Massively Online GPS Course Massively Popular

October 14, 2014  - By
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In this course assignment, the map predicts the satellite paths, and the app is what students use to observe them.

Final results are not yet in, but early indicators presage that Monday’s inaugural webinar with two Stanford professors will be the largest GNSS public event ever staged. Enrollment surpassed 20,000 some time ago, and the free subscription rolls are still open. It’s massive!

Per Enge, professor of engineering at Stanford University, where he directs the Stanford Center for Position Navigation and Time, and Frank van Diggelen, vice president of technology at Broadcom Corporation and a consulting professor at Stanford University, are teaching the massively open online course (MOOC) on GPS this fall. The six-week course began October 13 and lasts through November 24, but it’s not too late to enroll.

The course focuses on GPS basics with the use of smartphones.“This is the first ever MOOC on GPS/GNSS,” said van Diggelen. “It will be carried by Coursera.”

GPS: An Introduction to Satellite Navigation, with an interactive Worldwide Laboratory using Smartphones

Explore the fundamentals of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and how it works by conducting “backyard” laboratory experiments on your own mobile device. Learn the basics of satellite navigation and witness the power of a network with planet-wide coverage. Gain a deeper understanding of GPS and its role in our lives, while interacting with a worldwide community of learners and backyard scientists.

“Online learning, especially with MOOCs, is about to revolutionize teaching, and Stanford is in the vanguard,” van Diggelen added. “We’ve been teaching this course for several years at Stanford, and so this seems a very natural extension. We’re both excited by the possibility of reaching students all over the world, and by being part of the revolution.”

He provided some sample questions from set of short quiz exercises that will form part of the course.

  • What is the repeat period of the apparent orbit from a fixed point on earth, of a GLONASS satellite with orbit period 8/17 of a sidereal day?
  • What is 27 W in dBm?
  • Why is the bandwidth of the GPS C/A code signal one million cycles/second when it only sends data at 50 bits/second?
  • How precise are the GPS pseudo-range measurements?
  • Why is the fundamental GPS measurement called a pseudo-range?

There are even lab sessions. Participants will use their own smartphones or tablets.

A sample lab assignment: Predict which of the two GPS satellites, PRN 20 and PRN 32 will pass closest overhead at your location. Go outside at that time and verify that the GPS in your smartphone can acquire and track this satellite. Post the results on the course site, and watch who saw the satellite before you, and who sees it next.

“The class as a whole will follow these satellites around the world, as they tie us together in a global laboratory,” van Diggelen concluded, “using online apps that make the worldwide labs work.”

Frank van Diggelen

Frank van Diggelen

Frank van Diggelen is vice president of technology at Broadcom Corporation, a consulting professor at Stanford University, and inventor of coarse-time GNSS navigation, co-inventor of Long Term Orbits for A-GNSS, and author of A-GPS: Assisted GPS, GNSS, and SBAS. He is also a frequent contributor to GPS World.

Per Enge

Per Enge

Per Enge designs navigation systems that are safe and secure. He has worked on such systems for maritime and air applications. Two of these navigation systems have been deployed worldwide. He received his B.S.E.E. from the University of Massachusetts, and his M.S.E.E. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Today, he is the Vance and Arlene Coffman Professor of Engineering at Stanford University, where he directs the Stanford Center for Position Navigation and Time. He was awarded the GPS World 2013 Leadership Award in the Signals category.

For more information, visit the course page at Coursera.

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