13 Best Free Online GIS Courses

Free online GIS courses are increasing the demand for employment in the IT, agricultural, health, and business fields. These courses will show you from beginner’s level of drawing and reading a map, to advanced level of using geographical data in the world.

Free Online Courses are shaping the way education is provided to us, starting from helping us to study from anywhere in the world to studying any course without paying a dime for it. Except we want to get a certificate or in some cases upgrade to a pro version.

no one would have said it better about Online Geology Courses than Nicholas Chrisman he said, “Geographers never get lost. They just do accidental fieldwork.”  

I couldn’t have agreed less because when you understand your map you’ll hardly get lost. And, that’s why before you have to get a taxi license in London you need to pass a strict test. This includes knowing inside and out of your city.

Believe me, it’s not an easy test, you’ll be memorizing all 25,000 streets in the city of London. And an average citizen intending to get a cab license does that for 2 to 4 years.

But when they are done, they will never use maps or GPS as most cab drivers do in other countries.

Bringing it back to the topic, these free online GIS courses will help you to understand a lot about geographical data including in 3D format. 

What is GIS?

A Geographical Information System is a collection of geographic data, using some softwares to analyze, direct, run, and monitor this data. Lots of companies including the big brands like Google, Uber, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Starbucks, use this data to know how their initiatives will affect the environment.

For instance, Google is widely using GIS through their Google Earth, individuals use it to create, save, and interact with different locations. Also, Uber solely depends on GIS data to match customers with the nearest driver, GIS helps the driver to come to the exact location of the passenger.

Why do we learn GIS?

There are lots of reasons to enroll in free online GIS courses, some of them include.

Career Path

There is a lot of demand for people that have skills in GIS such as CAD drafting, GIS Analysis, Software Management, GIS development, and many more. Also, there are so many fields that depend on GIS for business such as real estate, medical, IT, and, these fields will need the expertise of GIS scientists.

Better Decision Making

Applying for these free online GIS courses will help you to make better location decisions. If you’re in the real estate field you’ll use it to understand more about site selection and planning.

Customer Service

GIS has greatly improved businesses’ customer service by helping customers to contact the nearest customer service of a product that had an is. Some customer service is learning online customer service courses to even serve their consumers better.

Benefits of free online gis courses

  • Firstly, let’s start with the fact that it’s FREE. You don’t have to pay a dime to enroll in any of these courses. And, you will grab lasting knowledge in GIS.
  • Secondly, these free online GIS courses will introduce you to some of the best softwares used in reading GIS data.
  • Thirdly, you’ll be learning to draw maps from expert cartographers.
  • Fourthly, you’ll also learn to create these maps in 3D format for enhanced problem-solving.
  • Lastly, you’ll freely learn to examine data for Geospatial analysis work.

Requirements to take GIS courses online

The good news is there is no special degree needed to partake in any of these free online GIS courses. You need;

    • A working computer that has internet access.
    • The latest GIS softwares like ArcGIS. Some of these courses will show you the practical application of GIS through some softwares.
    • Some courses will require you to know Windows-based software.
  • Discipline; yes, you need to discipline yourself to finish the course. Some of these free online GIS courses run for 6 months, and you’ll need to always show up even though it is free.

Free Online GIS Courses

Here is the list of free online GIS courses.

  • Getting Started with GIS
  • Cartography
  • Introduction to GIS
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) SpecializationGIS, Mapping, and Spatial Analysis Specialization
  • Advanced Diploma in Geographic Information Systems
  • GIS and Spatial Interpolation
  • 3D GIS
  • Spatial Data Science and Applications
  • Ecosystem Services: a Method for Sustainable Development
  • Strengthening Geospatial Information Management: Using the Integrated Geospatial Information Framework
  • Diploma in Geo
  • Spatial Analysis in Urban Planning
  • GIS Data Formats, Design, and Quality

1. Getting Started with GIS

Where is the best place to take a GIS course if not from one of the best providers of GIS softwares, Esri? Esri is a company that uses huge data to solve geographical problems in real-time, and was established in 1969.

They have come to acknowledge the science of GIS, and many reputable companies depend on their “ArcGIS” for strong data. They help these companies and us to see what others can’t see.

This is one of the free online GIS courses that introduce you to the Geographic Information System. You’ll be learning the foundational principles that made geologists create this, and you’ll be learning through ArcGIS.

This course will be teaching you how to create a GIS map, access data that will be used in the GIS mapping project. Visually analyze feature relationships and patterns on a GIS map, finally, you’ll learn to Share GIS maps and analysis results.

To participate in this course it will be better if you know Windows-based software, to enable you to manage files and browse. This course also comes in diverse versions, and it takes 3 and a half hours to complete.

Apply Now!

