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Improvements to campus Web map help NIU students navigate area January 2, 2009

Posted by Bahadir Sahin in Calismalar (Studies), English, Haber (News).
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Finding various locations on the Northern Illinois University campus and the DeKalb-Sycamore area has become more convenient. Officials from the NIU Geography Department recently updated the campus’s Web map. The map now includes an aerial photo of areas around campus, DeKalb and sections of Sycamore. Some of the locations that have been added to the map include Kishwaukee Community Hospital, Target and Wal-Mart.

“We’re taking highly-detailed aerial images that are a half-point resolution and, basically, putting it into a GIS system. So, basically, it has ground truth,” Phil Young, NIU research scientist, said. “Anyplace we measure on this aerial photo will give us accurate ground truth, and it adjusts for angle tilts of a plain as well as any elevation change. So it’s a highly-detailed photo.”

The map system also lists the locations of printers, vending machines and dining facilities on campus, and which businesses in the area accept Huskie Bucks.

“This is mainly based on NIU facilities, but since Huskie Bucks are tied into the local community, we felt it was important to also show everything off campus,” Young said. “So one of the tabs in the search parameter shows all the Huskie Bucks facilities off campus. Any of the restaurants that are a part of Huskie Bucks, you can click into a search for, and it will take you to that place on the map.”

Residents also may use the campus map when purchasing tickets for NIU football games and other events that are held at Huskie Stadium. The map includes a link that shows where various seats are located in the stadium.

“We’ve got the whole east side done with all the students. So you can click on a seat and get all the information. Right now, we’re working on getting all the final steps put into place, so you could do a search pattern, so you can pick the row and the seat, and it will take you to the seat,” Young said. “We will also have some pictures set up, too. The west side, we got the middle section done with all the reserved seats and season seats, but we’re working on the north and south part of the west side.”

Young said, in the future, the map will include more photographs of the stadium, so residents will be able to view how the football field looks from their seat.

“Depending on what zone you’re in, you will be able to get a general advantage point of what it would like in your general seating area,” Young said. “Someone asked, ‘Are you going to take a picture of every, single seat?’ That would be 15,000 pictures, so I don’t think so.”

The campus map also has been updated to include the university’s satellite locations in Rockford, Naperville and Hoffman Estates.

“In the past, it was just one, big locater map with three dots. Now what we have is actually three separate map windows. It has the detail of the building, the parking lot, the roads coming up to it, sidewalks and so forth,” Young said. “So it shows a very detailed level once you get into the parking area or the road coming up to the facility itself. That’s something we felt was needed, because people would sometimes come to the facility not sure where to go.”

Young said the map also has been designed to work with various Web browsers and also can be used with Macintosh or PCs.

“The old system would basically work on a PC running Internet Explorer with a specific type of plug in,” Young said. “Now, with the new system, it will run on Firefox, Safari, Google’s new Chrome browser and Internet Explorer.”

The campus Web map was established in 2005. More features are set to be added to the map in the future, including information about the doors on campus, which lists whether they swing open to the right or to the left and if they are accessible to people with certain disabilities.

“It’s a big deal, because for some, if a door is too hard to pull open, and you’re in a wheelchair, that’s an issue,” Young said. “So this is the kind of stuff we’re hoping to display in the system.”

Young said the campus map receives about 200 hits a day, and is used by both students and staff members.

“We find, a lot of times, that new students or transfer students come in and use it quite a bit. We’re also finding, interesting enough, that some advisors are using it,” Young said. “We know of deans that use it often when they have students come in and ask where they go for something. They will bring up our system and use it as an example.”

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