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The Geography Education National Implementation Project (GENIP) has received a request from The College Board for a proposal to develop a new Advanced Placement course in Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIS&T). The AAG will lead a course proposal development team on behalf of GENIP.


GENIP is a coordinating committee with representatives from the AAG, National Geographic Society, the National Council for Geographic Education, and the American Geographical Society. The GENIP committee oversees the development of major national initiatives for geography education, including the National Geography Standards and AP® Human Geography (APHG).

Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIS&T) has rapidly become a vibrant component of education, research and innovation in the United States and internationally. GIS&T encompasses Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), virtual globes, mobile mapping applications, geographic visualizations and other locational technologies for the display, management and analysis of spatial data. As a widely accepted component of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, courses in GIS&T are offered in community colleges, liberal arts colleges, master’s-granting and research-doctoral university programs. GIS&T originated in the discipline of Geography, and the many practical, economic and scientific values of GIS&T are evident across a wide array of public and private sector organizations.


At present, APHG is one of the most successful and fastest growing AP® courses. In 2014, 136,448 students enrolled in the APHG course (compared to 3,272 students in 2001). GENIP has concluded that an AP® Course in GIS&T would be at least equally successful, for the following reasons:

  1. Access to geospatial technologies such as GIS has never been greater. Mapping applications and locational technologies are ubiquitous on mobile devices, cars and computers. In 2014, Esri announced a $1 billion gift of cloud-based ArcGIS Online software to support the Obama Administration’s ConnectEd initiative. This remarkable gift is providing free ArcGIS Online accounts to any public or private school upon request. A national consortium of leading geography associations and universities is supporting the Esri-ConnectED initiative through new curricula, the AAG-led GeoMentoring program, and expanded teacher-training opportunities. Other readily-accessible online geospatial technology platforms are also available to educators.
  2. The GIS&T industry is rapidly growing and evolving. The GIS&T industry offers exciting and lucrative career opportunities for students with 2-year undergraduate, bachelor’s and graduate degrees. A recent study commissioned by Google estimates the value of the GIS&T industry’s global services at $150-270 billion annually. The demand for a geospatially-trained workforce is forecasted to grow considerably in the future. Current U.S. Department of Labor projections call for “faster than average” or “much faster than average” growth in jobs for geographic information scientists, technicians and analysts, with upwards of 15,000 additional employees annually through 2018 and beyond.
  3. GIS&T is an ideal context for interdisciplinary learning. An AP® GIS&T course would have broad appeal and connect with high school subjects across the curriculum, such as Geography, Biology, History, Math, Social Studies, Computer Science, Environmental Studies and Earth Science. AP® GIS&T would dramatically advance the capacity of American schools to enhance the geographic literacy and proficiency of elementary and secondary students. The importance of spatial thinking for promoting inquiry and learning is cited throughout STEM education standards and frameworks, including Geography for Life: National Geography Standards 2nd Edition, the Next Generation Science Standards, the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, and The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Inquiry in Social Studies State Standards.
  4. GIS and other geospatial technologies facilitate the analysis and visualization of complex data in order to problem solve. Spatial analysis and geo-visualization offer significant promise to enhance teaching and learning in many subjects taught in high school. Expanding students’ access to such learning opportunities via an AP® course would contribute to their intellectual development and offer them a taste of how geospatial technology can be used for research and problem solving.

Proposal Requirements:

With the support of a seed grant from GENIP, the AAG intends to develop a formal proposal for a new AP® GIS&T course for submission to The College Board in fall of 2015.

  1. Proposal Authors. The AAG will organize a writing committee to develop the proposal. Applications to serve on this committee are invited from AP® teachers, instructional design specialists, academic faculty and geospatial technology industry professionals with expertise in GIS education. The committee will be responsible for the following proposal development activities as stipulated by The College Board:
    • Writing a description of the standard, commonly offered college course upon which the proposed A®P GIS&T course will be modeled, with a focus on the knowledge, skills and abilities developed in the course and descriptions of the ways this course produces in students such knowledge, skills and abilities. In addition, the description should specify the prerequisite knowledge, skills and abilities required for success in the course.
    • Acquiring and reviewing ten or more sample syllabi representing a range of higher education institutions (large public; liberal arts; Ivy League; HBCU/HSI; etc.); these syllabi should demonstrate that there is a degree of consistency across colleges and universities in what is taught and learned in this course and how the proposed AP® GIS&T course aligns with college-level expectations.
    • Writing a description of the sequent course into which students earning AP® credit would receive placement, typically the next course in the sequence following the standard, introductory college course.
    • Writing a description of how knowledge, skills, and abilities in GIS&T are assessed at the college level.
    • Acquiring letters of attestation from college and university academic departments in the United States agreeing to provide credit if an AP® GIS&T assessment were created.
    • Acquiring letters of attestation from high schools in the United States agreeing to offer the proposed AP® GIS&T course in the first year that it is available.
  2. Proposal Reviewers. To ensure a high-quality application, the AAG will form a second committee to perform an expert review of the AP® GIS&T course proposal prior to its submission to The College Board. Prospective reviewers should be knowledgeable of GIS education and the Advanced Placement program.


To apply for consideration as a proposal author and/or reviewer, please submit a short (250-word maximum) statement of interest and a current resume/CV to Dr. Michael Solem, AAG Director of Educational Research and Programs, at msolem [at] aag [dot] org by June 15, 2015. Proposal authors and reviewers will receive a stipend to support their work.

Applications are sought from AP® teachers, faculty from all-types of postsecondary institutions (2-year and 4-year undergraduate, master’s and research-doctoral), instructional design specialists and GIS industry professionals with interests in GIS education.

GENIP will review applications and make final selections for the AP® GIS&T writing and review committees by July 10. The first face-to-face meeting of the proposal writing committee will be held during the NCGE Annual Conference in Washington, DC (August 6-9, 2015).

Should the College Board ultimately approve the course proposal, authors and reviewers will be expected to continue working with the AAG and GENIP to develop the full AP® GIS&T course and associated assessment and teacher professional development materials.