at the summer conference and carry forward with some of this conversation.

    George can you get a room and a time for a GIS in Education: Beyond Instruction Spatial Roundtable discussion? The more we know in advance of planning our agenda perhaps we might be able to meet together.

    Also I want to let all discussion participants know I get quite a bit from the Facilities Management (FM, I think?) track of sessions at the UC.

    Each year Eric Wittner, John Young, Steve Grise, all of Esri, and a variety of folks (sorry for any name misspellings or if I have left someone out) present bleeding edge concepts for our consumption. Last year in particular I was able to gain some insight from Eric’s workflow on room-to-room routing. But there is always value from the user-to-user conversations too.

    As mentioned in my first post, but here in more detail, one of the tasks I hope to complete before the conference is the application of City Engine in order that I can place our new campus signage, in a photo-realistic view, for the purpose of visualizing our planned implementation and as a result to be able to tweak our plan should we ‘discover’ something not yet considered. Our concerns are the potential visual barrier our new 9′ tall X 4′ wide signs most pose. We are adding 6 large parking lot signs, 6 large pedestrian entry signs, 6 somewhat smaller pedestrian signs, 1 large central courtyard sign, 3 significant entry monument signs, and are applying 30 new signs to building faces. We will have ‘You are Here’ campus orientation maps to at least 15 of the signs. Each map will have a geo-locator QR code from which campus visitors will be able to create, in their smart-phones, their own custom point-to-point route. This solution will utilize mobile technology, and thus server technology, community maps data (our basemap), and elevation-aware (Z-aware or 3D) network routing. A person will scan the QR symbol which will locate their starting point on the campus, the person then will choose a building and a room (from drop-down pick lists) which will result in a map based route on their mobile device at which time they can leave the map and head off to where ever it is they need to be.

    Our signs are slated to be installed by or before October.

    Has anyone done this on your campus? If so I would be ever so grateful to chat with you and learn from your experience.

    Thanks for reading,

  44. James Walker says:


    It does sound like our districts are working toward similar goals with our GIS programs. One of the main reasons we have been working to get our CAD data converted to GIS is to allow the many departments that have in the past each worked from separate maps and plans of buildings to use a single set of plans. That way when something is changed everyone can go to the same source to see the current version.

    As for our decision to use Flex for the browser applications we are developing, there were a few reasons But the biggest one was that it was easier to implement than Silverlight. As Professor Sires pointed out I am one of his students at Brookhaven College and as part of the curriculum there I have done a bit of Silverlight development. At Garland we found that keeping up with the .NET and Silverlight versions on the server and the client PC’s was a bit of a pain. With Flex all I have to do is export a release build and drop it in the server root and all the client needs is flash. Most people already have flash on their PC and even the few who don’t usually know what it is.

    Another issue was ease of development. I personally have a background in digital photography and graphic design and have been using Adobe software products such as Photoshop and illustrator for years. For me personally Adobe flash builder is just faster and easier to work with than Visual Studio. Since I am the districts primary GIS person and am currently the only one directly working on the code for our GIS web application, and I have several other projects to keep up with, Flex seemed the best choice for our situation.

    As far as the technical possibilities I think that mostly you can do the same things in either platform but there seem to be more code samples available for Silverlight. I have heard that ESRI is developing new managed application builders to replace the ADF that currently comes with ArcServer. I was told that these were being worked on for both Flex and Silverlight. It will be interesting to see how much they can do when they come out.

    As Scott said above I am planning to be at the UC, so if you are there maybe we can sit down and compare what our districts are doing.

    If you want to contact me before then my email is


  45. First, let me say how thrilled I am at the conversation that has been building across the last two weeks. It is great and there are probably upwards of 3-4 separate but related discussions going on. Please keep them going.

    Second, Scott Sires made a comment in his Feb 26 post asking about the possibility of a face-to-face meeting at the Esri EdUC. The answer is yes. We will have a couple things happening that will support this kind of dialogue. 1) We will have a track in the EdUC focused on the Use of GIS in Education Administration and Policy. 2) We also will have a SIG of the same name during the conference. For those of you most heavily focused on “facilities GIS” there also will be a day-long track in the main User Conference (Wed?) devoted to this and related topics.

    Third, a couple of people following this Spatial Roundtable discussion have asked me about “what’s next after this roundtable ends?” Great question.

    This discussion will continue live for the next two weeks and then the roundtable is added to the archives, always available for anyone’s return to the great posts and valuable links.

    However, to continue the conversation and to start others we have another option–our Facebook page on this arena. It has been around for a little while but it has been pretty quiet. We now have an opportunity to ramp up the volume. Here’s the link

    Let’s continue to grow the current Spatial Roundtable dialogue but look to furthering it in the weeks/months ahead on Facebook.

    Thank you.

