Denver workshops – a mixture of sadness and joy.

denver1We just completed another two successful Keeping Up with GIS Technology workshops out in Denver.  This was a week mixed with sadness and joy: sadness in that my Mom passed away on Tuesday, and I had to fly out of town to Denver on Wednesday (the show must go on).  But, joy, as I was able to catch up with many former students, classmates, and friends in the Denver area.  Also, relief as I got to spend the morning with my mom, and then she passed away quickly, quietly, and most importantly, painlessly – reunited with my Dad.

OK, back to the workshop.  The hospitality shown by Beth Hill Tulanowski @hethbill, and David Parr @gisdaveparr was extraordinary.  I truly enjoyed my time with them in the midst of some sadness.  The responses to both workshops was excellent, and similar to my other workshops.  The following provides a brief overview:


I always want to make sure that I am prepared, responsive, and interesting when I teach.  The chart surely shows that the students were in agreement.  But, enough about me!  The real key is if this workshop helps other professionals in their career:


The participants were very positive on learning something new in their career, using these skills at work, and having the workshop help them in their professional development.  These results are actually the best I’ve seen over the half dozen or so workshops that I have given.  Why go to a workshop if you don’t learn something new?

I have to admit, this next one is sort of an insecurity on my part.  Like Sally Field said in her acceptance speech: you like me, you really like me.  Well, not difference with me.  I want to make sure that what I am doing is of high quality and appreciated, especially when compared to other training people can get.  People have choices, so I want to make sure that I am giving them a quality workshop.


I was very pleased to see that over 80% of the participants thought that this workshop rated an 8 or above compared to other workshops they’ve taken.  This is especially true because training courses tend to be expensive.  I want to be sensitive to people’s financial situation, and would hate to offer a training course that is no better than anything else out there.

But again, previous to my other reviews, people really do believe that training is worth paying for if it teaches them something new:


Once again, 80% of the participants indicated that they would be very favorable to pay a small fee to receive this kind of training (rating of 8 out of 10).   I think this is going to also allow Colorado State University and Metropolitan State at Denver to begin offering more training to the GIS community in their area.

There were some really positive written responses as well:

Art’s communication was excellent. It’s crazy complicated stuff (potentially) but he makes it seem more approachable and less fearsome
I particularly enjoyed learning about QGIS and SQL; I’d be interested in expanded workshops on these topics (especially SQL)
Being exposed to QGIS (and learning how user-friendly it is) was fantastic. As was learning more about SQL querying in Postgres. I found the Python section a bit more obtuse, but I appreciate exposure to the language as that was one of the reasons I wanted to take this workshop.


And, in all fairness, I do ask for negative feedback as well, so that I can continually improve what I am doing:

It is tough to have this much information presented in this time-frame. I liked it but may be better to break it down. Probably need a full day for each of the 4 topics.

It was a lot to pack into one day, so the instructor had to go really fast through everything. I would have liked to take out one of the sections and get in more hands-on work.

What I Learned

The more I do these workshops, the more a thought comes to my mind: once you graduate college, very few GIS professionals have a mentor in their lives.  My students hang out in lab with me, go to sporting events, and even come over to my house.  They get a lot of my good energy, and we have great conversations.  What a shame that professionals don’t get that opportunity.  I really want to introduce more of these workshops in the country and also internationally, so that GIS professionals can not only learn new skills, but also hang out with me at lunch, between breaks at the workshop, and even afterwards for drinks.  That way, they have an opportunity to bounce ideas off of me and get feedback.  So, with the winter break and the summer coming up, I am going to try and find a few cities to continue to offer my workshops.  Please let me know if you’d like me to visit your city.

Want to learn more about GIS technologies like QGIS, Postgres/PostGIS, Python, and spatial databases?  Check out my online courses at


BMC Spatial SQL Class Survey Results

I think this class has set a standard for quality professional development that will be hard to beat in the future. – Mara Kaminowitz, GISP, GIS Coordinator.

Easily one of the best workshops I have ever attended.  Sam Stanton, GIS Coordinator, Queen Anne’s County Information Technology.


I had a great time at the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, leading a workshop on Spatial SQL using SQLite and SpatiaLite – thank you to Mara Kaminowitz for organizing it!  There were 25 people in attendance, and I just received the evaluations.  To cut to the chase, you can see the evaluation results here.

But, for the high level view, here is what people thought:

  1. Over 95% said the workshop was better than other GIS training they received.
  2. On a scale of 1-10, 95% of the attendees rated the course an 8 or above.
  3. 95% said they learned something new in the workshop.
  4. 100% said the workshops would help them in their careers.
  5. 87% said they would apply these skills to their job.

I decided to throw one curve-ball on the evaluation sheet and asked:


This was a half-day workshop. Most one-day GIS training classes cost around $600/day. If we developed other in-depth full-day workshops on topics like this for under $250, how likely would you be to participate in it?

