Saturday 30 January 2021

New QGIS training courses for 2021

A short post today about the new training courses I'm launching as part of my new business (Automatic Knowledge). In late February and early March 2021 we're putting on the first of our public QGIS training courses, as well as one in Aerialod. These are paid events, bookable via Eventbrite and are part of our mission to help improve geospatial software skills across the world. We'll make the training material available for all, plus the data - and we will continue to offer financial support to the QGIS project as a 'sustaining member' - as well as make further donations to the Aerialod project. The permanent url for our training pages is and right now you'll see the first five courses advertised - all of which will be repeated on a fairly regular basis. Note: we offer discounts based on where you are in the world, plus a 50% discount for all students (the 50% student discount is in addition to any country-specific discount). Obviously this isn't a perfect solution but we do want to make our pricing structure as fair and accessible as possible. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions - you can contact us here.

See our global pricing policy

You'll see full details of each course on the Eventbrite page. For now, we are running them online - see below for a brief look at each of the five courses - three are full day courses and two are half days. When the world opens up again we'll still be doing them online but will also start up our in-person training sessions again.

Our first five training courses

I've previously put on lots of public and corporate QGIS training events, as well as delivering thousands of hours of GIS training in Universities. Now that I've launched Automatic Knowledge I want to continue to do this as much as possible, so this is part of the reason for launching these public sessions. Part of my motivation also has to do with the fact that - in the UK at least - there is something of a skills gap in relation to geospatial skills - e.g. see p.8 from the 2019/20 Geospatial Commission Annual Plan.

I agree that there's a need for better skills

However, I'm not trying to turn everyone into a geospatial nerd, honestly. I just think that whilst many of us have access to great open data, and fantastic free and open source software like QGIS, there aren't always enough people with enough knowledge and skills to do the kinds of things they might want to. I've seen this need grow over the past few years as I've put on training courses for a variety of organisations - including the BBC, the FT, Savills, Regeneris, as well as teaching people who work for large global organisations such as Google. In addition, I always try to help people who come to me with queries and questions about tutorials I've posted previously on my blog - this happens on a fairly regular basis from people in different parts of the world (e.g. recently I helped people from Colombia, Bhutan and Nigeria with GIS-related queries).

With all of the above in mind, I can probably summarise my general training principles now, with a few bullet points.

  • Not for nerds: what I mean by this is that the Automatic Knowledge QGIS (and other) training sessions are not aimed at the uber-nerd but at competent IT users who want to get more into geospatial tools but are not really sure where to start or how to move beyond the basics. Even so, if you do self-identify as a nerd already you are still very welcome!
  • Fun - I really do think it's important to try to have fun, or at least enjoy things as you learn them, so this is an important part of my approach.
  • Fairness - it's difficult to offer an approach to timing (e.g. the first courses are on UK time) and price (I realise not everyone can afford full price) that helps everyone, so I have adopted a varied pricing structure so that it can at least be a little bit fairer than a flat global pricing structure. I also plan to put on sessions in other time zones - and in person when this is allowed again.
  • Inclusive - I welcome anyone and everyone, no matter who you are or where you come from or what you know or don't know. My view is that the geospatial world - particularly in education - should be about encouragement, positivity, mutual support and openness. 
  • I don't know everything - this is obvious, but important. Sometimes during a training session someone will ask 'what does this tool do?' and the answer I have to give is 'I don't know'. Sometimes this happens, but you may also be glad to hear that I do know quite a lot about the software I teach - but I realise this is all relative and I continue to look on in awe at so many people in the geospatial world. I'm always learning, and in cases where I do have to say 'I don't know', I always end up learning more in the end.
  • Flexibility - my training sessions are based on a very carefully prepared, tried-and-tested workbook format. This works really well but there is always a risk that it can turn us into robots - so I always make sure we can go off at tangents, explore new ideas and tools and generally get to grips with the software in a way that makes most sense for the user. 
  • Giving back - a cliché, I know. When people do my training sessions, they pay for my time and expertise developed over many years, but I will continue to share my knowledge more widely on my blog, on Twitter and elsewhere. I am often found in Twitter DMs sharing my knowledge or tips with users from across the world. Right now, Automatic Knowledge is in the 500+ Euros per year category of QGIS donors, but we always want to give more - our last donation to Aerialod was $200USD and we plan to continue to donate to the project. 

The courses currently listed on Eventbrite

Right now we're working on finalising our new training material (see below for a peek) and we're really looking forward to getting started. You can see who 'we' are on our website. The idea is to start small and then grow slowly over time as things develop. The training side of the business is only part of what we do but it is a very important part of our overall mission.

This is our intro-level QGIS course

We're currently using QGIS 3.10

Part of the intro section

A few introductory words

Finally, I've recently been re-writing my 'QGIS tips and tricks' sheet and thinking about a) what I know, b) what I think is important for users in different contexts, and c) how amazing QGIS is. Here are my notes on that so far - only some of this is going in; the rest will be part of different levels of the courses.

Messy handwriting, sorry

So, if you're looking to get into making maps from data, or want to get better at it, or just want to talk about it, feel free to get in touch with me.