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The EO4GEO Gate to Smart Academic Instruments for the Geoinformation Sector, Online Teaching and Professional Development




The paper presents the scientific and practical improvements made in the educational process with particular focus on how technology has been used to help readjust the learning action and deliver online lectures. Particular example regarding online learning features and workflow process is described using Moodle functionalities for the demography field of study. The paper further elaborates on the support which the Erasmus+ EO4GEO project brings to the e-learning education system, by using dedicated tools and training materials assigned to Earth Observation and the Geoinformation sector, which advance support in educational and professional development.



e-learning, professional development, academic tools, EO4GEO, learning skills

JEL Classification

I21, I29


1. Introduction

The Geoinformation sector commonly includes Remote Sensing, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), image analysis, Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), and complementary location-based technologies. The information of these applied science fields provides opportunities to explore the complexity of the environment patterns and how actions in one region can impact another part of the globe (Langran, E., 2016). Geospatial technologies play an essential role in covering challenges such as climate change, sustainable development, border control, maritime surveillance, and civil security. Earth Observation satellites provide critical support for agricultural production, fisheries management, freshwater management, and forestry management, as well as monitoring for harmful activities (Vlad Sandru, 2021), developing and implementing adaptation measures.

According to Stoian (2022), the new technology era foresees perfected online tools since technology-enhanced learning will be integrated in the education system, as a powerful tool for transforming the relationship between educators and students and adapting learning actions to meet the demands of the new smart academic instruments. Technological progress and globalization offer tremendous opportunities for innovation, job creation and growth, asking for people to acquire new technical and scientific skills in order to drive and support change. The future workforce can be modelled according to the new trends in the geospatial field, increasing awareness supported by the EO4GEO Sector Skills Alliance (EO4GEO Alliance, 2022) dedicated to skills development and capacity building in the space and geoinformation sector.

The article aims to review the results of the EO4GEO European Erasmus+ project, focused on geo-information data and technologies curriculum update, which support and complement online teaching and professional development. The functional results have been addressed to students and professors who follow studies in humanities and social sciences, both for online courses and face-to-face discussions.


2. Literature Review

2.1. Online learning

Digitalization is not new in Romanian educational system, educational online platforms being implemented before COVID-19, without anticipating the lockdown period, when these platforms became the only channel of delivering knowledge. The digitalization has been transformed the traditional teaching ways, this conversion involving more digital tools, rethinking how the teaching act is delivered and experienced. In this sense, the pandemia become a catalyst for the further widespread use of digital teaching platform in education. Digital tools like educational applications, and interactive digital content are revolutionizing the learning process, making it more interactive, customizable, and data driven.

Online learning has improved education in the digital age, its advancement and popularity being empowered by technological advancements, changing attitudes towards online education providing numerous benefits, such as flexibility, access to diverse learners, and personalized education. Online teaching, also called virtual learning or e-learning, is the form of learning where individuals are not physically present in a classroom and where the teaching act is addressed over the internet, through interactive telecommunications platforms that are employed to connect learners, resources, and teachers (DeCoito, 2022). The potential and opportunity of online education is to transform the education system by expanding educational connections, enriching both students and teachers, and processing in the dynamics of new pedagogical methods, in order to make the learning process more reliable and efficient for both parts (Butnaru, 2021).

E-learning is a futuristic mode of education that shelter the different requirements and expectations of different users, allowing varied methods of educational technology to operate, redesigns instructional methods, and refines performance and effectiveness to adapt to the digital priorities (Hamidi, 2018). Several studies have analysed the effects of online learning on teaching represented by technologies and online platforms that might reduce the gaps in education and reach everyone across the globe.  According to Wheatley and Greer (1995), one benefit of the online learning process is that it saves time, give the possibility to the teachers to handle larger numbers of students without the worry of time constraints.