  46. Donna Goldstein says:

    Randall, thanks for the links – this looks like a fabulous project. While we have many local organizations interested in working together for a program such as the one noted here I’ve had very limited success in acquiring a grant. Kudo’s to all of you in Detroit!

  47. Randall E Raymond says:

    Hello Donna, James, Scott, Steve, Forrest, George et al

    I just wanted to follow up on George’s comment: “Second, Scott Sires made a comment in his Feb 26 post asking about the possibility of a face-to-face meeting at the Esri EdUC. The answer is yes. We will have a couple things happening that will support this kind of dialogue. 1) We will have a track in the EdUC focused on the Use of GIS in Education Administration and Policy. 2) We also will have a SIG of the same name during the conference.”
    One of the most important factors in getting funding for National Science Foundation projects is collaboration. I think that for those who will be attending the ESRI EdUC and/or User Conference it would be great to include in “our meeting” some discussion about the types of projects that would be good for collaborative efforts that would enable use as a group to secure some funding to explore how we can leveage the work we are doing to include more career focused student training and intern experiences with a foucs on GIS in school administrative activities. I hope each of you will give this some thought between now and the conference.
    As a special note to Forrest, the statewide K-12 GIS license provides a number of complimentary ESRI EdUC/User Conference registrations so I hope you and some of your colleagues from Louisiana will attend the EdUC this year!

  48. Steven Hills says:

    Hello GIS Educators,

    My name is Steven Hills, a GIS educator at a College in Canada and an alumni of the wonderful ESRI T3G Program from 2010.

    Our problem currently is a low enrollment issue. We run a 2 year technical diploma in GIS. Our student cap is 20 students per year we always average out about 5-9 students. This continual low enrollment ratio is getting our Administration nervous and there has been grumbling about canceling our GIS diploma as it is a relatively expensive program to run. In addition to our GIS diploma I teach 3 or 4 basic GIS courses to only one other environmental diploma program at our college.

    I have tried many things over the past 5 years to increase student enrollment like: high school teacher mentorships, high school visits and activities, teacher workshops, tuition credits for those coming to our college who used GIS in high school etc. I currently geomentor 4 geomentors who in turn help other teachers or who are teachers themselves (GIS version of the old pyramid scheme!) but this takes up time and is a lot of effort, for which I am often told I spend too much of my working time on this.

    I have run a workshop here at our college that focused on faculty from other departments (business, web design, engineering, etc) to try to encourage them to consider bringing GIS into their curriculum. My hope is that if they get 1 or 2 modules into one of their courses perhaps their students be excited about GIS and stick around and complete their GIS diploma as well. But alas this has met with little success amongst the other faculty for a number of reasons, some of which are actually realistic. Mostly I think it is timing, fear and not wanting to change what or the way learning happens.

    I have found the readings on this topic that last weeks very encouraging and has left me with a number of “on-campus” threads to follow in utilizing GIS on the campus to support our administrative operations and then perhaps if administration see the benefit it will create a buzz amongst the faculty.

    Any suggestions for a frustrated with “the man” GIS educator?

    I will leave you with one other thought. I presented a 1/2 day GIS workshop at Professional Development event for high school teachers (most newbies but some experienced) last week. At the end I realized and made a statement to the group that “GIS is the most important technology for almost every industry and segment of life that nobody has ever heard of!”

    Thanks for allowing me to ramble!

  49. Randall E Raymond says:

    Since ESRI is making a big move to providing more ArcGIS tools online with ArcGIS Online, I thought some of you might be interested in taking a look at this school administrative ArcGIS Online data that I have set up for Detroit Public Schools. This is a great environment to work with and very easy to add layers you currently have available.

    I have created a couple of different ways of viewing the Detroit Public School 2011-2012 schools through ArcGIS Online Mapping Applications.

    The links below will take you directly to three different ways to view this basic school district information. This is using exactly the same data.

    This first link takes you to the ArcGIS Online web view

    The below link takes you to a map web page created with the ArcGIS Online tools.

    You have the ability to search for any address location and identify the schools located within that area.

    You can CLICK ON any school point on the map and receive basic school information including School Name, Address and Phone Number along with the Elementary, K-8/Middle and High School attendance area of that school.

    You can search for any address location and CLICK ON the returned address location you receive information about the Elementary, K-8/Middle and High School attendance areas for that address.

    This web based map can be directly embedded into the School Districts main web page.

    This version the Detroit Pulbic School 2011-2012 schools through ArcGIS Online Mapping Applications is viewed in ArcGIS Explorer Online.

    The tools available in this online environment are a little more user friendly. You also have better control of the Zoom features as you can Zoom to a selected area. However, the “popup” information is a little more challenging to set up.

    It is very easy to customize thess application to include any other information desired.

    I look forward to your comments.

