The gvSIG Association Program of Training and Certification: Perspectives in Russia

The gvSIG Association Program of Training and Certification is one of the main components of the infrastructure of the gvSIG project. Usually the main goal of training programs to be implemented in the projects of development of the open source software  is the commercialization of knowledge of developers and advanced users, and providing additional income to further project development. However, in this case, the financial income is important, but not the main goal. In developing its Program of Training and Certification gvSIG Association is primarily pursuing other goals.

Purpose of the Program of Training

The main purpose of the Program of Training of the gvSIG Association is to prepare professional users and developers who are well aware of the possibility of gvSIG and free geospatial technologies and know how to apply them in practice. In turn, having a knowledge of which quality is certified by gvSIG Association, these specialists can provide technical support to other users and interested organizations on a professional level.

This approach to the training of professional users and developers is one of the key elements of the new business model, which was developed of the gvSIG Association and which about Gabriel Carrión, Director of Strategic Development of the gvSIG Association, said in his articles. English translations of these articles can be read in gvSIG  blog [1, 2].

Under this, the participation in the Program of Training and Certification of the gvSIG Association is beneficial to all who associated with the project gvSIG and free geospatial software in any way: users can obtain new or to expand and streamline the existing knowledge and skills, course developers and instructors are able to commercialize their knowledge, the gvSIG Association receives additional support for the project and obtains skilled users of their products. And end-users of products and services developed on the basis of free geospatial technologies, receive professional support of the certified specialists.

Certainly, the financial component of the Program of Training continues to play an important role. However, in this case, the financial aspect  is the primary concern for instructors and course developers because the gvSIG Association, following the principles of solidarity and cooperation, almost all revenue reserves at their disposal.

Training centers and training platform

There are various forms of  learning

  • on site
  • online
  • mixed

With the learning center can be, and, by experience of other countries, usually act in this capacity, public and private higher education institutions and training centers in the companies, which are professionally working in the field of free geospatial software.

The only requirement, which the gvSIG Association imposes on training centers, is that organizations providing educational services should be part of the Association of gvSIG. However, as we reported earlier in our blog [3], higher education institutions have the status of «Honorary Members» and training centers and companies are part of the Association as a «Corporate Members» (Collaborators).

Over the past 15 years, Russia has accumulated great experience in training of the specialists in the field of geographic information technologies. There are many higher education institutions, whose students are trained on the course «Geographic information systems and technology». These institutions have experienced lecturers who conduct the research and participate in the execution of the contracts. By experience of other countries, namely the institutions like these ones  become scientific and educational centers in the use and promotion of free geospatial technologies.

As examples we can give the Centre for Geospatial Science of the University of Nottingham in the UK [4], University of Girona in Spain [5], University of Rennes 2 in France [6], Polytechnic University of Valencia [7] and other educational institutions, which train specialists in the Geoinformatics, conduct research, carry out of various business projects, and actively contribute in the international community of free geospatial software.

There is no doubt that the Russian universities and higher education specialists have not less scientific potential and can just as effectively and efficiently work in the development and using of free geospatial technologies. Here the main task — to find the organizational forms that correspond to the opportunities and challenges of Russian universities. In this case, participation in the Program of Training and Certification of the gvSIG  Association is one of the proven options for academic and business processes.

Another form of user training is the creation of training centers for companies, which are professionally working in the field of GIS and free geospatial software and using ones for developing custom or packaged solutions.

Experience shows that the incorporation of the learning process in the life cycle of the proposed solutions is one of the most promising options for doing business. In this case the customer gets not only complete solution based on the free geospatial technologies but also skilled users ensuring efficient use of GIS.

The gvSIG Association established learning platform gvSIG Training [8] for distance learning. The training courses is published on the basis of this platform. These courses allow users to acquire knowledge and gain the necessary points to obtain a gvSIG Certificate. Along with the Association, distance learning based on the gvSIG Training platform can hold organizations and companies that make up the gvSIG Association. Therefore, the Russian educational institutions and training centers will be able to place their own courses for distance learning platform after joining the gvSIG Association, thus expanding the geography of potential students, providing a flexible training schedule and reducing costs of  maintenance or lease of computer classes.

The gvSIG Association provides training centers right to determine the number of students and cost of learning (for details see below), as well as make training schedules.

Training courses

Currently the official courses of the gvSIG Association which are posted on the gvSIG Training platform are available for Russian users. Now there are the following courses: «gvSIG for users», «Advanced geoprocessing: Sextante for gvSIG», as well as two courses (both basic and advanced) on the application of gvSIG in viticulture. The first two courses are in Spanish, others — in Spanish and Portuguese. The Portuguese version of the course mainly focuses on Brazilian users who make extensive use of gvSIG for solving various tasks.

However, it is clear that successful training on these courses would be difficult for the Russian-speaking users who do not speak Spanish. Realizing this, the gvSIG Association, according to Valenty Gonsalez, Director of the Program of Training of the gvSIG Association, believes that users should be able to study the gvSIG with localized courses.

