Open Access
Nikolic, Dragana
Graduate Program:
Architectural Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
April 04, 2011
Committee Members:
  • John Messner, Dissertation Advisor
  • John Messner, Committee Chair
  • Chinemelu Jidenka Anumba, Committee Member
  • Jelena Srebric, Committee Member
  • Loukas N Kalisperis, Committee Member
  • construction education
  • construction planning
  • simulation
  • games
Building construction processes are dynamic, complex, and subject to constant and unanticipated changes and delays. Learning to manage inherent construction process variability and its associated risks is challenging, especially at the undergraduate level when students typically have only limited practical construction management experience. The advances in computing technology have afforded novel approaches to teaching dynamic construction management concepts that could transform undergraduate learning. One such advance – educational simulation games – has shown great promise in teaching students construction process variability, allowing learners to react and respond to unanticipated construction events in a safe, simulated construction environment. To date, construction engineering undergraduate programs have not yet fully embraced the potential of simulation games and have fallen short when integrating this potentially transformative teaching approach into the classroom. In addition, a literature review yields a paucity of research on the simulation game development process and its effectiveness in construction engineering and management education. To address these gaps, the present study explores simulation game applicability for construction engineering education and provides guidelines for the development of the next generation of simulation game learning tools. This study begins by explicating the simulation game attributes conducive to learning and motivation, and details the development process of the Virtual Construction Simulator 3 (VCS3) game to teach students the dynamic nature of construction project planning and management. The VCS3 incorporates project constraints and real-time feedback, and allows students to optimize for varying construction process strategies and observe results in real time. The underlying system dynamics model encapsulates the feedback loop between varying construction factors to simulate industry conditions and add to the content realism. The pedagogical value of the VCS3 simulation game is estimated through a pre- and post-testing of 97 students in a third-year introductory course to building construction at Penn State. Findings indicate the value and the potential of the VCS3 simulation game to help students form a more holistic view of construction scheduling, and increase student interest and motivation in learning about construction processes; cost and time tradeoffs; and inherent management challenges. The VCS3 simulation also helped students to discern the differences between the as-planned and as-built construction schedules resulting from varying factors such as resource availability, weather and labor productivity. Goal-driven exploration and immediate feedback confirmed the value of the VCS3 simulation game to shift the student’s role from passive to active learner complementing instructor feedback and creating opportunities to raise more questions and more robust in-class discussions. The development of the computational simulation game model, along with the documented process and implementation findings further an understanding of the role of simulation games for construction engineering education; address the changing mode of learning for the current generation; and provide a basis for the promotion of the next generation of effective learning tools based on simulation games.