This is an interesting discussion. I teach GIS classes at a small
university in the U.S. and while I completely agree with the concept of
teaching spatial concepts and not the software, in practice, this
distinction doesn't eliminate the need to choose in a university setting.
In practice GIS is taught through tutorials and tutorials are set up for
particular programs. You can't expect beginning students to go from
abstract concepts to multi-step analysis processes without some direction
as to how to use the software.

Also, the students at my university get campus issued laptops that don't
have space to run GIS software, so they have to work in the one campus
computer lab where GIS is installed. I have to work with campus IT to make
sure the software is properly installed and updated. When students log in,
they don't have admin permissions so they can't choose to install QGIS if
it isn't already installed.

I have be advocating for teaching open source software. But once students
get used to one software, they don't want to go back and try to figure out
another system. I did have students try out QGIS, but they weren't excited.
I haven't used QGIS enough to discuss the differences and potential
benefits in particular situations, other than accessibility and

It shouldn't be one software or another, but students need to have a reason
to learn a new platform. I know there are some articles/posts online
comparing, but I have never seen a class that actually integrated teaching
with more than one platform. Beginning college students are usually
frustrated enough just trying to understand one.

I would love to hear suggestions for approaches or resources. Also, many
university instructors have a heavy teaching load and limited time to keep
up with shifting software. I'm pretty much the only person at my U. that
teaches GIS. I am being expected to teach everything related to geospatial it is tough to stay up to date without introducing
additional software to learn. I need to focus on how best to teach concepts
not spend my time learning how to troubleshoot multiple software packages.


On Thu, Dec 15, 2016 at 4:38 PM, Nicolas Cadieux <> wrote:

> Hi,
> This is a good question! My answer would be that students have a better
> chance of having a job if the learn GIS and not a software.  The software
> is only a tool!  If they have an ArcGIS licence at the university and can
> use it year round with the university, they could learn with that.
> My experience is that afterwards, they will either pirate the software or
> abandons GIS because they cannot pay for the software.  Also, more and more
> students are on Macs and ArcGIS will not work unless you have a dual boot,
> a virtual PC or a online licence.
> Also, if you want to just use a software as a technician and make GIS
> research,  you can use ArcGIS.  If you want a really good paying job and
> want to be able learn how to develop software and develop GIS, then QGIS or
> OpenSource is the way to go!
> To think that learning GIS = learning a software is short sighted.  Would
> you trust a statistician if all he learned in university is how to use a
> particular software or would you prefer someone who really knows what
> statistics are all about???
> Nicolas
> Le 15 déc. 2016 à 14:18, Markus Weidenbach [via] <[hidden email]
> <http:///user/SendEmail.jtp?type=node&node=5300086&i=0>> a écrit :
> Dear List,
> I was asked to give a 5 days international GIS training course at the
> university and proposed to do it with QGIS. The program leader finally
> insisted on doing it with ArcGIS arguing  that the students had better
> chances to find a job knowing ArcGIS rather than QGIS. This argumentation
> does not reflect my long professional experience as a GIS consultant at all!
> But how can I proof that knowing QGIS is the better choice for young GIS
> professionals than ArcGIS (or at least that both systems are equally
> suited)?
> Does anybody know any official numbers of GIS users worldwide or on the
> worldwide application of QGIS over ArcGIS?
> I know the Master thesis from Boku Vienna (https://geoobserver.
> but it is focused on a
> technical comparison of both systems only.
> Also the link
> 2016-report is not really helpful because it is based on some 40 reviews
> only and therefore not representative.
> I really need to know some proven facts on the number of global QGIS users
> and renown companies using QGIS worldwide.
> Thanks for your help in advance,
> Markus
> --
> Dr. Markus Weidenbach
> * <>*
> Geographical Information Management
> and Environmental Planning
> D-77815 Bühl
> Germany
> e.mail see:
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