A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a system that integrates hardware, software and data. It is used to collect and analyze geographically referenced information, which creates models that associate attribute data with specific aspects of physical spaces. It allows users to manipulate data so they can address geographic problems by summarizing data, calculating spatial statistics or processing queries, among other things. It is also used to manage visual displays of geographic information, and even model geographic phenomena, such as the impact of traffic patterns, disease outbreaks or floods. The results are often visualized in the form of a map.

Though most people are not aware of it, GIS plays an important role in understanding the influence of geography on everyday life. It can be found in domains such as Transport, Medicine, Marketing, Criminology, Sociology, and Pure and Applied Sciences.

The purpose of this site is to provide a kit of instructional materials suitable for learning how to use GIS software to solve geographic problems at introductory and more advanced levels. The site is specifically designed for college-level students and instructors in Social Science programs in Québec, Canada, but is also suitable for the public at large. It is appropriate for all those who want to understand how GIS works.

At the core of the materials are three PDF learning modules used in conjunction with a free educational software and data package that can be downloaded from the Internet. The modules contain illustrated step-by-step instructions with corresponding demonstration videos. They offer geographic problems and solutions that enable instructors and students to start using GIS at home, school or anywhere a high-speed Internet connection is available.

An overview of the instructional materials and their suggested use is provided in the following Preparation Guide:

Preparation Guide  

If you don’t already have it, you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the Preparation Guide and the PDF learning modules. The PDF documents contain active links to videos and other websites. Although you can print them, it’s convenient to work with the electronic versions from your desktop. You can readily download Acrobat Reader for free:

Adobe Acrobat Reader

Common office software and free GIS software with bundled data are required to follow the instructional materials. For further information, follow the Set-up procedure on the next page.