Looking at Information and Communication Technology (ICT) we have to realise that since the Bibliotheca Alexandria the spoken word and the text written on a piece of paper were basically the only ways to transfer information from one person to another. This form of communication did not change for about 2,300 years. But with the invention of the radio and the cinema in the end of the 19th century for the first time, information could be transferred not only crossing greater distance but also reaching an audience which number was only limited by their possession of a receiver. In the middle of the 20th century the first computers were built and television started to establish itself as the major source of information. 1990 the internet started to become popular with the invention of the first multimedia capable browser, the so called: NSCA Mosaic.
With an increasing pace, innovations significantly changed the way how communication and information transfer worked over the past 30 years. Still the developments when looking at education and training are little and the format of knowledge transfer officially remained the same as 250 years ago when the first university for engineering was founded.
Within the thematic network of EUCEET (European Civil Engineering Education and Training) a special project evolved from the theme “Development of the teaching environment in civil engineering education” [1] concentrating on the use of ICT in civil engineering education. During this special project, teachers together with ICT experts discussed the present situation of E-Learning throughout Europe and the needs and possibilities to find an optimum in incorporating ICT in education.


To obtain an insight on the different degrees of ICT applications throughout European institutes for civil engineering education an internet based questionnaire [2] was distributed among the 126 EUCEET II members from 28 countries. So far 38 answers from 18 different countries were received and evaluated. Since the respondents were in almost all cases teachers or researchers in the area of civil engineering it is obvious that the submitted answers resemble individual viewpoints and certainly do not allow conclusions about the ICT application at their institutes in general. However the results still provide a flashlight on the use of ICT among members of the EUCEET thematic network.
Figure 1 illustrates the activity of the responding members distinguishing from their major occupation as teacher, researcher or administrative. Among the answering members 42% have content and/or tools published online on the internet but only 23% do actively take part in e-learning projects. 32% use advanced communication tools like video-conferencing and only 27% are taking advantage of publishing their online content via a content management system (CMS). This means that half of the teachers who make their educational material available on the internet are dependent on their own expertise and resources in html-programming.


The educative quality of the submitted online content varies widely. The URLs provided as samples did range from a simple display of the study programme to multimedia textbooks with highly interactive tools. In addition to the little number of teachers actively applying ICT in their courses, these striking differences illustrate that in many cases the existance of online content is based on the work of enthusiastic individuals.


Asked on possible problems and difficulties when applying ICT in teaching, most of the answers were rather optimistic. Updating the online content is not seen as a serious problem although the majority of 55% felt that sometimes it might be a constraining item. Since time and money often are referred to as the most important reasons to reject involvement in e-learning, the fact that most respondents (52%) thought that establishing e-learning would not be expensive was rather surprising. The question if e-learning would be able to replace traditional learning turned out to be quite controversial with almost equal opposing results (29% “no” and 26% “yes”). The specific loss of quality stated by most of the people was the loss of personal contact either with the teacher and the fellow students.
In order to mind the different levels of personal experience of ICT applications in education the left diagram in figure 2 displays the opinions on ICT dependent on the respondents’ activity in e-learning projects. While teachers with e-learning experience tend to see not much loss in quality and also no problems in updating the online content, their impression on the financial aspect is more sceptical than of teachers which are not involved in e-learning activities.
These results underline the assumption that teachers who experienced for example a content management system (see later in Tools for e-learning) realise that modifying or adding educational material online without being a programming expert is basically a technical problem which already has been solved. Also having experienced the possibilities of ICT applications, the loss of quality is viewed less critical. On the other hand e-learning costs are considered higher than by people who have not been involved in e-learning.


Asked to judge upon the ICT support at their university and the students and their own expertise in ICT, 80% felt that the ICT support at their institute was either sufficient or that it could be slightly better. 49% had the opinion that their own experience could be better, while the students’ expertise was viewed superior at 52% voting for sufficient expertise.
The gap between the students and teachers expertise might be explained by the difference in age. Due to the acceleration of innovations in new technologies, this gap will probably increase. Clearly the ICT support at the university needs to keep up with new technologies in order to bridge this gap and to ensure a form of education which responds to the students of modern society.


When talking about to the use of ICT in education in this paper it is only referring to teaching & learning supported by electronic information and communication technologies, usually referred to as e-learning. While e-learning is often understood as internet or intranet based learning, there is a full range of tools and options available within electronic supported technologies that contribute to civil engineering education and training.


