Badge System Tracks Student Achievement in Online Geospatial Programs at the 2013 National Conference on Geography Education

To Achieve a Badge, American Sentinel University Students Must Complete a Series of Prescribed Activities

Aurora, Colo. – August 1, 2013 – American Sentinel University’s GIS program chair, Stephen McElroy, Ph.D., GISP, will highlight how the university’s badge system is used to document competency-based geospatial learning as part of its new online Geospatial Learning Lab in his presentation ‘Badge System to Document Competency-based Geospatial Learning’ at the 2013 National Conference on Geography Education (NCGE) on August 3, 2013 at the Marriott City Center Denver.

American Sentinel’s Geospatial Learning Lab is an educational strategy designed as part of the university’s online Master of Geospatial Information Systems degree program to provide geospatial information systems (GIS) students with a flexible way to demonstrate content mastery that brings together people, resources and materials in an active community.

As part of the Geospatial Learning Lab, an online badge system was implemented to signify increased competency and track student achievement. “The Geospatial Learning Lab offers students the ability to learn at their own pace, while providing opportunities to measure their success with our badge system,” says Dr. McElroy.

American Sentinel’s badge system includes three levels of badges: basic, intermediate or advanced that students can gain upon demonstration of specific competences in one of ten topic areas: creating and sharing maps, geodatabases and topology, geoprocessing fundamentals, geoprocessing modeling and automation, geospatial data management, image analysis fundamentals, raster data and analysis fundamentals, spatial statistics, surface modeling and terrain analysis, 3D visualization and analysis. Students incorporate their badges into an ePortfolio that documents learning through their studies.

“To achieve a badge, students must complete a series of prescribed activities,” says Dr. McElroy. “Currently, the completion of these activities must be evaluated by a qualified individual, but in the future we plan to develop a more semi-automated mechanism to track, evaluate and issue the badges.”

In addition, the Geospatial Learning Lab provides students with access to additional dynamic online GIS content such as advanced tutorials and case studies, GIS data downloads, exercises and geospatial innovations to further develop a greater mastery of GIS concepts and how they are applied.

“An active learning community is critical to the success of the Geospatial Learning Lab and the GIS program at American Sentinel,” says Dr. McElroy. “Sharing insights and collaborating on projects reflect on the contemporary workplace and promoting an active learning community helps prepare our students for a lifetime of success and will play an important role in the way geospatial technology will be used to solve the challenges of the 21st century.”

He notes that the university has deployed a number of educational technologies such as VoiceThread and Yammer and other interactive, multimedia resources so that all those involved in the learning process can exchange ideas, information, critiques and insights to enhance opportunities for all involved.

“The end result is a virtual environment that goes beyond what an in-person lecture or discussion can provide,” says Dr. McElroy. “The Geospatial Learning Lab also promotes the use of aspects of GIS and geospatial technologies in other university courses so that all our students can utilize the lab to develop geospatial skills related to their specific disciplines.”

Dr. McElroy will profile American Sentinel’s Geospatial Learning Lab and the badge system to document geospatial competency during his presentation at the 2013 National Conference on Geography Education. For more details or to register for the NCGE meeting, go to

Learn more about American Sentinel University’s Master of Geospatial Information Systems degree program at

About American Sentinel University
American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited associate, bachelor’s and master’s online degree programs focused on the needs of high-growth sectors, including information technology, computer science, GIS masters programs, online GIS certificates, computer information systems and business intelligence degrees. The university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), which is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.