An Educational Experiment

(Edit: sign-ups are now closed. I received over 150 responses for 4 available slots, which has been great but overwhelming. I may offer this again in the future if it goes well, so make sure to follow me on Twitter and subscribe to the blog, to be notified of when this happens.)

It’s time for me to get back to teaching.

It’s been a few years since I last taught a course, and I have missed interacting with students. In recent months I’ve promised myself (and others) that I was going to take my introductory cartography lectures and put them online as video or text, for the benefit of a new generation of students. But, in truth, my heart isn’t in it. It’s a big chore that I am constantly putting off. While I have material that I’m excited to share, the style of teaching that works best for me doesn’t really involve long lectures covering cartographic basics. There’s just too much preparation. I prefer to improvise, and increasingly would rather share knowledge informally in small groups, dispensing advice in response to whatever my students’ needs are that day.

So, instead of me putting lecture materials online, let’s do something else. As an experiment, I’d like to put together a small independent project group. I’ve done this before, back when I was a fellow at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. There, I twice co-led independent study groups alongside my friend and mentor Tanya Buckingham Andersen. These were project-driven courses, in which students would come up with a map idea, and then meet with us weekly to discuss their progress. As needed, Tanya and I would offer suggestions and critique, or give lessons on techniques. This was a great experience for me because not only did I get to share cartographic ideas with students, but I also got to do so without having to prepare an hour’s worth of carefully-structured material. That’s exactly what I want to re-create with some of you out there.

If you’re interested in participating in such an experiment with me, here are the details:

  • You do not need to be a university student. You can be any age, of any background, with any experience level, and live anywhere.
  • But, you should have some familiarity with cartographic basics and mapmaking software. I don’t have specific requirements, but please understand that this is not the right environment to learn about how to make your first few maps. You should already be capable of making maps on your own; the class will be to help improve your existing abilities.
  • All participants will meet weekly via video chat, for six weeks during the summer. We will meet as a group, for 60–75 minutes. The exact date/time of the meetings will be determined later. They will occur sometime during the late morning to early evening for my part of the world (US Central Time). I recognize that this does place some constraints on who can participate, but I am limited by my geography.
  • Class will be limited to four participants (not counting me). If there’s not a lot of interest, I might not go ahead with it. If too many people sign up, I will look through everyone’s availability and backgrounds and make a choice. Finding a time that brings a group together will be a major factor.
  • All participants will help each other. I will provide advice and guidance on projects, but I expect you to also share your knowledge with your fellow students. This is a group learning environment.
  • This experience will be free, though you are welcome to support my work on Patreon.
  • Because it’s free, I am placing a priority on my own comfort and convenience. I like helping people, but if this effort accidentally stresses me out, I may cut it short.
  • I make print maps, and I work in QGIS, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop. You do not need to use these programs, but understand that my ability to offer technical advice to you will be limited based on my experience. You will get those most out of an independent study experience with me if you plan on making a print map (or at least a static one).

If you’re still interested, here’s a sign-up form.

4 thoughts on “An Educational Experiment

  1. Hi Daniel

    What a cool project! I’ve been making maps for 20 years now but it would be great to have some input as their I’d always something to improve. I’d love to participate but I’m on Guam and also travelling a lot in the next few months.

    Hope you get a great group together.

    All the best, Maria

    1. Thanks for the kind words! If it goes well, I might do it again, so perhaps you’ll have another chance to participate.

    1. Hmm. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what might be going on here; I’ve had many other people sign up, so it must be working to some degree. However, if you would like to join the pool of possible participants, please feel free to email me at

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