Incorporating pedagogical theory into VR to teach civil engineering

James Walker, Dave Towey, Sherry Wei, Matthew Pike, Georgios Kapogiannis, Ahmed Elamin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

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Purpose – The end of the Renaissance period in Europe saw civil engineering (CE) tuition develop from a master-apprentice relationship to the current classroom-based learning environment. This evolution allowed expertise to develop, but also created a situation where students could graduate from an engineering course without ever spending time on a construction site. The implementation of virtual field trips utilising virtual reality (VR) in CE education is a crucial development that can provide experiential learning to address this and can facilitate the consolidation of abstract theories into tangible competences. VR is uniquely able to solve a fundamental CE education problem: once a structure has been completed it is often impossible to see how it was built; hence, how can you explain the construction process to a student?

Design/methodology/approach – This research used the opportunity of a new campus library being built to record the construction stages. Researchers visited the site multiple times (starting from the construction of the building foundations), using both an Insta360 Pro stereoscopic camera and the GoPro Fusion to take photos and videos of the construction process, respectively. GoPro Fusion Studio was used to process the videos and the Insta360 Pro Stitcher was used to process photos. Unfortunately, many pedagogical VR projects do not result in worthwhile educational experiences for the user because attention is spent on the VR aspect of the project due to its novelty. By its nature, utilising VR as a didactic tool facilitates experiential learning, but this project will incorporate discovery learning and situated cognition to develop students’ understanding of the construction process by being able to both (virtually) move around the construction site, and move backwards and forwards through the chronological constructional sequence. In addition to its pedagogical value, this learning resource will be made available to all students in future years.

Findings – The use of VR in education is becoming increasingly common, but the explicit pedagogy utilised by these environments is rarely obvious or stated. This research draws upon current VR education discussions (Johnston et al., 2018) and explores the development of a VR environment with a pedagogical context. The goal is to create a VR learning environment for students that has pedagogical value and is not only of interest for its novelty value. Originality/value/implications – The development of the resource draws upon the pedagogical frameworks of discovery learning (Bruner, 1961) and situated cognition (Lave & Wenger, 1991). A unique aspect of this research is the implementation of pedagogic theories into a VR environment to create an educational resource.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2019 International Conference on Open and Innovative Education (ICOIE 2019)
EditorsKam Cheong Li, Eva Tsang
Place of PublicationHong Kong
PublisherThe Open University of Hong Kong
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9789888439621
ISBN (Print)9789888439621
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event2019 International Conference on Open and Innovative Education - Open University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Duration: 10 Jul 201912 Jul 2019


Conference2019 International Conference on Open and Innovative Education
Abbreviated titleICOIE 2019
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
CityHong Kong
Internet address


  • education innovation
  • virtual reality
  • virtual field trip
  • civil engineering education
  • pedagogical frameworks


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