Implementation of Virtual Reality in Construction Graphics

Patrick Brittle

California State University, Chico

Course Name & Description: CMGT 110 - Construction Graphics

Project Abstract: 

Keywords/Tags: Virtual Reality in Construction

Instructional Delivery: In-Class

Pedagogical Approaches: Instructional and Group Activity Learning

About the LIT Redesign (Stage 1)

Background on the Redesign

Why Redesign your Course?

  • Course Characteristics: The purpose of this course is to introduce students to construction plan reading. Through the content of the course students will be taught the basic concepts of plan reading such as the various drawing disciplines and purposes of each drawing (architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, etc.), the various symbols shown on the drawings and what they mean (details, section call outs, elevation symbols, etc.), and the overall process for flipping through the plans to find the necessary information. Throughout the semester the students will use a computer software program called Sketch-Up to actually model a three dimensional building based on the construction drawings utilized in the class.
  • The Learning Problem: The main struggle with this class for the students is being able to interpret a two dimensional drawing and conceptualize the three dimensional building. Being that this is a freshmen level course, the majority of the students do not yet have actual construction experience to pull from so it is hard for them to visualize the end product.

High Demand/Low Success/Facilities Bottleneck Issues

  • The main bottleneck affecting this course is the student performance. The current D/F/W rate for this class is approximately 20%. Being that this is a freshmen level course, some of this poor performance may be due to poor student habits, but a majority of the poor performance is contributable to an inability to interpret two dimensional construction drawings and visualize the three dimensional end product.

Course History / Background

  • This course is a lower division course generally taken by freshmen within their first year in the Construction Management program. The course is classified as one two hour lecture session and one two hour lab session each week, however; the hands on aspects of having the students spend time reading the plans and modeling the building are implemented each day in class. This is to ensure the students are understanding the content and do not tune out of what would be two hours of constant lecturing for a given class section.

(Upload syllabus from pre-designed course)

Syllabus - CMGT 110 - Construction Graphics

About the Students and Instructor(s) (Stage 2)

Student Characteristics

  • All the students enrolled in this course are Construction Management majors.
  • With this being an entry level course, the majority of students have little to no expereience in the skills being taught and assessed in this class.
  • The student composition varies from freshmen all the way to academic standing seniors. Those who are seniors identified this major late in their academic career and still have another 3-years left to get through the program.
  • The transfer students in the class generally perform better and produce better work. We have found they are better prepared for the rigor of college courses and with most of their GE classes completed, they are more excited about the Construction Management courses.
  • 27 of the 57 students enrolled in the course this year are transfer students.
  • Of the 57 total students, the following is the breakdown by academic standing: 13 freshmen, 14 sophomores, 25 juniors, and 5 seniors.

Advice I Give my Students to be Successful

The instructions given to the students for this redesigned course will be based on the same principles of success provided to them in the current course offering:

  1. Keep Up with the Content and Assignments - The content builds off each week's previous material. To ensure you do not fall behind, complete all assignments on time to be prepared for the next assignment.
  2. Ask Questions When a Lesson, Assignment, or Question is Not Clear - Too often students have questions but rather than asking they let the moment go by and figure it's not important enough to ask their question. Learning happens with interaction and questions, not solely by listening.
  3. Connect With Fellow Students - Making friends and creating study groups to work with on assignments, compare notes and ask questions accelerates the learning process.
  4. Come to Class Prepared - There are pre-assigned preparation activities to be completed before a class quiz or activity. This preparation must be done before class so you are in a position to understand the material and effectively complete the quiz and/or activity in class.

Impact of Student Learning Outcomes/Objectives (SLOs) on Course Redesign

This course consists of two Student Learning Outcomes (SLO's), which are supported by five Course Learning Outcomes (CLO's). The SLO's for this class include:

  1. SLO 1 - Analyze construction documents for planning and management of construction processes.
  2. SLO 2 - Apply electronic based technology to manage the construction process.

