It is a challenge to introduce building information modeling (BIM), as demanded from the industry, in an already packed curriculum for higher engineering education. There is therefore a need for alternative ways to include BIM in the curriculum, while at the same time strengthening – rather than supplanting – the traditional engineering subjects. The purpose of this study is increased understanding of how BIM can be integrated as part of an engineering curriculum in an efficient way. The study is based on an evaluation of the ‘Introduction to Building Professions’ course given to all civil engineering students in their first semester of the bachelor’s degree programme at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences in Norway. Autodesk Revit was used as BIM-based software in the designing of a two-family timber dwelling, a compulsory group project in the course. Data for this paper are collected from multiple sources: a net-based questionnaire, course evaluations, interviews with students and teachers, and assessment of students’ project work. Selected factors in Active Learning theories are used as a theoretical lens for analyzing the data in a systematic way. BIM enabled a design and ‘virtual construction’ process where students held professional roles in a design team, and contributed with their expertise toward a holistic solution. The students reported that the hands-on modeling with BIM- based software led to increased understanding of design parameters, load distribution, and construction detailing, as well as information requirements for collaboration within a design team. We conclude that BIM in higher engineering education can support understanding of professional content, which is the primary learning outcome. Software proficiency is seen as a necessary yet subordinate skill in higher education and should not be graded as a separate task. Use of BIM-based software should, however, be integrated to enhance problem understanding and relevant information processing. This integrated approach can lead to a more widespread implementation of BIM to support active learning in higher education.
active learning, BIM, civil engineering, higher education, project-based learning
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