The lockdown disrupted education as teachers, instructors, students, and families had to get used to learning outside of the classroom. There was no how-to guide on how to ensure engaging and accessible education online. The shift has been particularly challenging for construction education as it often relies on an experiential, hands-on curriculum.
However, the past six months have brought new insights, methods, and outcomes to online instruction. Procore’s social impact team, Procore.org, has created a variety of classroom content, including plan reading activities and a scavenger hunt using Procore’s BIM Viewer.
In the blog series entitled, Virtual Construction Education 101, Procore partners and education specialists shared their challenges, results, and silver linings of continuing education through the pandemic.
In the first part, we learned how the community-based nonprofit United Way brought their summer learning program online for 350+ students. Then we spoke with the ACE Mentor program about the successful transition of its construction-focused high school after-school program to the online environment. Most recently, we engaged with the HITT Futures program, an internship talent pipeline for a top general contractor, and how the company managed to recruit through the pandemic.
However, education doesn’t stop once construction professionals are out of the classroom. Construction companies and associations help their employees grow through workforce development and continued education. In the final part of Virtual Construction Education 101, we will cover how AGC and Procore continued to promote skill development for local chapters in Texas through an entirely online project management course.
AGC & Procore
The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Procore’s Construction Education team have partnered to pilot a series of continued education courses to the industry, starting with local AGC chapters in Texas.
The new form of AGC courses are receiving positive feedback and proving value, even though they are remote. Luis Berumen, the CM-BIM President of AGC of San Antonio, praised the survey responses, “There will definitely be more distance learning in our future, especially if we continue to deliver this level of quality. Our distance learning offerings and curriculum could be a game changer for the AGC and our chapter going forward. Keep up the great work and thanks to all who helped make it happen!”
Ben Ashburn worked several jobs in construction, including as a home builder and a welder, before deciding to get his construction management degree. He enjoyed the educational side of construction, and decided to go into teaching, holding positions in the construction departments at the University of Northern Iowa, Murray State University, and Texas A&M, before joining Procore as a Construction Education specialist.
We interviewed Ashburn about leading the first virtual construction education course, the Project Manager Development Program (PMDP), for AGC Austin in June. While the shift to online format was last minute, Ashburn reports that it was beneficial to the industry and that virtual training has earned its place in construction.
JOBSITE: How challenging is it to hold construction training online?
Ben Ashburn: Usually, we do 14 hours of construction education bootcamp in-person, but this year, we only had seven days to figure out how to take that entire program online. It was a lot of work, but it was surprisingly easy to figure out.
To help with communication, we provided all the information needed as early as possible and did a thorough tech-check the week before. I left Zoom open for a few hours every day so participants could test out logging in and ensuring everything worked okay.
The only thing sacrificed is the in-person engagement, all of the material is still there.
J: What are the benefits of doing continued construction education virtually?
BA: The online AGC class took off because it tapped into an unrealized market for construction professionals who wanted to receive training but hadn’t been able to because of the expense. Normally, most of the smaller chapters wouldn’t have been able to join the training because of the travel costs.
AGC has local chapters all over the country. Although the training was based in Texas, students were able to attend from as far as Mississippi and Alabama.
Being virtual means that companies can train more people cheaper and easier. There’s also an opportunity to choose from a bigger pool of instructors, meaning the perfect fit teacher for the particular class is more accessible.
J: What advice do you have for construction companies, associations, and programs making the switch to remote learning?
BA: Make sure you’re organized, think ahead, have your bases covered, and get some help if online training is not your thing. The exciting thing is, being online adds teaching capabilities that we’ve never even dreamed of.
Great learning activities are what I enjoy about teaching. With virtual courses, I try to switch up activities every 15–20 minutes to help students refocus and to avoid burnout. The course curriculum Procore offers are perfect for that purpose.
Get creative and embrace it. Online education has its place now, and it’s not going anywhere.
Read the Rest of Virtual Construction Education 101:
Learn how the community-based nonprofit United Way brought their summer learning program online for 350+ students in Keeping Students Engaged Through Virtual Construction Training.
Check out part two, Realizing the Potential for Virtual Construction Education, to see how the ACE Mentor program successfully transitioned its construction-focused high school after-school program to the online environment.
In How to Recruit and Retain Top Construction Talent Online, we engaged with the HITT Futures program, an internship talent pipeline for a top general contractor, and how the company managed to recruit through the pandemic.