YIC New BSc Geomatics Curriculum: AC hallenging Program Towards

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					        Enhancing YIC Geomatics Program: Towards Increasing Student Intake and
                                Industrial Partnership

                   M. M. Hasan1, 2, K. F. Aleem1, 3, Y. A. Aina1 and H. AlGhamdi1
     Geomatics Engineering Technologies Department, Yanbu Industrial College, P. O. Box 30436,
                                      Yanbu. Saudi Arabia
                                        Tel: 043946157
                                      Mobile: 0556178053
    (mhasan@yic.edu.sa, akamorudeen@yic.edu.sa, yaina@yic.edu.sa & halghamdi@yic.edu.sa)
                Surveying Engineering Department, Benha University Shoubra, Egypt
 Surveying and Geoinformatics Programme, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Nigeria


The Geomatics Engineering department at Yanbu Industrial College (YIC) has been facing
the problem of low student enrollment due partly to lack of job opportunities for Saudi
Nationals. Lack of job opportunities for Saudis is exacerbated by unwillingness of some
graduates to work in the field subjected to weather elements and the preference of the
employers for Non-Saudi personnel. The department of Geomatics has taken some steps
such as revamping the curriculum based on industrial requirement, development of a
bachelor degree program and initiation of education-industry partnership to address these
challenges. This paper highlights some of the issues threatening the sustainability of
Geomatics education at YIC. It also presents feedback of questionnaires administered to
collect information on industrial needs and courses design and plan. The strategies, like
building partnerships with the industry and curriculum design and plan, being implemented
to enhance and sustain Geomatics programs are also discussed. The strategies adopted
have resulted in some students choosing Geomatics as first option.

1. Introduction

International Standard Organization defined Geomatics as a modern scientific term

referring to the integrated approach of measurements, analysis, management and display

of spatial data (Aleem, 2001). Also, Yanbu Industrial College described Geomatics as a

growing engineering and information technology field that comprises of the collection,

analysis, modeling, mapping, interpretation, distribution, management, and use of geo-
spatial data; data identified according to its location relative to Earth surface; data collected

using land, marine, airborne and satellite-based sensors through surveys for mapping the

earth surface (GET, 2011). Geomatics is a multidisciplinary field and a new integrated

academic discipline covering a wide range of activities in surveying and other geo-

information based disciplines (Figure.1). It is acknowledged as one of the emerging

technologies for the future (Gewin, 2004)

                       Figure1: Different areas of geomatics discipline.

“An education in geomatics thus gives graduates the opportunity of pursuing very

interesting, challenging and varying career paths. The areas of applications of geomatics

include infrastructure management, environmental management, mobile and automated

mapping, precision farming, intelligent vehicle navigation system, multidimensional

visualization, real estate management, civil and engineering, telecommunication, urban

planning, and land management and reform” (Aina, 2009).

In light of the above, geomatics technology is all embracing and has been applied in

various areas of national development, so also applicable in Saudi Arabia. However, this

emerging technology has not received the attention or interest of Saudi students, which

Yanbu Industrial College was established to serve. In this paper, the authors highlight some

of the problems of the poor or lack of interest of students in choosing Geomatics as a

career and other associated challenges. In propounding solution to these problems, apart

from running associate degree program, Geomatics Department of the College has

proposed a new and challenging curriculum for a bachelor degree so as to produce experts

in the field that will be able to face the future challenges in this state-of-the-art technology.

2. Need for Geomatics Engineering in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is a big country covering about 2 million squares kilometers in area. It

therefore provides large area of land to practice geomatics as a profession. The available

land need to be planned for various developmental projects; especially now that the

Kingdom has initiated a lot of projects such as:

      Economic cities (Medina, Thuwal, Tabuk, Ras Al Khair, Jizan and Hail)

      Rail construction ( such as Haramain rail)

      Low income housing projects (in Jizan, Najran, Al Jouf, Makkah, Eastern and

       Northern Province) under the National Housing Units Project

Saudi Arabia economy is also growing at a very fast rate leading to massive development

of infrastructure. For development to take place and continue, there is need for expertise
work of Geomatics Engineers, who understand the technicalities involved and are experts

in land administration and land management (Aleem, 1998).

