Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Dave MacLean and James Rapaport, Centre of Geographic Sciences, Nova Scotia Community College, Canada.
Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) comprises a network of 14 campuses in Nova Scotia, Canada, offering 140 industry-driven programs designed to equip 18,000 students a year with career-ready skills.
The Lawrencetown campus is home to the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS), Canada's largest geomatics-focused learning environment. COGS offers a broad palette of geomatics programs including Remote Sensing, Geospatial Data Analytics, IT, Surveying, Cartography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and Marine Geomatics.
Dave MacLean and James Rapaport are faculty members in the Geographic Information Systems postgraduate program that develops students’ career-ready skills and opens opportunities in the geospatial sector. They work with GIS and incorporate Oracle database technology.
Oracle Academy: Can you tell us how you integrate Oracle technologies into your geomatics courses?
Dave MacLean: Certainly. Geomatics encompasses the fields of geodesy, GIS, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), hydrography, mapping, photogrammetry, remote sensing, and surveying. We teach all these in our COGS programs. Specifically within our GIS program, we concentrate on mapping software, programming scripts to manage workflow, and database technology.
Oracle is our choice for teaching database concepts and technology, and we are using the Oracle Academy Cloud Program. We connect the GIS software to the Oracle Cloud tablespace and make links to tables and/or views that combine resource data and look-up tables. The views provide meaning-filled columns, such as white spruce, rather than obscure codes such as ws, and can reduce the number of rows to that which satisfies a subset of the resource. The views are joined to geographical data via a common key, and the data domiciled in the Oracle Database is used for symbology, labels, and analysis within the GIS.
Oracle Academy: What type of assignments do you give?
Dave MacLean: One of the exercises works with forestry data from Nova Scotia. Within the GIS software, the map displays stands of trees linked to a view of forestry information coming directly out of the Oracle Cloud Database. So, the polygons of tree species get their meanings, such as white spruce, ash, or intolerant hardwood, from an Oracle view comprised of an underlying table with species codes for each polygon, along with two or three lookup tables describing the different properties of the tree species and their stands. The polygons and the table are linked via a common field.
After they build the visualization, we teach students how to change the underlying data attributes and have the map updated in real time, reflecting the use of databases in corporate settings. We are trying to show how it can be dynamically updated and used for drawing any number of different maps.
Oracle Academy: Can you tell us more about the database component of your program?
James Rapaport: I introduce Oracle databases in the Information Systems segment, showing students how to apply tables, views, and geographical data attributes for mapping purposes. They learn data normalization and how to create entity relationship diagrams using Oracle SQL Developer, a brilliant free graphical tool that simplifies data modeling tasks. Then we move on to working with SQL, PL/SQL, and finally Oracle Spatial.
We load data into the database, we build spatial indexes, and we look at querying the database using geometries, looking for spatial interactions and creating spatial joins.
Oracle Academy: How do you find working with Oracle Cloud?
James Rapaport: It’s fantastic to have everything available through a browser, really a great benefit. I provision all of the students with their own accounts and we stay entirely in the cloud for the duration of the course.
I run hands-on lab sessions where they create schemas and load data that allows looking at relationships between different statistical areas.
I’ve used Oracle Instant Client to connect desktop GIS tools to the cloud database to show the ability to draw geometries from Oracle Spatial and demonstrate visually how we look for relationships. I want to increase the prominence of Oracle Spatial in our classes.
There’s a lot of scope in the Oracle Cloud platform. Oracle Application Express (APEX), for example, now has map capability allowing us to visualize maps and create interactive reporting. I think Oracle APEX will be a great plus for the students.
Oracle Academy: Who are the students in your program?
Dave MacLean: Our students are almost all just out of university and are looking to enhance their disciplines with geomatics skills, over the nine months of our program. They come to us primarily with degrees in biology, computer science, earth and environmental studies, ecology, engineering, geography, and geology.
We also prepare annual COGS Graduate Profile Booklets, highlighting mini resumes for those students who wish to participate.
Oracle Academy: Do they find career opportunities easily?
Dave MacLean: All of these disciplines require geomatics, and our students typically will get jobs as GIS specialists, GIS analysts, GIS application programmers, GIS developers, spatial database managers, or other related occupations.
Geomatics is an important capability, and most of them can bide their time after graduation waiting for the jobs that specifically interest them.
Oracle Academy: Thank you. Can you tell us what are your interests outside of teaching?
Dave MacLean: It’s not completely outside of teaching, but I closely follow online mapping technology. Otherwise, I enjoy outdoor photography, Scotch tasting, and identifying where photographs taken by astronauts in the International Space Station are accurately located and centred. It’s a lot of fun.
James Rapaport: It’s photography for me too. Landscape photography in particular is my passion. I also throw lead stones for a team in a Monday night curling league.
Thank you, Dave MacLean and James Rapaport, for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.