The CLO's are a better gauge of the learning outcomes than the SLO's for the students in this class and are as follows:

  1. CLO 1 - Apply key construction graphics and modeling terminology.
  2. CLO 2 - Apply the principles and concepts of 2D construction graphics and 3D modeling.
  3. CLO 3 - Analyze construction documents for information necessary for the planning and management of construction processes.
  4. CLO 4 - Understand the application of virtual design and construction modeling in the design and construction industry i.e. where, how and why is 3D modeling used.
  5. CLO 5 - Demonstrate skills in the basic building and manipulation of 3D computer models, and understand the application of electronic based technology to manage the construction process.

Alignment of SLOs With LIT Redesign

  • The course redesign will address the SLO's and CLO's of this course by utilizing virtual reality (VR) to enhance the students' experience and understanding of the content. Through the implementation of VR the students will gain an alternate perspective between the 2D construction drawings and the 3D model of the building. Previously student experiences of the 3D model were limited to the use of their computer and the image on their computer screen. Through the VR environment the student will be fully immersed in the model and better able to grasp the design of the project.

Assessments Used to Measure Students' Achievement of SLOs

  • Students will be assessed in their comprehension of the material as it relates to the SLO's and CLO's for the class. The students will be assigned to groups of two and tasked with identifying deficiencies and conflicts in the 3D model based on the 2D construction documents provided. Furthermore, half of the groups of two will use the VR environment while the other half will use the standard computer 3D model. This will allow us to compare the data and performance between the two groups.
  • In order to assess the students abilities to identify deficencies and conflicts in the 3D model, they will be provided with a set of questions. They will navigate throughout the model, either in 3D on their monitor or in the VR environment depending on their assigned method, to answer the questions. The assignments will be graded and the data analyzed to understand if the VR environment students performed better than the students using only their computer monitors.
  • The content of this assignment is still being generated so we do not have a rubric created at this time.

Accessibility, Affordability, and Diversity Accessibility

  • We need to investigate further and explore campus resources to determine whether the VR technology can accommodate a variety of student disabilities. For those students with sight impairments, this technology may be problematic. We have thought about possibly using audio to describe the scenes in the VR environment but the audio would most likely not be able to adequately describe the experience. Those students with hearing impairments would be able to fully utilize and benefit from teh VR environment.


  • The students will not have to pay any additional fees to utilize the VR equipment. Students are required to have their own laptops as part of our Construction Management degree program, which will be needed for this course and all other Construction Management courses.


  • The pedagogical strategies are strictly analyztical and thus support the learning of students with diverse backgrounds.

About the Instructor

  • Instructor: Patrick Brittle. I had the pleasure of receiving my degree in Construction Management from CSU Chico, where I now have the honor of teaching. After receiving my degree, like most Construction Management students I pursued a carerr in the construction industry working as a General Contractor. My experience working in the industry has influenced my teaching philosophy where I focus on practical lessons and the application of practical skills. I tell stories and relate the lesson content to my experiences in the industry because I believe the students appreciate the connection and it makes the material more relatable.

Patrick Brittle

Curriculum Vitae

  • My C.V. with the details of my background and interests. (Patrick Brittle)

Patrick's C.V.

LIT Redesign Planning (Stage 3)

Implementing the Redesigned Course What aspects of your course have you redesigned?

  • The current focus of my course re-design is preparation and planning to implement the course re-design activities throughout one week of the course.
  • The re-design component will consist of introduction of content, preparatory instruction, and experiential / social learning. The following is a breakdown of the planned activities to be implemented over two class sessions:
  • Class Session #1
    • Introduction of Content (10-Minutes): Explain the concepts the students need to understand to perform the activity, including:
      • Basics of Design Coordination
      • Common Design Mistakes: Coordination, Layout, Spatial Layout, & Materials
      • Basics of Design Review
    • Preparatory Instruction (10 – Minutes): Explain the activity each pair of students will be undertaking:
      • Performing a Design Review of the Issued Paper Plans
      • Process to Work Through the Drawings
      • Types of Mistakes and Coordination Items the Students are Looking For
    • Experiential / Social Learning (50 – Minutes): Students work in pairs to perform the paper drawing review activity:
      • Each Student Reviews Their Own Drawings to Identify Design/Coordination Issues
      • Once Complete – Students Discuss and Compare Their Findings
  • Class Session #2:
    • Re-Cap of Content and Tasks Performed in Class Session #1 (10-Minutes): Re-visit the concepts discussed and the purpose of the exercise completed in Class #1.
    • Preparatory Instruction (10 – Minutes): Explanation of how to use VR and demonstrating activity tasks for students to complete
    • Experiential / Social Learning (10 – Minutes): Students work in pairs to experience the project in VR and identify design coordination mistakes.