    Randall E. Raymond,
    Geographic Information Specialist
    1425 E. Warren
    Detroit Public Schools – OREAA
    Support Services Complex – Building A
    Detroit, MI 48207
    Cell Phone: 248-910-7830
    Office Phone: 313-576-0063
    Email: or
    Authorized ESRI K-12 Instructor

  50. Randall E Raymond says:

    Good Morning Steven Hills

    I, for one, enjoyed your ramble. In fact that is the point of this Spatial Roundtable, to generate discussion around education administrative GIS issues.

    Have you thought about ways that you can include “real world” experiences into your GIS education offerings that engage the students in the creation of GIS systems that benefit your college and college community. You could have them working with the Physical Plant people on the creation of GIS layers that incorporate all of the building floor plans and room layouts. This would help in school safety and energy efficiency studies. Training in GIS and the application of GIS are very important to increase the value of the learning experience. There are several good examples of these types of ideas in some of the discussion in this Spatial Roundtable. The creation of campus information maps that can be posted as part of an overall campus sign program can be included. If you can gain the support of your school administration in this effort they might be willing to provide some monetary support/intern experiences for the work of the students that should help with the attraction of students to your program offerings. You can use these ideas to reach out to the larger “community” of your college as well with these types of activities.

    There are indeed great challenges to sustaining a GIS program. I believe the more you can connect your efforts to the overall operational goals of your college you will find more success.

    One last thing, is the name of your college “Assiniboine” related to the Native American tribe that once occupied a large area of the State of Montana?

    I look forward to your reply and continued discussion.


    Randall E. Raymond,
    Geographic Information Specialist
    1425 E. Warren
    Detroit Public Schools – OREAA
    Support Services Complex – Building A
    Detroit, MI 48207
    Cell Phone: 248-910-7830
    Office Phone: 313-576-0063
    Email: or
    Authorized ESRI K-12 Instructor

  51. Mark Stewart says:

    Hi Everyone,

    I have just spent a very enjoyable and enriching half hour reading through the posts in this roundtable. It is a topic that is dear to my heart, and I was truly encouraged to see so many good examples of efforts to leverage GIS throughout the entire education organization, especially in regards to managing infrastructure and facilities.

    Even more uplifting is the willingness to help and collaborate between peers. I have always thought that this spirit was something special about the GIS community. I might be overstating that, but it seems to me you don’t find the same level of enthusiasm and camaraderie in other technology fields.

    My main reason in posting is to further emphasize my colleague Michael Gould’s earlier point that the Community Maps program is a great way for an educational institution to get started with extending the reach of GIS in the organization. Whether you just want to create an initial campus basemap and have it hosted for free on ArcGIS Online, or you have plans to use the resulting basemap as the foundation for more involved analysis or management applications, the Community Maps program provides the templates and data model to help make it happen. Many universities, including some of those posting to this roundtable have already realized the benefits of participating in this program, and there are many more on the way. You can see some of their campus basemaps in this short ArcGIS Explorer Online presentation – It shouldn’t be limited to just higher education, however. It is just as relevant to K-12 school districts, and we would welcome the chance to work with those of you from this group to get your data into the Community Map.

    I am currently developing a training solution specifically for creating a campus basemap to participate in the Community Maps program. It should be available prior to the User Conference, so keep an eye on our Resource Center for more information. I’ll also be presenting a high level overview of the Community Maps program for campuses at the Ed. UC. I encourage you to attend if you’re interested. It would be great to meet you.

    Keep up the good work.

    Mark Stewart
    Esri Community Maps Training and Support Coordinator

  52. Aaron Cheuvront says:

    Greetings All,

    George, thank you for posting about this roundtable in the CFTA mailing list. Once I started reading this I couldn’t stop!

    I am going to apologize now for the giant wall of text that follows…

    I am the CAD/BIM/GIS manager for the University of Washington. We have been using GIS for floor plans for almost 10 year and have just finished a complete redesign of our entire system with great results. I am focused more on the operations and maintenance side of this discussion and specifically the technical aspect of how to make it work and maintain it.

    James pointed out many of the issues we faced and had to overcome and I would say that standardizing the input is not only helpful, it absolutely crtical. We spent about 3/4 of the project just standardizing all of our CAD drawings.

    As Vivian mentioned, planning a GIS is very important to the long term success of the system. Knowing what you need, what you have and how to connect the two plays a critical role in designing the your solution.

    Our main goal was to get accurate square footage and a list of rooms that could be validated against the CAD source drawings. The decision to use CAD as our source was based on that fact that it really is the right tool for the job. We also have so many uses for CAD floor plans switching the source to GIS just wasn’t an option, we would still need to maintain CAD for other reasons.

    I could go on for hours (and have been known to do so) about the subject but I will attempt to be brief.