2. Cartography

This is one of the free online GIS courses created by esri. Esri is on it again with this free course, you’ll be learning to make maps from an expert.

Yes I know anybody can make maps, just is the case for cooking, but a professional chef can teach you better. The same goes for a cartographer, who speaks and does mapping, you’ll be learning how to make better maps.

This course will be showing the practical use of ArcGIS Pro to create a reliable map, which will make you smarter in creating maps. Your map through ArcGIS will go ahead to communicate with impact.

You’ll be able to download a PDF course topic and important tips you will need to succeed in this course. Further, you’ll acquire a skill that can set you different from other job seekers or employees.

You also need experience with Windows-based software and you need to be familiar with GIS and cartographic concepts (they are not necessary). You’ll freely have access to ArcGIS pro during this course, you’ll need to download it. The course takes 6 weeks to complete.

Apply Now!

3. Introduction to GIS

This is one of the free online GIS courses that will help you to properly start a GIS career. It will explain a deeper meaning of GIS and its types, you’ll also see lots of GIS softwares.

Further, you’ll be introduced to Web GIS, and its career, you’ll learn the difference between web GIS and software GIS. Then you’ll see ArcGIS software packages such as ArcMap, ArcGlobe, ArcCatalog, and ArcScene.

This course is for those that don’t know anything about GIS but have the passion to learn or even those that want a free course. Beginner’s course is important for everyone, it’s like learning ABCD, for how can you advance to spell your name without learning ABCD?

The course has 5 sections, with 11 lectures (each lecture has lots of topics), and 1 assessment. It is offered by Udemy and has been taken by more than 8,500 students.

Apply Now!

4. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialization

This is one of the free online GIS courses that is offered by the University of California through Coursera. It’s a 6 months course that will be teaching you how to produce and work with raster data.

You’ll also be learning to produce and properly examine data for geospatial analysis work. Further, you will learn to use techniques from cartography to proficiently communicate your result in maps.

Finally, you’ll be given a project to create a professional GIS portfolio through combined data identification and collection.

UCDAVIS is partnering with Esri to provide a professional setting and experience of GIS software to you. And, the course is totally online, you can enroll in it at your convenience.

So far, 63,954 students have already enrolled in it, and it’s a beginner’s course.

Apply Now!

5. GIS, Mapping, and Spatial Analysis Specialization

This course goes deeper to combine both GIS and Mapping and it is offered by the University of Toronto through Coursera. It is one of the free online GIS courses that 31,384 students have already enrolled in.

This course will improve your skills in GIS, Mapping, Cartography, Spatial Analysis, and Esri. It is handled by one of the top instructors in Coursera, Don Boyes, who is a  Professor of Geography and Planning.

The course will start by lecturing you on the basics of Maps and GIS, that is, you’ll be learning from scratch. 

Even if you have an understanding of them already and want to improve, you can remain on board. Because as the course progresses, you’ll be gaining a better knowledge of how it works.

Such as analyzing map data with different professional data types and you’ll design a GIS project, which will make you understand a practical application of GIS.

Apply Now!

6. Advanced Diploma in Geographic Information Systems

This is one of the free online GIS courses that was published by Nptel through Alison. It’s a 10 to 15 hours course that 3,396 students have enrolled in, so far.

You’ll be understanding the fundamental principles behind GIS and how to represent professional data in the real world, through the use of GIS. You’ll go further to learn lots of opportunities in the GIS field and what can be done with data collected from GIS software.

In the middle of the course, you’ll be taught Global Positioning System, where you’ll be introduced to GPS, how it works, and its application to our world. You’ll also be introduced to database and database management in the middle of the course.

This is one of the free online GIS courses that the final course will introduce you to Open Source GIS Software and GeoServer. And, you’ll have two assessments in this course; one in the middle and the last one at the end.

You’ll then be given a final exam that will test your knowledge in the diploma program. You need to pass 80% of the exam to qualify for their certificate. However, their certificate requires a little fee to be obtained.

It’s a diploma course that has 12 modules and lots of topics. It moves from beginners level to advanced level in GIS. That means any student can participate in this course.

Apply Now!

7. GIS and Spatial Interpolation

 This is another course offered by NPTEL through Alison, and it focuses on Spatial Interpolation fundamentals, and how you can use it to solve geographical problems. This is one of the free online GIS courses that will teach you how to manage geographical space by attribute data management.

You’ll be going deeper to learn what Spatial Interpolation means to a geologist and the world at large. You’ll also be learning so many ways to carry out a GIS system. 

It’s an approximate 2 to 3 hours short course that can be taken by a student that wants to learn more about Spatial Analysis.

Apply Now!

8. 3D GIS

This is one of the free online GIS courses that will teach you to advance your maps to the third dimension, which makes them more realistic. You’ll be learning how to use some advanced softwares to picture, analyze and read spatial data in 3D.

