The effectiveness of computer assisted learning in construction
It is widely recognised that learning and training is a life long task and that people may need to be retrained or acquire new skills several times during their working careers. This poses the problem of what are the most appropriate teaching methods available to match the wide range of experience and learning styles of the learners. The development and implementation of new technology for teaching and learning purposes is one of the solutions to these problems. In construction the need for continuous learning is evidenced by the CPD (Continuing Professional Development) requirements of all the major professional institutions. One method which appears to have great potential, is Computer Aided Learning (CAL). CAL can be defined as, a way of presenting educational material to a learner by means of a computer program which gives opportunity for individual interaction. Several initiatives have been launched over the last few years, to both develop and explore the use of CAL in higher education. Unfortunately few of these initiatives introduced strategic approaches for implementing these tools, which are aimed at the needs and styles of users within the construction domain. Also, only `qualitative' rather that `quantitative' measures of the effectiveness of these tools are provided, if any. Against this background, this research project: reviewed literature outlining learning theories that are relevant to learning in construction; reviewed the preferred learning styles of different professional groups within the construction domain; reviewed literature of the role of CAL in higher education, and the different types available in construction. As a result of the above literature reviews, the research has: developed an understanding of the learning process and derived measures of effective learning according to the cognitive, experiential and behavioural learning theories; categorised the different styles of CAL and their role in supporting the learning process, and promoting different types of learning; proposed a framework for strategic planning, development, implementation and evaluation of CAL, and highlighted how such tasks are a shared responsibility between the educator, the developer and the users of CAL; tested the effectiveness of a CAL system, the MERIT2 simulation game, adopting the evaluation criteria introduced by the proposed framework, and using quantitative measures of the efficiency and effectiveness of this tool to promote learning in construction management; adopted the approach introduced by the proposed framework, for strategic implementation of a prototype multimedia CAL tool, to meet the educational needs and learning styles of undergraduate quantity surveying students. The thesis concluded that, qualitative measures are insufficient to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of CAL tools. Also, that these tools are effective methods to support teaching within the construction domain, when strategically developed and implemented to target the educational needs and learning styles of its users.