    Just some quick stats and points:

    - We have over 1400 floor plans, roughly 20 million gsf in GIS.
    - Each building, or complex of buildings, use the lower left corner of the column grid intersection as 0,0 in CAD.
    - Our site plans are in a regional coordinate system (state plane).
    - We are already planning to switch our database from state plane to Web Mercator since we have space all over the world.
    - We create the ESRI world file from CAD for accuracy of scale, rotation and placement. We can even use survey points to make them as accurate as we want.
    - I have 1 CAD person maintaining the floor plans.
    - Once the CAD drawings are updated there is no other human interaction needed. Everything is automated. We worked with Steve Grise to handle the code side of the translation using FME and some of the schema definition.
    - Our data model is very similar to the Building Interior Space Data Model.

    I think one of the things that sets our system apart is that everything is done in CAD from a CAD user perspective but the end goal is GIS. We even do data validation from within CAD to make sure the translation gets good data. If there is a problem with the translation we get an email identifying which drawing failed and why. This is done using ArcGIS for AutoCAD and some custom LISP programming.

    Something that has always bugged me was using the room number (text/block) as a point to transfer data to the room polygons. It is a GIS based solution that doesn’t support CAD as the source. It requires the room number to be inside the room which doesn’t always work for readability in small rooms. We avoid this by linking the room number blocks directly to the room polylines in CAD through a text field in the block attributes. This is one of our most critical error checks, if there is not a perfect match between the two an error is thrown that describes exactly what the problem is so the CAD operator can fix it before the drawing is done. Again, this is all from the CAD user perspective so I can bring in any CAD drafter if there is a spike in workload.

    Due to our limits on funding and staffing we had to come up with something that would be as efficient as possible otherwise we would never be able to maintain it. The end product may not be anything groundbreaking but the fact that this is scalable to large organizations with space around the world and can be maintained with just a couple people, I think, is. With a standardized set of CAD drawings you can get a complete GIS version with little extra cost after the initial setup cost. Even more, once the core system is in place, adding other datasets based on CAD data is very easy and follows the existing workflow.

    Another point that Vivian made was “Just because I can be done, it doesn’t follow that it should be done”. I couldn’t agree more! Sometimes it is the right thing to do though. I would also say that many things CAN be done, the real question is, can it be done feasibly? We are working on a hybrid of CAD and GIS based floor plan data where the source is evaluated for each dataset.

    Our next project is using our 2D floorplans to create a 3D building routing system that can be used for emergency response as well as general wayfinding for students. There have been many examples/prototypes that do this but they would require a workflow that is not maintainable with our current level of support. Our process will piggyback on the existing floor plan GIS and we just need to add in some extra code in the translation to deal with the routing data.

    I am hoping to have a presentation or two at the UC and edUC. I hope to see some of you there at the face2face events.

    Well, there’s my rant for the day!

  53. Donna Goldstein says:

    The biggest challenge I have is educating people on what “GIS” is, as most folks have never heard of it. While it’s true that GIS is utilized in many aspects of various industries, it’s the silent technology. To me, part of that process has to be showing people what GIS can do for them. How can learning GIS improve your college students experience? If they are required to perform research such as a thesis GIS can greatly enhance that endeavor. If they are business students then the material can be geared towards that. You noted that you tried to get faculty interested to no avail, but if the students see the value they can help drive the culture change. The goal it seems is to develop GIS as something that they need, not just an elective or filler course. I am currently in the process of working with our local university to incorporate GIS, as a research tool, for the graduate program in the college of Education, Adult and Community Education. While this has been a challenge I am making some progress.

  54. James Walker says:


    Great info, I hope I can see your presentation at the UC.

    One of our weaknesses at Garland ISD is that we don’t have any one person who is fully conversant in both CAD and GIS. I have AutoCAD on my computer and use it to inspect drawings when anomalies come up in the GIS conversion but I don’t know how to get the most out of CAD on its own. I have two technical questions that are more on the CAD side but have a significant impact on the way the data is brought over. If I want to make changes on the CAD end of our workflow I will need to understand the steps involved well enough to explain the steps to our CAD people and diagnose any bumps in the road that he changes may cause.

    1) When we first started with our floor plans I did all of the geo referencing in ArcDesktop with calculated scalar transformations to preserve the accurate areas and manual declination and placement against aerial imagery for the locations of buildings. We are currently working on our site plans which are also in CAD and for these we have been doing the spatial referencing in CAD using the ArcGIS for AutoCAD extension. The workflow we are using applies the spatial data to the CAD drawing but does not create a world file. This has worked well for most of the site plans but I have a growing list of sites where this workflow has caused anomalies. Creating an ESRI world file from CAD would be a cleaner workflow than what we are doing now. Can you give me any info on how to create the world file from CAD? Is there perhaps a good book that covers the issues of accurately placing CAD drawings from the CAD side?

    2) When you mentioned the issues with text blocks to points being joined to the rooms causing problems especially with small areas I know exactly what you are referring to. I have had more conversations than I can count with our CAD people explaining why this room number or that is appearing in a wall void or in the hallway instead of the room where they think they put the text. Moving some of these labels to accommodate the GIS by getting the little anchor point inside every room has caused us many headaches. How do you link the data directly from within CAD?

