Virtual collaborative learning for building design

A building design project that requires civil engineering students in the UK and architectural students in Canada to collaborate virtually has been implemented at universities in the two countries. The aims were to obtain a greater understanding of the process, strategies and expected outcomes for a more effective implementation of problem-based learning to hone communication and teamwork skills. Data were obtained from a series of interviews with 23 students from 7 groups, assessment results of 249 participating and non-participating students, and student evaluation. The findings suggest that the professional ethos of the groups and the consequent building of trust is the greatest factor in supporting successful collaborations. This has been found to be able to overcome many barriers related to technology and differences of culture, language, time zone and tasks. However, the activity did not seem to have any impact on student performance, but has improved project management skills of participating students. The activity has also contributed positively to increasing student satisfaction. Several lessons for future implementation are presented, before limitations and further research are described.