Moreover, there is need for the inventory of all the projects in the kingdom, which requires

the expertise of Geomatics Engineers. Land use inventory includes both mapping and land

use analysis, with components that includes ownership, size, location, shape and use.

Land use inventory and planning takes proper control of land transaction and conveyance

so that the buyer will not be duped. It will also take care of land reform and land

amalgamation where individuals owing piece of land in different places will be given an

equitable share in one location. These are cheap, secure and efficient means of land

administration tasks for Geomatics Engineers in any society (Aleem, 1998). Also, the

presence of Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Gulf underscores the importance of

hydrographic surveying, an aspect of Geomatics, in the kingdom.

                          Figure 2: The vast area of Saudi Arabia
In addition, there is the need to monitor most of the projects and infrastructures using

geomatics techniques. The geospatial data, for monitoring, are collected from varying

sources and converted into digital format. The same procedures are used for the same

structure under consideration at regular interval to account for seasonal changes and

variation. The surveys at each epoch are compared, sizes of movement or deformation or

changes are determined and suggestion made based on the statistical analysis of the

results. Monitoring of deformable structures such as dam, airport, bridges, skyscrapers and

other natural or artificial features can be successfully carried out with automated mapping

(Aleem, 2001).

Furthermore, the need for spatial information and geomatics technology is evident in the

several geomatics application projects being planned and implemented in the kingdom.

“The implementation of projects ranges from spatial database management applications,

municipal planning information systems to infrastructure/facilities management systems.

Most institutions in Saudi Arabia have applied and still applying geomatics or related

technologies include but not limited to Saudi Aramco, Directorate General for Military

Survey, Al Moammar Information Systems, Saudi Telecom, Saudi Electricity Company,

Municipalities – Dammam, Jeddah, Madinah, Makkah, ArRiyadh Development Authority,

Ministry of Economy and Planning, Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, Zaki Farsi

Group, Saudi GIS, GeoTech Consulting and Abunayyan Group” (Aina, 2009).

Other areas of Geomatics applications needed to be explored in the Kingdom are also

listed in Aleem (2001) to include: properties conveyance including decision on mortgage

and investment, property assessment and valuation, the development and management of

utilities and services; the management of land resources such as forestry, soil and
agriculture; the formation and implementation of land use policies; environmental impact

assessments and so on. Hence, geomatics applications will enhance proper management

of environment in the Kingdom.

However, there several factors militating the progress of geomatics education in the Saudi

Arabia. (Al-Garni, 2005; McDougall et al, 2006; Aina 2009 and Murray-O’Connor, 2011)

noted that factors detrimental to the progress of geospatial education in the Kingdom and

worldwide include:

      Lack of awareness and understanding of the field of geomatics
      Weak financial support from educational authorities
      Resistance to accept an unknown field (geomatics is relatively new)
      The misconception that “geomatics is a software-based course.

The authors also noted the following problems:

      Harsh climatic condition (very hot weather in summer and cold in winter)
      Expensive nature of training in geomatics
      Few academics institution offering courses in Geomatics
      Competition by graduates of other fields
      Lack of regulatory body to defend the Geomatics practitioners

Training of professional in the field of Geomatics is therefore required to satisfy the

highlighted areas of the needs, and problems highlighted should be addressed so as to

enhance the interest of the student to enroll in Geomatics program.

3. Geomatics Engineering in YIC

Yanbu Industrial College was established in 1989 to achieve the objectives of the Royal

Commission, in developing human resources and to provide the Saudi manpower with high

technical education and training, so that they can properly manage the Kingdom's growing

economy in its various sectors. However, geomatics engineering program did not take off

immediately. The yearning of industries and other government agencies on the importance
of geomatics and lack of Saudis to take up the challenges, made the college to establish

the department in 2003 with a pilot program for Associate Degree in Geomatics

Engineering Technology.