Web based Communication

The increasing speed and capacity of broadband internet connections and UMTS resemble a new generation of advanced communication tools enabling video, speech or document real-time exchange between two or more people through a network.

  • Email: The electronic mail system is used to compose, send, and receive messages utilising electronic communication systems which may contain all sorts of digital data. Due to free web based email account providers email at present resembles the most common form of internet based communication.
  • Online Forum: Online forums are web based applications and derived from newsgroups to enable the exchange of ideas and messages. Forums are often used by online communities in order to discuss topics in public or among selected users.
  • Instant Messaging: The major difference between email and instant messaging is the fact that conversations hosted by instant messaging services take place in real time. Since the necessary client needs to log on to the service, most systems offer a buddy- or friends list to indicate whether personal contacts are currently available for chat. Recently, many instant messaging services started integrating video-conferencing features, Voice Over IP (VoIP), and web conferencing services. Common services for instant messaging are the Internet Relay Chat (IRC), ICQ, NET-, Yahoo!-, AOL- and MSN Messenger.
  • Chatrooms: A chatroom is an online forum offering the possibility to broadcast message exchange online in real time. Chatroom sessions can be moderated and structured depending on different administrative user rights. Modern chat systems also allow the application of games and educational material (e.g. java scripted chats) or even facilitate audio and video communications.
  • Webcasting: In general webcasting describes the internet based transmission of television programs. Users may log on to a webcast client, which is distributing and displaying the (in most cases live) televisual content. Since the telecommunication based video-conferencing was bound to high costs and special technical equipment, recently webcasting is used to record video conferences and training material.

Data base

A database is a collection of facts, or pieces of knowledge which can be managed, evaluated and searched using a database management system (DBMS). Data can be structured in various ways, which are referred to as data models. The increasing access to different data bases and their connection and organisation through networks is an important factor for the use ICT to support education in order to take advantage of these resources.

  • Search Engines: Software tools developed to find certain information stored on a computer system (personal computer or internet) generally are referred to as a search engines. The search engine allows one to ask for content meeting specific criteria and retrieving a list of matching references. Search engines use regularly updated indexes to operate quickly and efficiently.
  • Content Catalogues: Content Catalogues support the exchange of content or educational material. Conditions of exchanges can be set by the users in order to document access or to enable collaborative work and eventually to charge the use of the content.
  • Galleries: Galleries are image data banks usually allowing the user to browse or search a graphic or document website with reduced images in order to view multiple images on a screen simultaneously or to download such images more rapidly. Images can be tagged to link to other forms of information such as keywords, texts, comments etc.


Originating from a software product name, authorware programs are mainly used to produce interactive instructional media. Authorware is created to edit and develop multimedia (pictures, animations, simulations or exercises), interactive and dynamic course material and course navigation based on a structured flowline without special html- or programming skills. Commonly used application in e-learning is Macromedia's Authorware ( or Click2Learn’s Toolbook Instructor ( [4].


Simulations and Gaming

Simulations in education have been used to imitate real devices or interactions with the aim of conditioning and training ever since. With the resources of multimedia computer systems a virtual reality (synthetic environment) based on models can be generated which allows free or guided experiments to learn about attributes or correlations.

  • Physical simulation: Simulation of a real object which is substituted by a physical object. Usually the real objects are simulated by a substitute because of their rare, fragile or expensive nature. Most physical simulations offer a variety of interactive features in which the substituted physical object is able to provide feedback to the user.
  • Virtual Simulation: A computer generated virtual environment incorporating a certain degree of physical or economical relations is rudiment to most of the simulations in civil engineering education. Within this virtual environment it is possible to test and evaluate correlations of all kinds.
  • Gaming: Simulations can be incorporated into games which allow its’ application in a competitive situation in order to motivate the student. Since competition is an important factor for motivation, usually the involvement in gaming receives the highest level of student performance.

Assessment Tools

Assessment tools in ICT are software devices to document or measure knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs. There are two main types of assessment [7]:

  • Summative Assessment: A summative assessment is usually done at the end of a course or project in order to examine a student’s comprehensive knowledge and allow accreditation for a certain course grade.
  • Formative Assessment: Formative assessments are carried out during a course or project providing “on the fly” feedback on the student’s current status and work progress. Sometimes formative assessment is used to identify a suitable program of learning in relation to the student’s current knowledge. This form of assessment may be used by the teacher or for self evaluating purposes.

