Construction Self Improvement

Our department utilizes a comprehensive assessment process that consists of collecting information from constituents using assessment forms, direct interviews with student leaders, course assessment, faculty assessment, recommendations from the American Council for Construction Education, and exit interviews with graduating seniors.  Using these assessment tools, the Construction Program was able to identify deficiencies and address them.  Based on the assessment cycles in 2007-08 and 2010-11, the Construction Program took drastic actions to correct many of the problems cited by our students and other constituents.  The changes included:

Since the last ACCE visit in 2005, a new computer program was specifically developed for the Construction program.  The computer program was used for the assessment of the goals approved by ACCE through the interim reports in 2006, 2007, and 2008.  However, the results and insights developed from the computer program and input received from students through the Exit Interviews, CEC Retreat, and the Construction Group of the CEC advisory Board resulted in significant changes to the Construction program objectives, assessment forms and Construction program content. Consequently, a new computer assessment program was developed in 2010 using a consultant from the American University in Cairo.

In response to the American Council For Construction Education, the Construction program initiated and completed a total overhaul of the assessment process for the Construction program.   These changes include:

  1. New Construction Assessment Forms Developed.
  2. New Computer Program for Construction Assessment Data Analysis
  3. New Construction Program Objectives

In addition to the annual retreat and student exit interviews, the CEC department implements a comprehensive assessment cycle once every three years.  The last cycle was completed in 2007-2008 and the current cycle was completed in 2010-2011 and the data gathered was made available to the ACCE team during Spring 2011.  The assessment cycle normally takes about one year because it involves eight constituents including employers whose input is solicited during the Annual CEC Job Fair held in the fall, the Advisory Board meeting held in the spring, and the alumni who are solicited throughout the year.

The department utilized its own gift funds and invested over $80,000 to improve its laboratories and address weaknesses identified by its constituents.  These include

  1. New Construction Senior Project Laboratory.  This laboratory will be moved from Jobst 130 to Jobst 213 with new equipment and better layout to meet Construction students’ needs. We also installed a new air-conditioning unit.
  2. The Surveying laboratory was overhauled with new chalkboard, storage, removal of sinks, new tiles, and new ceiling.  The new facility was used in fall 2010.
  3. The Geotechnical laboratory was remodeled with new cabinets, new equipment, and removal of obsolete equipment.
  4. The Concrete laboratory was totally overhauled and the humid room fixed, new titles, new equipment purchased and some fixed, new drain, new sinks, and a storage room. The sprinkler system in the curing room in the concrete laboratory now works.

A total of 31 new computers were purchased and installed in Jobst 126.; The new computer facility addresses many of the issues cited by our students.  The total cost exceeded $60,000 and the CEC gift funds were used to partially pay for this purchase.

Students felt they were not getting adequate experience in the use of construction software such as Primavera and Timberline.  The Construction program took an immediate action with respect to this issue and a special course focused on construction software was offered during the January 2011 interim to benefit graduating seniors and a commitment was made to ensure that software use is adequately covered in the scheduling and estimating courses. Moreover, the computer facilities were upgraded by installing additional computer memory and updating software.

The Construction program was overhauled by addressing major problems with the Senior Project, Pre-requisites, Course Content and Duplication, and improved flexibility.  Several new courses were added in Green Construction, Senior Project, Building Information Modeling, Sustainability, and Advanced Computer Aided Deign.  The new program provides students with emphasis in Internationalization, Infrastructure, and Sustainability to better meet the needs of students.  The new program was approved by the faculty and the University senate and was implemented in fall 2010. New assessment software was developed.