This course will teach you the basics of 3D GIS and you’ll see how to reveal GIS data in a 3D format to enable you to easily solve problems and make wiser geographical decisions. 

This course is provided by the University of Alaska, Fairrbanks, through edx. And it takes 4 weeks to complete.

Apply Now!

9. Spatial Data Science and Applications

The hiring rate for a spatial data scientist is increasing and it’s projected to skyrocket more. Even companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, Uber, Microsoft, Audi, Mercedes are hiring Spatial Data scientists in line with our world’s recent digital innovations.

This is one of the free online GIS courses that will deposit lots of information on Spatial Data Science to you. After the course, you’ll have a better knowledge of data science and analysis, and you’ll learn a secret that can make you stand out from other Spatial Data Scientists.

In addition, you will appreciate the relevance of spatial big data, and how open source softwares can help to handle Spatial Data Science problems.

This course runs for approximately 12 hours and it is focused on intermediate students. That is students that already have a basic knowledge of Spatial Data Science.

It can be taken at your speed and it’s totally online, a little dollar is required to pay for the certificate. After this course, you’ll have Spatial Analysis, QGIS (Quantum GIS), Big Data, and Geographical Information System intermediate skills.

Apply Now!

10. Ecosystem Services: a Method for Sustainable Development

This is one of the free online GIS courses that is for intermediate students, which means you have had a ground knowledge of GIS and which you can get from the prior list. This course was created by the University of Geneva through Coursera.

You’ll be learning a deeper part of our ecosystem, you’ll come to appreciate the resources nature freely offers us, and their limitations. You’ll start to appreciate the advantages of monetizing our ecosystem and some of the likely risks.

The course will start by introducing you to the instructors that will be taking you on this 18 hours journey. And you’ll be given a list of major questions that your instructors will revisit as the course progresses.

You’ll then progress to learn about the evaluation of ecosystem services, where you’ll understand more about valuation and the difference between price and value. In the final course, you’ll learn to create your own ecosystem services case.

The course runs for 6 weeks with 75 videos and lots of readable materials.

Apply Now!

11. Strengthening Geospatial Information Management: Using the Integrated Geospatial Information Framework

This is one of the free online GIS courses created by the United Nations and the World Bank. It introduces the Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF). 

IGIF helps countries to make the arrangement of their Geospatial Information Management stronger. That is, you’ll be learning how to develop and strengthen your country’s and other countries’ geospatial arrangements.

In essence, this course will enable you to create maps for your country or sub-nation. You’ll also learn the meaning of geospatial and how it can affect a country’s progress, stagnation, or even regression.

Apply Now!

12. Diploma in GeoSpatial Analysis in Urban Planning

This is one of the free online GIS courses that is offered by NPTEL through Alison. It’s a diploma course, which runs for 10 to 15 hours.

The course starts with the fundamentals of Geo-Spatial Analysis and progresses as an advanced means to solve problems that came further through urban planning. Like every other free online GIS courses, you’ll also be introduced to GIS in this course, then you’ll learn vector and raster data models.

You’ll have your first assessment after the first two modules, then the next module, managing geographical space, and Spatial Analysis follow after. After the course, your knowledge will be tested through a final assessment, which requires an 80% pass mark.

Apply Now!

13. GIS Data Formats, Design, and Quality

This is one of the free online GIS courses offered by the University of California through Coursera. It is an intermediate course where you’ll get deeper into raster and vector data.

It runs for 4 weeks with amazing lectures, you’ll be learning more about data models and formats. And you will see and learn how to create vector data models with vector attributes tables.

This course will also show you how to create new data with ArcGIS. Further, you’ll see some major data storage mechanisms in GIS. The course runs for 28 hours with 52 videos.

It is part 2 of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialization.

Apply Now!

Free Online GIS Courses – FAQs

Is GIS difficult to learn?

GIS is not difficult to learn, especially at the beginning stage. But, just like every other advanced degree or course, you’ll be learning a deeper part of Geographical Data. This part might be a little difficult to learn, but it’s possible to complete. 

How can I learn GIS for free?

We have provided 13 free online GIS courses, you can grab one of them and start learning immediately.

How long does it take to learn GIS?

It can take as short as 1 hour and as long as 6 months to participate in one of these free online GIS courses.

How can I learn GIS fast?

There are some courses like GIS and Spatial Interpolation that can take 2 to 3 hours to complete or Getting Started with GIS which takes 3 and half hours to complete

What is the difference between ArcGIS and GIS?

GIS is the general term, the main comparison here should be ArcGIS and QGIS. They are the leading GIS softwares, the major difference is that QGIS is free to use but ArcGIS requires you to pay a fee.