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Construction Role Models: 6 Lessons Construction Can Learn from the Education Industry  

The education industry is not only crucial for the training of the upcoming workers and parents of America; it also has incredibly valuable lessons to teach us here in the construction sphere. 

This isn’t the first time we’ve realized this about unrelated industries to construction. Our ongoing Construction Role Models series has covered film, fast food, fashion and more. While we’ve discussed trends in education construction previously on our blog, today we’ll look beyond building for our schools. Instead, we’ll dive into the lessons all builders take from the education industry, which is rich with innovation and forward-thinking change.

We’re not talking soft skills or character-building lessons, either. We’re talking real, cutting-edge technologies and methods that are helping to drive education forward. So sit down, and start taking notes. We promise there’s no pop quiz at the end of this post.

Here are six of the most important lessons construction can learn from the education industry.

1. A Shift Towards Personalized Data

For years, many schools and districts have been taking a more data-driven approach to improve students’ learning. Personalized learning helps both students and teachers integrate new knowledge as quickly as possible by using the student’s current understanding and capability to design an individualized curriculum that meets their needs.

Even better, teachers themselves are getting a personalized professional learning environment: “One district that’s embracing a personalized approach to professional development is Long Beach Unified School District” in California, says Education Week. “In addition to providing teachers with a personalized professional development system called myPD, the district is leveraging data as part of the cycle of personalized professional learning. Toward that end, its teacher training evaluates teachers’ needs based on their students’ academic performance data, teachers’ past training, self-evaluations and administrative feedback. Once these needs are assessed, the myPD system helps teachers create a personal learning plan.”

It might sound intimidating to imagine getting what is essentially a grade as a teacher. But that’s not much different than most people face in their yearly performance reviews, for one thing. For another, teachers who embrace the system can extract detailed strategies for improvement. And “By offering teachers access to data in a way that’s meaningful to them, the district is able to create more meaningful connections between teacher development and student learning.”

Construction could take note of this trend with personalized data when it comes to engaging with and training workers. By providing their builders with the right data, when they need it, they could better improve outcomes and decisions in the field. That includes information on weather, timeline, personal responsibilities, team-wide tasks and more.

2. Blockchain

Blockchain is changing security across the world through advanced data-saving measures. “A blockchain is a decentralized digital ledger that saves transactions on thousands of computers around the globe,” CyberBahn explains. “These are registered in a way that inhibits their subsequent modification. Blockchain technology increases the security and speeds up the exchange of information in a way that is cost-effective and more transparent.”

Education is one industry slowly adopting blockchain for varied reasons, some of which fall in line with similar use cases as the construction industry. Take smart contracts, for example. These use distributed ledger technology (DLT), which, according to Forbes, can “automatically execute agreements once a set of specified conditions are met. These ‘smart contracts’ have the potential to reduce paperwork in many sectors, including education.”

For instance, “Woolf University, formed by Oxford professors, will use DLT to execute smart contracts. A series of student and teacher ‘check-ins’ are key to executing a series of smart contracts that validate attendance and assignment completion. A check-in could be a simple as clicking a button on a phone app, but it executes a smart contract that pays the teacher and provides micro-credits to the student.”

As we’ve discussed before, construction can follow something similar by implementing blockchain technology. In addition to smart contracts, blockchain can enhance the following construction workflows:

  • Building information modeling (BIM)
  • Payments
  • Supply chain management

Just to name a few. But while these technologies that work in the background are amazing, it’s the ones that step right to the front of our realities that real fire our imaginations.

3. Immersive Experiences with Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Today’s classrooms are going experimental with the help of AR and VR. We’ve long known that student engagement predicts student success. Similarly, we’ve long known that simply assigning chapters to read and essays to write leaves many students in the dust.

That’s why new technologies are stepping in to make learning easier. Now, rather than straight-up reading about an assignment or concept, AR and VR can help students visualize it. AR may be more effective than VR for the classroom since it overlays sensory-rich information on the existing environment rather than requiring additional headsets for each user.

