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Tertiary Education Framework for Delivering Academic BIM Education

Updated: Jun 27, 2019


Nowadays, mega projects are mostly located in developing countries with emerging economies. And, outsourcing of engineering works has been relocated to overseas facilities which are able to offer lower wages for the best value. The success of such a construction project depends on the ability of individuals to work together in an open and trustful environment (Becker et al. 2011). To educate and train AECO discipline students for these works, tertiary education programs are designed to discuss unique project types, with the application of innovative means and methods. Building Information Modeling (BIM) promotes trans-disciplinary, inter-level, multinational collaborations with different project stakeholders across the project life cycle (Eastman et al. 2011). And, BIM courses are essential in the tertiary education system (TES) for producing ‘BIM-ready’ graduates, who can work in collaborative working environments.

In recent years, there has been a considerable amount of research for developing an educational framework that can enhance BIM in the tertiary education system (hereinafter TES). Studies conducted by BIM policy field players revealed that BIM education, awareness, and its uptake is currently at different levels of implementation across the globe (Rooney 2015). The UK, Korea, Australia, Israel, and Singapore’s BIM educationalists and researchers had contributed towards developing BIM educational frameworks for different tertiary education levels (Jeon & Eom 2011; MacDonald 2012; Pikas et al. 2013; Hoang & Bedrick 2015; Underwood & Ayoade 2015). Also, active policy field players in USA and Malaysia developed BIM educational framework to Civil Engineering (CE), Construction Engineering and Management (CEM) and Quantity surveying (QS) departments (Lee & Dossick 2012; Salazar et al. 2015; Ali et al. 2015). The new hybrid condition of design institutes is one in which students not only interact with their counterparts at their home campus but also at multiple campuses. They are taught not only by educationalists from their home university but also by educationalists from other universities. Thus, this will not only facilitate a greater diversity of knowledge but also assist for greater depth of knowledge.

BIM activists such as McDonald & Donohoe 2013; Agbool & Elinwa 2013; Rooney 2015; Underwood & Ayoade 2015 recommend to set up multidisciplinary schools and BIM educational institutes to facilitate BIM learning through industry and academia. However, introducing the BIM education in university programs is more complex than just adding a new course to the original curriculum. Here, several elements need to be considered while planning and developing the BIM curriculum i.e. prerequisites, goals, objectives, contents, teaching methodology and evaluation. A large and growing body of literature has been investigated on these issues (Barison & Santos 2010; Becker et al. 2011). BIM educationalists in departments such as architecture (Chasey & Pavelko 2010; Elinwa & Agboola 2013), construction management (Clevenger et al. 2010; Lee et al. 2013; Liu & Hatipkarasulu 2014) and multi-discipline departments (Staub-French & Farah 2011; Wong et al. 2011; Palomera-Arias & Liu 2015; Henderson & Jordan 2015) are actively contributing towards designing BIM-based curricula. And, the UK’s BAF had laid its efforts for embedding BIM in their education framework, accordingly developed BIM educational framework, BIM education maturity assessment matrix and has set the ‘minimum BIM’ to be taught at different education levels (Underwood & Ayoade 2015).

Most recently, the BAF had conducted a questionnaire survey among academic and professional networks across the UK for investigating the current position and associated challenges of BIM education in UK’s HEIs. Analysis revealed that, among their survey respondents in UK’s HEIs, approximately 40% were senior lecturers, more than 60% fall under 49-68 years’ age group, more than 50% had only academic experience of BIM and 40% of the respondents belong to construction and architecture disciplines. Approximately 70% of respondents expressed average or less than average maturity for UK BIM level 2 (Underwood & Ayoade 2015). Architecture and technology disciplines educators expressed high levels of BIM interest. Concerning BIM software adoption trends, findings show a 79% rate of adoption or use of Revit followed by Naviswork and Sketch-up; for about 24% of programs are yet to incorporate BIM in their curriculum. Around 53% of HEIs have engaged BIM academically for up to 3 years. Underwood & Ayoade, 2015 study reveals that more than 60% of respondents engage with AECO industry in their BIM curriculum development. At last, more than 60% of respondents agree that HEIs are failing to keep their pace with BIM skill requirement and industry knowledge demands (Underwood & Ayoade 2015). These efforts by BAF, in accessing current BIM educational trends in the UK will help HEIs to reach towards next level of academic BIM adoption, thereby coping up with UK’s 2016 BIM mandate and AECO industry requirements. The UK’s HEIs strategy in adopting BIM educational framework set as an example for global changes in HEI’s view towards BIM in academia.

