GIS Resources for Distance Learning and Working from Home

Planet Earth wearing a doctor's maskThe past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind for everyone as we’ve all sought to adjust to working, attending school, socializing, and just carrying out our daily lives online. Here at the Scholarly Commons, we’ve been working hard to ensure that this transition is as smooth as possible for those of you relying on specialized software to conduct your research or do your classwork. That’s why this week we wanted to highlight some resources essential to anyone using or teaching with GIS as we work through this period of social distancing. 

Many GIS users may already be aware that anyone with a University of Illinois netID can download ArcGIS for Desktop and ArcGIS Pro for free from the Webstore. The Webstore also offers free downloads of Esri E-Learning courses, for anyone interested in using their time at home to boost their GIS skills. Folks who are accustomed to using GIS software on the computers in the Scholarly Commons or in their own labs may find that running ArcGIS on their personal devices may be a bit more time-consuming, as this software uses quite a bit of processing power and many laptops simply weren’t built for that kind of work. But, in a pinch, you should be able to get the job done!

Esri has also put together a handy guide for educators who use GIS in their classroom, containing resources and information on everything from navigating licenses in online teaching to MOOCs and other online workshops available for distance learners. This is an invaluable resource that should be bookmarked by anyone teaching with GIS for the duration of the pandemic. 

As always, QGIS remains a fantastic free, open-source alternative to ArcGIS. If you’re new to QGIS, be sure to check out our blog post on the software. 

Anyone with further questions or seeking additional GIS support should feel free to reach out to us! While our physical space is closed, the Scholarly Commons continues to be available to help you over email, at

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