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HxGN RADIOPodcast

The Benefits of Geospatial Technology for Education

BK:  Welcome to HxGN Radio. My name is Brian. Thanks for joining us today. We have senior research engineer, Rama Sivakumar, from Georgia Institute of Technology. We also have Sowmya Selvarajan, associate professor of geomatics from Utah Valley University, with us to discuss the use of geospatial technology in education. Thanks for joining us today. Appreciate it.

RS:  Thank you, Brian.

BK:  Hexagon Geospatial realises the future of business and academic communities are often intertwined. By working together, we can help the world make smarter decisions. We continue to work closely with universities on a global scale on innovation and new technology. So, Rama, first of all, tell us about what courses you teach and which Hexagon Geospatial solutions you use in these courses.

RS:  Thanks, Brian. So, we are a university in which we have geospatial classes offered to the city and regional planning graduate program, and I am part of the research group that’s called Center for Geospatial Analytics and Visualisation. So, we teach all the geospatial-related courses for the college, and specifically, I teach an advanced geospatial technology course. The last couple of years, I’ve been using Hexagon Geospatial solutions, roughly, four to five weeks out of the 16-week course. I use Hexagon Geospatial solutions and I’m including ERDAS IMAGINE and the Smart M.Apps platform. So, I introduce that to my students because we are at the age that cloud computing and deploying solutions on the cloud is becoming ubiquitous, and it is important that the students get a good idea of how these solutions are deployed so the consumers can make the right choices and then use the information that is disseminated properly.

BK:  Mm-hmm.

RS:  And specifically, in the Hexagon suite, the analyser apps, part of the geospatial Smart M.Apps platform, is what we concentrate on—the Incident Analyser, the Area Analyser, the Network Analyser. And we use several sample data sets, small and large, and bring them in and teach the students how to configure these apps, and they deploy them, and so we can create alternative scenarios using these data sets that we have, and they deploy them for consumptionthrough the web.

BK:  Excellent.

RS:  And we also introduce the M.App Studio, the M.App Chest, and the customising console that Smart M.App platform offers. So, I’m in the process of expanding some of these class offerings so we extend the period in which we teach this to maybe a full semester-long class.

BK:  How are the students responding to learning this new technology? Are they enjoying it?

RS:  The student base for these classes come from variety of backgrounds. Some of them are planning backgrounds, some of them have engineering backgrounds, some of them have policy backgrounds. So, their technology background kind of varies. And because these modern cloud-based solutions are so easy to kind of get on board with it, and the Hexagon Smart M.App platform makes it so easy to get on board with it, the learning curve’s not that hard.

BK:  Mm-hmm.

RS:  So, it provides a geospatial background, and how do we bring in these data points, data source, and a lot of the dependent components. It’s relatively easier.

BK:  Good, good.

RS:  That’s what they feel. And some of them have questions: okay, why are you teaching these for us—

BK:  Sure.

RS:  —and what is the relevance on why do we need to learn these?

BK:  Mm-hmm.

RS:  And they, when they go into a work environment, they’re expected to learn these state-of-the-art technologies. What are solutions out there, and what are the merits and different options there are for them to take their agency’s geospatial assets … and how do you apply it, so they could be better for it? And the market place would value the extra credential that they bring in. And so, we want to make sure that we introduce these when they’re at school.

BK:  Mm-hmm. Well, that’s great. Thank you. Appreciate that. Sowmya, how about you? What courses do you teach, and which, also, geospatial technologies are you using?

SS:  Thanks, Brian. I teach the undergraduate teaching part within the geomatics, which is traditionally known as surveying and mapping.

BK:  Mm-hmm.

SS:  So, our students need to take away some curriculum objectives. So, the courses I teach include remote sensing; photogrammetry; geodesy; various vector-based-analysis courses like GIS, GNSS courses; and I’m the advisor for the undergraduate capstone classes. The type of solutions we use from Hexagon … I’ve been primarily using the ERDAS IMAGINE heavily in my remote sensing on teaching these concepts for the students. And sometimes we also try to use the ER Mapper as a vector-based tool. So. that’s what has been working at Utah Valley.

BK:  Good, good. And then students—what’s the response for them, too?

SS:  So, the students love the demonstration part.

BK:  Mm-hmm.

SS:  Of course, anytime you try to teach theory, if you do not have a hands-on part with —

BK:  Mm-hmm.

SS:  —the knowledge doesn’t get transferred. So, the theory has—

BK:  Very true.

SS:  —still be the same, but the technology has advanced so fast within these past few years. So, they really enjoy how to apply these theories as concepts and hands-on training, using the ERDAS IMAGINE or the various geospatial tools from Hexagon. And they better relay the knowledge once they do these hands-on activities. So, it’s been working great, and they really enjoy all the courses.

BK:  Good, good. Well, I appreciate that, too, because, you know, we’ve all been students at some time, and I can say the same thing … that if there’s no application, you don’t learn it.

SS:  Exactly.

BK:  So, I really appreciate that. That’s great. Rama, I was going to ask what your goals are for your courses and what you would like your students to walk away with after they’re done with these.

