Civil Engineering Students' Response to Visualisation Learning Experience with Building Information Model

By Vimonsatit, Vanissorn; Htut, Trevor | Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, June 2016 | Go to article overview

Civil Engineering Students' Response to Visualisation Learning Experience with Building Information Model


Vimonsatit, Vanissorn, Htut, Trevor, Australasian Journal of Engineering Education


1. Introduction

Engineering students, especially those who have no prior practical experience, may not have the ability to fully visualise the details of engineering structures. Traditionally, during the whole course of Civil Engineering study, students learn several professional Units as a series of separate Units; however, all knowledge learned must be integrated collectively for a full understanding of actual design and construction in practices. The four-year Civil Engineering course at Curtin University offers two Units in Semester 1 and Semester 2 of the final year, namely Construction Technology (CT) and Integrated Design and Construction (IDC), which aim to provide an opportunity for students to combine the knowledge learned in the first three years and apply it to develop a complete project with design, tender and construction information. However, until 2012, the technology used was still limited to isolated software tools, and students tended to separate the workloads and were not able to work collaboratively in the platform that could allow effective information sharing and learning from each other with the project.

This research is drawn upon the evident need for incorporating Building Information Model (BIM) in teaching and learning either as part of the curriculum, or as a teaching tool. BIM is not just the physical geometry of a structure but contains the materials data, functional characteristics, quantity and cost, and construction and maintenance records, which can be used as a global digital construction technology. It is widely accepted that BIM will significantly contribute to a transformation of industry, project procurement method and how we do business. The BIM in Australia report (BIM Australia 2010) based on forums held in Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney in October/November 2010 provides a number of suggestions on how to move forward with BIM, one of which is by multidisciplinary approach education.

Government plays the biggest role in encouraging and spreading BIM adoption. The United Kingdom mandated a 'fully collaborative 3D BIM as a minimum by 2016' on UK Government building projects. Singapore mandated that by 2014 Structural, Mechanical and Electrical designs must be done in BIM. Other government jurisdictions that already require the use of BIM for government building procurements include the United States, Norway, Finland, China and South Korea (BuildingSMART 2012).

With the advanced multimedia tools of the current digital age, BIM provides a collaborative environment for design and construction coordination, which leads to improvement and better control of a project. In recent years, educators worldwide have been incorporating BIM into their curricula. Forsythe, Jupp, and Sawhney (2013) are developing a structured, program-wide approach supported by BIM in the undergraduate Construction Project Management course at their university. They have also introduced the concept of vertical problems with BIM-supported project-based learning through virtual construction management. An overview of current approaches used as BIM teaching strategies can be found in (Liu and Killingsworth 2012), in which the authors highlighted the need for a paradigm shift and also pointed out obstacles in using BIM.

Records show the use of BIM in Civil Engineering education in countries where BIM is employed for industry use (Barison and Santos 2010). The benefits of using BIM as a teaching and learning tool are multifold. The BIM of an engineering structure is a computer model that can be used to enhance students' learning either in class or online. Using BIM as a tool will improve the quality and provision of flexible learning. Students enrolled in the relevant units will have access to the model so they can learn any day and time that suits their learning requirements. Flexibility in learning will help students who are restricted by other commitments and responsibilities to keep them engaged in and motivated towards learning. …

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