Bisciglia and Monk Turner (2002) reveals that online learning prevents traveling time and expense, especially in fields where information frequently changes. Richardson et al. (2019) stated that social presence was a major forecaster of student fulfilment with educational applications courses, while other studies suggest that online learning courses had difficulties in terms of the lack of clear and specific face-to-face interaction between students and teachers or with other students. This might result in losing track of the learning process (Yazici, 2001), while more technical difficulties might cause distress to users. Major time is needed to adapt to new technology and the issues to communication that occur in the process, what asks for necessary time for enough training to faculty members and students in using the technology to improve their satisfaction with online courses (Ice, 2008). Some other disadvantages mentioned in the literature (Zhang, 2009) include the lack of knowledge of online learning among teachers, the lack of tutorial support and planning student courses.

At international level, UNESCO developed a list of applications, platforms and educational resources that aim to help the one who provides education on the one hand and the one who receives education, on the other hand, enabling social care and interaction during school closure periods, classified on the distance learning needs (Ionescu, 2020). The list includes digital learning management systems, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) platforms, and tools for teachers to create digital learning content, and collaboration platforms that support live-video communication.

It is well known (UN, 2020) that the COVID-19 pandemic caused collapses in schools and colleges functionality. Face-to-face education and professional development lectures were suspended in most schools, universities, and colleges as educational systems around the world adopted e-learning platforms to deliver the teaching process. This had negative impacts on educational activities and professional development, as social distancing was crucial at that stage. Educational institutions had to manage the lockdown situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing teachers, parents, and students to quickly adapt to distance learning. Several educational resources, such as applications and/or platforms (Sofi-Karim, 2023) were launched to support the educational process in order to provide continuity in following the curriculum while the educational institutions were closed. For university students, lockdown brought about returning to their hometowns while staying connected with their teachers and classmates through video conferences, email, and other digital tools. On the other hand, the coronavirus pandemic, destructive both for people’s health and for the economy, had few positive aspects. One of them, which is of interest for the present article topic, is the development, application and focus on research of digital teaching through online learning activities. Here, the EO4GEO Alliance opens the gate for innovative beginnings in the e-learning way of teaching.


2.2. Usage of Moodle platform in demographic studies classes

During the pandemic, the University of Bucharest chose a teaching activity in a mixed system (David, 2022), online and face-to-face courses. A popular online teaching platform is Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment). Derived from modern information technology, this teaching platform is a new curriculum management education platform developed by Martin Dougiamas based on the educational theory of constructivism, cultural interaction, and self-oriented learning (Su, J., 2021). Having  personal accounts created on Moodle, both teachers and students have had access to different interfaces, such as dashboards, where lessons/courses and projects can be uploaded, in order to reveal academic content either to acquire knowledge or for the evaluation processes. According to Stankovic (2017), Moodle is a learning management system that enables teachers to manage their students’ learning process; therefore, the use of Moodle for educational purposes encourages students to be independent in their learning.

Learning materials can be easily shared as files and links to websites and pages of learning content by combining text, images, and videos towards a thorough understanding of the lecture. One important benefit of this platform is the possibility of updating the content of the lecture. At the same time, students submit their work and receive feedback and grades from the teacher, therefore their work is efficiently managed. The possibility of corresponding with students, through Moodle’s messaging system, enriches this learning platform by the possibility of providing answers to learners’ questions or  just by getting involved in discussions. Another point to be mentioned regarding the usage of this learning platform is the advantage of monitoring progress, added by the Moodle’s facility of storing each learner’s scores from any graded activities.

An advantage for using Moodle is the Quiz activity, which can give immediate feedback to the learners related to their answers. In this way, students can regularly test themselves building their knowledge and confidence throughout their learning journey. One of the issues in online learning is the need for strong and stable bandwidth internet connections. Unfortunately, home internet connections usually have lower bandwidth (Cullinan , 2021) or sometimes have exhausted their limits, which may be challenging to log in for a class for students.

