To prepare for this new endeavor Verbyla took the iTeach Weekends course offered through the Center for Distance Education. "There were professors from music to justice, all sorts of folks," Verbyla said. "It was a good, diverse group of professors."
He was driven to change the way the course is offered because many who take it are GIS professionals who have to leave their jobs during the time it is offered (Mondays from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.). Also, with this level of GIS it is best to learn a little bit at a time, then try it out. "This will be more hands on," Verbyla predicted.
The course will still be available on campus for face-to-face help with GIS scripting, or students may attend some classes and take others at the YouTube site.
Verbyla, who has been teaching at SNRAS for 20 years, is excited about the flexibility the class will offer his students, but said he chose a graduate level course because lower level offerings need the human touch, and instant help when they stumble. "If there is just a period out of place it can drive students crazy," he said.
"This should serve the students who can't take the course face to face," Verbyla said. "Some of them have had to leave their jobs at Eielson Air Force Base and drive here. This will make it easier for them." There is also great potential for people who live in rural Alaska to take the class.
This particular course is geared for GIS professionals, private consultants, graduate students and undergraduates in the geospatial option of the geography degree. The students learn how to write programs for GIS processing in a more efficient way and scripting tools targeted for the less sophisticated users, allowing the programmer to customize menu-driven things for the user. They use open source (free) Python modules for the first half of the semester, and then use ArcGIS for scripting the second half of the semester. Video sessions can be stored to a memory stick and mailed to any registered students who have a slow internet connection.
The course starts Jan. 28 and has weekly scripting assignments.
"I’m hoping to expand my pool of students beyond the traditional classroom," Verbyla said.