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GIS Lab Rules & Advice

  • The GIS lab will be open 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. You should plan on spending at least 7-10 hours per week in the lab outside of class time, so please inspect your personal weekly schedule to be sure that you budget sufficient time when the lab is available.
  • A key to the lab is on reserve in the library for current GIS students to borrow outside of normal lab hours. If you borrow a key, you must return it before the library closes or sign up to be a key keeper, on call to open the lab as needed by other students.
  • All of the guidelines for the UMM campus computer labs apply to the GIS lab. In addition, this lab is for GIS work only. High bandwidth uses of the lab can bog down the entire campus network, cost the university a fortune to remedy, and endanger all your hard work. Emails could introduce viruses. Using lab printers for non-GIS uses will consume ink and paper needed for your projects. Using computers for other types of work will be grounds for removal from the class.
  • Food and drinks are NOT permitted in the lab, with the sole exception of water in sealable containers. Such containers must be kept sealed and off lab tables when not in use.
  • Let's work together to make the lab a safe, pleasant, and functional place to work and learn. Please treat your colleagues, instructors, maintenance staff, and IT staff with respect at all times. Be considerate, quiet, neat and helpful. Disruptive behavior will be grounds for removal from the class.
  • You may only open email on lab systems for GIS-related reasons WITH APPROVAL from the instructor or IT staff. Viruses can destroy files and render the systems unusable.
  • DO NOT give out system passwords or loan the key to your friends, family, Uncle Jimmy, etc., even if they're really nice. Please don't lead non-GIS folks into temptation and let us know if you see anyone using the lab inappropriately.

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Some Advice:

  • You will have problem sets due in quick succession over the first ten weeks of the semester. Be careful of falling behind in the class. Late assignments will get low grades, and you can leave yourself in a real bind with your project if you fall behind. If you start slipping behind, talk to me as soon as you can so we can work on getting you caught up.
  • We use software that is the industry standard for GIS. Though it is very powerful and versatile (that's why so many people use it), it is notoriously temperamental. Save often and don't get too attached to doing things in one particular way--often you will need to work around difficult problems. Breathe, be patient, and ask for help. Check out the GIS survival link on the course website.
  • DO NOT plagiarize in your written assignments. Answers for all assignments should represent your original work and your own words. That means you should not copy material in print or online or from any other source without setting it apart in quotes or by indentation and using proper and complete attribution. A quote will NEVER constitute a complete answer to an assigned question and may only be used as supporting information to your original answers.
  • DO NOT plagiarize maps. Assigned maps should be designed by you and must not be made from existing templates or symbologies, except where the assignment calls for a template (group projects will often involve templates, for example). Maps made from unassigned templates will not be accepted. Typically, yellow "layer" files with the .lyr extension and map template files with the .mxt extension are not to be used to make a new map, unless your assignment specifically calls for them.
  • Communicate with your instructor and your classmates about problems you encounter or questions you have. You will save yourself lots of time and frustration if you draw on as many resources as you can to solve GIS problems (that's how we do it in the "real world"). It's not cheating as long as all your assignments are written in your own words and reflect your own work.
  • Plan to spend at least 7 hours a week in the lab outside of class time to complete your assignments. This is in addition to time devoted to reading and writing. It's a good idea to block out time in your schedule to spend in the lab. That way you will be sure to devote the time and won't schedule over it. Also, expect to spend more time in the lab toward the end of the semester than is required earlier.
  • But I only need to make one map for my project," you say. "I can probably pull a couple of all-nighters during finals week to get it done." Don't count on it. Your project will involve generating new map layers, and the technology is not always cooperative--especially during finals week.
  • DO make yourself comfortable in the lab. Feel free to adjust the positions of chairs, monitors, mice, and keyboards. You may listen to CDs on lab machines using your own earphones (there is an earphone jack on each machine).

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Tora Johnson, service center director and GIS instructor at

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