During the coronavirus lockdown demographic classes at the University of Bucharest were presented in the online mode, by using Moodle and Google Meet facilities while after this difficult period, the meetings with students continued face to face at the university. The main goal of this study area is the ability to understand the role, the components, and the measurement methods of human capital within the smart territorial development, addressing the pillar components of human resources and labour force, the educational capital (acquired knowledge and skills of individuals in the school training process, but also outside of it) and the health component.

Specifically, the practical work in demographic studies it supposes that each student elaborates a socio-economic analysis by calculating and evaluating a series of indicators and indexes, geographically represented at county level, by using QGIS software (Figure 1). The demographic analysis workflow illustrates both student’s and teacher’s tasks in order to complete the project development. All the tasks are developed by using the Business Process Model and Notation graphical language through a diagram description (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Demographic diagnosis workflow mapped with BPMN (Business process Model and Notation).


Figure 1 illustrates the implementation steps of demographic analysis, both in on-line and face-to-face meeting. The professional skills gained following the demographic analysis study are related to the ability to analyse the economic, social, and political context for a correct assessment of the opportunities and risks in territorial development, for the understanding of complex systems and processes of territorial governance, at national level, within the European framework of spatial planning (EU, 2018). Another asset to be mentioned is the knowledge of recent practices and models in spatial planning and demographic analysis, seen as a basic component of territorial management knowledge and practical capabilities for strategies development, national plans and programs implementation.


3. Methodology

The common aim of the project is to help bridge the skills gap in the space and geospatial sector by creating a strong alliance of experts from the sector, reinforcing the existing ecosystem, and fostering the uptake and integration of space and geospatial data and services. The innovative actions in EO4GEO are lined up with the Copernicus programme (Copernicus.eu) to build up the European capacity in Earth Observation, including geoinformation data, tools, and services (EO4GEO Alliance, 2022). By promoting an open access to Earth Observation (EO) data, the EO4GEO Alliance offers full access to the training resource and tools, the public having the possibility to access these materials, through the EO4GEO project website (http://www.eo4geo.eu/). The Romanian Space Agency, partner in the EO4GEO consortium, contributed to geospatial tools development, focusing on Curriculum Design Tool and training material implementation with lecture implementation on Change detection using EO data.

The basic methodology approach for geospatial tools development and training material implementation is based on identifying and assessing Earth Observation (EO) and Geographic Information (GI) business processes in line with Business Process Modelling and Notation method (BPMN) (Figure 2) for documenting the details of how a process operates, representing the actors involved in the process, their interactions, and the data flow of business process from task to task. The BPMN outputs, represented by tasks, concepts and skills, draw out from EO and GI business processes analysis, enclosed in a systematized geospatial library, the Body of Knowledge (BoK), and structure the geospatial base map for further professional development programs by implementing training materials using data derived from Earth observation.

Figure 2. The methodology implemented for geoinformation instruments and sequences of professional development tasks.


4. Results

4.1. EO4GEO instruments

In order to have homogenous requirements both on the supply and the demand part of education and training in the geoinformation sector, the Body of Knowledge (BoK) (Casteleyn, S., 2020) was developed. The BoK represents a library of concepts in the Earth Observation and Geographic Information field, including the theories, methods, and technologies that can be used by members of a discipline to guide their education and work practice (Olijslagers, 2019), having stated the relationships between knowledge and skills needed to complete jobs or tasks in the EO and GI area. The BoK defines what knowledge is needed to complete a job or task in a specific domain, and thus contributes to professional development needs.

The BoK can be considered a relevant model for the geoinformation sector as it forms the basis for developing the curriculum for most professional programs and vocational training, including accreditations at different qualification levels, at the same time supporting workforce recruitment and job assessments through a formal and updated set of basic knowledge, skills and competences required (Stelmaszczuk-Górska, 2020). The knowledge contained in the BoK is released and exploited through the EO4GEO ecosystem of tools, represented as an interacting system, having as a core the Body of Knowledge starting engine. Platform tools form a first part of the system, with direct access to the BoK and capable of visualizing (BoK Visualizer), searching (Find in BoK) and editing (Living Textbook) the BoK (Figure 3). Using the BoK content as a common vocabulary, annotating different sets of information, such as academic and vocational training curricula or occupational profiles (Casteleyn, 2020), derive Curriculum Design Tool for the educational sector, the Occupational Profile Tool and the Job Offer Tool for the commercial sector, and the BoK Matching Tool, which contains both (Figure 3).