Assessment methods are commonly differentiated depending on their approaches between subjective and objective. While objective approaches expect a single correct answer or a straight numerical solution, subjective assessment allows different answers as well as various ways in expressing it. “Yes/no”, multiple choice and matching questions are typical objective question formats. Subjective questions are open-response questions, presentations and essays.
Due to it’s compatibility in processing, objective assessments are more often used especially if the exercise is carried out electronically, e.g. using an online questionnaire. Assessment should be valid and reliable.

Content Management Systems (CMS)

A content management system is used to manage and facilitate collaborative content creation. With a fixed design template and structure the CMS provides a simple interface for the users to add or modify existing content material which may be automatically published. The CMS’s interface often utilises plain text input with predefined tags using set rules to style the new content and in order to maintain a consistent design. The set CMS structure is used to manage the workflow.

Learning Management System (LMS)

A Learning Management System (LMS) or a Managed Learning Environment (MLE) usually represents a software package combining competency management, skills-gap analysis, succession planning, certifications, virtual live classes, content management, content authoring, and resource allocation on a large scale. Offering an easy navigation menu and personalised access rights, in most cases a LMS includes the following elements:

  • Scheduling and Organisation: The syllabus for the courses and administrative information, assessment procedures as well as online display of news and notice boards.
  • Administration: Online Student registration, enrolment and tracking and sometimes in addition with the opportunity of online payment. Some LMS also offer advanced facility management systems.
  • Course Content: Educative material and course content is provided online through a quality controlled environment. Also supplementary tools, resources and library or databank access are managed online.
  • Assessment and Accreditation: Along with evaluation tools, skill profiles of the students are managed in order to record course and module graduation. In some cases self-assessment or direct feedback tools are provided.
  • Measurement of Performance: The utilisation and performance quality are measured and the results are stored and managed (documentation and statistics).

In a LMS authoring tools are available for teachers usually in combination with a help desk or support system. Most LMS are in some way demanding a certain structure or format also in relation to a uniform appearance of content and thus may set a limit to creativity.


There are a number of commercial and open source programmed LMS available. Typical examples for commercial products are Blackboard (, Desire2Learn (, WebCT ( Examples for free open source programmed LMSs are Moodle ( or OLAT (

Educational Blogging

Blogger (or weblogs) basically are common webpages with periodic time stamped posts (text, audio, pictures or video) often used as online live journals. Recently the easy handling of bloggers (and the fact that many students nowadays are already familiar with the system) in combination with the possibilities to publish, link, comment and chronologically store content led to its utilisation for educative purposes. Project work can be directly published allowing a direct feedback from the public. Numerous educational experts routinely publish their personal explorations in blogs [8]. Some examples of hosting services are,, or



Since there is a great variety of ICT tools supporting many different kinds of educational activities, miscellaneous objectives can be pursued by applying ICT. Therefore it is regarded as essential to be aware of the special desired objective in order to apply ICT in a sensible and effective way. Although teaching and learning is strongly linked together distinction is being made between applications targeting student’s or teacher’s needs.

Objectives for the Student

To acquire Practical Experience (technology integrated learning) for best performance and employability, it is necessary to train the students on up-to-date and progressive software tools. Computer Aided Design and Modelling (CAD and CAM) have long been part of the building process as well as virtual simulations like Finite-Element-Method Analysis (FEM). In today’s professional life the capability to use modern communication tools is seen as obligatory as well the ability to quickly adapt to innovations.
It has been commonly agreed that new developments in ICT have a strong impact on the students Learning Style and Learning Environment supporting the shift from teacher-centred to student-centred learning [9].






Indivdual effort

Team skills

Passing the test

Learning skills

Achieving the grade

Continuous improvement

Individual courses

Interdisciplinary knowledge

Receiving information

Interacting & processing information

Technology separate from learning

Technology integral learning

Most of the key elements of student-centred learning are difficult and time consuming if one seeks to apply them without taking advantage of modern technology. Interactive tools and gaming can be used to enhance the motivation as well as improve the learning- and problem-solving skills. The increasing availability of resources of information through intra- and internet supports students’ activity within the learning process and the development of life long learning skills. Since most educational material which is available through multimedia or the internet is not bound to a specific schedule students learning becomes more independent of time & space (distance learning). Multiplied resources also foster an interdisciplinary approach to solving problems.