Over the years, it is apparent that the graduates of the department are facing difficulties in

career progression since they do not hold bachelor degree. This has forced the associate

degree graduates and the incumbent students to send a save our soul message to the

College. Therefore, Departmental Council deems it fit to propose a well articulated

curriculum for a Bachelor degree program in Geomatics engineering.

3.1 Proposed Geomatics Curriculum in Yanbu Industrial College: In order to develop

the curriculum, the department conducted a survey of the industry to ascertain the need

and the types of program necessary for initial take off. Also, local and international curricula

in Geomatics were reviewed so as to develop a competitive program. The Geospatial

Technology Core Competency Model (GTCM) of CareerOneStop of the United States of

America was examined for the areas of competency required of the geomatics

professionals, which includes but not limited to:

      Occupation Specific Knowledge Areas (Surveying Remote Sensing, Geographic
       Information System (GIS) Cartography and Photogrammetry)

      Industrial Technical competencies (Software Application and Development, Analysis
       and Modeling, Positioning and data acquisition)

      Management Competencies

      Academic Competencies (Reading, Writing, Mathematics and Critical Thinking)

      Personal Effectiveness Competencies (Interpersonal skills, Professionalism and
       Lifelong Learning) (Dibiase et al, 2010; DiGruttolo and Mohamed, 2011)

The result of the survey conducted indicated that the industries in the Kingdom

require more bachelor degree holders than Associate degree graduates (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Geomatics degree holders required by the industries.

Also, survey on the Occupation Specific Knowledge Areas indicated that Surveying

Mapping and Cartography and Geospatial Data Management are more required by

the industries. The detail is presented in Figure 4. The result of the survey

conducted on the industrial Technical Competencies required by the industries

shows that the industries highly require CAD, Conventional Office software and GIS,

Mapping and Database management. The detail is presented in the Figure 5.

Figure 4: Occupation specific knowledge areas required by the Industries

Figure 5: Industrial technical competencies required by the Industries

After the survey, we set out to develop the curriculum taking cognizance of our vision

statement and mission. The vision of geomatics department of Yanbu Industrial College is

      “To maintain a viable, efficient and relevant academic unit providing high
      level undergraduate and continuing education in Geomatics, suitable for
      productive professional and technical careers with principal emphasis on
      spatial data collection techniques , digital mapping, and spatial analysis
      using geographic information technology while constan tly working to build
      Geomatics into a discipline of increased recognition and reward” .

In line with the above mission statement, we set a high standard for our students to be able

to face the challenges of the future as experts in the field of geomatics. The proposed

curriculum can be categorized as follows:

   1. Science Mathematics, Physics for Geomatics

   2. Language and Communication skills

   3. Information Technology

   4. Core Geomatics

   5. Project Management

   6. Others

   Science        Language      Information             Core Geomatics                Management        Others
                     &          Technology                 Courses

                                                   Associate             Bachelor Degree only          Associate
        Associate Degree and Bachelor             Degree and                                          Degree and
                                                   Bachelor                                            Bachelor

General           English       Computer        Introduction to      Principle of     Engineering     Islamic
Physics           Composition   Programming     Geomatics I & II     Photogrammetry   Project         Studies

Calculus I & II   Technical     Geodatabase     Drafting &           Cadastre         Implementatio   Physical
                  Report        Management      Mapping I                             ns of GIS       Education

Linear Methods    English       Computer        CAD for Drafting     Geodetic And     Geomatic        Industrial
                                Programming     & Mapping            Engineering      Project         Safety
                                For Geomatics                        Surveying

Physics For                                     Surveying I, II &    Digital                          Industrial
Geomatics                                       III                  Cartography                      Supervision

Applied                                         Geographic           Least Squares
Statistics                                      Information          Estimation
                                                System I, II & III
Applied                                         Remote Sensing       Adjustment
Differential                                    I, II & III          Computations