Figure 3. EO4GEO ecosystem of tools.

Source: eo4geo.medium.com.


The Occupational Profile Tool (OPT), which allows users to browse, create, edit, and share occupational profiles in the EO and GI sector, can be described as prototypical job descriptions, including the required knowledge and skills to be performed. It offers the user a graphical view on the Body of Knowledge, which allows him users to browse and select the relevant BoK concepts (knowledge) and skills to associate to a profile. It is a suitable tool for HR departments to search for key persons and design a job profile in large companies active in EO and GIS or for universities when looking for new project employees, aiming to define an ideal team for certain tasks. The OPT is well intended to help education providers to understand labour market needs in order to be covered by their offers (Vlad Sandru, 2021).

The Job Offer Tool (JOT), which allows users to create job and training offers in the field of geoinformation, allows companies to create job offers, starting from a blank template or based on an occupational profile, which can then be modified and extended with specific information related to the job offer, such as certain knowledge required (e.g., software tools), particularities related to the work schedule and languages required. Just like the other tools, the JOT provides the same graphical view which allows to search for and browse the knowledge and skills available in the BoK and add them as required to a job offer. JOT allows sharing, the possibility to continually edit and export the information in the job offer. It is a convenient tool for students to have a broad view on the knowledge and functions required within a certain job.

The BoK Annotation Tool (BAT) allows the association of any PDF document (for example, a curriculum vitae or a scientific article) with EO4GEO BoK concepts, to be used in conjunction with other BoK resources and tools. It can be given the example of a job offer compared with a study program of a candidate, thereby determining which percentage of knowledge and skills he/she possesses that is required for the job. At the same time, it can be easily determined which kind of training they need to offer to enrich the candidate knowledge and skills.

The BoK Matching Tool (BMT) allows to compare EO4GEO BoK-annotated resources related to knowledge and skills with the possibility to determine inconsistencies. BMT meet content created by the other EO4GEO tools environments, an educational offer, a job offer, an occupational profile with CVs or personal descriptions, as PDF files. The Curriculum Design Tool (CDT), which allows users to create, edit and find educational offers in the field of EO*GI, at different levels study programs, modules, courses and/or lectures. The study provider can create various modules consisting of a single course or various courses. The CDT is represented by a graphical view, showing an overview of the created educational elements, and textual view showing and allowing the entering of detailed information, such as descriptions, ECTS credits, learning objectives etc.

Figure 4. EO4GEO outcomes. 

Figure 4 presents the interrelation between the functionalities of the BoK and the EO4GEO ecosystem of tools.


4.2. EO4GEO training materials

The educational offers developed in the context of EO4GEO consist in the program structure of modules, courses, and lectures, at university level as well as vocational training, designed to achieve specific knowledge and skills in the geoinformation sector. The EO4GEO educational offer design process consists of basic courses and modules structured by using the Curriculum Design Tool (CDT), created for this purpose. The training material is accessible through the EO4GEO website on a webpage acting as training material catalogue (http://www.eo4geo.eu/training-material-catalogue), allowing access to all the material with a user-friendly interface.

The catalogue contains EO and GI general concepts and applications, targeting Copernicus services, with availability on Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI), pre-processing and classification as well as validation of EO products, material on applied topics, like identification of heat islands, flood mapping with radar data, agricultural monitoring, change detection using EO data. All the project trainings developed into three domains — Integrated Applications, Smart Cities, and Climate Change use Moodle, an open-source course management system and learning platform that supports cooperative teaching and learning methods.


