Location. Location. Location.

From deciding where to locate a new store to analyzing how well marketing campaigns are working in various markets, maps help business leaders make better decisions. Recently, I taught two classes to Towson University business students, which focused on how businesses can use geospatial technology to enhance decision-making.

Introducing GIS to Business Students

Associate Professor Tobin Porterfield teaches Project Management and Business Analysis, among other courses, at Towson University in Northeastern Maryland. Professor Porterfield invited me to his class to expose his undergraduate business students to the potential for enhancing business decision-making using GIS technology.

The presentation focused on recent trends in mapping and technology, such as crowdsourcing geospatial data collection and cloud-based computing, and also provided business examples of GIS. This included employing GIS market segmentation to recruit potential students, and how to gain a better understanding of juvenile access to public libraries based on their spatial location in relation to the public library branch locations.

Using GIS for Business

Ashley teaching GIS to Towson Univeristy business undergraduates.

The student interest was so great, that I taught an optional follow-up workshop that provided hands-on training in the online GIS software program. This allowed the 15 juniors and seniors the opportunity to become familiar with and use some of the ArcGIS tools GIS professionals use on a daily basis. ArcGIS Online is an online, collaborative web GIS that allows users to use, create, and share maps, analytics, and data.

“My course is on data analysis for business. We normally focus on more traditional spreadsheet modeling and simulation. So, having Ashley introduce the students to spatial analysis was a great new opportunity,” said Professor Porterfield.

Putting Dots On Maps

I guided the students through ArcGIS Online and how to create a map and save and share data and maps. The Towson University students also had the opportunity to “put dots on a map” (convert tabular data into spatial data) and perform a drive-time analysis. I also introduced them to how to make a web mapping application using the Web App Builder feature.

It has been very rewarding to communicate to business students the value of how GIS can be integrated into business decision making. Having knowledge of geospatial technology will aid these students in preparing for the job market and support them in gaining a spatial perspective of business data they may not have obtained from tabular information alone.

As project manager for the Center for GIS at Towson University, I look forward to other teaching opportunities that really showcases the power of geospatial technology to non-professionals.