Objectives for the Teacher

One important difficulty in teaching is the amount of workload and the lack of time in order to focus on the students needs. Modern ICT can assist teachers to spend less time in preparation of teaching material (sharing of content, automatic processing) and enable them to incorporate all sorts of multimedia within their presentations. Time might be more efficiently used if parts of the educational content can be used in self-guided or tutored e-learning activity. In addition to this, the flexibility of time spent can be improved by using the various possibilities of communication to interact with or even to involve the individual students.
Electronic assessment tools allow the estimation of students’ knowledge skills during certain stages of the course program. Based on this information the educational content can be modified during the course to optimise the results. Within the process of quality control there is a variety of self-assessment tools available to teachers.
The availability of multiple resources triggered collaborations and exchange of research- and teaching information on a global scale. Information now may also be available as open source (e.g. or as a groupware and trigger own new ideas or spread an idea either in a free or commercial environment.


The Virtuelle Hochschule Bayern (VHB), or Virtual University of Bavaria (, supplements the range of courses available at Bavarian universities, providing a more effective course of study, while at the same time injecting fresh impetus into university education. The VHB supports and coordinates the application of multi-media tools in education and training. So far the VHB does not offer 100% e-learning courses, but instead provides a functioning blended learning system with the opportunity to increase the e-activity gradually up to its optimum.


The virtual university is directly associated with all 9 Bavarian universities and 17 polytechnics as an interactive multimedia network and offers high-quality online lectures hosted by Bavarian professors on the Internet. Trained tutors supervise the courses developed at the respective universities. The web based multimedia teaching and education format is both independent of time and location for the individual user (open free of charge to any student and lecturer of the Bavarian universities and polytechnics).
While other e-learning systems also manage teaching facilities such as rooms or media equipment (e.g. beamer) the idea of the VHB was to compile and produce educational material from among the participating institutions and publish it through a shared web based portal. Due to this, existing multi media could be shared and new impetus for enhanced teaching given to the universities.


Currently the VHB offers 83 courses, 48 modules and additional tools and applications. Courses are divided into A and B: A-courses are performed on a regular base with tutorial support. These courses are acknowledged by the scientific committee and enable the participating student to gain credit points using FlexNow [6] (credit-point-system software). In addition to this, the B-courses are created to provide further educational content as a supplementary to the main studies.
Modules are parts of a course programme which do exist mainly in supplementary and second cycle studies. As a blended learning activity modules are generated to support the face to face teaching and to enable repetition of lectures content. Some modules are also applied in regular university teaching as well.


Tools such as encyclopaedias, specific science- and content catalogues, simulations, glossaries and virtual labs are available for students and teachers as well as scientists. For the students they should facilitate a self-learning environment which provides easy accessible resources. Tools can be incorporated into course programmes or used to enable open source activities.
The course program in general is continuous and allows accreditation according to general Bavarian examination regulations (examination must be taken in person at one of the associated institutions). Besides Engineering, the course programmes also cover IT, medicine, key qualifications and economics, teacher training (pedagogical science), law and social studies.
The project was financed with 11.2 million euro during the launching phase from 2000 to 2002 and is granted a budget of 3.6 million euro per year paid by the state (confirmed until 2006). At present approximately 10,000 students are using the course programmes and are dependent on the state funding.

  • Virtual Campus Bavaria (
  • Virtual University Baden-Wuerttemberg (
  • Virtueller Campus Rheinland-Pfalz (
  • Studieren im Netz - a search engine for study opportunities in Germany (


Summary of the application of the commercial LMS will be contributed by Kees van Kuijen and Helena Wasmus


The Universitiy of Zilina has used the general methodology to the implementation of the e-education service. Some experience obtained during this experiment is described.
The implementation of the e-education service was considered the main item of the global university strategy. Therefore the university management has developed a strategic plan, and offered it to general discussion. The implementation of the e-education leads university staff to new roles and unknown activities. To make these new roles more advanced, it was very important to explain all reasons why e-education and why this strategic plan has been developed. Comparing the e-education with stone universities, we can see a new business model of education. There are new players in the e-education, and the roles of the players were changed. New roles implementation to the existing structure creates several problems: communication is running within established groups, which is not effective in a new structure, people obtain new tasks without discarding the old ones, etc. On the other hand, the university transformation has to be realized. Based on that the university has prepared a new status in which new tasks given by the e-education are also reflected.
Learning Management System Moodle as open source creates the base of the e-education system at the university. This system provides an access to knowledge testing system, exam management system as well as course evaluation system. This system fulfils the basic requirements of teachers and students. Institute responsible for implementation of ICT in to university processes has developed based on previous design of new processes software and hardware environment, which has included this open source system into a system, which supports utilisation of ICT in administration of education. Now it is possible to speak therefore about an e-university. The Universitiy of Zilina has been testing the e-education system since the winter term of academic year 2003-04. Full system is accessible on


Summary of an individual approach for special ICT supported projects will be contributed by Matej Fischinger


Before applying ICT for a specific task, it is necessary to be aware of certain requirements which can confine or even eliminate the expected impact. Requirements can be of technical, individual or comprehensive nature and with some being firm or unchangeable they might even define the limit of possible applications.


