Remote Sensing Center Awards Contracts to Develop
First Classes for New College Degree Program
UM, MSU Professors Among Initial Group of Geospatial Technology Fellows
UNIVERSITY, Miss. — The use of remote sensing applications has become one of the country’s fastest growing industries, and workers who can collect, manage and analyze the data are in high demand.
No standardized program exists to train remote sensing professionals, but the University of Mississippi’s Center for Geospatial Workforce Development is working to fill that need. The center has selected its initial group of course creation fellows, and the first nine courses in a planned degree program should be ready by fall 2003.
The curriculum, which will be delivered online to colleges and universities worldwide, represents a new partnership between the best teachers in remote sensing and experts in computer technology, said Dr. Pamela Lawhead, associate professor of computer and information science and director of the center.
"This approach allows the real experts in a particular area to do what they do best without having to worry about learning every new piece of software or new technology to deliver it," Lawhead said. "We’re not pushing books through Internet wires, we’re creating a totally new system for delivering content in an interactive, dynamic, interesting manner."
Remote sensing is the gathering of information about the earth from satellites, aircraft, balloons or even handheld devices. Geospatial information technology incorporates remote sensing, computers, engineering and mathematics. It is useful in the fields of archaeology, business, law, health care, sociology, telecommunications and the environmental sciences.
More than two dozen experts in remote sensing principles and applications — representing universities and private companies from around the world — competed at a June symposium at UM for rights to develop the first group of courses. Judges from NASA, academia and private industry evaluated the proposals and selected winners. The fellows and topics selected were:
Arthur Lembo, Cornell University; Introduction to Geospatial Information Technology
Russ Congalton, University of New Hampshire; Sensors and Platforms
Gouguing Zhou, Old Dominion University; Photogrammetry
Karen Seto and Erica Fleishman, Stanford University; Remote Sensing and the Environment
Lori Bruce, Mississippi State University; Advanced Digital Image Processing
James Campbell, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Aerial Photographic Interpretation
Richard Forster, University of Utah; Information Extraction Using Microwave Data
Khaled Hasan and Greg Easson, University of Mississippi; Information Extraction Using Multi/Hyper/Ultraspectral Data
Lynn Usery, University of Georgia; Geospatial Data Synthesis and Modeling
Each fellow gets an $80,000 contract to write and develop course materials. Computer specialists at the UM center will create simulations, video presentations and interactive sessions to convey the material to students.
Lawhead said the project’s goal is to produce a skilled workforce to lead development of geospatial information technologies, which could boost Mississippi’s economy and fuel the development of new uses for space imagery.
"Even a small college could offer a minor in remote sensing with only one faculty member to oversee the program," she said.
The center will solicit proposals for 10 or 11 new courses in the spring, and Lawhead aims for a full curriculum of 50 classes available online within five years.
The new courses should be more engaging and student-friendly than earlier efforts to deliver educational materials over the Internet, said Michelle Aten, the center’s associate director.
"I’ve taken several online courses at different institutions, and many were very passive," Aten said. "In general, you receive a lot of PowerPoint presentations and assignments that you have to print out and take home to read. This cold and impersonal delivery method makes it very difficult to remain interested in the subject matter."
Incorporating interactive graphics and technologies such as streaming video and virtual reality, the new courses encourage students to become active learners and to collaborate with others to master the materials, she said.
The center was established in 2001 by a five-year contract from NASA, which provides $3 million in operating funds each year.