Northern Illinois University (Advanced Geospatial Laboratory), United States

NIU uses Intergraph technology to virtually locate sites and resources on campus

The Challenge:

Today’s universities boast campuses that are larger than some small cities. Take for example, northern Illinois University (NIU) with a campus population of more than 25,000 students. Imagine yourself as a freshman trying to find your first lecture class on a campus the size of NIU. The NIU advanced geospatial laboratory Department understood the difficulty in locating buildings on its campus and set out to update its existing campus Web map, which was previously a series of outdated raster images divided into three separate Web pages. The old Web site did not offer features such as search, scale, or zoom into specific areas of interest, as the maps were static.

The Project Objectives:

  • Create a campus map to help prospective and current students, visitors, faculty, and staff in locating resources and buildings on the campus
  • Generate an automated system using cutting-edge technology to keep the university in the forefront of geographic information system (GIS) technological innovations

The Solution:

NIU has been using Intergraph’s GeoMedia Professional software for several years and had a good understanding of the software and its capabilities. GeoMedia software is one of the tools used in teaching NIU students the primary fundamentals of GIS. With the ability of GeoMedia WebMap Publisher to integrate directly into GeoMedia Professional, the process of creating a Web-based system was streamlined. This meant that the learning curve and time it took to put the university online was dramatically reduced. The university was able to exploit the skill level and experience of several people who were already experienced with Intergraph technology. This was a major factor in the decision to implement the Web-based GIS solution. In addition, the capabilities provided by GeoMedia WebMap were exactly what were needed to create a user-friendly interface.

With the success of the project, the university has received praise for the Web site from various groups of users both on and off campus. It has given the university an additional source of recruitment capability in terms of highlighting many of the different venues of interest on campus. This in turn has generated more media coverage and advertising opportunities for the campus. New students can now log on to the Web site and take a virtual tour of the campus, which can assist them in the decision-making process when registering for classes. Students and staff can now see specific building sites, safest walking routes, and estimated walking times. New students moving on campus can use this Web-based GIS site to locate bike racks, emergency call boxes, parking, bus stops/routes, offices, and departments that are closest to their residence.

Future Plans:

Additional items that are in the works include expanded bus routes, food establishments that accept NIU credit cards (Huskie bucks), site point placements of classrooms and/or building floor plans, seating arrangements for the football stadium and convocation center, dynamic segmentation where an optimum route can be plotted between two points of interest, and more.

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