ArcGIS Online is helping a growing number of Australian organisations easily create and share compelling, fit-for-purpose web maps. One such organisation is Cradle Coast Natural Resources Management (NRM) – a not-for-profit group responsible for coordinating natural resource management programs in North West Tasmania.
Mark Wisniewski – Cradle Coast NRM’s Project Officer – speaks to Esri Australia’s Sally Hall about how his ArcGIS Online experience started with four simple online tutorials.
Sally Hall: Hi Mark. So tell us – why did your organisation choose to start using ArcGIS Online?
Mark Wisniewski: When I discovered ArcGIS Online on the Esri Australia website , I decided to trial a 30 day subscription to evaluate its value and how it could help Cradle Coast NRM meet its regional natural resource management goals. ArcGIS Online stood out from the others because it is an integrated software package with ArcGIS for Desktop.
SH: You set up your ArcGIS Online account with the help of four online training videos… How did these videos help you get started?
MW: The four free ArcGIS Online videos described in a simple, step-by-step way how to set up your organisation’s account, develop groups, make maps and web applications and how to share these. One video also directed me to the Esri GitHub repository and I was able to download the GIS gallery template. Using my web developing skills, I was able to customise the template to develop the Cradle Coast NRM GIS Mapping gallery.
SH: What was the most valuable tip you picked up from the online videos?
MW: The best tip I learned from the videos was how to share a web map/app either publicly or privately depending on your organisation’s needs and audiences.
SH: How important were these videos in ensuring you could hit the ground running with ArcGIS Online?
MW: One could certainly sit down, open up an ArcGIS Online subscription and navigate their way through the service. But by watching the free videos, you gain a better understanding and appreciation of how the ArcGIS Online environment operates and the value it adds to your organisation – a much quicker and more efficient way of getting started.
SH: Since watching the free ArcGIS Online training videos, you’ve also supplemented your skills by attending an ‘ArcGIS IV: Sharing Content on the Web’ course. Tell us about this experience?
MW: Cradle Coast NRM’s management supports staff professional development – staff are strongly encouraged to participate in training. I had never used ArcGIS Server and it was such a great experience to learn about this technology and also to compare the workflows between ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Server.
Having experience in using ArcGIS Online, I had four key questions that I was keen to have answered at the training: the main one being: how to back-up a Feature Service with File Geodatabase characteristics (e.g. attachments and domains) from ArcGIS Online.
Esri Australia’s trainers quickly found and shared the solution and were able to demonstrate the workflow to the class. This is not something described in any video.
Training is also an undervalued networking opportunity; it was valuable to share experiences with other users, particularly new contacts from the same state.
SH: What was your biggest take away from ‘ArcGIS IV: Sharing Content on the Web’?
MW: The biggest take away message for me is that ArcGIS for Desktop (ArcCatalog and ArcMap) is still the powerhouse in organising and developing the GIS data. ArcGIS Online is an integrated service able to present this geographic information in an informative, engaging and easy to understand way locally, nationally and internationally.
SH: What other areas would you like to learn about in terms of creating web maps?
MW: Anyone can create a web map with ArcGIS Online, all you need is a subscription. But to create a web map that is efficient to use, attractive enough to get the users’ attention, but still meets the basic cartographic principles can become quite complex. Posts and discussions in LinkedIn highlight that web maps today are more focussed on utilising web developing skills to make attractive maps. This has the consequence of reducing the input of cartographic principles because a user is drawn in by the presentation, rather than what the geographic data actually represents. Therefore, the Designing Maps with ArcGIS course is my next priority.
SH: What types of maps does Cradle Coast NRM now have featured on ArcGIS Online?
MW: Cradle Coast NRM currently has seven web maps and two web apps featured on its ArcGIS Online. Four of the web maps are shared through the Cradle Coast NRM Investment 2011-13 web application, created using the customised ‘Side According Template’. This web app is also featured on the Esri Australia Story Maps website. Our ‘What is Natural Resource Management?’ web app is based on the map tour template hosted from ArcGIS Online, which is also mobile optimised and available through the free ‘Cradle Coast NRM’ Android app.
SH: What response have you had to the map gallery from your local community?
MW: Cradle Coast NRM’s map gallery is a new feature of our website and mobile app. Promotion of these features has only recently begun, but initial anecdotal responses are very positive. In particular, the combination of visual and technical content in a user-friendly format has been well received. Local stakeholders have also commented on the potential future services that can be so easily imagined when seeing the map gallery and its features.
SH: What future applications do you see ArcGIS Online having within Cradle Coast NRM?
MW: I am currently working on a map tour of the volunteer community groups that passionately work in our region. This tour also includes hyperlinks to a group’s website/social media page for easy contact and to ensure that details remain up to date. Again this will be available via the ‘Cradle Coast NRM Android’ app.
Cradle Coast NRM has developed a fuel reduction plan across the landscape taking into consideration biodiversity and vegetation requirements. A key feature of ArcGIS Online was the ability to directly import the spatial results and show the proposed fuel reduction plans to stakeholders over the next decade using the ‘Time Aware’ web application. Cradle Coast NRM is presenting this at ‘Directions 2014’ in Hobart in April.
We are currently planning to turn one of our educational activities into an online GIS educational resource and optimise it for “smart board” technology use in classrooms to engage students in natural resource management. Customised popups will feature photos and links to online resources such as videos to help tell the story.