WHEN THE PANDEMIC LED TO REMOTE LEARNING, architect and tenured professor Luiz Felipe Ungericht had to make a dramatic decision—find an alternative CAD solution for remote CAD instruction for his college students. It wasn’t easy; there are not a lot of CAD solutions out there, even today, that can match the requirements and the benefits found in the solution he ultimately settled on.
Luiz Felipe Ungericht is an architect and urban planner with a master’s degree in education. As a tenured professor at Instituto Federal Caterinense, Brazil, and the coordinator of the school’s graphics lab, when COVID-19 eventually forced everyone home in his country, it meant students no longer had access to the college computer lab. It meant bye-bye to powerful desktop computers running Autodesk AutoCAD.
When the students had to leave the college campus, they had already begun their semester. “The reality was we didn’t know for how long we would stay out of campus,” says Ungericht as he recalls the story. “But we were sure that if we did nothing, the students would lose the year.”
Ungericht had to solve the situation’s problems quickly or lose too much time in the CAD course. The first requirement was to find a fully cloud-based DWG-based CAD solution to support remote learning.
Second, the solution needed to cover the core curriculum requirements taught in the desktop-based AutoCAD class he had prepared for years. Third, the files and tools required compatibility with Ungericht’s AutoCAD course, which was already underway for the semester.
Of Hardware and Budgets
Finally, providing AutoCAD to all the students on their personal computers and using some remote learning or cloud collaboration tool wasn’t workable either. With the entire college trying to address the pandemic challenges for students, there wasn’t enough IT support to attempt managing remote AutoCAD installations. “On campus, we had a license server for our [AutoCAD] computer labs, but that would not work for students at home,” says Ungericht.
At that time, only ARES Kudo met all those criteria. For completing the semester, I could finish my course by teaching the entire program without even needing to use desktop software.
On top of that, many students’ personal computers (many laptops) didn’t meet the requirements to run AutoCAD. And being a public university with a mandate to educate underprivileged Brazilian communities, some students needed a computer. “My university had enough budget to provide tablets for students but not workstations,” says Ungericht.
The solution must be cloud-based, full-featured, DWG-based, and run on any computer, including a Chromebook or tablet. “At that time, only ARES Kudo met all those criteria,” says Ungericht. “For completing the semester, I could finish my course by teaching the entire program without even needing to use desktop software. My students could do everything they needed in ARES Kudo, from starting a new drawing from zero to completion and using advanced tools such as attributes, blocks, hatches, patterns, import and export, viewports, creation of sheets, publishing, and more.”
ARES Surprises Academia
Luiz Felipe Ungericht and his students made it through that first pandemic transition semester better than he had thought it might go. Graebert’s ARES Kudo delivered a series of surprise victories that were not fully understood or expected.
The first one was how easy it was for the students to learn ARES Kudo. Ungericht said that although the user interface is different than AutoCAD—after all, it is a web-browser-based system with a simplified UI—the tool icons were recognizable to the students. Moreover, commands were nearly all the same—even the keyboard shortcuts. An added benefit for the students, says Ungericht, was that “Kudo’s simplified interface meant that users also did not get overwhelmed as they would sometimes do with a full desktop version.”
Every time a student starts a new assignment, I ask for the view-only link for that drawing. They need to submit this drawing via a Google Form.
So the students being “digital natives” aided the students’ transition to ARES Kudo, but Kudo’s streamlined UI for the web also helped tremendously.
And then, there was the superior licensing management that improved things from Ungericht’s and the university’s perspectives.
“Graebert’s licensing approach and technology are superior to where we were before. It is easy to manage my classes,” adds Ungericht. “I became the admin of an organization with a pool of licenses using Graebert’s portal. I would then invite my students to join the organization and give them a permission key,” he says. The way the licensing works is that the permission gives students the freedom to log in on any computer to work, and they have full access to the software and access to their files stored in the cloud.
Ungericht is a big fan of the view-only links technology in ARES CAD products. “Every time a student starts a new assignment, I ask for the view-only link for that drawing. They need to submit this drawing via a Google Form,” he adds. Ungericht ends up with a class list with URLs for each assignment and student. “I click any link at any time to check on how they are doing with their assignment,” he says.
“In the past, I would ask them for a PDF or a DWG file,” he continues. “PDF is not ideal for grading assignments since you can’t zoom, measure and identify issues as freely as inside a CAD system.” He also doesn’t appreciate how long it took to work with DWG files either, as he would need to download them, open them, markup them up, and then Save-As the file. “Now I just open up the links and work directly with the single source of truth for their assignment. I can provide feedback, and they get email notifications automatically.”
