GIS Certificate Student Handbook

Welcome to the UCLA Extension GIS and Geospatial Technology Certificate Program!  This student handbook lists and describes the most important policies and guidelines (both formal and informal) that govern student participation in the UCLA Extension GIS and Geospatial Technology certificate program.  Please read the entirety of this document thoroughly; we recommend reviewing it at the beginning of each course that you complete as it is an evolving document.

CURRENT REVISION:  Spring 2022 (last revision: March 27, 2022)

The policies listed in this version of the handbook will apply to the academic term listed above, as well as all subsequent terms until revised.

About the Certificate

The UCLA Extension GIS and Geospatial Technology Certificate Program is designed to provide students with foundational training in the field of geographic information systems (GIS) such that the student would be qualified for entry-level GIS-related jobs and internship opportunities from a subject matter perspective.  (Note that many such opportunities may have additional education and professional experience requirements and expectations.)  Students complete five fully online quarter-length courses wherein practical applications of GIS are emphasized through project work and innovative online instructional resources. 

The certificate is offered collaboratively by UCLA Extension and the UCLA Department of Geography.  It is one of the only programs developed by a top-tier University of California academic department and offered to the general public through the university's Extension division.  Your master instructors are Ph.D.-holding experts who collectively possess decades of experience teaching courses in GIS for the UCLA Department of Geography and other institutions.

The GIS and Geospatial Technology certificate program follows a pre-defined course schedule every academic year.  The program's gateway course, Introduction to GIS, is taught every quarter, and the other four required courses are each taught every other quarter per the following schedule:

All of the courses are credit-bearing and are taught at the same level of rigor as the equivalent courses offered regularly to matriculated UCLA students.

Note that several courses in the program were re-numbered beginning with the Fall 2020 quarter.  This is a purely administrative change that does not change program requirements or curriculum.

Additional Elective Courses

Additional elective courses designed to complement the certificate curriculum may be offered occasionally.  These elective courses cannot be used to substitute for completion of any required certificate program courses.  Scheduling of elective courses will be variable based on demand for enrollment, in addition to other considerations, so students interested in elective courses are encouraged to contact program administration to express interest in specific course(s) or topics of study.  Program administration reserves the right to cancel elective courses that do not enroll a sufficient number of students to support instructional costs.

About the Student Experience and Program/Course Structure

Students in the GIS and Geospatial Technology certificate program participate in courses that are flexibly structured but not self-paced.  All courses are offered in an asynchronous fashion, meaning that students are not required to sign in for live meetings at any specific times.  However, all of the courses follow the same weekly cadence and pacing structure, wherein each course is divided into a series of weekly content modules.  Each content module culminates with at least one required and graded practical exercise.


Following is the weekly structure used for every course in the certificate program:

  • MONDAY MORNING at 9:00am:  The week's content unit, including all resources (lecture videos, technical screencasts, readings, assignment instructions, data, etc.) is released on the course website, and the master instructor sends an email announcement informing students of the week's activities.
  • ALL WEEK:  Students work on reviewing the resources and completing the assignment, communicating with instructor and classmates as desired using the course's discussion forum and via email.  Students are also welcome and encouraged to schedule office hour appointments with instructor(s).
  • THURSDAY/FRIDAY:  Master instructor sends a check-in email informing students of any important notes about the week's activities, as well as reminders of upcoming deadline(s).
  • SUNDAY EVENING at 11:55pm:  Any assignment(s) corresponding with the unit are due, and every content unit's optional (non-graded) quiz is closed and answers are revealed to students.


In order to ensure consistency of the student experience, courses in the certificate program are all taught by a team of master instructors who develop course content and oversee the program and assistant teachers who evaluate student work and provide student support.  Each course you take will have at least one master instructor and may have one or more assistant teachers as well.  The entire teaching and administration team is here to support you, and everybody involved in teaching your course will be glad to communicate with you directly about any questions you have.  Master teachers and assistant teachers are available regularly on the course's discussion forums, via email, and in office hours (online, in-person, or by phone -- scheduled by appointment.)


