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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 3 provides an introduction to the major categories, real-world applications, and potential benefits of spatial analysis.


Through completing this module, you will:

  1. Describe the major categories of spatial analysis and an example application for each
  2. Summarize the key components of a spatial problem solving approach
  3. Apply one or more spatial analysis techniques in the context of a real-world problem using ArcGIS Online


1. Watch Episode 4 of the Geospatial Revolution to learn about real-world examples of spatial analysis in action (English CC available; est. 18 min.).



2. Read chapter 5 of The ArcGIS Book: 10 Big Ideas about Applying The Science of Where (2nd ed.) to learn more about how spatial analysis techniques are used and how to employ a spatial approach to problem solving. Note: You do not need to complete the QuickStart and Learn ArcGIS Lesson sections of chapter 5.



Based on your interests and the potential relevance of these methods for your own work, choose one of the following tutorials to gain some hands-on experience applying spatial analysis techniques to solve real-world problems using ArcGIS Online. In each tutorial, you'll ask a geographic question, make maps to visually explore the data, and perform spatial analysis to generate and interpret results. 


Note: In ArcGIS Online, you may occasionally run into issues where an analysis tool will fail on the first try. If this occurs when you are working through one of the tutorials below, try to rerun the analysis tool, and it will generally succeed after a few attempts.


  • Evaluate Locations for Mixed-Use Development (est. 60 min.)  
    • Young adults in Gresham, Oregon, need affordable housing. Your job, as a real-estate analyst, is to identify suitable locations in this Portland suburb so your company can build apartments allowing this generation to shop, live, and commute. In this lesson, you'll research suitably zoned areas, populated with young adults, near light-rail stops. You'll then share your newly discovered and proprietary knowledge with your company.


  • Where Does Healthcare Cost the Most? (est. 60 min.)
    • In 2016, America's $679 billion Medicare expenditures provided health insurance coverage for 56.8 million beneficiaries. According to a 2017 Medicare Trustees Report, the program remains solvent through 2029. But after that, the effects of a rapidly aging population are expected to consume program income. In this lesson, you'll explore Medicare's costs by creating a national heat map reflecting regions experiencing high and low costs. Identifying areas of high cost is the first step in understanding and containing the factors threatening the program's longevity.


  • Plan Routes for Food Inspectors (est. 60 min.)
    • San Diego County includes 4,300 squares miles of Southern California. It also has 12,000 food establishments - and you, as a supervisor for the county's retail food monitoring and compliance program, have just four inspectors. In this lesson, you'll map the unannounced inspections of your food detectives in ways that spreads their stops geographically while keeping them in restaurants more and on roads less.


  • Connect Streams for Salmon Migration (est. 90 min.)
    • Atlantic salmon populations are dwindling. This concerns Canada because Atlantic salmon are the country's top aquaculture export. In the coastal province of Nova Scotia, dams prevent these fish from reaching the freshwater they need for spawning. To address this issue, officials are considering retrofitting dams in the Mersey River Watershed with artificial waterways so Atlantic salmon can swim upstream and access fresh water. In this lesson, as a GIS technician, you'll identify the best locations for constructing these aquatic bypasses.

Brainstorming Questions

Think about the following questions before moving on to Module 4. 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, how might you (re)frame your question to emphasize the importance of adopting a spatial problem solving approach? Based on your research question and goals, what types of spatial analysis could be the most appropriate?
  2. If you are an instructor, what are some topics you already cover in class that could benefit from a spatial problem solving approach? How might you highlight these connections for your students, and how could this be integrated into the learning objectives and activities in your course?

Additional Resources

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