Markup and Collaboration
An example can clarify the power of ARES’s features for CAD instruction. “A beginning student sends me her drawing via a view-only link, stating she failed to make a hatch work. From experience, I know that there was probably an open point in the drawing, leaking the hatch. Since I can access the drawing,” he continues, “I can zoom in at will to identify the problems. I can select the entities involved and explain with a comment,” he says.
In ARES CAD products, a complete commentary system boasts status labels such as “resolved” so stakeholders can communicate interactively with each other. The difference is subtle but a significant differentiator. ARES supports interactivity and goes beyond correspondence. Before the switch to ARES, the class markups would happen in actual CAD files, but a necessary Save-As file was required, and then that file would be emailed to the student.
But what if the student worked on the file after the instructor made remarks? Any errors would go unnoticed. Eliminating Save-As versions for grading solves this problem, and as soon as there are markups attached to notifications in the Comments palette, the student gets an email notification. The student can then read these notifications without even opening ARES software. And they can respond to them by asking for further insight independent of ARES.
This fluidity makes the ARES ecosystem of CAD solutions—whether on desktop, web, or mobile—more interactive, and all this interaction stays and lives with the CAD file.
While ARES Kudo supports robust markup tools, including audio notes that convert to text when notifications send emails to students, the CAD platform also supports version history. While students do Save-As files for various reasons, they don’t need to for tracking their progress. Instead, students or the instructor can review previous versions using the Version History tool.
Version history supports color highlights that help students understand what changed in the file compared to an older version. “When we combine this tool with various collaboration options,” says Ungericht, we can determine when the drawing started to go in the wrong direction, which helps the students learn from their mistakes.”
Practical Results: Teaching Metrics
Eventually, students at the Instituto Federal Caterinense, Brazil, returned to full-time classes on campus, but the CAD lab took a different turn of events. The jump to ARES Kudo during the pandemic was so successful that Luiz Felipe Ungericht decided to move entirely to Graebert’s ARES Trinity of solutions—in other words, their cross-platform, cross-device ecosystem of native DWG CAD applications.
“I had experienced so many advantages from using ARES Kudo during the lockdown that in 2022, I wanted to continue with ARES software, adding ARES Commander on the desktop and ARES Touch on mobile,” adds Ungericht.
The learning speed due to ARES was estimated at up to 30 percent faster, Ungericht told me. He shared that several factors contributed to this speed-up, but one major contributor was the continued engagement outside the CAD classroom. The interactivity of the notification and comments palette system meant higher engagement with a faster turn-around of comments, questions, and answers.
All three classes that used ARES Trinity had a significant and relevant increase in average performance…compared to the classes that did not use it.
“This doesn’t mean I am available around the clock, Luiz Ungericht insists, “but I was able to answer up to 10 times more questions than I could if I had to receive them in person or virtually, open files, or listen to queries and then speak my reply. Nowadays, it is rare that I have to start a class by taking questions from a past exercise.”
It is nice when the instructor is winning due to technology, but even better when the students succeed. Ungericht tells Architosh that his students’ grades are 15 percent higher than before the whole move to ARES Trinity. “All three classes that used ARES Trinity had a significant and relevant increase in average performance…compared to the classes that did not use it,” he says. Ungericht is a researcher and understands that some readers may be skeptical. So some of his research is quite impressive.
One study he cites (Kurtz, G) notes that during remote learning, when using collaboration tools that exist outside of the core tool (in this case, ARES), students can not be as focused as additional chatting tools can shift the topic of discussion. (1 – 3). “This is especially true for CAD, as studies show that most of the chat interactions for these users are done outside the software platform. (4)
With the faster completion of the semester program, students benefitted from the expanded content from Luiz. “As I worked with CAD for different programs from Agronomy to Real Estate Business to Work Safety, I could integrate specific elements of that curriculum into their CAD training. This added a trans-disciplinary benefit to the otherwise architectural-focused CAD course.”
In this story, we learn how the pandemic forced a technology change and how that change—simply trying something different—led to the realization that there were additional benefits to be had from the new technology that was not at the time possible from the older technology. It is a lesson applicable to many use cases across AEC/O and manufacturing CAD fields.
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- Kurtz, G.: Students’ perceptions of using Facebook group and a course website as interactive and active learning spaces. In: 9th chais conference for the study of innovation and learning Technologies: Learning in the technological era, pp. 65-73 (2014).
- Lampe, C., Wohn, D.Y., Vitak, J. et al. Student use of Facebook for organizing collaborative classroom activities. Computer Supported Learning 6, pp. 329–347 (2011).
- Al-Samarraie, H., Saeed, N.: A systematic review of cloud computing tools for collaborative learning: Opportunities and challenges to the blended-learning environment. Computers & Education, Volume 124, 77-91 (2018).
- Marion, T., Olechowksi, A., Guo, J.: An Analytical Framework for Collaborative Cloud-Based CAD Platform Affordances. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED21), Gothenburg, Sweden (2021).