Because the certificate program follows an open enrollment policy, there is no formal admissions structure or set of requirements.  Our students range in age and educational experience from young but highly motivated pre-baccalaureate scholars to experienced late-career professionals with advanced/terminal degrees.  If you have any concerns about your level of preparedness for the certificate program, please contact program administrator Dr. Sierra Burkhart (

Academic Preparation

Most students who choose to enroll in the certificate program find themselves to be sufficiently prepared to succeed academically in the certificate courses.  However, in the event that program administration, in consultation with a student's instructor(s), determines that a student lacks sufficient academic preparation to pass the course(s) in which they are enrolled, administration will inform the student within the first four weeks of the course that they are insufficiently prepared to participate in the course and recommend that the student withdraw.

Examples of insufficient academic preparation include, but are not limited to: (1) insufficient ability to write and communicate in the English language at a level appropriate for success in undergraduate coursework, (2) insufficient fundamental computing skills (i.e., preparation of documents using word processing software), and (3) insufficient understanding of basic mathematics (i.e., arithmetic).

In the event that a student withdraws at the request or action of program administration in accordance with this policy, course tuition will be fully refunded (subject to a small administrative payment processing fee) even if the normal refund period has ended.

Certificate Candidacy

Declaring certificate candidacy is an important step in completing the certificate program.  Declaring certificate candidacy establishes you as a formal certificate-seeking student with UCLA Extension, and this status comes with several key advantages, many of which are detailed on UCLA Extension's website: though most importantly, it protects you from any possible changes of program requirements throughout the duration of your candidacy.  

You must possess active certificate candidacy in order for the certificate to be awarded, but you may choose to declare candidacy at any time in the process of completing the certificate.  This includes before you take your first class to after you complete your last class -- and any time in between.  We recommend declaring candidacy as soon as you feel confident that you wish to complete the full certificate program.

Certificate candidacy is valid for two years following declaration.  Note that you may declare candidacy again if a prior candidacy lapses, but any changes to program requirements that may have been implemented in the interim will now apply to your new candidacy.

Certificate Completion

If you are reading this message following your completion of the certificate program, congratulations!  Within several weeks after the completion of the certificate, UCLA Extension Student Services will mail a copy of your certificate to the address that you have listed on file with UCLA Extension.  Your certificate will also be noted on all subsequently issued copies of your UCLA Extension transcript.

Students will also receive a program evaluation survey via email within one month of completing the certificate.

Note that valid certificate candidacy is required for the certificate to be awarded.  If you have completed all required courses but have not declared candidacy, the certificate will be awarded pending confirmation of your certificate candidacy.

Course Refund Policy

Full refunds of tuition payments (minus a $35 administrative fee) are available at any time within one week after the start date of each course.  Note that this one week period begins on the first day of each course, not on the day a student enrolls -- so whether you enroll two months before a course's start date or two days after the course begins, the refund period will end at the same time.

No refunds of any kind (full, partial, pro-rated, etc.) will be issued outside of the designated refund period except as specified in program policies.  No exceptions are available for this policy.

Course Registration

Registration for certificate courses can be completed most easily from the UCLA Extension GIS website, but note that enrollment is also possible via phone, in-person at UCLA Extension offices, and by postal mail.  Alternative enrollment options are listed on UCLA Extension's "How to Enroll" website.

Courses in the certificate program are open enrollment (i.e., no enforced prerequisites or program admissions), so you are free to enroll in any of the five certificate courses any time they are offered.

Payment of course tuition ($450 per credit hour) is due in full upon course registration.  Note that registration is paid by course and is not paid upfront for the full program.  Unfortunately, tuition payment plans and financial aid are not available for this program.

