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By Dr. David Unwin

Aim of Course:

For centuries, geographers have laboured to discover and document our planet. Along the way they have used a variety of analytical techniques and drawn a variety of different types of map, but, by and large, this work has been conducted in isolation, without significant impact on the worlds of other sciences, commerce and industry.

The world discovers "geography": With the development of computer-based tools called geographic information systems (GIS) and, just as important, the "firehoses" of data that have some spatial reference attached to them, all this has changed.

GIS are now big business, used in many walks of life. A recent estimate puts the number of serious GIS users, world wide, at around 4m, with a direct business value of around $2000m. It is one thing to run a GIS, but quite another to use it analytically to help answer questions such as:

  • Is there an unusual cluster of crimes/cases of a disease here that we need to worry about?
  • Do these data show variation across the country that I need to know about?
  • What is the air temperature here most likely to be?

Assuming knowledge of basic statistical analysis, this course introduces the directly spatial analytical methods that practitioners need to make best use of both their spatial data and their GIS.

Who Should Take This Course:

Analysts and researchers who need to know more about automated machine learning methods for generating association and decision rules: data miners, consultants, ecommerce analysts, market researchers, direct marketers, diagnosticians, more.

For those enrolled in Professional Advancement Programs, this is a required or elective course in the following Programs:

  • Biostatistics (epidemiology) - elective
  • Statistics for Environmental Science - elective

Course Program:

The course is structured as follows

SESSION 1: Is 'spatial' 'special'?
  • The roles of statistics in GIS
  • Why statistical analysis with spatial data is difficult
  • Some basic spatial concepts
  • Types of spatial data: 'objects' and 'fields'
  • Geometric manipulations in a GIS
  • Introduction to visualization & mapping

Exercises: Uploading and using GeoDa, looking at some maps and map types, working with geographical data.

SESSION 2: Dots on the map

  • The 'dot' map and 'hot spots'
  • Kernel density estimation
  • Maps as realisations of a spatial process
  • First and second order effects
    • Measures Based on Density
    • Methods Based on Distances
  • CSR: The Poisson Approximation and Its Derivation
  • Testing point patterns
  • Processes that Generate Point Patterns and Dependence in Space
  • Some practical issues

Exercises: analysing a point pattern.

SESSION 3: Analysing 'lattice' data

  • Why we have to handle area data
  • The modifiable areal unit problem
  • The ecological fallacy
  • Scale and pattern
  • Spatial autocorrelation
    • Joins count
    • Moran's I
    • Geary's C
    • LISA statistics: I, G and G*
  • Regression with spatial data
  • Geographically weighted regression
  • Modeling spatial patterns

Exercises: demonstrating MAU, measuring spatial autocorrelation.

SESSION 4: Analysing continuous field data

  • Fields and their properties
  • Threading 'iso-lines' through data
  • Automated approaches:
  • Mathematical (splines and multi-quadrics)
  • Inverse distance weighting
  • Regression in spatial co-ordinates: trend surfaces
  • Geostatistical interpolation
    • The semi-variogram
    • Models of spatial variation
    • Using the model to isolines the field: kriging
    • Variations on a theme
  • Round up: towards the future?

Exercises: Isoling by hand, then by machine and evaluating the results.

The Instructor:

Until his retirement in 2002, David Unwin was Professor of Geography at Birkbeck College, University of London where he retains an Emeritus Chair in the subject. He is also a Visiting Professor in the Department of Geomatic Engineering at University College, also in the University of London. His work using and developing spatial statistics in research stretches back some 40 years, and he has authored over a hundred academic papers in the field, together with a series of texts, of which the most recent are his Geographic Information Analysis' (with D O'Sullivan, 2003) and a series of edited collections at the interface between geography and computer science on Visualization in GIS (Hearnshaw and Unwin, 1994), Spatial Analytical Perspectives on GIS (Fischer, Scholten and Unwin, 1996) Virtual Reality in Geography (Fisher and Unwin, 2002) and, most recently representation issues in Re-presenting GIS (Fisher and Unwin, 2005). Having developed the world's first wholly internet-delivered Master's program in GIS in 1998, David Unwin has considerable experience of teaching and tutoring online.

Organization of the Course:

The course takes place over the internet, at During each course week, you participate at times of your own choosing - there are no set times when you must be online. Course participants will be given access to a private discussion board. In class discussions led by the instructor, you can post questions, seek clarification, and interact with your fellow students and the instructor. The course is scheduled to take place over 4 weeks, and typically requires 10-15 hours per week. At the beginning of each week, you receive the relevant material, in addition to answers to exercises from the previous session. During the week, you are expected to go over the course materials and work through exercises. Discussion among participants is encouraged. The instructor will provide answers and comments.

Certificates and Grades:

You may be interested only in learning the material presented, and not be concerned with grades or certificates. Or you may be enrolled in a Professional Advancement Program that requires demonstration of proficiency in the subject, in which case your work will be assessed for purposes of issuing a grade. Or you may require only a "Certificate of Course Completion," along with professional development credit in the form of Continuing Education Units (CEU's). As you begin the class, you will be asked to specify your category.


This course offers continuing education units (CEU's). For those successfully completing the course (generally this means marks of 50% or better on the homework), 5.0 CEU's and a certificate will be issued by, upon request.


Mar. 7 - Apr. 4, 2008
Click here to be notified of future course offerings.

Participants gain access to the online materials on the first day of the course, and typically spend about 10-15 hours per week (at their convenience). You retain full access to course materials, including discussion board, for two weeks after the course closing date.




The equivalent of Introduction to Statistics I: Inference for a Single Variable, and Introduction to Statistics II: Working with Bivariate Data (and, if necessary before these courses, Introduction to Statistics for Beginners or Survey of Statistics for Beginners). You should also be familiar with standard matrix/vector notation and operations. Access to a full GIS, such as ArcGIS will be assumed, with additional software being obtained as free- and share-ware over the internet.

Course Text:

O'Sullivan, D. and Unwin, D. J. (2003) Geographic Information Analysis (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hoboken, NY, 436 pages). This text can be purchased directly from Wiley by clicking here. Wiley typically offers a 15% discount during checkout time for purchasers who use the previous link.


Participants in the course should have access to and familiarity with basic Excel functions. Several public domain GIS programs will also be used for illustrations: Crimestat, GeoDa, and Landserf. For information on obtaining Crimestat, GeoDa, and Landserf, click here. Participants who have access to commercial GIS programs may gain insight into the use of these programs from the course, but the course does not require them, nor does it provide training in how to use them.


Register Online - $449
Register Online (academic) - $349 (you must be affiliated with a college, university or high school)

Add $50 service fee if you require a prior invoice, or if you need to submit a purchase order or voucher, pay by wire transfer or EFT, or refund and reprocess a prior payment. Please use this printed registration form, for these and other special orders.

Note: Courses may fill up at any time and registrations are processed in the order in which they are received. Your registration will be confirmed for the first available course date, unless you specify otherwise.


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Tags: GIS, spatial, statistics, training


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