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Abstract

Implementing online learning can pose serious pedagogical challenges particularly when programs contain work-integrated learning (WIL) components. One such component is the site visit, where student groups are led by subject matter experts through an authentic environment. These WIL experiences help students relate the theory learnt in classrooms to practice. Construction management students particularly benefit from repeated visits to the same building site to appreciate the spatial and temporal constraints and how they change over the life of the building project. Unfortunately, logistics and occupational health and safety concerns have increasingly limited the inclusion of site visits in school and university curricula. Online construction management students are widely dispersed and therefore it is impractical to include shared physical site visits in the curriculum, although students are able to observe locally-based construction sites and report back their findings. In response, universities have collaborated with construction companies and, using significant federal funding, created an interactive learning environment that follows the construction of an eight-storey building over time. This high quality resource is a type of virtual WIL that has been primarily used in face-to-face teaching. In this case study we implement this resource in a fully online construction management course and create three comparatively low-cost environments that demonstrate the construction of residential, industrial, and multi-storey building construction sites, for implementation in another two online construction courses. As an enhancement, within these new environments are embedded images, explanatory videos and documents which students can interact with to create a virtual tour that can be embedded directly alongside the concepts being studied in their weekly learning materials. In addition, these tours are linked to specific online learning activities designed to motivate students to reflect on and refine their understandings based on the authentic context they are experiencing. To better understand the processes involved in this collaboration between school academics, staff from a central teaching innovation unit, and two construction companies, the business processes employed were modelled using a swimlane diagram. Insights into the practicalities of implementing these virtual tours are shared. The experiential learning outcomes of students using virtual WIL are comparable to traditional site visits. Initial online student feedback of small cohorts of online students has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging for the development of more interactive virtual tours. The implementation of virtual tours and activities, blended with independent face-to-face site visits and assessment, forms an authentic, supported and constructively-aligned WIL experience for students undertaking fully online courses.

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