Note that tuition discounts offered by UCLA Extension may not apply to courses in the GIS certificate program.  For example, UCLA Extension's early enrollment discount applies only to the Introduction to GIS course and may not be combined with other discounts.  No discounts can be applied to any course other than GEOG XL 7: Introduction to GIS.

While we recommend that students enroll on or before the first day of each course, enrollment remains open for one week after the first day of each course.  Later enrollment may also be possible at the discretion of the instructor and/or the program administration.

Course Material Access

Students are guaranteed ongoing access to a course's Canvas website and the resources it contains from the day a course begins until the day it ends, barring any short-term planned or unplanned Canvas service outages.  Read-only (i.e., access with no submissions allowed) will typically continue through 30 days following the end of a term, but this level of access is not guaranteed and students should assume that access will end on the day that a course concludes.  UCLA Extension is unfortunately not equipped to provide ongoing long-term access to course websites, and program instructors and directors are not able to manually extend course access after it expires.

Grading and Evaluation

All courses in the certificate program must be taken on a letter grading basis in order to satisfy the requirements of the certificate program.  Letter grades of "C" or better are required to satisfy certificate requirements.  Students who fail to obtain a grade of "C" in any course may retake the course to earn a grade that meets program requirements.  Note that payment of tuition is required upon each enrollment in a course.

Submission of Late Work

Courses in the certificate program are not self-paced and require students to meet a series of deadlines (normally weekly).  Penalties are assessed for any work submitted after each corresponding deadline. In the event that work is submitted after the corresponding deadline, the following late work submission policy will automatically apply:  For each 24-hour period that an assignment is late, beginning immediately after the deadline passes according to the system clock, the awarded score will be adjusted downward by 25%. In other words, a submission is considered to be late if it is submitted one second after the deadline. Work that is more than four days late will not be graded and will receive a score of zero.

Given that the certificate program is designed for working professionals with variable and often complicated schedules, the instructors and program administration have the discretion to waive penalties for submission of work submitted after specified deadlines provided that a student (1) is making adequate and consistent forward progress in the course (as determined by the instructor), and (2) is proactively communicating with the instructor about requesting deadline extensions with sufficient advance notice.  Assignment deadline extensions are not automatically granted and are not guaranteed, and students are expected to take course deadlines seriously and exercise common sense in requesting assignment extensions. Instructors and program administration reserve the right to decline any deadline extension request that is not consistent with these expectations.

Incomplete Coursework

All students in the certificate program's courses are expected to make every effort to complete all required coursework by the deadlines specified in each course, and all coursework must be completed by each course's official end date.  All deadlines will be clearly published on the Canvas website for each course.

Students who anticipate being unable to complete required coursework for any course in the program may seek one of three possible remedies: (1) recording of a non-recorded grade, (2) petitioning for enrollment in the subsequent offering of the course, or (3) petitioning for recording of an Incomplete (I) grade.

Please read each of the following options carefully.  Note that any and all other possible accommodations for incomplete coursework, including but not limited to retroactive grade changes, are not permitted.  To request any one of the three available accommodations, please email Dr. Sierra Burkhart at, and please copy your instructor(s) on the email.

Non-Recorded Grades

Any student may request that the program administration enter a non-recorded grade (i.e., "NR") for any course.  This grade (while it will remain present in UCLA Extension's official internal records) will not appear on transcripts, and it will therefore appear to anyone viewing a UCLA Extension transcript that the student has not attempted the course.  This option is suitable for a student who wishes to avoid notation of a low grade on his/her transcript.  The certificate program administration will grant this request for any student barring situations involving dishonest or inappropriate academic conduct.

Petitioning for Enrollment in Subsequent Offering of Course

A student who has been unable to complete the majority of required (graded) activities in a course may petition to enroll in the subsequent offering of the course at no additional cost.  In order to qualify for this accommodation, the following circumstances must all be true:

  • The student was unable to complete the coursework because unforeseen external circumstances limited his/her ability to complete coursework in a timely fashion (note that standard time management issues are typically not considered an unforeseen external circumstance).
  • The student is an active candidate for the GIS and Geospatial Technology certificate program.
  • The student has completed fewer than half of the course's graded activities.
  • The student is making the request before the end of the term in question.
  • The student has not been granted this accommodation previously (i.e., students are limited to one enrollment of this type throughout the duration of their enrollment in the certificate program.)

