Developing problem-solving skills in construction education with the virtual construction simulator

Fadi Castronovo, Peggy Van Meter, Sarah Zappe, Robert Leicht, John Messner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to solve complex problems is an essential skill that a construction project manager must possess when entering the architecture, engineering, and construction industry. Such ability requires a mixture of problem-solving skills, composed of lower and higher-order thinking skills, which include the ability to develop and evaluate construction plans and manage the execution of such plans. However, introducing students to such complex problems can be a challenge in a typical construction educational program. To support this challenge, the traditional methodology of delivering design, engineering, and construction instruction has been going through a technological revolution, due to the rise of computer based technology. For example, in engineering classrooms, and other disciplines, educational simulation games are used to support the development of problem-solving skills. This paper presents evidence to support the contention that educational simulation games can help the learning and retention of transferable problem-solving skills, which are crucial to solve complex construction problems. A sample group of 34 architectural engineering students, from a 4th year construction class, participated in a quasi-experiment where they had to play the three modules of the Virtual Construction Simulator 4 (VCS4). A crossover repeated measures quasi-experimental design assessed the gains in problem solving skills that construction students gained from playing the VCS4. The participants completed all three learning modules of the VCS4, and they were assessed before and after each treatment. Based on a series of analyses of the results, the researchers were able to conclude that the students gained and transferred problem-solving skills from playing all of the VCS4 modules. This study provides evidence that the implementation of educational simulation games can support the gain of problem-solving skills necessary to solve complex construction problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-846
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • engineering education
  • problem-solving
  • construction education
  • simulation games
  • serious games


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