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Student Experiences and Perceptions on the Evolving Nature of Digital Tools in the Architecture Classroom

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Educational Strategies in Architectural Engineering

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1416.1 - 26.1416.12



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Paper Authors


Shahnaz J. Aly Western Kentucky University

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Shahnaz Aly, OAA, LEED AP, M. Arch, is a licensed Architect in India and Canada and Assistant Professor in the Department of Architectural and Manufacturing Sciences at Western Kentucky University. She has 10 years professional experience in the architecture and construction industry in residential, commercial and mixed-use projects. She has 5 years of experience in teaching and research in areas of architectural design, sustainable design, historic preservation and BIM.

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Student Experiences and Perceptions on the Evolving Nature of Digital Tools in the Architecture Classroom Drawings and physical models have always been the main stay of architects and are theprincipal means by which design ideas are conveyed. Previously hand drawings were the primarymeans for design ideation and construction drawings. With the advent of computer aided design(CAD) tools in the late 1980s the focus shifted away from hand drawing to the use of CAD fortwo-dimensional (2D) drawing. Now a days it is impossible to conceive of an architecturalpractice where CAD tools are not used right from initial design conceptualization to the creationof construction drawings for a given project. Architecture schools have incorporated into theirprogram curricula, the use of digital tools, for 2D drafting as well as for the generation of three-dimensional (3D) models. While the early 2000s saw the use of Auto-CAD (ACAD), SketchUP,3D Max and rendering tools, in recent time the use of BIM has grown in academia as well as inthe field. BIM encompasses, not just the creation of the 3D model that focusses on the visualaspect, but seamlessly builds an information laden model that can be shared with and used notjust by the designer but by other industry professionals to build and add relevant information tocomplete the model in its entirety thus enabling scheduling, clash detection and other importantaspects which move further than drawing and into the realm of construction and beyond. In the architectural documentation II class, a core course of the architectural science (AS)program at the University, faculty have noticed a shift in the use of digital tools by students.When the course was first introduced in 2008 students used ACAD in order to create the requireddrawings but since then students have moved away from CAD tools to BIM based tools forcreating designs as well as construction documents. In the current documentation class, of the 20students more than 50% use BIM based tools. While some of the students have had formaltraining in BIM, a large number of students are self-taught. This poses unique challenges for thestudents and the faculty alike. It has been observed that a number of students use these toolsmerely to generate 3D models and do not utilize the full potential of BIM. Students were surveyed about the tools they used for the documentation class and thereasons for using them. The students who used BIM were further asked about the perceivedadvantages to using BIM tools as well as the major problems they faced. This paper will discussthe current trend in the application of digital drawing tools available to students, the shiftingtrend from the use of 2D CAD based tools to BIM tools and will investigate the question ofstudents utilizing the full potential of the available digital tools. The paper will also highlightstudent perceptions as well as the end product generated in the course and challenges faced byboth the students and faculty alike.

Aly, S. J. (2015, June), Student Experiences and Perceptions on the Evolving Nature of Digital Tools in the Architecture Classroom Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24753

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