The most obvious way to create a localized course in Russian is to translate from Spanish the official course of the gvSIG Association. This option is possible and, indeed, actively supported by the Association. For example, a training course for users is now being translated into English, Italian and other languages. To translate a course into Russian, in addition to knowledge of English and Spanish, it is desirable that the translator worked in the organization, which is a member of the gvSIG Association.

The next option is to develop its own course. If you develop your own course, here the basic requirements will not only match themes and content of the course to the Program of Training, but also the membership of your organization in the gvSIG Association.

And finally, the third option, when there is already a training course that you would like to offer as an official one to be placed on the platform gvSIG Training or use it for training in classroom. In this case, the course content should be accredited for compliance with the Program of Training, pursued by the leaders of the Program and experts of the gvSIG Association. This accreditation is a simple procedure for members of the Association of gvSIG.

Now about the topics of training courses. As already noted [3], the gvSIG Association does not restrict its activities by support its own products. Along with gvSIG, the Association supports the development of other free geospatial technologies. Therefore, according to Valenty Gonsalez, Director of the Program of Training of the gvSIG Association, course topics may be the most diverse and cover all the questions in the following areas:

  • gvSIG with all extensions (network analysis, SEXTANTE and GRASS, 3D gvSIG, NavTable, Publishing extension, etc.)
  • free geospatial software (eg., MapServer, GeoServer, GeoNetwork, etc.)
  • applied using of the gvSIG (eg., gvSIG for Cadastre, gvSIG for water resource management, etc.)

In this regard, the limitless possibilities for commercialization of their knowledge appear for Russian teachers and specialists in free geospatial technologies, as long as the topics and course content is interesting to potential users.

A few words about the content of courses. If you would like to offer a course developed by you as an official one, that will allow your users to simultaneously with the training earn points to obtain a certificate, you must adhere to the requirements of the Association to the course content. In accordance with the course of “gvSIG for Users”, developed by the Association [9], the content is divided into modules. A certain amount of points that go to obtain certificate is charged after the successful completion of each module.  The Program of Training of the gvSIG Association in Russian can be downloaded from our website [10].

Certification

The gvSIG Certification is indissoluble linked to the training program of the gvSIG Association and has the same goal — to prepare professional users and developers who know the capabilities of the gvSIG and other free geospatial technologies and are able to apply their knowledge in the process of developing real projects.

Currently, the gvSIG user certification  has two levels:

  • user (gvSIG User Certification) and
  • expert (gvSIG Expert Certification) levels.

The «gvSIG User» Certificate is intended for novice users who wish to explore the main features of gvSIG. To obtain a certificate the user must know the basic functions of gvSIG Desktop, be skilled in managing different types of spatial data, be able to work with views, tables, coordinate systems and a reprojection tool, creating and editing spatial data, use the tools of spatial analysis and geoprocessing.

The «gvSIG Expert» Certificate is designed for experienced users. A prerequisite to obtaining the certificate is a obtaining of the «gvSIG User» one. To obtain the «gvSIG Expert» Certificate user needs to know the possibilities of the major extensions of the gvSIG Desktop, as well as be able to work with extensions such as NavTable, SEXTANTE and GRASS, 3D gvSIG, Network extension, to use the tool to apply the data publishing services using OGC (Publishing extension), to know the functions of the advanced geoprocessing of the gvSIG Desktop, to be able to add a geoprocessing using WPS (Web Processing Service).

A complete list of requirements for each level of the gvSIG user certification  can be found at the web site of the gvSIG Association [11] or in the Program of the “gvSIG for Users” course on our website [10].

To get a certificate, users must pass one or more courses (classroom or distance learning) and to obtain the necessary number of credits. To obtain the «gvSIG User» Certificate a user must score at least 90 credits, and to obtain the «gvSIG Expert» Certificate — a minimum of 100 credits with  the «gvSIG User»  Certificate.

For users who have working experience with gvSIG and possess the necessary knowledge, a set of tests is being developed. In case of successful completion of the tests a user will receive a certificate. On completion of test development and announcing of the testing procedures by the gvSIG Association we will inform you further.

In addition to the user certification, gvSIG Association plans to introduce the certification for developers. About the beginning of developer certification program, procedures and methods of obtaining the «gvSIG Developer» Certificate it will be announced after the release of the final version of the gvSIG 2.0, which should become the basic platform for developing custom solutions based on gvSIG.

The cost of training and certification

In the present the value of the official «gvSIG for Users” course for distance learning at the gvSIG Training platform  is € 295. For European users this cost is quite reasonable, but among Russian specialists are not able to allocate ones who could pay such money for to the training out of their own pocket. If, however, pay the fees through the organization, it must still prove the feasibility of such costs to the management stuff.

However, the gvSIG Association allows the training center to make decision about the amount of tuition fees. Therefore, the cost of courses for Russian users will depend on the pricing policy of the Russian educational institutions and training centers. In this case, if the course developers set the price reasonable in terms of potential users, the course will actually operate and evolve. If the public or private educational institutions and commercial centers will not be able to invite interested users to an adequate level of prices, in their place come other specialists offering these services at a reasonable cost.