What technology is being used?

  • Technology strategies include implementing a 3-dimensional building model into the Unity gaming engine to be viewed using Virtual Reality headsets. Implementing these technologies has been done through collaborating with CSU Chico’s Computer Animation and Gaming Design (CAGD) Department, who specializes in these technologies and have much experience in utilizing VR.

What professional development activities have you participated during your course redesign?

  • This semester I’m participating in a professional development program titled the First Year Experience program to improve my teaching pedagogies in another CMGT course. Through this program I’ve learned how to effectively implement experiential, social, and metacognitive learning strategies. These same strategies will be implemented during this course re-design.

Which Additional Resources Were Needed for the Redesign?

  • The use of VR in our CMGT Department has not been done before, nor is it within the expertise of the CMGT faculty. For these reasons we knew it was critical to collaborate with the CSU Chico CAGD Department, who has much experience with VR and is within our same College. Through regular coordination meetings, we have been working cohesively with CAGD to create the content needed for our course redesign. The CAGD faculty as been able to guide us through specifying the VR hardware as well as implementing the 3D building model we provided them into the Unity gaming engine, to be viewed through our new VR headsets.

(Upload your revised syllabus here)

LIT Results and Findings (Stage 4)

LIT Redesign Impact on Teaching and Learning

  • The course redesign provided a great opportunity for an active learning experience for the students. As the instructor I was able to better engage with the students in a hands-on scenario.Equally important, the students were able to work collaboratively in pairs, which enhanced their experience much more than typical individual based activities.
  • While the redesign was impactful, I wouldn't say it solved the main issue that motivated the redesign.  The problem we intended to solve with the redesign was to improve student comprehension of spatial reasoning for 3D buildings.  The experiment was issued over one class period so while it did benefit the students comprehension, this spatial reasoning skill takes much practice to become proficient.
  • The students were exposed to SLO 1 and SLO 2 content but I cannot say they "mastered" these student learning outcomes.  These SLO's are ambitious and complex so while we target to familiarize the students with these SLO's, they reasonably will not be able to "master" these outcomes as part of this class.  I do believe the students were more successful in the redesigned course because they were able to first hand experience the model.  This enabled them to identify problems and conflicts as would be expected to be identified in the real world application of a design review process.
  • I did experience some unexpected results after performing the VR implementation in the course.  The first unexpected result was the high level of engagement and enjoyment the students displayed throughout the VR activity.  They showed a level of excitement and interest that I've rarely seen in the classroom.  The other unexpected result was the student engagement during the "Paper Activity."  While this activity was not necessarily as exciting as VR and the students haven't been instructed how to read plans, they jumped in fully and committed to the process.  The students engaged in both portions of the experiment equally, which was very pleasing to see. 
  • Above is an example of the Paper Plans the students analyzed to find design mistakes.

  • This is the introductory view of the model the students explored through Virtual Reality to find design mistakes.
  • Above is an example of the assignments students were to complete to identify mistakes identified in both the Paper and the VR versions of the experiment.

Assessment Findings

  • This graph shows comparatively the number of intentional design mistakes the students found via the VR Activity and the Paper Activity.  Overall students found 10% more mistakes in VR in comparison with the Paper Activity.
  • Above is an example of the assessment questionnaire issued to the students each time after completing either the Paper Activity or the VR Activity.

