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Students Develop Construction Skills Without Leaving the Classroom

10 May 2012

A new online learning resource from the University of Ulster, which enables Architectural Technology students to engage in site visits without ever leaving the classroom, has been recognised in a major competition.

Construct Online, which was developed by David Comiskey and Dr Kenny McCartan, has landed an Innovation inE-Learning Award forTeaching and Learning from the JISC Regional Support Centre for Northern Ireland.

The website is made up of six videos along with a number of quizzes that test students’ knowledge and assess their progress.

The videos illustrate many of the theoretical processes associated with constructing a new building from start to finish and enable viewers to follow and study footage filmed on site, without leaving their classrooms.

David Comiskey, Lecturer in Architectural Technology, who developed Construct Online with Dr Kenny McCartan Project Officer (Technology Adoption) explained: “We began to work on Construct Online around 18 months ago after receiving funding from the Centre for Higher Education Practice (CHEP) and initially developed it for first year students.

“Many of them arrive at university straight after finishing A-levels without having any experience of construction related modules, so we wanted to introduce them to a world of construction which is easily accessible.

“They can view this resource as their own mini Grand Designs, just like the popular Channel 4 programme which follows self-build projects from inception to completion.

“Since launching Construct Online, I’ve found that the students’ engagement in class has definitely increased and after having watched the videos they seem to have a better understanding of their module and are asking more questions.

“They are able to download the videos on their iPhones and many of them have said that having this facility will help with their exam revision.

“Second year students have now been introduced to the new resource and they are also finding it very beneficial.”

Construct Online incorporates both 2D plans and 3D models of a building, outlining the technical fundamentals of the architectural design used in its construction.

Colin Orr, President of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists, praised the website resource.

He said: “The videos are an innovative way of bringing theory into practice and enable students to visualise the complexity of construction from design to completion, while the quizzes enable both tutor and student to evaluate learning.”

Dr Stephen Farry, Minister for Employment and Learning, who attended the recent award ceremony, said: “These awards acknowledge those who are leading the way in developing and effectively using technology to enhance teaching and learning in our further and higher education and training sectors.

“The use of technologies to deliver and promote learning in the education sector is an area of immense and rapid growth and change.

“Business and industry look to the tertiary sector as a key provider in terms of their personnel and company development. Technology must be exploited to the full to enrich the learning experience to the benefit of individual students and the economy.”

While the online facility is only available to University of Ulster students, David said a number of other academics from universities in the UK and USA have expressed an interest in the concept and it may be opened up to a wider audience at a later date.

Note to Editors:

The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) is the UK’s expert on information and digital technologies for education and research, which has been driving innovation in UK education and research for more than 15 years.

The Regional Support Centre for Northern Ireland (RSCni) is one of a network of 12 centres located across the UK to assist higher and further education colleges and skills providers with information, advice and guidance in the strategic use of technologies to achieve their organisational goals.

This is the first year of the RSCni awards scheme, which aims to promote e-learning by identifying individuals and teams throughout Northern Ireland who are spearheading the development and effective use of technology to enhance teaching and learning in post-16 education.