3rd AECEF International Symposium

CELTic - Civil Engineering Learning Technology (in Cardiff)

by Dr.Rob Lloyd, Dr.Lynne Moore and Professor Ben Barr
Cardiff University

Prof. B. I. G. Barr
at the opening session of the Symposium
  1. Introduction

The Association is gradually developing an overall strategy of continuous international discussion amongst university staff and engineers from industry of current issues in the field of civil engineering education. The First AECEF International Symposium was held in Prague in September 1995 and was entitled “Education for Civil and Environmental Engineering and Surveying”. This was followed by the Second International AECEF Symposium entitled “Quality in Civil Engineering Education - Assessment of Civil Engineering Education and Impact of Trainee Service on the Qualifications of Civil Engineering Graduates” which was held in Odense in May 1997. Following these general Symposia, the AECEF Board decided that the next symposium should be more focused and related to a particular aspect of civil engineering education which was of current interest to Association members. Hence it was decided that the Third Symposium, which was held at Cardiff during 8 - 10 September 1999, should deal with issues related to the development and implementation of Learning and Teaching Technology for Civil Engineering Education and Formation (professional development). It is the intention of the AECEF Board that future symposia will deal with environmental aspects of civil engineering education and the teaching of design. Members who would like to contribute in these areas should indicate their interest to the Secretary-General of the Association.

  1. Third AECEF Symposium

The main purpose of the Third Symposium was to bring together those interested in the development and implementation of Learning and Teaching Technology for civil engineering education and professional development. Educating and updating the next generation of civil engineers offers specific challenges to the learning technologist. Its particular combination of academic and experiential knowledge, its requirement for both knowledge and skill based abilities and its unique blend of management, design and analysis demand the creative application of a wide range of technologies and pedagogic strategies. The Symposium theme was timely, since the next decade is likely to see significant changes in both the educational process and in the way that industry and academia interact. The communications revolution and the rapid development in information technologies will be at the heart of these changes.

The range of papers presented showed clear evidence that learning technology has reached maturity and emerged as a viable educational medium. Learning technology offers potential solutions to some of the challenges currently facing universities around the world and, in combination with the development of global communications networks, also provides an opportunity to develop new markets for open and distance learning. There was also some evidence of duplication of effort in this rapidly developing field. There is an opportunity for AECEF member universities to join forces in this area and share in the development costs of future ventures. In particular, there is an opportunity within the European Community for better integration of current developments in this area.

Bearing in mind that there were no invited keynote speakers, the overall standard of the papers was exceptionally high. The format of each Session was the presentation of three/four papers followed by a general discussion. The quality of each discussion session was excellent and most sessions had to be drawn to a close after running into refreshments breaks! It is a matter of some regret that the discussions were not recorded since they would have added substantially to the written texts. The advice to colleagues is clear, attendance at future symposia is a must!

  1. Symposium themes

The Symposium (and the proceedings) was divided into five main themes: Integration into the curriculum; Courseware development; Internet based learning; Professional development; and Institutional strategies. As was expected, the greater number of papers were offered for the two themes of integration into the curriculum and courseware developments.

The theme of 'Integration into the Curriculum' was enthusiastically addressed. Alex Pavic (Nottingham University, UK) described the implementation of the COMPACT courseware using WEB CT as a delivery mechanism, integrated with the use of design problem sheets. Gregory Pilz (Technical University of Graz, Austria) presented RuckZuck, a 'European Academic Software Award' winning structural visualisation program. Per Christiansson (Aalborg University, Denmark) discussed the design and use of distributed learning systems and provided a number of examples from his own experience. Milan Vasek (Czech Technical University, Czech Republic) described the application of structural analysis programs and FEM models as educational tools. Andrew Oliver (University of Hertfordshire, UK) presented a paper comparing the implementation of constrained and flexible learning environments with a CAL package. A. Avdelas (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greese) presented a short paper on the development of the electronic educational library within the faculty of civil engineering. Nigel Beacham (Loughborough University, UK) described the development and potential applications of CAL-Visual, an image and multimedia content archive. Finally Anne Brown (Heriot-Watt University, UK) described work undertaken to introduce best practice teaching, enhance student learning and re-engage the creative processes within a CAD course. Discussion within this theme was enthusiastic, with particular attention being given to techniques and metrics for the evaluation of learning technology as an effective learning medium and to the issues of improving the learning experience through the application of the technology.

The theme of 'Courseware Development' was also very popular amongst the authors. Drumond Wilson (University of Paisley, UK) presented DEFLECT, a structural visualisation program designed to develop a sound understanding of how structures and materials respond to loading. Cenek Jarsky (Czech Technical University, Czech Republic) presented CONTEC, an integrated project bidding, planning, management and quality control system. Ian Smith (Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland) described the implementation of a new software-engineering course designed to teach engineering students the underlying principles of computer-aided engineering rather than specific packages. Pierre Latteur (Universite Catholique de Louvain, Belgium) presented ISSD, an interactive structural analysis program with an highly interactive user interface. Leslie Davison (University of West England, UK) illustrated many of the issues associated with the use of educational engineering simulations, based upon his own experience in this area. Demos Angelides (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece) presented a multimedia package developed to introduce case study teaching into an engineering degree programme. Again discussion on this theme was enthusiastic. It was particularly notable, both from the papers and the discussions, that the boundaries between this theme and the last ('Integration into the Curriculum') are becoming very blurred. This is particularly encouraging as it indicates the maturity of learning and the considerable amount of work being put into the careful integration of the technology with the teaching and learning processes.

