Research Commons

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Author: Josh Sadvari (Geospatial Information Librarian, University Libraries) (page 2 of 9)

Accessing ArcGIS at Home for Teaching, Learning, and Research

As students return to classes and adjust to the transition to virtual learning, many may have questions about how to access software necessary to complete assignments or continue their research. In my role as Geospatial Information Librarian, I often work with students, staff, and faculty utilizing the ArcGIS suite of products to make maps and carry out spatial analysis for research and education purposes. In this post, I will highlight several options for those individuals to access ArcGIS from home so that they may try to continue those efforts.

How can I access ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Pro?

Under our Esri educational site license, Ohio State affiliates are able to download and install ArcGIS Desktop and/or ArcGIS Pro on their personal Windows devices for research and education. The Center for Urban and Regional Analysis (CURA) has done a great job of creating documentation for OSU affiliates interested in downloading one or both of these products. In particular, see the “Get Started” documentation for step-by-step instructions for downloading and installing these programs on your own device. If you’re unsure if your device will be able to support use of these programs, you can review the system requirements for ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Pro on the Esri website.

What if I don’t have Windows?

For Mac users, Esri has created these recommendations for running ArcGIS Pro within a Windows environment using Boot Camp or Parallels. Another option would be to download and install QGIS, which is a well-established, free and open source desktop GIS that runs natively on Windows, Mac, and Linux devices. For the vast majority of desktop GIS use cases, QGIS is a strong alternative to ArcGIS, and new users can get up to speed by completing relevant lessons in the QGIS Training Manual.

Is there a web-based option?

Yes, another cross-platform solution that does not require any software installation would be to use ArcGIS Online. Ohio State affiliates are able to sign up for a free account to access OSU’s ArcGIS Online organization, and the documentation from CURA provides step-by-step instructions. While not as robust as any of the desktop GIS options discussed above in terms of analytical capabilities, ArcGIS Online is the industry leader when it comes to web-based GIS. ArcGIS Online is a very solid option for users looking to create interactive maps (2D) and scenes (3D) and perform some of the more common spatial analysis tasks, or who may be using a tablet as their primary device.

Who should I contact if I need help?

If you have questions or experience any issues when downloading and installing ArcGIS Desktop or ArcGIS Pro or when accessing ArcGIS Online, email the OSU Esri Support team at If you have any other GIS and mapping related questions, including how to carry out specific tasks in any of the GIS programs discussed above, please feel free to contact me at Like many others in the university community and beyond, I’m going to be working from home, but I’ll still be available for virtual consultations to support your work.

For those interested in resources for troubleshooting and self-paced training, I highly recommend bookmarking the ArcGIS documentation website and checking out the free lessons available in the Learn ArcGIS gallery.

What if I don’t have a device?

The options discussed above all assume that you will have access to a personal device appropriate for using a desktop or web-based GIS (and reliable internet access), which I know will not be the case for all of our affiliates and students. If you are a student concerned about not having access to the technology needed for completing your course assignments, the best person for you to speak with is your instructor so you can see what options might be available.

If you have a device, but not one capable of supporting the system requirements of a desktop GIS, please contact with a brief description of the software you need and what you will be using it for (course assignments, research, etc.). While we are currently unsure if it would be possible, our team is evaluating what options might exist for us to provide remote access to some of the more intensive and heavily-utilized software programs that we would otherwise offer in the Research Commons computer lab. As part of the evaluation, it is important for us to know what kind of demands and use cases would exist for this kind of support.

Love Data Week: Telling Stories with Maps

As Sharon mentioned in her post yesterday, this year’s theme for Love Data Week is Data Stories. One of the topics under that theme is Telling Stories With Data, and there are a whole bunch of apps for that if your goal is to tell stories around geographic data. Esri’s Story Map app templates provide a user-friendly way to combine maps with text, images, and other multimedia content to “harness the power of maps and geography to tell your story.” There’s also a huge gallery of Story Maps submitted by the Esri team and the wider user community that you can explore to see what kinds of stories are being told and find some inspiration for using such a platform to tell your own. I’ll share a few examples below so you can get a better idea of the look and feel of some different Story Map apps.

Prior to joining the OSU Libraries, I was a graduate student studying anthropology, and I remember a Smithsonian Magazine link coming across my desk that included a Story Map (Journal) called Welcome to the Anthropocene. One of the nice things about this example is that it highlights your ability to embed a Story Map in a webpage in addition to being able to share them as standalone apps. Another effective Story Map (Map Series – Tabbed) that I’ve encountered was created by the Esri Story Maps Team following the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and made use of a variety of data sources to tell the story of the social and physical changes that took place in New Orleans following that disaster as well as the ongoing recovery.

