Assessing the effects of augmented reality on the spatial skills of postsecondary construction management students in the U.S.

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Kim, Jeff
Irizarry, Javier
Castro-Lacouture, Daniel
Utschig, Tris
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There is a continual challenge within the construction industry to meet schedule, budget, and quality expectations. At the same time, there is an underlying problem where the older and more experienced workforce is retiring from industry at a faster rate than the newer workforce can replace them. As the more experienced workforce departs from the industry, they are taking with them much-needed skills and experience that fail to get transitioned to the newer and less experienced workforce. Among these skills are spatial skills. The construction industry has already caught on that this is a serious problem that they must contend with, and so, they have looked to the postsecondary institutions to help resolve it. However, the postsecondary institutions have a problem of their own, whereby they commonly default to passive teaching techniques that are not well suited to teaching spatial skills. So, therefore, there is a need to graduate construction management students with better spatial skills in order to meet the necessities of industry. Along with this, is the need for academia to reconsider teaching styles to better train spatial skills. Spatial skills, it has been found, are better retained when active and collaborative teaching engagements are arranged. Therefore, identifying and testing a practical and non-interfering classroom tool that students can easily use, would be the most favorable way to overcome academia’s tendency towards passive teaching. Spatial skills are needed in every part of the construction industry. In fact, everyday simple tasks require spatial skills and while these skills are honed over time, more refined skills, capable of interpreting abstract space, are required to assemble a complex construction project. Construction projects are getting more complex and often the design involves some measure of abstract thinking. Teaching these abstract-based spatial skills in postsecondary institutions has typically been done through drafting and plan reading courses, with some success. However, the need from industry is not being fully met with these skills and so an alternative solution is recommended. While Building Information Modeling (BIM) has become an adequate solution to aid in the understanding and planning of highly abstract designs, successfully using it requires excellent spatial skills. Consequently, it would be advantageous if those spatial skills were developed before students were introduced to BIM. Augmented reality is a collection of technologies that allows a user to view the “real” world with additional information that is intended to provide a better understanding of what is being observed. Augmented reality already has applications in many industries and is fast becoming a proven technology. With the availability of smaller and more powerful consumer mobile devices, augmented reality has the potential of becoming a more ubiquitous and practical tool. Recognizing that this technology can be practical, non-interfering, and known by the masses makes it an excellent solution for the classroom. Therefore, this research will study the use of an augmented reality tool to determine if there is an improvement of spatial skills in terms of accuracy, time to execute, and the retention of concepts over time. Furthermore, a separate analysis will be conducted to determine if the teaching tool is a benefit or disruption to the overall learning experience.
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