It should be noted that in determining the cost of the course, training center must take into account the mandatory payments to the following organizations or persons involved in the learning process:

  • the gvSIG Association;
  • the gvSIG Training platform (under the distance learning);
  • a content developer;
  • a translator (if there is a need to translate the content of the course in Russian or other languages)
  • instructor.

The amount of payments in favor of the gvSIG Association and the gvSIG Training platform is less than 10% for each (a total of less than 20%). The rest of the income remains at the disposal of the organizers of the course and is distributed among the remaining participants according to preliminary agreements.

If we talk about the cost of certification, in the present to obtain the «gvSIG User» and «gvSIG Expert» Certificates users gain scores in the learning process and, therefore,  do not pay for certification itself, receiving a certificate upon completion of the training course.

For users who are interested in obtaining certificates by passing the gvSIG tests, the cost of testing and certification will be determined by the gvSIG Association later, after the completion of the preparation of the test tasks and organize the testing process.

Will users be interested in learning?

Under developing the training courses, the presence of potential students who are interested in acquiring new knowledge is always a question.

Of course, in this case there is a fairly large group, in the scale of Russia, of enthusiasts of free geospatial software, which in varying degrees, would be interested in expanding their knowledge and confirmation of the high level of their knowledge by international certificates. Exactly these professionals, having first the training and received  the certificates, could use the business model, based on using and promotion of free geospatial software, in their future activities.

After all, if you wish to build your business on using of open geospatial technologies, your knowledge and experience becomes the main competitive advantage. With this approach, courses are becoming an integral part of your business — and as a source of knowledge for you and your staff, and as a way to generate income from providing of educational services by you to your customers and potential users.

Indeed, the most realistic way to ensure a steady stream of trainees for training courses is to consider the learning of users as a necessary stage of work on the implementation of your solutions on the basis of free geospatial software. In this case, the customer receives a complete solution, based on free software, which includes the proper development of geographic information system, its implementation, and training personnel to work with GIS developed by you. Then you will not only generate additional income from providing of training, but most importantly, will have advanced users to ensure successful operation of the GIS implemented by you. In the end, successful result of your implementation is a direct advertising your skills and further promotion of your solutions on the market and as a result — the success of your business.

It should be noted that such a business model has long existed on the Russian market of information technologies and successfully used by vendors of the accounting and ERP software, in particular, the company «1C» [12].

So what to do?

If you are a user, you have three choices:

  • after the appearance of the English version of  «gvSIG for Users» course on the gvSIG Training platform you can take distance learning course and obtain the  «gvSIG User» Certificate, and then the «gvSIG Expert» Certificate (waiting time is about 3 months, the cost of the «gvSIG for Users» course is € 295);

  • to wait for when the translation of the official «gvSIG for Users» course into Russian will be able on the gvSIG Training platform and then to be trained on a localized course (waiting time is about 4-6 months, the cost is not defined and depends on the training center, which will provide training);

  • to expect when the original classroom or distance learning courses developed by both public and commercial centers for Russian will appear (waiting time is about 6-12 months, the cost is not defined and depends on the training center, which will provide training).

If you are an instructor or specialist who has worked with geospatial technologies, and want to develop an original course, you should:

  • first of all agree with the leadership of your school or an independent training center the opportunity to participate in the Program of Training and Certification of the gvSIG Association;

  • if approved your organization should join the gvSIG Association;

  • then you need to develop new course content or to adapt an existing course content and receive the endorsement of the gvSIG Association;

  • determine the form of training (classroom and / or distance learning);

  • determine the cost of the course and to conclude agreements on sharing of income from training among all interested parties;

  • solve organizational issues for the courses (place, time, instructors, class size);

  • start forming groups of students.

Obviously, the work on preparation the courses will have many questions. You can contact the coordinators of the Russian gvSIG Community by e-mail gvsig.russia@gmail.com, we will try to help you in any way we can.

As for the title of the article. So are there any perspectives for the Program of Training and Certification of the gvSIG Association in Russia? Of course, there are perspectives, because all we who are users, developers, educators, professionals and all those who work with open geospatial technologies, are primarily interested in the implementation and further development of the Program. Therefore, only by us, our desires, and our energy depends, will be exist the Russian system of education of free geospatial technologies or not.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Valenty Gonsalez, Director of the Program of Training of the gvSIG Association, for providing information and assistance in preparing this article.

[1] — Explaining what the gvSIG Association is
[2] — Why a SME could be interested in joining the gvSIG Association in the current financial crisis situation
[3] — gvSIG Association opens new possibikities for Russian specialists
[4] — http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/cgs/
[5] — http://www.udg.edu/Noticiesiagenda/tabid/36/language/en-US/Default.aspx
[6] — http://www.univ-rennes2.fr/
[7] — http://www.upv.es/entidades/ETSIGCT/indexi.html и http://www.ai2.upv.es/en/index.php
[8] — gvSIG Training Platform — http://gvsig-training.com/
[9] — “gvSIG for Users” (English)
[10] — “gvSIG for Users” (Russian in PDF)
[11] — gvSIG Desktop Users Certification (English)
[12] — The Certified Training Centers of the  “1C” Company

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