In this study, through literature review and analysis on BIM educational frameworks developed by global educationalists and researchers, we developed a BIM tertiary education framework, that can be visualized in Figure 1. The framework developed in this study involves 8 phases and same is discussed here. Phase 1, discusses on BIM learning spectrum, including all BIM topics, that can be learned by students or taught by educators. And, the learning spectrum includes both structured & unstructured information, including well-defined, classified and aggregated BIM competency items. phase 2, discusses core courses in which BIM has to be integrated with different collaboration types. Phase 3, discusses on in which AECO departments need to integrate BIM. Phase 4, briefs on BIM course levels. Phase 5, discusses on, at what tertiary education levels the BIM education has to be provided. Phase 6, discusses how BIM educators and educationalists efforts in training students on BIM. Phase 7, discuss how all the field players can contribute to enhancing academic BIM education. And, phase 8, is for discussing how BIM ready graduates can benefit the AECO industry by working in different job roles and how they can be framed to become future BIM specialists. Thus, to successfully generate `BIM ready’ graduates and specialists, globally active BIM field players must collaborate, communicate, coordinate and together contribute to BIM associated TES.

Figure 1: BIM tertiary education framework

BIM in TES (undergraduate, graduate and R&D) needs to be delivered at different course levels (introductory, intermediately and advanced) in curricula. BIM should be adopted in AECO associated departments (including building surveying, architecture and technology, construction management, civil and structural engineering, building and real estate, quantity surveying, industrial technology, construction science, computer graphics, construction engineering, building services engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, facility management, etc.) in the key AECO courses (including architecture, structures, MEP coordination, sustainable design and construction, pre-construction, cost estimating, scheduling, contracts, material and methods). These courses should be directed towards BIM learning spectrum (BIM tools, BIM standards, BIM workflow, BIM-enabled coordination practices and project management, BIM application based schedules & estimates and knowledge of parametric object-based design concepts) with altered BIM collaboration types such as single, interdisciplinary and distance collaboration (Succar and Sher, 2013). This framework can be designed considering several factors such as grading structure, content delivery methods, term projects, students’ feedback and lessons learned to generate `BIM ready’ graduates and specialists. Also, the BIM courses need to be well planned, implemented and evaluated in AECO departments. To design any BIM course, several methods can be beneficial for BIM educators, i.e. defining the objectives of teaching BIM, BIM proficiency for the course, BIM tools and applications, pre-requisites, projects to be carried out and collaboration types to be taught. Concerning the BIM educational framework requirements, most recently the UK’s BAF and BIM task group collaborative efforts have resulted in the development of the Learning Outcomes Framework (LOF). 2015 version of the LOF also accommodates the UK’s BIM level 2 foundation documents, including academia and industry feedback on its applicability, presentation format, structure and key contents (Underwood & Ayoade 2015). In our opinion, the UK’s BIM educational framework can be considered as an example for other countries (including for the developing countries like India) that are planning to adopt BIM education in academia.


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I am thankful to Prof. Shang-Hsien Hsieh for his support throughout this research process. I like to thank Soumo Bose and Rikrey Rechil Marak (Active members, IBIMA) for their contributions in the content editing of this article. And, special thanks to my parents for their constant support in life.

About the Author

Dr. Amarnath Chegu Badrinath is a Change Agent for Digital Built and BIM Adoption in Indian AECO Sector. He is the Founder and President of the National BIM Society - India Building Information Modelling Association. Over the course of his career, he held positions as Researcher Assistant, Assistant Professor, Entrepreneur and Advisory in India, Taiwan, Spain and UK. He has research experience of nine years in the field of BIM and Digitalization at Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, National Taiwan University, Imperial College London and University of Barcelona combined. He has participated in few international conferences published journal papers and book chapters in this area. His key research focus is on two directions i.e. Establishing BIM project strategies; and BIM education & training. And these two directions merge with what can be considered the main shortage in India Construction Policies: how BIM can help the huge amount of new infrastructure and building projects and how BIM would have to be introduce in the learning plans and syllabus of all AECO universities. He is an Advisory Member for EU BIM Observatory and BIMCrew. Country Editor (India) for BIM Dictionary – BIMe initiative. Member of CIOB, ASCE & RICS. Editorial team member for IJM&P journal and ISCCCBE technical committee member. Dr. Amarnath CB is playing an active role as an Advisory Member for several Digital Built India initiatives and he can be contacted through Linkedin, Facebook, ResearchGate, Skype:, Mob: +91 9686623376

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