Sophisticated new software tool at TWU may help city planners and local businesses

Langley, British Columbia—Trinity Western University has acquired a leading technological tool in geography called Geographical Information Systems (GIS). And according to David Jordan, TWU’s sessional instructor in geography, the tool will help more than Trinity Western’s Department of Geography. Its benefits will extend into the local community.

“It’s something that will help geographers, economists, environmentalists, biologists, statisticians, business persons, and city planners,” says Jordan. “It can benefit just about any area you can think of."

According to Jordan, for example, a person who wants to open a business can enter data on populations of people and locations of similar businesses on the computerized mapping system. At a glance, the person can then see where highly populated areas with few similar businesses lie in order to determine which location is most profitable to start his or her business. The same can apply for those looking to track trends in markets, immigration, environmental conservation and a variety of other areas of research.

“It connects a geographic space with information about that space,” says Jordan. “Old maps are static. We can look at an old map, but can’t ask it any questions about the area that we are looking at. With GIS we can ask those questions.”

The computer software tool serves as an advanced system for managing information. Instead of entering data into a table, the operator attaches specific data to locations or coordinates on a map, which allows the operator to see and interact with the data as it relates to various areas of geographic space.

“The tool is very industry relevant, ” says Jordan. “GIS encourages students to become active learners and gives them hands-on experience. They learn how to manage data and how to communicate graphically, and can take the skills they have learned out into the workplace.”

GIS technology, which originated from data analysis departments in forestry, minerals and mining, enables users to view information from various angles and dimensions to gain a better understanding of the data. Used by researchers for the United Nations, the mapping system brings statistics to life, giving visual and spatial meaning to information.

“It is changing the way that we look at the world,” says Jordan, who sees the benefits of the technology reaching beyond his students. As TWU’s Department of Geography and School of Business work together, Jordan states that students may use the technology to help businesses in the community carry out market research.

“Many people in the corporate community know something about GIS technology, but don’t know what it can do for them,” says Jordan. “If we can offer the community a basic introduction to the technology, who knows where businesses will be able to go?”

Jordan states that incorporating GIS technology with community projects may even be possible in the field of city planning.

“Cherie Enns, who teaches our planning course, is a registered city planner in B.C., and has a lot of opportunities to interact with provincial city planners,” says Jordan. “Anywhere you are collecting data, GIS can be used. We want to facilitate learning about the GIS technology and hope to offer weekend workshops for campus colleagues and the community to demonstrate potential applications of the technology.”

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a privately funded Christian liberal arts university enrolling 2,850 students this year. With a broad-based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 34 major areas ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 12 graduate degrees including counselling psychology, theology and administrative leadership.

Last Updated: 2012-08-21
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