GIS, or Geographic Information Systems, is an automated system composed of hardware, data, software and people used to create, store, display and analyze spatial data and related attributes. A GIS integrates query and statistical analysis with map making and geographical analysis.
GIS allows users to perform complex analysis providing a powerful planning and decision making tool for a wide variety of disciplines. GIS is now being used for applications such as: cancer research, criminal justice, environmental risk analysis, health administration, marketing, public health, urban studies and planning and others.
As part of the State of Virginia higher education site license for ESRI, VCU students, faculty and staff have free access to GIS courses offered via the ESRI Virtual Campus. VCU Technology Services administers the site license for VCU and provides helpful information about hardware and software.
The L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs also offers a Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems.
These resources are some examples of interactive mapping resources that allow you to easily create maps without GIS software.