Free Is Sweet ! Free Learning Sources for GIS and Geospatial Analysis


FREE“–How intriguing the word can be. Last time, we have learned FREE data sources for Geospatial/GIS data in US areas (See “8 Free Geospatial/GIS Data Sources for U.S. Areas“).  Of course, in order to process those data properly, it is definitely essential to understand basic concepts of GIS & Geospatial analysis , as well as to learn how to process and analyze particular datasets properly.

Hence, here comes a list of FREE learning sources, including GIS software training courses and tutorials, applied learning materials, workshops and webinars related to GIS and/or Geospatial analysis, etc. All of them are Free of Cost . Take advantage of these resources and learn on your own with a bonus benefit–“making your resume more colorful!

1. Free GIS Software Training Courses & Tutorials


Is it great to learn GIS software without costs? Here are sources for online training courses and/or tutorials for ArcGIS, Q-GIS, and GRASS GISPlease see the table below for more detail:

Esri Training Catalog for Free Training Quantum GIS for Newbies eCourse GRASS GIS Tutorials
Offered by Esri Learning Practical GRASS Development Team
Software Download ArcGIS for Desktop 60-Day Free Trial Free Free
Type of Learning Materials Offer more than 100 online training courses An online course video and downloadable tutorials Online tutorials available for different languages
Registration Required Yes Yes No


2. GIS / Geospatial Podcasts

When mentioning Geo- or GIS-related podcasts, many people may think about ESRI Speaker Series Podcasts. Here I will introduce two more useful sources: A Very Spatial and GIS and Location Technology on iTunes. See the table below for detail:

Name A Very Spatial Podcast GIS and Location Technology Podcast


Farallon Geographics INC.Farallon Inc
How to Subscribe Subscribe through iTunes & RSS Feed Subscribe through iTunes
  • Weekly source for information on Geography and geospatial technologies.
  • Point out how Geography and geospatial technologies is filtering into our digital lives and daily lives.
  • Explain GIS & location-based technology.
  • Provide presentations , discussions on the latest trends, and interesting applications in the GIS, Location Intelligence, and Spatial Information Management Industry.


3. Online Workshops, Webinars, & Applied Learning Materials


Several online sources offer a wide variety of topics related to GIS and Geospatial analysis via online workshops, webinars, or downloadable learning materials.   Although comprehensiveness, depth, and types of contents may vary a lot, each of them brings  more or less insights, dependent on what you are looking for.  The list below is organized based  on its major concept:

Feature Topic  Name  Offered by Contents 
General GIS  GIS Tutor  GIS Tutor Community
  • Tutorials of GIS or Geospatial Analysis for beginner, intermediate, and advanced GIS users/spatial analysts
General GIS Principles of Geographic Information Systems Texas A&M University, Department of Geography
  • Its contents cover the guiding principles behind the various facets of GIS , including spatial data types, spatial database development and management,  and spatial analysis, etc.
  • The website provide free access to parts of learning materials (e.g., lecture notes, lab exercises, examples,etc.).
Open-source GIS  BostonGIS  Boston GIS Group
  •  Provide Tutorials for GIS and Web Mapping solutions utilizing open source GIS technologies.
  • Also, demonstrate examples of mapping and spatial database , mostly using Boston, Massachusetts data.
Open-source GIS Opensource Workshops
  •  Introductory-level workshops and tutorials for open-source GIS (e..g., PostGIS)/ Geospatial analysis tools.
 Geospatial Analysis Geospatial Data Mining The Institute of Statistics and Information Management, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
  • Applied learning materials that illustrate basic concepts, techniques,  applications of data mining for geospatial databases.
Geospatial Analysis Spatial Database Course Material  Dublin Institute of Technology, School of Computing
  • Applied learning materials (e.g., lecture notes, lab exercises, & examples, etc.), dealing with spatial databases.
Geospatial Analysis A Practical Guide to Geostatistical Mapping Dr. Tomislav Hengl (Author)