Either way, when it comes to visualizing construction plans and clashes, AR and VR can play a significant role. It can enable workers and stakeholders to plan more effectively, understand goals better, and improve decisions and outcomes.

Interested in learning the top ways AR and VR can transform future jobsites? Check out this blog

Further Reading:  Top 10 Construction Companies in the World [SlideShare]

4. The Internet of Things

We’ve long known IoT would make major waves in almost every sphere. It has s number of benefits for education, the most relevant for construction being:

  • Increasing efficiency: By making daily operations more streamlined, teachers can spend more of their time designing actual activities that contribute to student learning. By detecting student presence automatically, sending messages to parents, use sensors for unlocking doors and so forth, IoT could eliminate standard attendance-taking and use those precious minutes for real learning.
  • Enhancing security: Security is a big one in schools, and IoT has a lot to offer in terms of improvements. As Toward Data Science explains, “Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chips use radio waves to read and capture data that is stored as a tag attached to an object and can be read from several feet away and need not be within direct line-of-sight of the data collector.”
  • Tracking transportation: IoT technology can also enable parents, teachers and students to track buses, making transportation to and from school or on field trips much more efficient. Less waiting and more doing is the result. This also increases security since education and law enforcement professionals can always tell where a vehicle is.

Construction can apply similar uses of IoT to improve both security, equipment and vehicle tracking and productivity on the jobsite. Wearables especially will enable this, admitting personnel to jobsites with little fuss, locking up after them, creating logs of who was on a site at any given time, and more–all without manual input of any kind.

5. Human-Centric AI and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are being used in education to improve the learning experience for students. And similar to construction, the most successful models are the ones used in tangent with humans.

As Getting Smart points out, computers have the ability to deliver lessons to students individually, “taking a significant workload off instructors and freeing them up to work one-on-one with students or fix more complicated problems in students’ misconceptions.” Note the importance of human-to-human interaction, though: “Teachers know and understand each student in a way that computers simply can’t. The program provides a strong curriculum and differentiation, while the teacher ensures that every student receives the personal instruction and support needed to progress.”

Similarly, in construction, AI and machine learning need to be integrated with skilled workers to be most effective. AI can not only help find more and better labor, it can also help mitigate some of the less appealing tasks so that more young people are drawn to the challenge and engagement offered by construction jobs.

Moreover, robots can help construction workers right on the job. Take SAM the bricklaying robot, for instance, who works side-by-side with people to improve efficiency and save money without replacing workers who rely on jobs and income.

6. The Rise of Remote Tools

Remote tools are steadily gaining a place in industries across the world, not least in education. Today, more education opportunities are available than ever for remote students, thanks to the digital revolution’s increasing connectivity and decreasing prices for personal computing technologies.

As Thrive Global points out, technologies such as communication systems, online polling and Google Glass “allow students to contact classmates and their instructors via email, text, or in discussion threads right within learning platforms themselves.” Perhaps counterintuitively, “remote collaboration also improves employee retention and student participation, since workers and students are more likely to stick around and participate if access to work or learning is made easier from where they are located. This, in turn, has led to more efficient workflow, more productive meetings, and lower operational costs.”

The applications to construction are obvious. In the building industry, particularly on the design front, there is also a rise in remote workers. By making them happy and giving them more opportunities to work out of their preferred environments, teams can take a lesson from education and adopt more collaborative tools to help bridge the various workers on their team.

The good news? Managing a remote workforce doesn’t have to create insurmountable problems when you have quality remote tools on which to rely. Similarly, with education as an excellent role model for the use of new technologies and approaches, construction can continue to improve every day.

Stay Tuned and Learn from Our Construction Role Models!

Want to keep following along and learning from other industries? Stay tuned on our construction role models series in future, and check out those links in the intro for past posts you might have missed!

Grace Ellis

As a Content Marketing Manager at PlanGrid, Grace is the managing editor for the PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog. With over eight years of experience in marketing, communications and PR for technology companies, she is specialized in high-quality content creation across both traditional and digital media platforms.

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