In this month’s Geospatial Information Science and Technology (GIST) Online Blog, we talk to a NC State Online and Distance Education student studying in the GIST Certificate Program. Trevor Stewart provides insight into distance education learning—how the program has affected him and how studying GIST online will help him achieve future goals.
Hearing a first-person perspective on studying in the GIST Certificate Program helps you and other potential students learn more about its offerings and also to consider whether pursuing a distance education certificate is right for you.
What were you doing before beginning your education through NC State Online and Distance Education learning?
TS: Prior to beginning my education through NC State distance learning, I worked as a Deputy Clerk of Court in Guilford County. I am currently still employed in this position.
What did you hope to learn through the program?
TS: Prior to enrolling in the program, I hoped to obtain a foundation in various topics in geospatial science. The program courses I completed instilled the confidence I needed to apply for internships, entry-level GIS positions and the Master of Geospatial Information Science and Technology (MGIST) program.
How did you feel about distance education, and had you ever taken online courses before?
TS: While obtaining my undergraduate degree (2006 – 2010), I took two or three distance education courses, and the classes’ platform delivery systems were not user-friendly. Because of this, I was nervous about completing the GIS Certificate Program online. However, Wolfware, the platform from which NC State Online and Distance Education classes are delivered, is user-friendly, and the instructors encourage students to participate in each class forum, which gives the courses a classroom feel. Also, the instructors and TA’s quickly respond to students’ questions or concerns either by email or the forums. Because of the community feel, great communication and outstanding written and oral instructions provided from the instructors, my experience has been excellent in the distance education program.
What is the most interesting research/project you worked on during the program?
TS: I really enjoyed working on two projects. In GIS 512: Introduction to Environmental Remote Sensing, I compared two Landsat images of the southeastern North Carolina coastal area that were acquired 30 years apart. By completing an unsupervised classification of both images, I determined the difference in the area of all wetlands within this region.
I am currently working on a project for GIS 521: Surface Water Hydrology with GIS. In this project, I use GIS to compare known sites within the Burnt Mill Creek Watershed in Wilmington, NC, before and after limited impact retrofits were implemented, to determine if the limited impact retrofits have had any impact on stormwater runoff.
Although this is not a project, it’s worth mentioning: Dr. Stacy Nelson‘s GIS 512 lectures are hands down the most enjoyable lectures I have ever heard.
How has the certificate program helped you achieve personal and professional goals?
TS: The certificate helped me gain a strong fundamental understanding of GIS. I have applied for internships and entry-level positions and hope to begin a career in the GIS field soon.
What are your future plans for your career, and do you plan to pursue further education?
TS: I am currently in the application process for the MGIST program at NC State. Because I am not currently employed in the GIS field, I hope to obtain some entry-level experience soon.
What would you tell someone considering the certificate program through NC State?
TS: The certificate program helps students obtain a solid foundation in GIS. The program can be used as a tool for degree-seeking students in other fields who wish to enhance their education or research or as a building block for the MGIST program. The courses are challenging, but the instructors work with students to ensure their success. Each course usually offers a project that can be tailored to the student’s interest if it fits within the broader topic of the course. Students that have research interests within other disciplines can use these projects as a way to aid in their research.
As you can see, the GIST Certificate Online Program is helping Trevor not only begin a new, rewarding career but also to pursue further education in the field. It can do the same for you.
To learn more about the GIST program at NC State, check in with this blog each month as we discuss topics related to the field.