Penn State launches online master's degree in spatial data science

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Pennsylvania State University on Tuesday launched a new online master’s degree in spatial data science.

The program is designed to arm students with the skills necessary to interpret and leverage location data from devices like smartphones and tablets, according to Penn State, which is being used by a growing number of companies to gain insights into the choices consumers make and to solve global challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is an increasing understanding among companies that the location component of data is crucial to better understand consumers, said Anthony Robinson, an associate professor of geography at Penn State.

“[Location data] provides connotations about policy and culture, economic disparities, all types of things that are geographic in nature,” Robinson said in a press release.

For instance, he said, a government agencies are now turning to location data to create mapping dashboards that visualize hospital and COVID-19 testing data to share with the public, the media, lawmakers or other stakeholders.

Students will be able to take courses in programming, computer science and spatial data science, and can learn to customize map-making software as they visualize data and create new data tools to process information and develop solutions to existing and future challenges across industries.

“In the mapping sciences, we’ve gotten good with addressing problems that exist,” Robinson said. “Industry and research needs focus on what happens if we don’t already have an existing tool, so we’re trying to fill that gap. It’s clear that people who are capable of modifying and creating new map solutions are in very high demand.”

Students will also be able to customize their master’s degrees with a graduate certificate in geospatial programming and web map development, remote sensing, geospatial intelligence or geographic information systems.

The degree program will be available for Penn State’s spring 2021 semester, which begins in January.

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