    Thank you again for posting

  55. aaron cheuvront says:


    I wrote a LISP routine that can be run in CAD to create the world file.

    I use a single drawing per campus to create the world files per site. The drawing doesn’t really have anything in it other than xrefs of other drawings. The site plan is created in our state plane coordinate system. Once I xref in the site plan, I xref in the first floor of each building I want a world file for.

    When you xref the floor plans, make sure you scale it by 1/12 to convert inches to feet. just use the standard move and rotate to get it where you want it. If you have building outlines that have a known relationship with the floor plan you can accurately place and rotate the floor plan relative to your building footprint.

    Now for the fun part, the world file. A world file is just 2 pairs of coordinate that represent the same 2 points in a from and too relationship. I use the floor plan 0,0 which relates to the xref insertion point in CAD then use an arbitrary 1,000,1,000 point in the floor plan and calculate where that is in the site plan. Then just write the text file with a .wld extension.

    Here is the code for the LISP. just copy and paste into a text doc and name it with a .lsp extension. Load in it in CAD using the load/unload application (command:ap) and enter createworldfile at the command prompt. pick the floor plan then pick the folder you want your world file to go. done.

    ———————————————-Begin LISP code——————————————————

    (defun c:CreateWorldFile (/ block ins ang scale dist ent pt1 pt2 pt3x pt3 pt4x pt4 file filename ent)
    (setq ent (car (entsel “nSelect Block: “)))
    (cond ((eq ‘ENAME (type ent))
    (cond ((not (eq “INSERT” (cdadr (setq block (entget ent)))))
    (t nil))) ; Exit Loop
    (t (princ “n** Nothing Selected **”)))))
    (if block
    (setq pt1 “0,0″
    pt2 “1000,1000″
    ins (cdr (assoc 10 block))
    pt3x ins
    pt3 (strcat (rtos (car pt3x) 2 10) “,” (rtos (cadr pt3x) 2 10))
    ang (cdr (assoc 50 block))
    scale (cdr (assoc 41 block))
    dist (* scale (sqrt (* 2 (* 1000 1000))))
    pt4x (polar ins (+ (* pi 0.25) ang) dist)
    pt4 (strcat (rtos (car pt4x) 2 10) “,” (rtos (cadr pt4x) 2 10))
    (if (setq filename (getfiled “Save World File As” “esri_cad” “wld” 1))
    (setq file (open filename “w”))

    (write-line (strcat pt1 ” ” pt3) file)
    (write-line (strcat pt2 ” ” pt4) file)
    (close file)

    ———————————————-End LISP code——————————————————

    As long as your CAD drawings stack vertically you only need 1 world file for the whole building. I separate each building into its own folder.

    one thing I really like about this is that I can always validate the world file by looking at the xrefs and recreate them exactly if needed.

    See next post for item 2)


  56. aaron cheuvront says:

    ok, item 2 is a bit more complex… I can’t get into all the details in a discussion group but if you want to test how it works I can give you the core items needed.

    It all centers around using a text field in CAD. I would guess you have an attribute field that stores the room square footage. For the value of that attribute right click and select Insert Field…

    - Set field category to Objects
    - Select Object for field name
    - For Object type: click the button to select the related room polyline.
    - Select Area for the property
    - For Format, I use Decimal and set precision to 0 so it rounds it off.
    - Now, since I want square feet and not square inches, click Additional Format…
    - Set the conversion factor to 1/144
    - You can add a prefix or suffix if you want.

    click OK a couple times and you are done!
    You may need to regen to get it to update the text. You now have a live link between your room number block and your room polyline.

    You can verify this by changing the size of the polyline and regen the drawing. The square footage will update automatically.

    Ok, so how does that help? Well lets just say that was the easy part :)

    If you look at the field expression it will list the ObjId. This is a unique identifier for the polyline. Why not just use the handle? Simple, I am lazy and want the computer to update the room square footage for me.

    Anyway, the object ID can be used to reverse the process through code to assign the feature class data in CAD from the block to the polyline. That’s right, I create the feature classes in CAD (programatically)with the fields I want and auto assign the block attribute data based on that link. When you read the CAD file from GIS there will be an additional feature class that GIS treats like a real feature class and not a CAD based feature class.

    You can do this manually for testing by creating a feature class using ArcGIS for AutoCAD and manually assign the data to the fields you want.

    Combined with the world file, drop the feature class into ArcMap on your site plan and it will be preload with data and be georeferenced.

    I take this all a couple steps further through custom LISP code to do validation in CAD as well, like make sure room numbers are unique, make sure the room blocks and room polylines maintain a 1-to-1 match and a few other things.

