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Research Guides

Maps & Geographic Data: Learn GIS

GIS Software


  • PC only commercial software
  • Available on all PCs on campus (classrooms, labs, libraries)
  • Available for installation on student computers - click here for installers
  • Can be used off campus via VPN or by checking out a license
  • 'Industry Standard'


  • Open Source - download here
  • Works on Macs, PCs and Linux
  • Good alternative to ArcGIS
  • Not yet available on lab/library/classroom computers

More Open Source Options

  • Find a complete list here

Learn GIS @ Wellesley


Introductory GIS workshops offered in Clapp Library every semester!

Credit Courses

  • ANTH 229 - GIS & Spatial Reasoning for Social Analysis
  • ES 289 - Environmental Mapping & Analysis 
  • GEOS 230 - Earth From Above
  • ES 101 - Intro to Environmental Studies (GIS is briefly introduced)

MIT also offers several courses, including advanced topics

  • 11.188 Urban Planning and Social Science Lab
  • 11.205 Intro to Spatial Analysis
  • 11.520 A Workshop on GIS
  • 11.521 Spatial Database Management & Advanced GIS
  • 11.533 Ecological Planning with GIS

GIS Tutorials & Workbooks @ Wellesley

Data for tutorials and workbooks are located on the NTM server. Read the instructions in each tutorial for more information.

Ideas for Learning More about GIS

For GIS Newbies

  1. Learn What is GIS?
  2. Watch the Geospatial Revolution videos
  3. Take the free online course Getting Started with GIS
  4. Check out Wellesley's introductory workbooks for GIS (see below in left column)
  5. Attend a workshop or take a course (see left)
  6. Check out the GeoPivot blog for stories, advice, and more
  7. Read this excellent explanation of how to choose a coordinate system.

For Experienced GISers

  1. Attend a GIS conference (NEARC, NEURISA, Ignite Spatial events)
  2. Practice and enhance your skills with ArcGIS 10 Tutorials (including editing)
  3. Move beyond ArcToobox and learn to write Python scripts (ArcGIS seminar + Lynda's 'Python 3 Essential' training
  4. Learn how you can Increase Productivity with ArcGIS 10
  5. Check out open source GIS software, such as QGIS.

ArcGIS Tutorials & Training

Online Training by ESRI

ESRI offers quite a bit of free training through online seminars on a wide variety of topics. Some of the seminars are quite broad (e.g., Getting Started with GIS), while others are more focused (e.g., Working with Geodatabase Topology).  For introductory seminars, try the Using ArcMap in ArcGIS 10 web course and Getting Started with ArcGIS (for ArcGIS 10) web course. When browsing course offerings, keep in mind that Wellesley has an ArcView license. In order to ‘attend’ any of the online seminars, you will need to create a free ESRI global account. ESRI’s website also includes user forums, Help pages, technical pages, and user-written scripts.

ESRI also offers a MOOC (massive open online course), Going Places with Spatial Analysis. More information can be found here:

ArcGIS Tutorials by ESRI

ESRI has written tutorials about getting started in ArcGIS and each of its extensions. To access the tutorials, go to the Help menu in ArcGIS and select ArcGIS Desktop Help. In the help window, go to Essentials Library |  Getting Started with ArcGIS | Tutorials. The tutorials are also available on ESRI’s website. Wellesley has a license for 3D Analyst, Spatial Analyst, and Geostatistical Analyst. Other useful tutorials include Editing, ModelBuilder (Executing Tools), Geodatabases, and Rasters & Images. Tutorials are also available online.

Designing Maps

Open Source QGIS Tutorials & Training

In addition to ESRI's ArcGIS, there are many other GIS software programs, including free and open source programs such as QGIS.

QGIS wiki 

QGIS tutorial from Harvard CGA - very good intro tutorial to the software 

QGIS Training Manual - online 5 day course on QGIS, PostgreSQL and PostGIS, including exercises

QGIS Academy - series of 5 online courses covering core GIS concepts; $25/course

QGIS tutorials (very short with specific topics)

QGIS chat room - great place to go for quick advice (info here about getting connected)