Numerical                                       Global               Hydrographic
Methods in                                      Positioning          Surveying
Engineering                                     System


      Table 1: Highlight of YIC proposed BSc.Geomatics c urriculum

      3.2 Laboratories and Equipment: Geomatics, being a field of technical skills, require field

      exercise to complement the theoretical work. Our laboratories are now wearing a new look

      for the full implementation of the proposed curriculum. A quick look at the laboratories

      reveals a new set of modern computers and computing facilities. New software were

      purchased and installed. More licenses were obtained for the software from the
manufacturers. We are still expecting more computers from the new requisition. In

preparation for the implementation of the proposed curriculum, our store is equipped with

additional Total Stations, Global Position System and other surveying equipment with good

accessories. These instruments are to be handled by experienced and dedicated teaching

and technical staff. Concerted efforts are being made to attract and retain quality staff


3.3 Partnership with the Industries: Our graduates are presently working with Royal

Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, Saudi Aramco, Schlumberger, Saudi Binladin Group

and Municipalities within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We have taken initiatives to improve

on our relationship with the industries.

Faculty members in the department are assigned the role to visit the industries to inform

them about the skills and capabilities of our students. While acknowledging the standard of

Geomatics Engineering programme in Yanbu Industrial College, the Saudi Aramco has

agreed that our Graduates can be hired directly without any immediate on the job training.

Also, YIC has a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Aramco for granting

sponsorship to her students. In order to strength our relationship with industries, the

department has planned for a number of in-house training for their staff in courses like

Practicing Geographic Information System (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS) and

Remote Sensing.

The department has been participating in conferences, seminars, workshops, symposia

and other Geomatics gatherings both within and outside the kingdom. Faculty members of

Geomatics department have presented and published well researched academic papers at
various fora. This has created a lot of awareness on the importance of Geomatics


Campus Navigation Guide for Yanbu Industrial College was produced by the Department

as part of its community services (Figure 6). This will assist students, staff and visitors in

navigating the campus. In the project, the facilities at the Laboratory of Geomatics

Engineering were used along with the professional competency of the staff and students of

the Department. The Navigation Guide is based on the state-of-the-art technology in

Geomatics. The same technology can be used for street guide for the Royal Commission,

companies and municipalities.

      Figure 6: YIC Campus Navigation Guide

3.4 Other strategies adopted: Yanbu industrial College organizes annual open day in

which students from high school are invited for a career talk, applications of Geomatics to

several   fields   and   employment    opportunities   are   discussed.   Also,   instruments

manufacturing companies used to be invited for exhibition which forms part of the side

attraction at the Geomatics stands. Furthermore, faculty members of the department found

it necessary to educate them from scratch. Apart from the high school career, introduction

to Geomatics is now embedded in Introduction to Engineering (EGT 001) for the

preparatory class.

4. Conclusion and Recommendation

Despite the fact that Geomatics is a technical skill which requires high quality applicants to

secure its survival, the low or lack of interest has forced the department to accept low

quality students. The faculty members have been making extra efforts in molding these

students to make them better upon graduation. Other steps taken to address the situation

are revamping the curriculum and developing the bachelor degree program, partnership

with the industries and community based services. Also, survey was conducted to ascertain

the need of the industries.

The results of the survey conducted were used rigorously in the development of the

proposed curriculum, so as to make it industrial-based for wider acceptability. Curriculum

development and other strategies adopted are now motivating the students to choose

Geomatics as a career improving the students’ intake in Geomatics Department of Yanbu

Industrial College.

One of the indices of professionalism is organized society, which is lacking in geomatics

technologies in Saudi Arabia, we therefore suggest an organized society to control the

practice of the profession in all ramification.


The authors are grateful to the respondents to the questionnaire survey for participating in

this study. The authors also acknowledge the assistance of Yanbu Industrial College in

carrying out this work.


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