    Because this is all done programmatically, the CAD operators don’t need to know anything about GIS. They just need to know a couple ground rules like linking room numbers to polylines (also automated) and is supported by the error checking done on save.

    From there it is all managed by the document management system and FME translation that checks for updates every hour.

    Hope that answers your question…

  57. Kevin Davis says:

    Hello All -

    George – Thanks for setting up and kicking off this forum. I am thrilled at the volume and thoughtfulness of contributions thus far.

    I thought it might be worthwhile to chime in here from the perspective of a vendor who has these kinds of conversations with a variety of clients on a virtually daily basis.

    Where to start? First of all, everyone should recognize that they are not alone in their desire to apply the power of GIS to as broad a problem set as possible within, as George describes it, the educational “milieu.” I also see this same requirement and, dare I say struggle, in the commercial, local government, airports and heath care segments. Additionally, you are not alone in struggling to effectively communicate the value of GIS as a technology that can support more effective, efficient work flows and safer, more productive and more effective facilities. Sometimes that communication is with users who need to be convinced that there are better ways of doing things, and other times that communication is with the people and organizations responsible for finding new technology initiatives. In either case, it is clear that you cannot afford any mis-steps when it comes to describing and then implementing demonstrably effective solutions.

    As Greg Davis indicated above, transportation routing is an extremely clear application of GIS technology with demonstrable ROI. Another area that bears consideration is GIS as an integration platform for a variety of other facility management applications. Archibus, Tririga, TMA, School Dude, Maximo, to name only a very few, are all the types of applications that your organizations regularly use to manage space and occupancy, maintenance operations, work orders, assets, etc. The major short coming of this type of application, variously referred to with an alphabet soup of acronyms – CAFM, IWMS, EAM, CMMS – is that their primary interface is tabular and numerical in nature, or, at best, a CAD-like single floor plan/plate at a time. As GIS proponents we all know that one of the primary value propositions of our technology is as a visual medium that supports easy, intuitive, access to and analysis of data, which turns that data into usable information for the people doing the work of managing and maintaining your facilities. And providing this information within the context of the landscape, where our collective business process actually take place, as opposed to that limited single-floor-at-a-time view, or worse yet, via a tabular interface.

    Herein, I believe, lies perhaps the single most powerful argument in favor of including floor plans, assets and attribution, in your GIS. How can a user truly understand things like the distribution of instructional, recreational, and administrative space and resources across a geography as large as a school district by looking at a single floor plan at a time, much less via purely numerical representation of that information? Further, and as was mentioned above, at least obliquely, in the reference to Tomlinson’s thesis that planning is crucial to the success of any GIS implementation, rapid and widespread user adoption is critical to the success of any technology implementation. While the technology questions related to setting up databases, web servers and data security are relatively easily answered, it is only with a complete implementation plan that includes a visual interface that people will want, even like, to use, that an institution can hope to achieve widespread adoption of a solution. GIS-based solutions provide just that interface capability.
    And ultimately ease of use becomes the hook for further, iterative, applicationdevelopment, because as occurs so often with successful technology projects, users quickly start asking for more. If you provide a district or campus mapping application with high level information about buildings, but send users elsewhere for floor plans when they want to find a classroom, lunchroom or a gymnasium in an athletic complex, you will quickly begin getting requests for both types of information in a single application. The same holds true for space and occupancy and asset and maintenance management. If you provide a work order management application that helps crews create, manage and close work orders, but don’t make it any easier for the crews to get to the things that need to be fixed, maintained, replaced, etc., have you made the solution as effective as it can be? Add the map, the floor plan, the asset location, the link to the picture, maintenance manual, parts catalog, and you will truly increase the efficiency of the entire business process, this saving time and saving money.
    The same logic holds true for other areas related to facility management – sustainability, public safety, security, site analytics. Add the GIS mapping and spatial analytic capabilities and your applications come to life for your users.

    So that is my soap box monologue about WHY we want to build solutions around the GIS platform. If anyone is interested I would point out that a white paper entitled “GIS for Facility Management” is available at my company’s web site –

    We have also posted a free downloadable building navigator widget (BNW) that supports intra-building navigation between floors, in the ArcGIS Flex viewer framework. The BNW can be accessed here –

    We are finding that many people are using this as a starting point for thinking about and developing a GIS-based facility management solution.

    Please let me know if you have any questions/comments.



  58. Aaron Aheuvront says:


    I am intrigued by your process for simplifying the architectural features of your floor plans. I am currently running at over 2.5 million entities and it is of course the slowest part of the whole system.

    I am from the CAD side of the world so I don’t even know what the options really are for converting the lines to a multipatch (I think that is the right type) featureclass. Does this maintain the quality of the graphics but just combine them in some way? Anything to make the table smaller/faster would be awesome as long as the quality is not degraded too much.