In addition to these more research-oriented examples, there are good instances of Story Maps being used by government and non-profit organizations to disseminate information more broadly to their communities and the general public. Here’s a good local example of a Story Map (Shortlist) from the City of Westerville that provides updates on the status of development projects and street/sidewalk maintenance programs. I hope that from these few examples, you will have gotten an idea of the potential for using Story Map apps to tell stories with geographic data in an interactive platform that allows for engaging with a wide audience.

Go Westerville Story Map Screenshot

If you are interested in creating your own Story Maps (or web mapping apps with one of the many other configurable templates available), the first step is to get signed up for an ArcGIS Online account using your OSU username and password. The next step is to start doing some hands-on exploring of the various app templates to think about which one might be the best for the story you are trying to tell with your data, and if you have any questions along the way send me an email or schedule a consultation for some assistance.

In tomorrow’s post, you’ll hear more about Data Stories from Lee-Arng Chang, our Data Visualization Specialist so I’ll leave you with one last example that I recently shared with him. The Insights for ArcGIS team recently put together a Story Map (Cascade) called Selecting the Right Data Visualization that highlights the functionality of this template for creating a visually appealing website (even without much of a focus on geographic data in this case).

GIS Day 2017 A Success!

Last Wednesday, we hosted GIS Day, an annual worldwide celebration of the power of geospatial data, analysis, and visualization for problem-solving across a broad spectrum of research domains. This is a really enjoyable event (one of my favorites that we host in the Research Commons), and I’m always impressed by the great work that is being done across campus and the wider community of Central Ohio.

This year’s event consisted of a couple of hands-on workshops covering the very basics of ArcGIS Online, a series of lightning talks over lunch showcasing the multidisciplinary applications of GIS (see here for a full list of presentation topics and speaker affiliations), and an exhibits fair highlighting various Libraries’ map collections and GIS resources across campus.

Thanks to all those who attended, presented, or participated in the exhibits fair, and a special thanks to the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis and OSU’s Enterprise GIS for co-sponsoring the event.

If you’re like me and just can’t get enough GIS, then don’t miss our last GIS workshop of the fall semester:

Web Mapping Basics with ArcGIS Online (Nov. 29, 4pm) – RSVP here.

Apply Now for Ohio Geography/Engineering Scholarship

Applications are currently being accepted for the Cliff Lovin Scholarship, awarded annually to a geography or engineering student attending college in Ohio. Woolpert generously established this scholarship to support the geospatial industry by helping students to further their education in the field.

Undergraduate students majoring in geography or engineering and currently enrolled at an Ohio university are eligible to apply for this award. Applications and an official transcript are due by September 1, 2017, and the recipient will be announced during the 2017 Ohio GIS Conference taking place September 25-27 in Columbus, Ohio. For additional information about the scholarship or to download an application form, please see the links below:

Cliff Lovin Scholarship Information

Cliff Lovin Scholarship Application

For additional information about the 2017 Ohio GIS Conference, visit the OGRIP Events page.

CURA Spearheads ArcGIS Online Access for Ohio State

This spring, the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis (CURA) spearheaded a technology upgrade that now allows Ohio State affiliates to access ArcGIS Online using their OSU login credentials. Allowing for single sign-on to ArcGIS Online is a potential game changer for advancing GIS collaborations in research and teaching at Ohio State Рa very big and well-deserved thank you to CURA for leading this effort!

So what’s so special about ArcGIS Online? ArcGIS Online is the premier platform for easily and efficiently creating interactive web mapping applications. It’s a powerful tool for beginners and more advanced users alike to be able to analyze and visualize geographic information and then to make it accessible to a wider audience via the web. Users can access data from the many data sets hosted by ArcGIS Online, upload their own data, and create groups within the system to collaborate on projects or create assignments for their students.

Having organizational access with your OSU login credentials greatly expands the type of work that can be done in ArcGIS Online compared to a standard public account. ArcGIS Online also integrates nicely with ArcGIS Desktop (available to OSU affiliates via a site license) making it easier for users to work across platforms. CURA has put together a useful guide for accessing ArcGIS Online with your OSU account, including more information about signing up, training resources, and FAQs:

FAES Exhibit Map

This tabbed Story Map was created using ArcGIS Online for the “Building Ohio State: From Forest to the Renovation of Thompson Library” exhibit (click here to visit the map). The physical exhibit runs from Feb. 1 to May 14, 2017 in the Thompson Library Gallery.

For those of you interested in learning more about accessing and using ArcGIS Online, we’ll be partnering with CURA to host a workshop in the Research Commons on March 22 called “Web Mapping Basics with ArcGIS Online.” Learn more and register here:

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