4. Free Online GIS/Geospatial Courses from Universities

Name Platform Offered by Contents
 Introduction to GIS from Harvard Map Collection  Harvard Map Collection online workshops  Harvard College Library
  • It consists of a three-part movie accompanied by hands-on exercises using ArcGIS.
Geo-information Technology for Crisis Management OpenCourseWare* (OCW) Delft University of Technology
  • It contains 7 lectures  that deliver knowledge on risk and disaster management , demonstrate implications of geo-information technologies in emergency response, and motivate learners to seek practical solutions for real-life problems.
  • Each lecture contains slides, additional lecture notes and readings.
  Spatial Database Management and Advanced Geographic Information Systems  OCW* MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Offer in-depth materials on spatial database management, including materials on the tools needed to work in spatial database management, &  the applications of that data to real-life problem solving.
  • Also provide exercise examples and tools for working with SQL, as well as sample database sets.
 A Workshop on Geographic Information Systems;  OCW*  MIT
  • Contain lab exercises and a workshop setting learning materials that develop a solid understanding of the planning &  public management uses of GIS.
GIS Courses Offered by Department of Geography  Open Educational Resources Platform Penn State University
  •  A wide variety of courses are provided. Please refer to the link for further detail.
GIS/Maps/Satellite Tools  OCW* Utah State University
  • Provide tutorials, definitions and resources for GIS/Maps/ Satellite tools.

* OpenCourseWare(OCW) is an online learning platform widely used by higher education institutes (e.g., MIT, Penn State University, UC Berkeley,etc.) and often made course materials publicly available via Internet. However, there are catches for learning from them right now– Parts of contents may be dated (especially for advanced technical approaches and practical examples), while the underlying principles and concepts are still valuable.




MOOC (/muːk/), abbreviation of “Massive Open Online Course“, recently is the hottest term for online learning. It represents online course that are made available to a very large number of people via the Internet without charge. In other words,  thousands of users can access courses at the same time freely. You might be surprised that how fast GIS/Geospatial educators catch this trend–Quite a few GIS/Geospatial analysis courses have been (or have planned to) offered periodically through different MOOC platforms. Here comes my pocket list:

Name Platform Offered by Registration Required Contents
Introduction to Geographical Information Systems  Canvas Network   University of West Florida  Yes
  • Introduce students to GIS, principles of spatial data in their personal life & various industrial applications of GIS.
  • Major components include computer representation of geographic information, the basics of GIS databases, spatial analysis , & practical application of GIS.
  • Students are expected to gain understanding of elementary GIS theory and learn examples of GIS-based solutions in the world around them

Introduction to Geospatial Technology Using QGIS

Canvas Network Del Mar College Yes
  • Provide a rich introduction to the booming technology field of GIS.
  • Students will learn the fundamentals of GIS and how to build digital maps using open source software that allows free unlimited use for private or commercial applications.
  • All data and software required is included .

Maps and the Geospatial Revolution

Coursera Penn State University Yes
  • Learn how advances in geospatial technology and analytical methods have changed how we do everything,
  • Discover how to make maps and analyze geographic patterns using the latest tools.

Geospatial Intelligence & the Geospatial Revolution

Coursera Penn State University Yes
  • Learn how the revolution in geospatial technology combined with the trade-craft of Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT).
  • Also, discover the power of GEOINT (e.g., how we develop insights about how humans use geography).

The free MOOC cycle “gvSIG for Users”



gvSIG Association in Collaboration with GISMAP No
  • Contain 3 modules for gvSIG users, including: (1)Module 1: “Introduction to GIS”; (2) Module 2: Layer Editing;(3) Module 3: Raster Analysis.
 Skills for the Digital Earth: The Use of Location Technologies for All

Desire2Learn (D2L) Open Courses

Elmhurst College,

School of Professional Studies

  • Introduce what location technologies are used for, how the discipline developed and learn by doing via a series of scaffolded practical exercises.
  • Online spatial software will be employed for any device using a browser which takes users through exercises and real world examples.


Bonus–More Gems to Be Collected


Following sources are bonus, which I find them useful regarding my expertise . However, some contents could be quite focus on particular fields. Thus, explore them by yourself and see whether any more “GIS / Geospatial” gem you can collect.

Data Science Specification on Coursera 
  • It is a combined list of 10 courses. You can tell that the curriculum design is for a “data scientist,” not a “GIS or Geospatial” analyst. However, some contents are quite useful if you are interested in collaborative development of GIS databases/projects via Github or perform hard-core spatial statistical analysis using R.
Remote Sensing




7 thoughts on “Free Is Sweet ! Free Learning Sources for GIS and Geospatial Analysis

    • Which specific online courses or practices are you interested in? It may vary. For example, you will need a email and will need to fill out some information when registering for free ArcGIS-related courses offered by ESRI.

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