Course modifications were accomplished for three reasons:  a) additions, modifications, and deletions of prerequisites were made to ensure that all specified course prerequisites are essential to the course and that unnecessary prerequisites are removed; b) course titles and descriptions were modified to better reflect the contents of the courses and have consistency in the course naming scheme; and c) course numbers were changed in a few cases where the placement of the course in the sequence fit better.  
Note that all pre-requisites, course titles, ACCE requirements, and course designations have been addressed.  For example, graduate courses in Construction now have CON instead of CE designations.  Also, as we transition from the old program to our new Construction program, our faculty will need to carry heavier loads and with more part-time help to adapt to new advisement processes and to maintain program quality.  Finally, Prof. Rebholz who headed the Construction program has retired but was retained over until fall 2010 to work closely with the new head of the Construction program.
The program modifications were implemented to better prepare the students for meeting the needs of the construction industry and were based on interaction with and input collected from constituents

The quality of instruction by faculty in mathematics has been an issue for many years and the concern was echoed by other departments in the college of engineering.  Unfortunately, the university has been unable to address this problem in spite of many attempts by our Construction program to improve this area.  Our Construction program will continue to press the issue and provide support to students who may need help in reaching their instructional goals in Mathematics.

To improve the math contents of the program MTH 116 “Brief Calculus With Applications II” was deleted in favor of QM 262 “Quantitative Analysis I” to provide material that is more useful to our students when they take upper level required courses and elective graduate construction courses such as scheduling, advanced scheduling, and construction simulation.  Finally, special Topic and Project courses were introduced in place of the CON 409 Special Topics course in order to aid in alleviating difficulties by providing the opportunity to offer topic courses as needed during the transition period that has started in the current 2010-2011 academic year.

This problem was addressed with the hiring of a new faculty who possesses the knowledge and experience to address our students concerns. A new course in scheduling was offered in January 2011 for our Construction students.

The lack of faculty resources in previous years has limited the department’s ability to offer more than two construction elective courses per semester.  The department hired four new faculty members in 2010-11 and now has the capacity to offer more elective courses in Construction.

The quality of the BU library and services received the lowest score from surveyed students.  During the assessment interviews, most of the students indicated that do not go to the library as they found it to have inadequate resources and to be uncomfortable, hot, and generally not an environment that is conducive to studying.  The quality of library has been a concern for quite some time and the department has raised the issue to the Bradley University administration.  Recently, the university started taking steps towards updating the library and bringing it up to par with what one would expect to see at a 21st century institution of higher education.

This was a major issue in the Civil Engineering program but did adversely impact our Construction program. The hiring of a new faculty in Construction to replace a retiring professor will allow our Construction to offer more elective courses.  In fact, during our study abroad program in 2009 and in 2011 elective courses were also taught by a Construction faculty form the American University in Cairo.

The new sequence of CON 493 and CON 498 was developed and students cite the new courses as a strength instead of being a weakness during the last ACCE visit.  The students indicated that there was a consensus that the Senior Project course was one of the best classes that had been offered in 2011.  Students were provided 24-hour access to our facilities in Jobst Hall.

This was purchased and training for faculty was initiated in 2009-2010.  It is now incorporated into our surveying laboratory.  This course is required of all Construction majors.

Dr. Al-Khafaji was appointed by Mayor Ardis of Peoria to be the Chairman of the Sustainability Commission. Our Construction and CEC majors attended many seminars and conferences on the subject.  We also invited speakers into classes to speak on LEED.  Finally, part of the requirement for the Construction Senior Project course is a section on LEED.  This is an area where we believe that short courses on LEED will soon be offered to help our students.

The CEC Board was completely overhauled after the 2005 ACCE visit.  Membership on the current advisory board is now composed of a Construction Group headed by Ms. Margaret Hanley, President, A. Lucas and Sons and a Civil Engineering Group, headed by Mr. Warren Knoles, Senior VP, Crawford Murphy and Tilly.  The head of the Construction Group is also a member of the Executive Board chaired by Mr. Wayne Baum, CEO, CORE Construction.  Minutes of all meetings of the board and the Construction Group are available for review. These include 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

The composition of the Construction group is impressive and has helped the Construction program establish new objectives and incorporate program improvements.  We are fortunate that the Construction group is now represented by vice-presidents and Presidents of prime contractors in Central Illinois.

The Construction program remains distinctive and responsive to our students' educational and professional needs. The revisions of the Construction curriculum represented a culmination of an effort that endured through the 2005-2010 period. This period coincides with the last ACCE visit.  The new program contains a comprehensive senior design experience through a real-world project extending to a full year instead of one semester.