  59. Scott Sires says:

    Hello Participants. Wow what great content, this online discussion is full of good stuff. I too, with James’ and other student’s work, am continuing to process our own CAD data to convert it all into 3D data: rooms, corridors, elevator shafts, stairwells, doors and all other elements in order to create the data needed (for many purposes). I too want to preserve the CAD quality (accurate dimensions, 90 degree corners, crisp line work, room numbers, etc.) I too need to somewhat simplify the complexities of the CAD data for some of our GIS-enabled functionality while also needing to maintain an additional converted data set that retains all the CAD complexities.

    All of this said, I very much would like to meet as many of you as possible and I do hope you are able to attend the July conference in San Diego. Regardless of whether we all get to San Diego, I want to keep in touch with you and as such want to provide my email address:

    I don’t pretend to know exactly how to do everything you all know how to do, nor do I have your experience but what I do know is of the power of people who connect and then continue to engage; that is something with which I have experience. I do hope to meet you and to keep connected. I think we can help each other.

    You know, I wonder if the SpatialRoundTable knew all along that this would happen??

    Thanks for the great content, for the reflection, for the validation and the inspiration. I will make time at the conference to meet and to talk.

    This is awesome,

  60. Wow! What a rich month’s worth of discussion on the use of GIS in the non-instructional areas of educational institutions. I thank our featured commentators for great insights and also send thank yous to the array of other contributors who have supported a zesty dialogue.

    While this Spatial Roundtable discussion will soon be committed to the archives, it will not cease as an active outlet for sharing and discovering new ideas and best practices. Please continue to share your thoughts and seek others to do likewise. Here’s a shorthand URL you can share with others and bookmark for yourselves–

    I also suggest that you visit, contribute, and “like” the Esri GIS in Education Administration Facebook page, It is in its infancy and needs nurturing and vitality from many voices.

    Via these and other social places we hope to intensify the discussion of the use of GIS in education in mission critical areas such as safety and security, efficient transportation, demographic planning, stakeholder outreach, and cost-savings in the operation of buildings and campuses.

    For now, I’ll leave you with this: A vision that I hope to see us collectively move from ideal to real:

    “Imagine a world where educational institutions and their leaders recognize and harness the power of geography and GIS to best support the learning milieu and, in the process, become more successful in their primary mission: supporting generations of learners.”

    Thank you and keep up the great work, and very importantly, share it with others.

  61. Donna Goldstein says:

    Hi All,

    Just a word about model builder…..this is a fantastic tool for automating processes, especially ones that are repeated. I recently created a model for transportation that extracts only students who live outside of the 2 mile walkzone for the school they actually attend. Since we have over 184,000 students and over 160 schools this would be a time consuming process however, using an iterative process in model builder it takes only an hour or so. Of course the state contributes dollars for the students who are eligible to ride so getting these numbers right really matters in a tight budget.

  62. James Walker says:


    Thanks for posting your LISP code.
    As far as simplifying our drawings, in Garland most of that has been done in CAD. The most important thing was to set up a consistent schema and then get all the parts of the drawing sorted out into the correct layers. Some of the drawings were not very clean to start out with and one of our CAD people put a lot of time into fixing things. One of the issues that we encountered included the fact that many of the CAD drawings had lines that did not quite meet where they intersected.

    For a CAD drawing that is just going to be printed it may not matter if there is a gap of 1/20th of an inch where two walls meet in the corner of a room. But if you convert those same polylines to polygons in GIS that gap can cause your room shape to include the wall void. There are snapping options that will close small gaps as per criteria that the user can set up, but by using snapping you will lose a degree of precision when it comes to the exact area of rooms.

    One problem we never solved with converting the CAD lines to polygons in GIS was that the CAD lines had no definition of inside and outside an area. A few of our campuses have large courtyards that are surrounded by building. When converting CAD lines to GIS polygons these tended to enclose and create another “Room” where one did not exist, the same thing happened with wall voids. The solution we eventually came up with was to draw the polygons as closed polygons in CAD. The Technician who did the work traced the polylines in CAD, and the CAD polygons she created can be imported directly to GIS. The advantage of this is that after converting a drawing from CAD to GIS I no longer have to go through it and manually delete undesired polygons. It is important that the polygon be set to “CLOSED” in CAD if it is not then GIS may read it in as lose lines not a polygon.


  63. Scott Sires says:

    Hello Everyone. A bit of new information for GIS in Education, Beyond Instruction.

    I too just finished studying Model Builder and want to let you all know there is a new book (Getting To Know ArcGIS Model Builder) – not plugging it for Esri but rather because it is a good book. The author is David Allen, GIS Program Advisor and Lead GIS Faculty for Tarrant County College (Ft. Worth). If you are new to Model Builder, as Donna said, it is very cool; anything you can do on the keyboard you can then also capture in a model. Once a process is developed in a model there are lots of options and methods in which the model can be used and enhanced. The book augments the online and desktop 10.0 help files. FYI this is David’s 3rd book, I use all 3 in my program.

