A geographic information system (GIS) is a system that creates, manages, analyzes, and maps all types of data. GIS connects data to a map, integrating location data (where things are) with all types of descriptive information (what things are like there). This provides a foundation for mapping and analysis that is used in science and almost every industry. GIS helps users understand patterns, relationships, and geographic context. The benefits include improved communication and efficiency as well as better management and decision making. 

How is GIS used? 

Hundreds of thousands of organizations in virtually every field are using GIS to make maps that communicate, perform analysis, share information, and solve complex problems around the world. This is changing the way the world works. 

GIS technology applies geographic science with tools for understanding and collaboration. It helps people reach a common goal: to gain actionable intelligence from all types of data. 

Where Can I Learn GIS? 

Esri training options support GIS practitioners, non-GIS professionals, and anyone who needs to use the ArcGIS platform to support their daily workflows, enhance projects with geographic context, and create information that leads to better decision-making. Esri hosts courses largely for free at the Esri Academy.  

A MOOC refers to a Massive Open Online Course. Esri MOOCs

  • Cover a single theme or topic 
  • Allow students to study whenever they have time, at their own pace 
  • Encourage students to learn from one another 
  • Include videos, exercises, discussions, quizzes, polls and surveys 
  • Provide free access to the latest Esri software for the duration of the course 
  • Involve four to six weeks of instruction, with a minimum of two-three hours per week of study 
  • Require registration but are free to take 
  • Have firm start and end dates 
  • Provide certificates to students who complete the course material 
  • Introduce students to subject matter experts from across Esri and its community 

You can sign up for a MOOC any time while registration is open. Go to the MOOC description page in the Training catalog and click the Register button. If registration is closed, you can join the waiting list to be notified when registration opens for the next offering.  

GIS gives people the ability to create their own digital map layers to help solve real-world problems. GIS has also evolved into a means for data sharing and collaboration, inspiring a vision that is now rapidly becoming a reality—a continuous, overlapping, and interoperable GIS database of the world, about virtually all subjects. Today, hundreds of thousands of organizations are sharing their work and creating billions of maps every day to tell stories and reveal patterns, trends, and relationships about everything. 

With its movement to web and cloud computing, and integration with real-time information via the Internet of Things, GIS has become a platform relevant to almost every human endeavor—a nervous system of the planet. As our world faces problems from expanding population, loss of nature, and pollution, GIS will play an increasingly important role in how we understand and address these issues and provide a means for communicating solutions using the common language of mapping.