It turned out that 91% of the respondents rated a 7 or higher, indicatin

g that the attendees valued the training enough to pay $250 for a full day course (opposed to $600 for most GIS courses).  This means it is possible to offer really good, low cost training to GIS professionals.  Keep an eye out on this, as I am very likely to take these training classes on the road.

FullSizeRender (1)The comments the participants provided were great – in  fact, the response was slightly higher than the response at the TuGIS conference.

The course evaluation will have lots of free-form comments you can read, but a couple of the ones I liked were:

One of the most valuable pieces of this workshop was how it drove home the fact that Spatial SQL is not as intimidating as it may seem. Going over the basic SQL functions and how closely it reads to standard english was very helpful in driving this home.

Gave me a much stronger foundation for SQL, the instructor was extremely knowledgeable and presented the information well. I am so happy to have a stronger understanding and feel this will help me immediately in my job.

Dr. Lembo was very effective in showing the analytical framework behind the use of SQL in the development of databases, geometric layers, and even modeling. He was really good in putting it all together; I had little exposure to SQL before the class, and now I feel confident on how to approach it to solve problems I encounter in my job.

Maryland State GIS Conference (TuGIS)

The TuGIS training workshop on March 20, 2017 is completed – you can see the workshop evaluations below:  

The workshop evaluations are in

(if you want to cut to the chase, the workshop results are here).

I had a great time teaching our two workshops at the TuGIS conference.  In the morning, my students and I presented Spatial SQL: A Language for Geographers, and in the afternoon we taught Python for Geospatial.

We knew expectations would be high: both courses sold-out in 2 days, and we even expanded the class size to 38 people for each workshop!!  I knew that teaching 38 people would be a challenge, but it would also be a great lesson to see if we could corral so many cats into a single, technical workshop.  The workshop evaluations would be crucial to determine if we met our objectives.

The workshop evaluations were overwhelmingly positive.  For example:

  1. over 90% said they enjoyed the workshop.
  2. over 83% said it was much better than other GIS training they have been to.
  3. on a scale of 1-10, 95% of the attendees rated the course a 7 or above.
  4. 93% said they learned something new in the workshop.
  5. 89% said the workshops would help them in their careers.
  6. 91% said they would apply these skills to their job.

I decided to throw one curve-ball on the evaluation sheet and asked:

This was a half-day workshop. Most one-day GIS training classes cost around $600/day. If we developed other in-depth full-day workshops on topics like this for under $250, how likely would you be to participate in it?

it turned out that 89% of the respondents rated a 7 or higher, indicating that almost 90% of the people valued the training enough to pay $250 for a full day course (opposed to $600 for most GIS courses).  This means it is possible to offer really good, low cost training to GIS professionals.  Keep an eye out on this, as I am very likely to take these training classes on the road.

The comments the participants provided were great – it confirmed our belief that this was an excellent training course, and that the course needed to be expanded to 8 hours, rather than 4 hours – most everyone felt like their was simply too much information to absorb.

If you would like to see the results of the workshop evaluation, click the link below:

TuGIS Workshops – Google Forms

Finally, if you can’t make it to a live workshop, all of my video training courses are $30 or less, when you visit  These courses can’t get into the level of depth that a live course gives, but you’ll see that after thousands of students taking the courses, close to 90% of them give the course 4 starts out of 5!


Workshops at the Maryland Geospatial Conference

tugisThe Maryland’s Geospatial Conference  () is on March 20/21, 2017.  I first attended TUgis in 1990, and it is always a great conference.  It is not too large, so it is  great way to have extended time with people.  So, if you had a technical question for someone from say ESRI, you could simply stop by their booth and have a chat.

This year I was asked to support the pre-conference workshops.  I will be presenting two workshops with the help of my students.  If you recall, my students are quite good at instructing others about GIS technology.  I’m really looking forward to the conference and interacting with people during the workshop.  Keep in mind, this is not something we are just throwing together – we’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how to effectively move people through the material so that beginners do not get lost, and more technically savvy people are sufficiently challenged.  We are fanatical about making sure people’s learning experience is excellent.

A description of the courses are found here:

Spatial SQL: A Language for Geographers:  Are you stuck in a rut of only knowing how to use a GIS GUI? Do you want to learn how to automate tasks, but are afraid of computer programming. If so, SQL is the most powerful tool you can learn to help you perform complex GIS tasks. This hands-on course is designed to teach you how SQL can replicate many database and GIS tasks. We will start at a very basic overview and then proceed to more advanced topics related to GIS.

Topics to include:

  • Spatial is NOT Special
  • SQL Data Types
  • Traditional SQL
  • Spatial SQL for Vector and Raster Analysis
  • Spatial SQL for Classic Geographic Analysis

For this class, we’ll be using spatiaLite which is the spatial extension used with SQLite.  This is a great way to get started, as it is very similar to the functionality of Postgres/PostGIS.  If you want to move to enterprise GIS with Postgres or even Oracle or SQLServer, you’ll be in really good shape.