4.3. Change detection using EO data

The training material developed by the Romanian Space Agency, Change Detection using EO data, provides introductory concepts on detecting land use and land cover changes using Earth Observation (EO) data, together with quantitative and qualitative assessment processing methods. The qualitative method is performed by land use and land cover study case on Constanța city, using Corine Land Cover classes changes, between 1990 and 2018 (Figure 5).  The Corine (Coordination of Information on the Environment) represents an inventory of European land cover divided into 44 different land cover classes (Rusu, 2020). Furthermore, it shows the changes between classes, at high resolution on a cartographic map. Land cover change is a specific change of a land use / land cover class, as for example, the transformation of a pasture area into an industrial or commercial unit (Feranec, 2007).

Figure 5. CLC changes between 1990 – 2018 in Constanța, Romania.

Source: Copernicus Land Monitoring Service data.


The lecture was held in the framework of master studies, with emphasis on spatial development issues. The targeted outcomes consist in explaining resolution characteristics of remote sensing data in general and of Copernicus Sentinel 1 and 2 in particular, with examples on how to detect changes by using a quantitative analysis on land use and land cover. Furthermore, vegetation indices derived from satellite data for change detection in image time series were described and calculated. The lecture is available on EO4GEO Alliance webpage http://www.eo4geo.eu/training/change-detection-using-eo-data/.


4.4. Satellite data for air quality monitoring.NO₂ trends during pandemic times in Romania

Another in-depth topic implemented by Romanian Space Agency, which contributed to EO4GEO training actions is addressed to air quality monitoring and management. NO₂ values were derived in the troposphere from Sentinel 5P data during the coronavirus outbreak in Romania. Data from the satellite Sentinel-5P have been processed to analyse the evolution of air quality indicators over short or long periods of time. The figure below shows weekly maximum values for tropospheric NO2 over the Romanian territory from the beginning of February 2020 to the end of March 2020. As the lockdown time started at the beginning of March 2020, the data show a decreasing trend in the values of the NO2, which coincides with the reduced economic and industrial activity influenced by restricted human mobility, reduced industrial production and transportation controls which were observed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Romania.

Figure 6. Tropospheric vertical column of NO2 levels over Romania, derived from Sentinel 5P.

Source: author’s processing of Sentinel 2 Copernicus data in Goggle Engine.


5. Discussions

An inroad map through the specificities of EO4GEO outcomes was presented derived to both students and teachers involved in the educational and research activities in earth observation and geoinformation sector. The master students got trained on Change detection using Earth Observation (EO) data, information which, in their opinion, proved to be new and useful for application in other practical disciplines within the ongoing master program. The possibility to access the information which can be adapted anytime to future scientific and technical improvements, together with the initial educational curricula proves to enrich and complete the knowledge regarding the possibility to evaluate changes due to different impact factors in a certain urban area.

It is well known that poorly planned urbanization has adverse effects on several working fields, including social and economic equality, public health, and the environment. It has been well appreciated and agreed on that the usage of EO data for exploring changes represents a convenient solution for sustainable decisions. It has been emphasized that the actions to address urban challenges are incomplete without using EO data, offering a great opportunity of an inclusive analysis. At the same time, the change detection technique offers the appropriate methodology for assessing housing and informal settlements, as a consequence of uncontrolled expansion of urban areas which marginalises low-income populations in the peripheral area of the cities, often in dense informal settlements, limiting access to basic services.

The universities management structure could be significantly improved by using the tools developed through the EO4GEO project, approaching students in their decisions when choosing a master program, but human resources (HR) or secretary departments as well, when preparing job descriptions, mainly on the research projects side. In this manner, the students who are involved in the process of study implementation could be encouraged to take a proactive position, the same as the teaching staff (Figure 6). The EO4GEO tools, mainly the Job offer tool, and the Occupational offer tool represents appropriate instruments for knowledge update, labour market functions and needs, which could support both students towards their career journey, but also researchers, recruiters, and teachers in the university. The Occupational Profiles can serve as a template to start a job offer in the Job Offer tool. As soon as there’s availability for an occupational offer and a job offer, the book annotation tool could serve as an appropriate tool which associate any document, either CVs or short description, with the geoinformation library concepts (BoK), in order to be used in the Book Matching Tool, for evaluating the best matches (Figure 6). Having this argumentative assessment of matching information, the human resource department can point out the lack of skills for a certain job or what kind of training is needed in order to improve the competencies gaps.