  • This graph illustrates the number of correct answers students received for the follow-up Assessment Quiz.  This Quiz was taken directly after the students completed each the Paper and VR Activity.  
  • Surprisingly, students answered more questions correctly after completing the Paper Activity versus after completing the VR Activity.
    • Paper Activity - Average of 6.5 / 10 Questions Correct
    • VR Activity - Average of 5.3 / 10 Questions Correct 
    • This was contrary to what I was expecting
  • The above charts demonstrate the grade distribution for this class for both the Pre-Redesigned Course and the Redesigned Course.
  • You will notice the number of students is significantly larger for the Redesigned Course semester (Spring 2019).  For this reason, it's more telling to evaluate the percentages of students who received each grade.
  • Unfortunately the percentage of students receiving a non-passing grade significantly increased from the Pre-Redesign (15% Non-Passing) to the Redesign (32% Non-Passing) semester.  The following are takeaways that need to be considered regarding this trend:
    1. The Redesign Content Did Not Affect Student Grades -The redesign content was intended to be more experiental and less focused on grading and scores.  The intent was for students to get exposure to VR and understand the benefits it can offer in the Construction Industry.  
      • This is important because it removes the correlation between the Redesign and the poor grade performance during the Redesign.
    2. The Redesign Content Was Not a Significant Portion of the Course Content - Significant effort was involved to implement the VR content, and still only one week's of course content was ready for students. To truly have a strong impact on student comprehension and student grades, the VR content will need to make up a larger portion of the course content, which is the intent for coming semesters.
    3. The Assessment Method Needs to be Specific to the Experience - The questionnaire issued to the students after completing both the Paper and the VR Activity will be improved to better gauge the students' design review.  Currently the questions were specific to students demonstrating whether they understood certain design concepts.  The true intent of the VR experiment is for students to demonstrate problem solving and critical thinking skills.  The questionnaire will be revised to address these skills and not student comprehension of the design concepts. was the first semester rolling out the VR content and there were many lessons learned.
  • The students achieved each of the Course Learning Outcomes through this course Redesign.  While students were exposed to these CLO's as part of the class prior to the Redesign, the Redesign further reinforces these concepts as explained below:
    1. CLO 1 - Apply key construction graphics and modeling terminology. 
      • Students were required to understand terminology to correctly categorize mistakes in design as "spatial", "material", "coordination" or "architectural"
    2. CLO 2 - Apply the principles and concepts of 2D construction graphics and 3D modeling.
      • Students performed a design review to identify mistaked in 2D drawings and in the 3D model.
    3. CLO 3 - Analyze construction documents for information necessary for the planning and management of construction processes.
      • Students analyzed construction documents to understand potential problems in the design, which ideally should be identified and a solution determined prior to start of the construction phase.
    4. CLO 4 - Understand the application of virtual design and construction modeling in the design and construction industry i.e. where, how and why is 3D modeling used.
      • Through experiencing the building model in VR, students gain first hand experience of the applications and benefits with using VR for design review.
    5. CLO 5 - Demonstrate skills in the basic building and manipulation of 3D computer models, and understand the application of electronic based technology to manage the construction process.
      • This CLO is learned through other activities in the class, not  through the redesign content.  As part of these other activities, students build a 3D model of a building and apply NavisWorks to identify clashes in various design elements within this model.

Student Feedback

  • Overall the students thoroughly enjoyed the course redesign and the VR experience.  
  • When polled in class, 90% of students had never used VR and they were noticably excited to try this technology.  The following were some comments I overheard from students when using the VR headsets:
    • "Whoa, this is so cool!"
    • "I need to buy myself one of these!"
    • "I can see how this is so helpful for designers"

Challenges my Students Encountered

  • There were two main challenges encountered throughout the redesign activity:
    1. Technical Difficulties- Each time the VR component was implemented there were at least 2-3 student pairs who encountered technical difficulties, which were not a result of their actions.  The following are examples of these issues:
      • The VR stopped streaming to the shared monitor
      • The VR headset could not connect to the internet
      • The VR headset lagged and caused a noticeable vibrations of the image
    2. Mixing of Mistakes Between Paper and VR Activity
      • Although I clarified the mistakes to be found are going to be completely different amongst the VR and Paper Activity, after experiencing the VR model, many students wrote down the same mistakes they saw in VR on the Paper Activity.
      • Students had a hard time isolating the VR component from the Paper component so in future implementations, this point will be further stressed.

