Emily Baxter (The Pennsylvania State University)
Penn State defines engagement as, “…the scholarship of teaching, research, and creative accomplishment, as well as service that involves citizens and the University working in partnership to create and apply knowledge that addresses pressing societal issues and strengthens civic responsibility and democracy through mutually beneficial relationships. In the broadest sense, engaged scholarship is out-of-classroom experiences that complement classroom learning.” (Engaged Scholarship – Penn State Outreach and Online Education. (2013, July 15). Retrieved March 18, 2015, from http://www.outreach.psu.edu/engaged-scholarship/)
This presentation will document the results of an engaged scholarship experience that was a part of the Penn State University online course, “Geographic Information Systems for Transportation (GIS-T): Principles, Data and Applications”. This project was conducted with the support of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Susquehanna Economic Development Association-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG – a regional Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) that covers a portion of central Pennsylvania). It was designed with the following learning objectives in mind:
1. Students will apply their knowledge of GIS-T principles, data, and applications to a set of real-world GIS-T projects.
2. Students will utilize GIS-T to address several practical, real-world needs and aspects of inter-agency operations at state and regional levels.
3. Students will procure, manipulate, and analyze various data sources using GIS-T tools.
4. Students will work collaboratively from a distance to integrate hands-on GIS analysis and produce and summarize results, and compile a written review of the project and recommendations for continuing work.
A particular challenge of this engaged scholarship project was the fact that the course was online and students were spread out across the country. There were several tools that were utilized to maintain the flow of information and effectively support collaboration from a distance. In particular, participants were able to utilize Yammer, an enterprise social networking tool; online meeting platforms such as Adobe Connect and Zoom; as well as various file and GIS sharing protocols and tools.
The project was a mutually beneficial experience for the students and coordinating agencies. The students were able to obtain real-world experience using GIS-T principles, data, and applications. These valuable experiences added real rigor to their course experience, and helped prepare students for future work experience, while the coordinating agencies found it very valuable to have important analyses and projects completed by students.