Example:  Joan Student enrolls in GEOG XL 7: Introduction to GIS during the Winter 2019 quarter but encounters health difficulties that make it impossible for Joan to complete all required course activities.  Joan then contacts the program administration during the final week of the class, petitioning to be enrolled in the same course during the next quarter.  This is the first time that Joan is making this type of request for any course in the certificate program.  Course records indicate that Joan completed only the first two of ten required assignments.  Because Joan (1) has not completed the majority of coursework due to legitimate external complications, (2) has declared certificate candidacy, (3) has not been granted this accommodation previously, and (4) made the request in a timely fashion (i.e., before the end of the term), program administration granted Joan's request to enroll in the next offering of GEOG XL 7 at no additional cost.

Incomplete Grades

A student who has been unable to complete a small portion of the required (graded) activities in a course may petition to be given an incomplete grade (I) for the course.  This grade will allow the student to complete the remaining course activities in the month (30 days) following the end of the term.  In order to qualify for this accommodation, the following circumstances must all be true:

  • The student was unable to complete the coursework because unforeseen external circumstances limited his/her ability to complete coursework in a timely fashion (note that standard time management issues are typically not considered an unforeseen external circumstance).
  • The student presents a realistic plan for completing remaining course activities in the 30 days following the end of the term in question.
  • The student has completed more than half of the course's graded activities.
  • The student is making the request before the end of the term in question.

At the end of the 30 day period, all submitted work will be graded, and scores of zero points will be entered for any graded activities for which a submission remains missing.  The program administration will then change the incomplete grade to either (1) the grade that the student earned, or (2) a non-recorded grade, at the student's discretion.  Extensions beyond the provided 30 day period are not available.

Note that this policy is more restrictive than UCLA Extension's institutional policy on incomplete grades.

Student/Instructor Communication

Students are welcome to communicate directly with instructors and program administration via email regarding any academic, technical, or administrative questions or concerns related to their participation in the program’s courses.  All communication between students and instructors should be initiated using the messaging system within Canvas.

Instructors and program administrators make every effort to respond to student inquiries within 24 hours on weekdays, though immediate responses are not guaranteed and should not be expected.  Students should also be aware that responses from instructors and administrators are not guaranteed on weekends, holidays, or evenings after regular business hours.  Note that waiting to receive an email response from an instructor is not a valid excuse for the late submission of any graded activity.

Communication between students and instructors should at all times be respectful, constructive, and oriented toward resolving questions or concerns that can adequately be addressed via email.  Instructor email support exists to complement, rather than replace, active engagement with the comprehensive instructional resources and students are expected to proactively attempt to solve problems independently and then exercise common sense and courtesy when communicating with instructors via email.  Instructors and program administrators reserve the right to decline to answer student questions in cases where the instructor/administrator believes that the student's learning would not be harmed and/or not adequately advanced by providing an answer to a question.  Instructors and program administrators additionally reserve the right to request that students arrange for an office hours appointment (in-person, online, or phone) in the event that a student’s questions or concerns could be resolved more expeditiously in that manner.

Instructors and program administrators may provide students with phone numbers, Zoom meeting links, and/or other similar means of communication for the purpose of conducting office hours appointments.  Students are obligated to use these means of communication responsibly and in a manner that is respectful of the instructor's time.  In cases wherein a student engages in inappropriate use of an instructor's email address, phone number, or Zoom meeting links (i.e., excessive phone calls without scheduling appointments, harassment, etc.) communication may be restricted, or in the case of harassment, a disciplinary record may be created.  For example, a student who places an excessive number of unsolicited phone calls to an instructor without arranging appointments may be blocked from placing phone calls and restricted to email communication.