RS:  So, the primary objective that I feel is students need to kind of have a holistic view of what are the trends in the industry and where is it going, and they need to have a little bit of focus on what’s going out, what’s in … and see what the existing solutions are in the geospatial arena, and what products are available, and how do you take advantage of those features that it offers. And you need a similar tactic in an academic setting, so you need to work with data sets, and how do you put the data sets together, and what works, what doesn’t work, and what are the best ways to represent the data and how to visualise it. So, there are several things that they need to learn, because as geospatial professionals, you want to bring the best out of the data. So, we are now, in a sense, getting so much data, big data as we call it … how do you synthesise that? How do you get value out of it? How do you get value just in time? So, all these are critical things that we need to kind of educate our students to just think about it and then you find the solution. And in our case, you know, we’re talking about Hexagon Geospatial solution. There are some right tools, you know, that fit in this very nicely. You know, maybe you’re working on ERDAS IMAGINE, you know, an NDVI class application, or maybe a supervised classification application. Maybe you have a customised spatial recipe that you have that you have it on the desktop … but how do you take that and spin it off and put it on a Smart M.Apps application, so the end users can interact with it and then create their own customised solution for it? So, these are things that they need to learn.

BK:  Mm-hmm.

RS:  And the outcome is that students need to be better prepared when they go into a marketplace, and then they can market their skills and use this as what’s coming up on the pipeline – because they are going to be decision-makers at some point.

BK:  Sure.

RS:  And they have to be able to make the right call on what to use. When you are cutting a check for solutions, you need to make sure that you’re finding the right tool that works for you for your agency’s needs.

BK:  Mm-hmm.

RS:  And as far as the courses are concerned, I’m looking at what is in the pipeline from Hexagon Geospatial. There are some interesting things that are coming on board, and I want to integrate the ERDAS APOLLO platform and the connection between GeoMedia and the Smart M.App platform on the server side. The enterprise architecture is what I’m interested in. I want to redesign, maybe include some other content from that into the courses. The Hexagon’s Geospatial community and the Hexagon university curriculum—

BK:  Mm-hmm.

RS:  — There’s content there that students can really go work through several different tutorials and examples and trying to bring that also into the curriculum. So, the Hexagon’s Geospatial user community – encouraging students to be part of it – , post questions, get answers out of it, and share your knowledge, learn from others. So, those are some of the things that I’m trying to encourage our student base to expand on

BK:  Sure, sure.

RS:  Yep.

BK:  Good. So, it’s very interactive, lots of feedback. You’re setting them up for a successful future for themselves but also for the companies they’ll be a part of—

RS:  Definitely, because the more tools and technology that they learn, they are better at it, so they are better for it.

BK:  Absolutely.

RS:  So that’s exactly what we’re tryingto provide..

BK:  Good. All right. Well, Sowmya, one more question. What are some of the benefits of utilising the Hexagon Geospatial technologies in your courses, and how does it demonstrate geospatial concepts, for example?

SS:  So, the way I use the Hexagon Geospatial technologies, they are very easy to use in the classrooms – especially to explain something or to demonstrate a concept. So, the way I’ve been doing it for the past couple of years is I take the first hour to introduce the concepts, the theory, and then we move right into the second hour, where I have hands-on lab activities designed for the students … more like worksheets. We’re jumping right into the tutorial, so whatever they picked up as concepts or theory, they’re directly applying, which is really, really important for them to see how it applies on a data set, especially on a local data set. For example, how to manage the various raster data sets, or how to do spatial, spectral, or any type of analyses that we’re looking at, given the fact that every similar analysis looks so similar, but they’re actually very different in terms of the science behind it. So, they’re able to apply, they’re able to see the outputs, see what changes have been happening at a pixel level or at a very regional level, and different types of classifications, which gets boring when you just go through theory. But once they start applying it, they’re able to see, “Oh, this is exactly what happens in this classification; this is better for it.” And most of my students start working as interns at local city offices, engineering firms, or serving firms, and they go in, they start talking about these solutions that we’ve learned or the tools that we’ve been addressing, and the employers like them. They’re like, “Oh, that’s the latest, and you know exactly how to do it.” So, again, they are more marketable.

BK:  Mm-hmm.

SS:  They feel confident about the newer technologies that have been taught at the education level, at a university level – not just, you know – go out and learn by yourself. So, they enjoy that part.

BK:  Good.

SS:  So, I always feel, coming back to the same thing, that they are better able to relate to all the geospatial knowledge and some of the solutions that Hexagon Geospatial has to offer.

BK:  Fantastic. That’s great. And it’s good to hear that that’s happening, and, like you said, very, very helpful for them. So.

SS:  Yep.

BK:   Great. Well, thank you for sharing that, both.

SS:  Thanks, Brian.

BK:  I really, really appreciate what you’re doing and glad you’re getting out there and impacting people in the right way. So, thank you for being on the show today, too.

SS:  Thank you.

RS:  Thanks, Brian.

BK:  More information, too, you can go to hexagongeospatial.com/industries/education to see what’s going on and do check it out. And once again thank you so much for listening. You can go to hxgnspotlight.com to listen to additional episodes. Have a wonderful day.

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