Monday, May 23, 2016

MSc Building Information Modelling and Management: Q&A with Henry Abanda

The School of the Built Environment has introduced two new postgraduate programmes this year (available for September 2016 entry) which will sit alongside the existing MSc Project Management in the Built Environment and the MSc Construction Project Management.

I had a chat with the subject leaders for both programmes. The Q&A with Damilola Ekundayo (MSc Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management is available here and the Q&A with Henry Abanda, Subject Leader for the MSc Building Information Modelling and Management (MSc BIMM), follows...

Dr Henry Abanda outside the JHB Building

1. What did you study at university? 
When I was in secondary school I wanted to be a translator, but after my A-Levels, I changed my mind to do Mathematics or Physics. I ended up taking a degree in Mathematics (major) and Physics (minor). Upon completion of my degree, I took a year out teaching while preparing for the competitive entrance examination into the only state-run engineering school in my country (Cameroon). The school, École Nationale Supérieure Polytechnique (ENSP) de Yaoundé is one of the best in Francophone Africa. Luckily, I was successful and completed my Diplôme D’ingenieur de Conception in Civil Engineering in 2003. I then worked for two different contracting companies for 2 years executing projects in different regions of Cameroon. It was an interesting experience; however, I have always had the zeal to teach and I left from Cameroon in September 2005 to study in the UK. While in the UK, I started off with an MSc in Environmental Monitoring in Coventry University, and then switched to a PhD in Construction Informatics in the School of the Built Environment in the University of Salford in April 2006. After spending a year in the University of Salford I transferred to Oxford Brookes University where I completed my PhD in 2010. Also, I obtained a distinction in my Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education at Oxford Brookes, based on this qualification, I am now a full member of the UK Higher Education Academy.

2. How did you find your way into Construction at Oxford Brookes?
Whilst I was doing my PhD I became a Research/Teaching Assistant and during this time, I taught Computer-Aided-Design to undergraduate students. When I became a lecturer in 2013, I started teaching BIM modules to both undergraduate and postgraduate students in construction. With the need to meet the demand of construction professionals with BIM skills we (at Oxford Brookes) have introduced two new postgraduate degree programmes with very strong BIM components: the MSc Construction Project Management and the MSc Building Information Modelling & Management. I am the module leader for the BIM modules on both of these, and will also be teaching BIM on the new MSc in Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management from September 2016. My previous industry experience from Cameroon and my teaching experience have enabled me to establish my roots in the domain of BIM and its applications construction.

3. What do you enjoy most about your subject?
The domain of BIM is a major revolution in the construction industry as it cuts across every area of construction. I enjoy the fact that BIM can be used in different construction applications, especially in virtually exploring models for decision-making purposes before constructing the real-life project on site. BIM allows different project stake-holders to work on the same project from different locations...which is a challenge using traditional ways of working. Above all, given the emerging nature of BIM, I have had the opportunity to travel around the world to deliver guest lectures about BIM. The joy of sharing knowledge and empowering the next generation of construction professionals in the UK and abroad is what I like most about my subject.

4. Why did you decide to start the MSc BIMM?
The benefits in managing construction information using BIM can no longer be underestimated. Many governments are now recommending the adoption of BIM on some or all construction projects. In the UK, BIM Level 2 is now mandatory on all centrally government procured projects (from April 2016). The construction industry is changing rapidly and more and more practices are now adopting BIM - the MSc BIMM has been developed to address the demand for BIM professionals and empower our graduates to cope with the increasing challenging construction environments.

5. How does the MSc BIMM fit together?  
Well, as mentioned earlier, BIM cuts across all construction domains. Consequently, there are some core concepts that are taught across all our postgraduate construction programmes and, in addition, the applications of BIM are tailored to meet the needs of the different subject areas (project management, quantity surveying and so on). The MSc BIMM allows students to study BIM in more depth, including information and process management.

6. How is the MSc BIMM taught?
The MSc has been developed with industry practitioners and informed by the competency frameworks of the relevant professional bodies. It is designed to deliver a flexible and innovative programme of study through its intelligent use of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Students can switch between open-learning and full-time modes of study and the programme brings together both open and full-time learners. The core modules are entirely self-contained so that students may enter the programme at different times of the year. Each of the core modules is designed around ‘learning packages’ delivered through a problem-based learning approach. This applied learning approach is achieved through guided working on real-life or reality-based problems as experienced in the construction industry. An extremely effective way of teaching, it is also more interesting and engaging than the traditional ‘study and examination’ approach. Also, a key component of all the BIM modules is the practical aspect, where hands-on support of the use of BIM and related cloud computing/mobile devices are taught in our state-of-the-art BIM laboratory.

7. And finally, what about links with industry and other institutions?
Through collaboration with governing bodies, advisers from industry, and use of specialist guest lecturers, the academic content of the programme is continuously reviewed to maintain its relevance to industry. I am also involved in a number of organisations to ensure that I am up to date with changes and emerging technologies in the construction industry (take a look at my staff profile for more details).

Thanks Henry. Henry was also involved with the recent Creative Industries Day, which brought a number of schools into the Technology Lab for a series of activities...including a talk on BIM and mobile technology, given by Henry.

Henry inspiring the next generation of BIM students at the Creative Industries Day, May 2016

For more information on the MSc BIMM visit our webpage.


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