Technical questions (and other course-related questions that can be addressed in a public manner) should be posted to a course’s discussion forums.  Active discussion forums will make the course a more effective and rewarding learning experience for everyone, and the instructor will take note of regular contributors.  Discussion forums are monitored daily by the instructor, and forum posts receive answers just as quickly as emailed questions. Students should be aware that immediate responses to discussion forum questions are generally not available, and note that instructor responses are not guaranteed on weekends, holidays, and in the evenings after regular business hours.  Students are encouraged to answer questions posted by other students -- if you know the answer to a posted question, please respond!  To facilitate collaborative learning, students are encouraged to contribute to the course discussion forums by both asking and answering questions. Forum posts and all communications sent to the instructor or program administration should be specific and informative.  All questions must include sufficient detail and should describe any and all issues thoroughly by including (1) descriptions of the complete process and methods being used, (2) where in the process problems occurred, and (3) supporting documentation (screenshots, videos, etc.) providing information about the issue. Instructors will ask for clarification about any questions that are vague or insufficiently detailed.  Posts that contain questions that are ambiguous (e.g., “Help, I’m stuck!”) or where the answer is obvious (e.g., “What is this week’s deadline?”) may not receive a response. Any requests for others to complete any work (e.g., “What is the solution to the first half of this week’s assignment?”), or that include non-constructive remarks (e.g., “This week’s assignment $ux!”), will be also be ignored and may be removed. Proper etiquette is expected in all posts.

Extracurricular Projects and Instructor Expertise

Many students in the GIS and Geospatial Technology certificate program are working professionals who are actively engaged in professional projects involving geospatial methods.  Although the certificate program's instructors and program directors are experienced GIS practitioners and researchers, program instructors are not able to provide support for extracurricular projects (i.e., personal or professional projects not directly tied to coursework) within the scope of their teaching responsibilities.  Students are expected to refrain from asking instructors for direct assistance with extracurricular projects.  Instructors are dedicated to providing students with support with all course-related activities, and burdensome requests for assistance on extracurricular projects limit an instructor's ability to support their students.

Transfer Credit

Coursework taken outside of UCLA Extension, including any and all forms of transfer credit, cannot be used to satisfy the course requirements of the GIS and Geospatial Technology certificate program.  However, students who have completed a GIS course at an accredited institution of higher education within the preceding five years may qualify to waive the requirement of completing the certificate program's introductory course, GEOG XL 7: Introduction to GIS.  Students interested in pursuing this waiver option should contact Dr. Sierra Burkhart ( with a copy of a transcript showing completion of the course with a grade of B or higher (unofficial transcript is sufficient) and a copy of the course's syllabus (if available).  Program administration will then determine whether the student's prior coursework qualifies for a waiver of the introductory course.  The student will be notified via email as soon as a formal determination is made.

Student Conduct

Students are subject to disciplinary action for several types of misconduct or attempted misconduct, including but not limited to academic dishonesty, such as cheating, multiple submission, plagiarism, or knowingly furnishing false information to the University; or behavioral misconduct, such as theft or misuse of the intellectual property of others, harassment, or disruption of the learning environment. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Student Rights & Responsibilities Policy and to report concerns regarding at:

Services for Students with Disabilities

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, UCLA Extension provides appropriate accommodations and support services to qualified applicants and students with disabilities. These include, but are not limited to, auxiliary aids/services such as sign language interpreters, assistive listening devices for hearing-impaired individuals, extended time for and proctoring of exams, and registration assistance. Accommodations and types of support services vary and are specifically designed to meet the disability-related needs of each student based on current, verifiable medical documentation. Arrangements for auxiliary aids/services are available only through UCLA Extension’s Service for Students with Disabilities Office at (310) 825-7851 or by email at For complete information see:

Questions or concerns?

Contact program representatives via email at or by phone at (310) 206-6794.