Python for Geospatial: If you are in the field of GIS, you’ve probably heard everyone talking about Python, whether it’s Arcpy in ArcGIS or special Python packages for doing things in open source.  In this hands-on workshop you will learn how Python is used to perform GIS analysis. The workshop will be an introduction to Python, with emphasis on integrating multiple Python plug-ins with ArcGIS and open source GIS.

Topics to include:

  • An overview of Python (variables, statements, I/O, writing code)
  • Python plug-ins for Geospatial (numpy, geocoder, pygal, Postgres)
  • A Taste of Arcpy
  • A Data Analytics Project with Python (for this, we will geocode addresses using Python, perform analysis with open source GIS, take the results into Arcpy to do more GIS analysis, compute statistical results with Python calling Excel, and then create charts and graphs of the results for use on the Internet—without ever opening up a single GIS product.)

If you want to learn more about how to use GIS technology, check out the 9 courses at  

A Detailed Review of MyOpen Source GIS Courses

This review of made by a former student, Brady Woods.  Brady is a GIS Analyst, and after taking my Open Source GIS course, he immediately implemented an Enterprise GIS at his work where he manages 15 GIS technicians.  I was so happy to read his review, but even happier in knowing that a course I created allowed a student to immediately apply the skills in his work environment.  I hope you enjoy reading Brady’s review. – ajl  

My name is Brady Woods, and I am a graduate student enrolled in the Master of Professional Studies: Geospatial Information Science (MPS: GIS) program at the University of Maryland, College Park. I also work as a GIS Analyst at a research institution within the University of Maryland. This past summer the geography department at UMD offered a new selected topics in geography course titled ‘Open Source GIS’ taught by Dr. Lembo. I found the course to be one of the best of my academic career, and would like to provide a review of the course for those who are considering taking Dr. Lembo’s courses either through traditional academic means or through online learning platforms such as Udemy.

The course began with an introduction to open source GIS via QGIS. As Master’s students, most of us were well versed in spatial analysis methods and their applications, especially within the ArcGIS framework. The QGIS assignments revealed the parallels between the two software packages and demonstrated that what we needed to accomplish in ArcGIS could also be done in QGIS – all for the low cost of free. We also touched on the QGIS print composer, a complex suite of cartographic and visualization tools that rivaled the cartography tools available in the ArcGIS Desktop suite.

The remainder of the course was comprised of Dr. Lembo’s Udemy courses, including: Spatial SQL with Postgres: A language for Geographers, Using Open Source Tools to Create an Enterprise GIS, and Internet Mapping with GeoServer, Postgres, and OpenLayers. These courses assumed limited prior knowledge of their subject matter, walking the student through each step and explaining in detail what each step accomplishes. Below are my thoughts on each course:

  • Spatial SQL with Postgres: The objective of this course was for the student to learn spatial SQL through the use of PostgreSQL (FOSS RDBMS) and PostGIS (spatial extension). Throughout the course you will write SQL code alongside Dr. Lembo, working through the basics of SQL all the way to complex spatial analysis methods such as spatial joins. After this course I was able to implement this in my daily workflows, where I now maintain Postgres/PostGIS databases with tables containing millions of records. Spatial operations that would take hours in other GIS products can be accomplished in minutes using PostGIS.
  • Using Open Source Tools to Create an Enterprise GIS: The objective of this course was for the student to build on the QGIS/Postgres/PostGIS already learned in order to construct a multi-user enterprise GIS. Throughout this course you will follow Dr. Lembo as you upload data to a PostGIS database, create and manage multiple users and login roles, and finally testing your enterprise system in a multi-user QGIS editing environment. After this course I was able to implement my own enterprise GIS in my workplace with ~15 users performing various tasks.
  • Internet Mapping with GeoServer, Postgres, and OpenLayers: The final piece of the puzzle. At this point, we now know how to perform desktop GIS analysis and enterprise GIS tasks using FOSS GIS software. Throughout this course you learn how to build an internet map server that serves the data you created in the Enterprise GIS course by using GeoServer to serve the layers, and OpenLayers to display them. After this course I was able provide my workplace with more dynamic cartographic products via basic web map applications compared to static maps.

A final note – although I took these Udemy courses as a geography Master’s student, they are quite accessible and rely on minimal background knowledge to complete. Anyone with an interest in technology and some patience for basic troubleshooting will be able to succeed.  However, if you have an opportunity to take an actual University course from Dr. Lembo, I would highly recommend it, as he adds so much more to the course beyond what you’ll get in the Udemy courses.  Also, Dr. Lembo often spent hours with us before and after the class just shooting the breeze about GIS – it made for a great learning experience.