Technology keeps constantly changing and introducing new tools necessarily is bound to providing the respective training. In many cases the students’ expertise is set at a quite high level enabling them to handle new technologies without preliminary training if there is a sufficient support available.
The downside of student-centred learning can be that the student needs to be an active learner as some kind of prerequisite since passive behaviour might lead to be unnoticed if there is no obligatory feedback or tutoring involved in the e-learning activity. The student also has to face problems occurring during the use of the ICT interface which might lead to frustration if the student lacks of good troubleshooting skills.
On the technical side, the student needs to have access to necessary hard- and software resources. Hardly any application can truly be platform independent which means that missing requirements have to be provided by the institute or there will be a high demand on individual solutions in order to keep all participants at the same level.

Institutions / Teachers

The personal expertise in technology is a critical factor for the teacher as well as for the student. Since the teacher does lack of time to be an expert in the latest technological developments, there is a strong demand for the universities to foster an IT division. This division can manage and support the staff in order to keep their technological expertise requirements at a minimum. In that case the teachers basically just need the motivation to be aware of the given tools and to rely on support if problems occur during their application. In addition to this, the design of the content becomes increasingly important since in some cases it is the first and/or only appearance to the students. Clear navigation and instructional design are obligatory if the educative content should be efficiently transferred to the student.
A major difficulty for the application of modern technology can be the financial aspect in terms of costs of development, purchase, training and maintenance. Without a focus on the prospects of the application it seems rather challenging to accept those costs as an investment. As the process of innovations speeds up it is a vital financial factor to be able to judge whether a system is sufficient and is able to remain applicable and adjustable to new technologies within a certain time frame.
During the utilisation throwbacks and points of frustration on the teachers side as the user of the systems needs to be minimised but can not be totally excluded. This means that an attitude needs to be fostered to be able to accept points of failure without abandoning the process.
With the growing importance of the internet the global competition sharpens also for the teaching institutions. Education is not any longer bound to a specific location and a student’s choice for one specific university is less limited by their actual residence.


Considering the big differences among the various teaching institutes within the application of ICT it is important to support teachers who are motivated to take the first steps in the area of e-learning. Since some members of EUCEET already possess extensive experience based on continuous examples of good practice, some suggestions can be provided:

  • Define your goals (What do you aim for in applying ICT?).
  • What is the starting point (What kind of resources/expertise do you and your students have?).
  • Start with the next most simple steps (How can you improve the system without changing it completely?).
  • Use consistent and common tools (Are there examples of good practice in the area you are interested in?).
  • Acceptance of essential investment, time and first failures (What are the prospects of the application?).
  • Create a good support (How many users on how many different systems need support?).

Without the knowledge on what you would like to achieve by using ICT it will be difficult to obtain results that justify the investment of time and money. The goals usually lead to a number of possibilities of tools and systems which serve a similar purpose. Depending on the currently used standards some tools and systems become difficult to incorporate without having to change the system as such. In some cases such a huge investment is inevitable but will often create a reorganisation and reorientation phase in which the newly applied systems can’t work properly. In many cases there is a suitable “building blocks” solution to stepwise move to a higher level.
If an investment to achieve a certain goal is accepted, it is necessary to keep in mind that the developed or purchased systems should be consistent and should offer commonly shared interfaces. To detect promising systems which provide these attributes it can be a great help to accumulate examples of practice and experience of users. Proving a categorised recommendation in this paper does not seem useful since both commercial- and open source- or GNU products may have advantages and disadvantages regarding their consistence.
During the launching phase and calibration process users will experience points of frustration which may have a threatening effect on the utilisation if no sufficient help to continue can be provided.
Although usually examples of good ICT practice in civil engineering education are based on the work of enthusiastic individuals, some universities already realised the growing demand for an expertise in modern technology. They invested in learning management systems with a supporting IT division, allowing the teachers to focus on the educational or research related aspects of their work instead of attempting to keep up with the latest technological development.
Excellent learning management system exist either commercial or open source which can be adapted in order to improve the institutes performance in total. Their application should not be driven by creating a 100% e-learning environment but by facilitating a more student centred learning environment and the ability to offer blended learning where both e-learning and traditional ways of teaching have their expedient place.

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