The theme of ‘Professional Development’ widened the scope of the conference to look at how learning technology can be used to support the industry. Nigel Lloyd (Cambridge Professional Development, UK) described the EUSCCCIP project, a European project to develop a framework of good practice for the use of standards of competence in CPD, for construction industry practitioners. Anoma Malalasekera (Loughborough University, UK) described the application of Lotus Notes as a web-based support system for a part-time Masters degree course in automotive engineering. Robert Lloyd (Cardiff University, UK) outlined the vision and challenges for a new service developing a range of interactive multimedia resources and information systems to delivering professional development to the desk. Alan Maddocks (Loughborough University, UK) described the RAPID Progress File, an on-line and paper-based professional profiling system for the construction industry. Finally John Slater (Sheffield Hallam University, UK) described the development and implementation of a training programme designed to support the introduction of a new computer-based design tool within an engineering company.

The theme of 'Internet-Based Learning' provided an opportunity to look at how learning technology is developing in response to the rapid growth of global networks and communications systems. Didier Bousmar (Universite de Catholique de Louvain, Belgium) presented an interactive steady-flow open-channel hydraulics course developed for Internet delivery. Renate Fruchter (Stanford University, USA) outlined a multidisciplinary Architecture/Engineering/Construction teamwork project that utilises problem and project-based learning within globally distributed students teams. Paul Hackney (University of Western Sydney – Nepean, Australia) described an investigation of the use of streaming video technology to deliver lectures to remote viewers. Daniel Rypl (Czech Technical University, Czech Republic) presented a web-based tool for the automatic evaluation of homework. Discussion under this theme centred on some of the practical and technical issues encountered in this leading edge work before widening to consider the pedagogic changes being implemented in response to the introduction of this technology.

The final theme of the conference, 'Institutional Strategies', provided an opportunity to look at some of the wider issues within civil engineering education. Iacint Manoliu (Technical University of Civil Engineering Bucharest, Romania) described the EUCEET project, a SOCRATES Thematic Network project for civil engineering education and training in Europe. Tony Atkins (Staffordshire University, UK) described the Opportunities Programme in the University of Wollongong, which allows and supports students that fall short of the usual entry requirements to enter the degree program. Finally Eddine Ramdane (Kanazawa Institute of Technology, Japan) reported on an initiative to introduce project-based learning in order to develop key-skills and to introduce topics which are considered to be important for effectively integrating globalisation in the next century.

In general it was felt that the conference themes presented a well-balanced and broad range of papers representing the subject of learning technology within civil engineering education. A slight bias towards examples from the fields of structures and design was notable and perhaps this may provide an incentive for colleagues in the non-structural areas to further consider the application of learning technology within their own areas. However the conference provided an excellent opportunity to identify areas of commonality and possible collaboration and it is hoped that this initiative can now be exploited by the delegates and the community in general in the development of future partnerships, collaborative projects and new and exciting products.

  1. Social events

Two social events were organised as part of the Symposium activities. Conference participants took part in a tour of the Cardiff Bay area which has been under major re-development during the past decade. The re-development is centred on a barrage which is 1.1 km long and which will by the end of this year impound the rivers Taff and Ely, creating a 200 hectare freshwater bay together with a 13 km waterfront. This project is currently the largest investment in civil engineering facilities in the UK.

The highlight of the Symposium was an address by two NASA Astronauts at the Symposium Dinner held at Miskin Manor. Julie Payette and Rick Husband, who flew on the STS - 96 Shuttle mission in May/June 1999, related some of their experiences, showed a video of parts of their flight and answered numerous questions at the conclusion of their talk. Symposium participants had to be threatened with being left at the Manor before the organisers could get the party back onto the bus for the return journey to Cardiff!

  1. Conclusions

The Symposium was a most successful event. A good balance was struck between presentation of papers and open discussion. The organisers wish to record their thanks to Ms. Cherrie Summers and Mrs. Aderyn Reid for their contribution to the success for the Symposium. The AECEF Board was particularly pleased with the arrangements for the Symposium and hope that they have evolved a format which will attract increasing number of members to join the Association.

NASA astronauts Julie Payette and Rick Husband with AECEF representatives
(from left to right Mr Chris Barber of Stanwell School, Penarth and International
Space School Foundation, Mr R.Husband, Ms J.Payette, Prof.B.I.G.Barr, Dr.Jiří Váška)

Return to the page "Newsletter 2/1999"