    I also wanted to add a nugget of information regarding how to maintain a struggling program. My first thought is that almost all programs struggle, at least at first, because as each program is started it is different from the ‘norm’. But then to be fair many programs are very successful once the root and grow. So, as Steven Hills questioned, how does a program grow from low enrollment? As Randall Raymond suggested the solution often falls in the realm of real-world projects that benefit the immediate community or the school/college. I agree!

    The chief suggestion from me is to use for-credit instruction and students to implement the Esri Campus Basemap Template. Once students have a general idea of GIS, of ArcGIS and of the workflows, expose them to the resource center ( and from there search for ‘Campus Basemap Template’. You can then download the template which includes a collection of materials: a Getting Started instructional document, a geodatabase schema, a sample ArcGIS project (an mxd), and ArcGIS style files.

    The students can then study the example to understand what data is needed in order to implement the template. This leads to data creation from a combination of efforts: field observations, GPS collection, heads up digitizing using imagery, etc.

    Once implemented your school or college will have a “multi-scale campus basemap.” The basemap “is a reference map that shows the locations of features on a campus without highlighting one category of features as being more important than another.” This map design can also be used as the starting point from which a special-purpose campus map can be authored.” (from the Esri template description).

    Empowered with this basemap a GIS program can first simply provide a slick looking, detailed, campus map. Beyond that the program can fairly quickly produce the purpose-specific maps. At Brookhaven we were quickly able to produce a Smoking Area Map coincident with the new semester and the new Smoke-Free campus policy. As soon as we created a single map for our building many other campus folks asked how they too could get their own ‘You are Here’ Smoking Map? Our students were able to produce a map, export it to a simple graphic file and then email said map; all in a matter of a few minutes.

    Then we have had other, more complex, customizations of the basemap but of note is the Campus Exterior Signage map. This is a purpose-specific map to show the signage committee members a status of our work; sign locations, sign type, sign name, images and notes. The best part is that the map is temporarily being served as a live map online. Check out:,3885489.27042795,-10780482.2079289,3886166.45472536 to see the map in ArcGIS Explorer.

    From this map a person can click on a sign icon and see user-determined attributes, images, and notes from the committee members. The map is evolving and will change as we continue to work. The main point is that the basemap helped us create this purpose-specific map in about 3 hours. And we now have a great collaboration tool.

    Please note this map will likely disappear in a couple of weeks thus this discussion, once archived, will have in it a non-functioning link regarding this map.

    Beyond the sign committee working with this map we are also, with this map, demonstrating the power of browser based maps. So, this signage map is proof of the use of GIS on the web and generates interest in online GIS among staff and students too. I expect this map will help further substantiate the program and will also help demonstrate the value of server based maps. This map will no doubt gain additional on campus support regarding the use our server.

    If this sounds like a lot it is only because it is captured here in a single message. It really was not that extreme and the benefit is significant.

    I’ll end here and offer to chat further if anyone is interested.

    Stay in touch,

  64. Scott Sires says:

    One more thing I forgot to add in the message immediately above.

    This message overviews a 3-tiered approach to creating a strong foundation for a GIS program; I meant to wrap up with this comment.

    The message above articulates a 3 element success plan:
    1. Using Student created content derived from credit course work,
    2. Implementing the Campus Basemap Template, and
    3. Applying GIS for Facilities Management/Asset Mapping.


  65. Randall E Raymond says:

    Excellent contribution! Great ending summary! Thanks!


  66. Hello!

    Through our organization’s participation at the recent Coalition for Community Schools conference in San Francisco, I have  become interested in exploring further the use of GIS for place-based data analysis and the production of visual maps that show various community assets and disparities to inform discussions on education in our community.

    I’m wondering if there are GIS professionals currently working in Hawaii (particularly on the island of Oahu) that anyone in this forum would be able to recommend we contact. I appreciate any information!  Amber Richardson.

  67. Amber:

    It’s great to hear of your enthusiasm and interest in GIS in your educational efforts. The most immediate way forward for you is to get in touch with the key contacts in charge of the HI statewide GIS education program,

    They will be able to point you in the direction of key educators and GISers that can help you move your ideas into action.

    Also, consider setting up a free, personal account of ArcGIS Online, You will need to set up a free Esri Global Account. Once in place and you have your personal ArcGIS Online account, you will be able to create your own maps of a variety of cloud-accessible data layers. Likewise, you can discover maps others have made by doing searches, e.g., a search on “demographics” nets many ready-made maps. Opening a map and then zooming to Oahu provides a rapid picture of change, diversity, income…

    Be sure to also explore a couple of hidden treasures in the ArcGIS Online collection–Healthy Kids, Healthy Oakland, a mapping effort by Oakland USD, Susan Radke and others there are creating “opportunity maps” of school district and community assets and characterisitics.

    Enjoy your journey.