As a professor at the University of Maine’s GPS-GAP Certificate Program (GPS, Geodesy and Application Program), Dr. Alfred Leick is a man with a mission – to help users of GPS devices at all professional levels to master these amazing but admittedly complex tools.
“I have what I call the iterative approach,” Leick says, “where they can listen to my lectures and MathCAD solutions, and take the quizzes multiple times…and go through the loop as often as needed until they understand it.”
The coursework – eleven classes in all -- includes the foundations of GPS technology from a geodetic perspective, as well as covering GPS modernization, the use of leading GPS applications, and interaction between the U.S. NAVSTAR GPS constellation, the Soviet GLONASS system, and Europe’s Galileo.
An Established Force Of Nature
GPS professionals need not enroll in a traditional university quarter or semester to take the courses; instead, Leick allows students to work at their own pace, completing coursework and moving onto the next level as they master the material. As such, Leick incorporates the quiz questions into the learning strategy. There are 5 quizzes for each course, each quiz containing 50 questions randomly drawn from a larger pool of questions and based his textbook, GPS Satellite Surveying, now in its 3rd edition. Students may take the quizzes multiple times as necessary to gain the knowledge they need to upgrade their job skills and make better use of their GPS equipment.
Visitors to Dr. Leick’s home page at: http://gnss.umaine.edu can learn more about the coursework involved, as well as access his extensive collection of links to GPS resources.
Leick’s credentials say it all: with nearly 30 years in the GPS field, and with work sponsored and/or funded by a variety of agencies including NASA, The World Bank, Fulbright, the Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Interior, as well as by M.I.T., and JPL among many others, one would be hard pressed to find a more qualified professor. In addition to his impressive experience in GPS, Leick has a secondary passion – to improve the unfairly tarnished image of internet-based distance learning.
“I think that internet courses may not necessarily have the highest reputation -- they may have the reputation for watered down, general information,” he says. “I would like to pioneer courses which are mathematical, of high quality, and make them available over the net.” Considering the fact that Leick is an established force of nature in the GPS field with the resources and know-how to make it happen, one believes he will succeed.
A One-To-One Approach
With the purpose of training professionals using GPS across all fields, Leick’s GPS-GAP program incorporates a variety of leading technologies to harness the potential of distance learning. Graduates of the certificate program can expect an enhanced understanding of the foundations of, and high-level science underpinning global positioning satellite technology. As such, they will have the power to unlock the capabilities programmed into their GPS instruments, capture better coordinates, and improve the processes of collecting, organizing and analyzing GPS data.
For professionals in fields as diverse as civil engineering, mapmaking, aerospace or archeology, the potential gains are substantial; for those in the GPS or satellite manufacturing sector, a better understanding of the theoretical and practical foundations of Geodesy and Global Positioning Satellite Technology will result in more efficient and reliable instruments, and software applications.
With an effective one-to-one student/teacher ratio, students in Leick’s courses can use their personal computers and broadband connection to watch and listen to PowerPoint presentations with video and audio, and MathCAD presentations with video and audio –essentially recreating a classroom environment anywhere in the world.
“You hear my voice with every slide,” Leick says. “It’s not just the slide, it’s Power Point with audio. The material corresponds with the material in his newly updated and influential textbook. “I have written the latest edition of the textbook with distance education in mind,” he says.
Rocket Science, Satellite Style
MathCAD is an affordable desktop application that provides mathematical and engineering functions. In effect, it’s a powerful number crunching software, using automatic computation and high-level mathematical notation – call it rocket science for the satellite crowd. Using the software’s integrated audio functions, Leick has recorded digital talk-throughs and analysis that students can playback as many times as they want.
“I show them the real computations with real data,” he says. “It’s very unique – they see the real interpretations in MathCAD, and I give an audio interpretation of the results.” With course titles like Adjustment Algorithms and Precise Relative Positioning, one gets an idea of the technical nature of the work -- and the value of Leick’s user-friendly contributions.
With hundreds of tracking stations in the global GPS Network, and with governments worldwide waking up to the potential of global positioning satellite technology for their economies and infrastructure, Leick hopes to find students just about everywhere. “There are so many knowledgeable people who will read (this) article,” Leick says, “and they can easily follow my courses.”
And while the GPS-GAP program is designed as a post-baccalaureate program, the open-ended nature of the program along with the repeatable quiz approach allows for the possibility that hardworking students, even busy professionals without a bachelor’s degree could utilize the coursework, learning from a guru in Geodesy and GPS Satellite Surveying from their home or office.