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Incorporating Virtual Reality in Construction Management Education

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Construction Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Construction Engineering

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Paper Authors

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Ramyani Sengupta Purdue University, West Lafayette


Anthony E. Sparkling Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Anthony Sparkling is an Assistant Professor in Construction Management Technology (CMT) at Purdue University where he teaches courses in mechanical and electrical systems, electrical estimating, and electrical construction. His research interests include teams, organizations, contract governance, organizational processes, project/team performance and behavioral feedback systems. He has a growing interest in the skilled-trades shortage in the United States.

Prior to joining the CMT department at Purdue, Anthony worked in the construction industry for over twenty years. He started as a journeyman electrician in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers quickly ascending to Project Foreman and Superintendent. As an electrician, he was tasked with supervising complex building automation and control system installations, scheduling, coordination, procurement, and estimating for projects across many building sectors including industrial, commercial, K-12, and higher education. Then, he moved into Project Management working for a mid-size General Contractor/Construction Management Company based in Lansing, Michigan. In this capacity, he managed projects ranging in size from $4 million to over $115 million and was responsible for overall project execution including budget and cost controls, procurement, safety, scheduling, quality, and client satisfaction.

Anthony received both his Ph.D. in Planning, Design and Construction and master's degree (M.S.) in Construction Management from Michigan State University. He received his bachelor's degree (B.S.) from Eastern Michigan University and also holds a master electrical license in the State of Michigan. Anthony is a committee member for the Transportation Research Board - Standing Committee on Project Delivery Methods, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and Ronald E. McNair Scholar. He can be contacted at

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Education in the United States (US) has come a long way over the past few decades. More and more learning institutions are combining traditional educational tools with newer technologies such as virtual reality (VR), VR headsets and sensors, and as well as augmented learning spaces as they have been found to have an impact on students. In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, internet-assisted virtual classrooms are often being preferred over traditional teaching – this reduces in-person contact while delivering lessons on time in a safe space. In the construction industry, a complete virtual education is often harder than other sectors, as jobsite tours, physical construction layout drawings, and mechanical and electrical systems cannot be easily experienced without a proper laboratory environment and a jobsite tour. This pilot study involves undergraduate construction management students, equally divided into a control group and an experimental group, to gauge the real value of virtual reality-assisted education compared to more traditional methods. Using data and construction drawings from an ongoing project, we deploy state of the art technology to convert them into a virtual space using Unity, which in turn is viewed by students with the help of Oculus Rift headsets in a controlled environment. They interact with the virtual space in a safe manner and learn the lesson through VR instead of using physical drawings during laboratory classes. On the other hand, a control group is not exposed to VR-assisted learning and simultaneously studies physical layouts on drawing sheets and visits the site for a short tour, much like a standard university lecture in the US. After the respective educational sessions for both groups, data pertaining to the subjects’ understanding of the study materials is collected in two phases using online pre- and post- learning assessments. In this study, we assess the impact of innovative learning environments on student knowledge as compared to traditional methods of instruction. Preliminary findings indicate that the integration of VR-assisted learning practices is comparable to traditional classroom instruction in terms of efficiency and ease of use. It can be anticipated that incorporating more innovative educational instruments and practices in the future will enhance knowledge transfer while even reducing interpersonal contact during a global health crisis. We are optimistic that these VR tools will help to better train young construction professionals before they join the industry.

Sengupta, R., & Sparkling, A. E. (2021, July), Incorporating Virtual Reality in Construction Management Education Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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