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Research Commons

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ArcGIS Online Challenge (learning path)

Explore potential uses of ArcGIS Online in your research and teaching at Ohio State

Learning Objectives

Module 1 provides an introduction to GIS (geographic information systems) as an enabling technology and web maps as a medium for communicating geographic information.


Through completing this module, you will:

  1. Identify potential uses and benefits of GIS generally and Web GIS specifically
  2. Describe the functions of layers, web maps, and apps, and the relationship between them in ArcGIS Online
  3. Create a web map and app using the ArcGIS Online map viewer


1. Watch Joseph Kerski, geographer and Esri education manager, discuss the "whys of where" in this engaging TEDx Talk (English CC available; est. 10 min.).



2. Read chapter 1 of The ArcGIS Book: 10 Big Ideas about Applying The Science of Where (2nd ed.) to learn more about what Web GIS is, how it works, and how items are related to one another in ArcGIS Online. Note: You do not need to complete the QuickStart and Learn ArcGIS Lesson sections of chapter 1.



1. As an Ohio State affiliate, you are eligible to create an ArcGIS Online organizational account, which is required for completing the various activities included throughout this learning path. Your ArcGIS Online organizational account can be accessed using your OSU name.# and password, and the account is created for you the first time you sign in. To create your ArcGIS Online organizational account (or sign in if you already have one), follow the steps in the document linked below (est. < 5 min.).



2. Using your new ArcGIS Online organizational account, complete the Learn ArcGIS lesson titled "Get Started with Map Viewer." In this lesson, you will make a web map by adding layers in a few different ways, configure pop-ups, and create and publish a user-friendly app.


Note: You may be asked if you want to open the exercise in Map Viewer Beta, and if so, you can decline.


  • Get Started with Map Viewer (est. 90 min.)
    • Map Viewer is a way for you to create and interact with online maps. You'll create a map that shows Hawaii's volcanoes, volcano shelters, and volcano hazard zones. By organizing data and changing its appearance, you'll present this information in a legible and understandable way. Then, you'll share your map as a professional-looking web app so other users can explore it.

Brainstorming Questions

Think about the following questions before moving on to Module 2. Consider keeping brief notes of your answers, which you might find helpful when developing your project or assignment outline in Module 5.


  1. In the context of your own research or teaching, what value could geospatial data, methods, or tools add for addressing your topic? In other words, why does geography matter?
  2. Could a web map be an appropriate format for conveying information about your topic? What would be the purpose of the web map, and who would be your audience?

Thinking Ahead

For the final activity of the ArcGIS Online Challenge (in Module 5), we ask you to choose one of the documents linked below to brainstorm how you might transfer what you learned through these modules to your own research or teaching. You will notice that the brainstorming questions in each module generally align with the subsections of these documents. So if you'd like to work through one of these documents as you complete each of the modules rather than waiting to fill in your responses when you reach Module 5, please feel free to do that.


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