A geomatics practitioner is defined by the Geomatics Act (Act 19 of 2013) as a “person who exercises skills and competencies in the science of measurement, the collection and assessment of geographic information and the application of that information in the efficient administration of land, the sea and structures thereon or therein ...and who is registered in one or more of the branches of geomatics ...” (South Africa, 2013).
Worldwide there is a growing demand for geomatics practitioners. Government agencies as well as the private sector are competing to find and employ practitioners in the geomatics field that are both qualified and competent in the practice of the relevant technologies and sciences.
The adoption of the SAGC academic framework by South African universities has significantly simplified the programme accreditation process as it provides a common reference. However the framework in its current format is cumbersome to use. The development of an easy-to-use and accessible assessment tool, in the form of a web application, is therefore an imperative in a developing country such as South Africa in order to reduce the costs of the accreditation process and further to encourage universities offering geomatics professional and technical qualifications to be accredited.
The assessment tool is designed to support curriculum development, guide the accreditation of universities and facilitate the registration of geomatics applications with the respective professional body. The assessment tool has been developed using a relational database design and web application. In this context the database design implies the logical design of the base data structures used to store the data, i.e. the tables and queries used as part of the overall database application.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE ASSESSMENT TOOL
The databases in the SAT was designed using the logical data modelling approach. Fleming & Von Halle (1989) in Van Niekerk (2008) defined logical data modelling (LDM) as business data [such as a university programme] that have an existence that is independent of how they are accessed, who access them, and whether or not the data is accessed through a computerized process. The LDM methodology is entirely data-driven and is not biased by any application requirements or technological considerations. LDM effectively communicate to users, designers and developers the business requirements, while providing a foundation for the design of correct, consistent, sharable and flexible databases using any database technology and software.
A prototype of the SAT was first implemented using Microsoft Excel, mainly to test the concept design and the intended outcomes. Although Excel offered a rapid-development environment, it does not offer the technical functionality and ease to use needed. A web-based application will offer significant benefits because much of the costs related to the distribution and maintenance of new versions of files (and software) are eliminated with client-server web technology. In contrast to local (i.e. desktop) tools, updates can be made on a continuous basis without seriously inconveniencing users. In effect, there is only one always up-to-date version of the system at any given time. This simplifies support, maintenance and training activities. A custom-built, web-based application consequently provide much more flexibility and accessibility, whilst being more intuitive and user-friendly than a “flat-file” (e.g. spread sheet) approach.
The SAT is quite elementary in terms of its requirements. The aim in the design of the database model was to produce a tool that is easy to use and accessible to the user. The website components of the SAT comprises of three elements, namely the database, inference engine and the graphical user interface (GUI). In combination, these components contain the full functionality of the SAT while providing an interface between the supporting database containing the academic framework and the user information (e.g. programme details). The results of the assessment, on the academic component of the accreditation process, are displayed via the GUI in the form of an assessment report to inform the user which KAs are adequately covered. Where KAs are inadequately covered in the programme, the report will inform the user (which can be an assessor, applicant, learner, employer and university) of KAs and units that are inadequately covered including the gap in the number of minimum credits.
ABOUT THE GEOMATICS SELF ASSESSMENT TOOL (SAT)
The assessment procedure contained in the user view consists of 5 key steps
Programme detail submission
Module (courses) detail submission
Programme module and unit (competency) matching
On the Home Page a user is required to login to the system to meet security and privacy requirements. The following information is compulsory and must be provided by the applicant.
User Name (Spaces are allowed; punctuation is not allowed except for periods, hyphens, apostrophes, and underscores.), e-mail address (A valid e-mail address. All e-mails from the system will be sent to this address. The e-mail address is not made public and will only be used if you wish to receive a new password or wish to receive certain news or notifications by e-mail.), university (select university name from the list), applicant (select applicant i.e. private person applying for registration or university applying for accreditation), first name, last name, contact number.