Lessons Learned & Redesign Tips

Teaching Tips

  • For those interested in pursuing a redesign course, my recommendations are as follows:
    1. Collaborate with Others: I did not have any experience with VR prior to this course redesign, luckily I leaned heavily on CSU Chico's Computer Animation and Gaming Development (CAGD) Department, which has much experience in VR.  The CAGD faculty were instrumental in developing the experiment but also troubleshooting many of the unforeseen issues encountered.
    2. Start Early and Give Yourself Plenty of Time: There were numerous unforeseen challenges encountered, which took additional time to resolve. Luckily we started early and had the time built in to work through these issues. Had we not given ourselves a significant time buffer, these challenges would have resulted in missing the implementation of this redesign this semester. For those pursuing a redesigned course, give yourself plenty of time, knowing you will encounter unforseen issues.

Course Redesign Obstacles

  • Instances of the challenges we encountered through this course redesign consistsed of:
    1. Retrieving the Building Model Files - Identifying the building model to use and retrieving the Revit files for that model took much longer than anticipated.
    2. Converting the Model Files into VR Gaming Engine - The Revit model file format needed to be modified to incorporate into the VR gaming engine, Unity.  This took much more time than anticipated.
    3. Streaming VR Content to Computer Monitor - Our experiment required to be streamed from the VR Headset onto a shared computer monitor amongst student pairs.  When first attempting this, we realized we needed an additional hardware component called a Google Chromecast device for each headset to stream to the monitor.  This required additional time and money to purchase these devices and test them.
    4. Wireless Network Setup - Once we had the Google Chromecast devices, we couldn't connect them to the CSU Chico campus wireless network.  We realized there were security restrictions on this network preventing our headsets and streaming devices from connecting.  This required us to setup our own wireless network within the classroom using a stand alone router, which required ITSS collaboration and approval.
    5. Computer Monitors Outdated - When we were finally ready to implement the experiment, the images weren't displaying on the monitors in class. We realized these monitors were not current enough to stream the necessary VR content. We ended up locating and moving in (15) additional newer monitors to display the VR images.

Strategies I Used to Increase Engagement

  • In order to increase student engagement, we utilized a couple strategies:
    1. Social Learning - We had students work in pairs to collaborate with one another to share their experience and ideas with one another.
    2. Experiential Learning - Students were engaged in the experience of the course redesign through both components. They were either identifying mistakes by reviewing project drawings or experiencing the model in VR, making this experience based rather than a teacher led lecture or discussion.


  • We plan to continue to implement this VR experiment in future semesters as well make improvements based on lessons learned from this course redesign implementation.  Areas where we intend to improve consist of:
    • Revise the Assessment Quiz to be More Specific to the Student Experience and Takeaways
    • Implement a Larger Commercial Building Into the VR Experiment
    • Change the Mistakes Within the Building to be More Applicable to Common Construction Coordination Issues

Instructor Reflection

  • Overall my participation in the Course Redesign was a great learning experience.  The creation and implementation of a VR experiment was completely new to me upon initially starting this project.  Through this new experience, I learned so much in terms of how to implement VR but also where I think it could be beneficial for future implementations.  
  • I intend to disseminate my learning experiences through a publication and presentation.  Using the data from the activities and the questionnaires, I intend to analyze and publish these findings.
  • It was especially rewarding to see the students respond to this course redesign.  They genuinely enjoyed the challenge and the experience of both paper and VR components of the experiment.  This further reinforced the value of the course redesign and the need to implement this redesign in future semesters.