OnSite: The Virtual Site Visit as an Environment for Construction Learning

OnSite: The Virtual Site Visit as an Environment for Construction Learning

Robert Sean Pickersgill (University of South Australia, Australia), Rameez Rameezdeen (University of South Australia, Australia) and Jennifer Harvey (University of South Australia, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8452-0.ch009
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The chapter summarizes the educational pedagogy researched and developed in the OnSite project, a multi-year trial of a blended virtual learning environment, situating it in the context of immersive learning environments generally and discussing the specific challenges in designing and creating environments suitable for introductory construction courses. It documents and reports the challenges in creating a virtual learning environment (VLE) for use within an introductory construction course for architecture and building students at the University of South Australia. In addition, the chapter will reflect on issues of technical development for immersive learning environments, discussing the purpose and value of high-fidelity modelling, texturing, and lighting to achieve learning “authenticity.” Finally, the chapter looks at the implications for VLEs of this sort in terms of larger issues regarding the potential for game engine (GE) environments as cooperative spaces within the AEC industry.
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Two questions emerge from this situation: How does an educator meaningfully address the structural requirements of ‘seeing’ the reality of domestic construction processes, and; what alternatives exist for this experience if a physical site visit is not feasible? It was the opinion of the authors that developments within Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) in education would provide a model for simulated experience that successfully managed the manifold challenges of ‘real life’ learning while also allowing for focussed pedagogical aims that successfully measured the effectiveness of the process. While literature on the subjects of VLEs, gamification, constructivist learning and LMS strategies is currently broad (Zheng, 2015), there is currently little substantive analysis of projects that attempt to syncretically incorporate the full range of capabilities within the digital education space for architecture and construction. Maghool, Moeini and Arefazar, have identified and summarized the relationship between learning styles within architectural education and the potential implementation of VLEs (Maghool et al, 2018). Their LADUVR project addressed similar concerns as those that have premised OnSite, but there are significant differences that OnSite addresses, in particular those relevant to site visits and to the parallel incorporation of LMSs. Projects tend to concentrate upon the employment of gamification methodologies at the expense of visual authenticity, rehearsing a philosophical question that exists within digital game theory of the difference between ludological (instrumental play behavior) versus narrative (immersiveness) approaches. Our challenge was to combine the incorporation of complex software uptake as a condition of learning; the creation of VLEs that demonstrate visual authenticity by employing contemporary game engines; integration between VLEs and learning management systems (LMS); and the application of this material to large data sets (in excess of 30 participants). The work of Maghool, Moeini and Arefazar is clearly a front-runner in the development of a complex and integrated approach to the creation of meaningful and authentic emulation of the construction process, however in our view much of the literature in this field does not attempt to create a fully integrated approach. This was the aim of the OnSite project. To progress this aim, a number of questions had to formulated and an appropriate methodology be developed.

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