Figure 7. EO4GEO tools employment at the university level


EO4GEO tools used at the university management level are suitable to be employed by students, teacher staff and human resources departments, as interrelated in the figure above, by using Business Process Model and Notation mapping language. As for a convenient support towards online learning and teaching with further involvement in professional development, the accomplishment of the EO4GEO training materials and tools is valuable and productive for keeping up-to-date the initiatives in the geospatial and Earth Observation research and in the education field. The opportunity of using Curriculum Design tool in mapping master’s and bachelor’s programs, could serve as a panoramic image for the future students, interested in attending certain faculty courses, who need to understand the interrelation between the study fields, this way, proceeding towards university dropout mitigation. After the coronavirus pandemic exposure, the e-learning option became the starting point when it comes to professional development and re-skilling.

An e-learning and professional development operational department fulfilment within higher education system would be a convenient opportunity, which could support and manage the educational progress over time, both during on-line and in-person courses. As online learning was very recently part of our lives, the pandemic proved that e-learning platforms can support and increase the professional careers, appropriate for professionals to maintain their certifications and licenses even when being engaged in other responsibilities. E-learning is suitable for new program learning into the student’s schedule, more appropriate than traditional classroom setups would do.

Through the e-learning department initiative, embedding e-learning platforms, the students would have the change to choose the best educational program that fits upgrading their skills, with the main advantage of accessing it globally, training on the latest materials and most advanced technologies, accessible from a convenient place and time. It is important for students to join their new learning with current jobs, setting up topics, relying on their schedule.


6. Conclusions

Earth Observation (EO) data and geoinformation represent elements that sustain different space education levels, from elementary to university education. From enhancing student engagement and motivation to promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills, such as understanding patterns, relationships, and processes in space, the instruments approached in this research are useful in training students for future careers and opportunities. The usage of the EO4GEO professional development tools is essential to ensure the required skills and competencies to increase internal uptake of EO-technology and support building the required expertise which proceed in closing the gap of supply and demand within the geoinformation sector. The core progress element for geoinformation professional development and teaching is the EO4GEO Body of Knowledge (BoK), the form of library and information science which store concepts and information for proving the feasibility to develop educational instruments approached for the EU Space Programme, Copernicus Earth Observation.

The limit of the present research is given by the advanced inquiry of the professional development tools just in relation with EU Earth Observation Programme. Future research gateway for professional development improvement could consider the European Space Programme as a whole, where skills and competences are shaped, analysed and updated for navigation (Galileo and EGNOS),  communication (Govsatcom), safety  (Space Situational Awareness) as well as connectivity (IRIS²).

Further efforts are made to face continuously changing labour market in the entire EU space programme umbrella, related to skills and competences improvement and update, by offering inclusive and sustainable education programs, within future research projects. As for paving the way to these efforts, the European Commission launched  a large-scale Skills Partnership for the space sector dedicated to data, services, and applications, which aims to promote the collaboration between the space industry, training centres, academia and other partners, empowering the workforce clusters with the  updated skills needed, leading to increased innovation and competitiveness.



This research was supported by the project EO4GEO – Towards an innovative strategy for skills development and capacity building in the space geo-information sector supporting Copernicus User Uptake – 591991 GA number, 2017-3113.


About the Authors

Maria Ioana Vlad Sandru

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-5293-7976

Romanian Space Agency, Bucharest, Romania


Alina Răduțu

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-1114-1939

Romanian Space Agency, Bucharest, Romania


Andi Lazăr

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-6600-6179

Romanian Space Agency, Bucharest, Romania


Ion Nedelcu

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-9017-1983

Romanian Space Agency, Bucharest, Romania




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