When all fields in the registration page have been completed, click on create new account. The user will be presented with the Home Page and the following message will appear on the top of the page “A welcome message with further instructions has been sent to your e-mail address.” When opening the e-mail with the subject “Account details of ‘user’ at GISc self assessment tool” the user will receive the following message:
Thank you for registering at geomatics self assessment tool. You may now log in by
clicking this link or copying and pasting it to your browser:
This link can only be used once to log in and will lead to a page where
a password can be set.
After setting the password, the user will be able to log in for example at
password: Your password
The user will now be able to view and edit the user’s profile. The registration process is now completed.
2. Add programme
On the User Menu click ‘Add academic programme’. Add the name of the programme to be assessed or accredited and click ‘save’. A message will appear at the top of the page ‘ programme name has been created’.
Loading of modules
The next step is to load the modules of the programme to be assessed or accredited. On the User Menu click ‘My Modules’. If no modules have been captured the system will inform the user that no modules have been listed. Click on ‘Add a module’ Enter the module name and reference number from the programme and click save. The name will be saved. The system will allow Editing including deletions if required. To add the next module, click Add Module, and carry on with the next module.
Match related modules
Once all the modules have been loaded into the system, the applicant can commence with the process of matching the related modules with the academic framework (competency set). Click on “Match related modules” and a page “Create Match” will open. Select from the list the module from the academic programme and match it with the respective Knowledge Area in the academic framework. Click save and the next page “MY MATCHES” will open with a message in the top line “Match Module: Statistics 101 | KA| User: hduplessis has been created.” To match the following module click on “MATCH A RELATED MODEL” and follow the same process as before, continue until all the modules have been matched with the related knowledge areas.
The report generated from the above actions contains the following valuable information:
Name of the applicant and university offering the programme.
Name of the programme submitted for assessment, with the credits allocated for the programme.
At the end of the report the sum of the credits that were allocated during the matching of the modules against the programme appears. If the sum of the credits allocated during the matching is less than the total credits allocated for the competency set, then the respective Knowledge Areas in the geomatics framework are inadequately covered by the modules in the academic programme. The following note appears in red: Credits for the Knowledge Areas in the geomatics framework are inadequately covered by the credits in the modules in the academic programme.
If the credits for any particular knowledge area are more than the sum of the credits required for the core units then it implies that not all the core units for a particular knowledge area are covered by the programme and the following note in red will appear below the results of the respective Knowledge Area. “Core units are inadequately covered”.
If the credits for any particular knowledge area equal the sum of the credits required for the core units then it implies that all the core units for a particular knowledge area are covered by the programme and the following note in green will appear below the results of the respective Knowledge Area. “Core units are adequately covered”.
If the credits for the knowledge Area is less than the sum of the matched credits then the knowledge area is adequately covered in terms of credits, if the credits for the knowledge area is more than the matched credits then it is inadequately covered in terms of credits. A note will appear below the results for the knowledge area to inform the user. The text in the notes will appear in a green font if adequate and in red if inadequate. For example: Credits for the Knowledge area are adequately covered or Credits for the Knowledge Area are inadequately covered.
It is concluded that through the application of the geomatics SAT, the geomatics framework and competency set (SAGC model) can be used by universities to develop level-specific (i.e. years 1 to 5) syllabi that would better prepare individuals for professional registration and assessors can advise universities on how to modify their current programmes to provide training that is more in line with industry requirements.
The implementation of the assessment tool using two case studies has proofed to be cost and time effective. The assessment and preparation time for both the university and the assessment panel is considerably less than using a manual process to do the same analysis. During the implementation using the two case studies, the average assessment were completed in approximately 30 to 40% of the time normally spends on the same manual assessment process. The saving in time and consequently costs can vary, depending on how familiar the user is with the university programme, modules and the GISc framework and competencies. The more aligned the university programme is with the geomatics framework the more likely it is that further savings in time and costs can be attained. It is therefore recommended that universities wishing to be accredited must align their geoinformatics programmes with the geomatics academic framework and competencies.