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University of Wisconsin - Madison College of Engineering
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  5. Lawrence C. Bank

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Lawrence Bank
Civil and Environmental Engineering

In Professor Larry Bank’s courses, students don’t just learn engineering technology—they use technology to learn engineering. To excite, educate and empower his students, Bank has integrated into his undergraduate and graduate courses such familiar (to them) communication technologies as Voice over Internet Protocol, Internet video conferencing, instant messaging, interactive forums, and collaborative project posting and review tools. He encourages students not only to use the Internet as a source of inspiration and information, but to understand, analyze and communicate what they’ve read to the entire class. “This creates a collaborative learning experience, breaks down barriers between individuals, promotes confidence, teaches standards, encourages a work ethic, and empowers the students,” says Bank.

For the past three years, he has taught CEE 794, Architecture/Engineering/Construction Global Teamwork Project-Based Learning Course, with Renate Fruchter, director of the Stanford University Project-Based Learning Laboratory. This unique, elite interdisciplinary course joins students worldwide in a cyberclassroom; using Internet-based communication tools, they work in teams to design and showcase a 30,000-square-foot virtual building.

In spring 2006, Bank launched two “live-over-the-Internet” courses with Marquette University Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Chris Foley. Using Internet 2 and Polycom for the video feed and NetMeeting for visual materials, Bank taught CEE 649, Structural Design With FRP Materials, to campus (UW-Madison) and remote (Marquette University) graduate students. Foley taught CEE 740, Structural Analysis III, in the same manner, giving both sets of students real-time interaction with a single instructor. The courses created a cost-effective alternative for offering traditionally low-enrollment grad-level courses at both institutions and also received high student evaluations.

Capitalizing on an opportunity to introduce students to the revolutionary field of building information modeling, Bank created the CEE 698 course, Building Information Modeling, in late fall 2006 and debuted it in spring 2007. Students collaboratively learn BIM software and engage in discussions with leading local industry professionals. Says a colleague: “He is not simply using technology for the sake of it, but rather leveraging it to improve the quality and relevance of the learning experience, while at the same time, exciting and motivating the students to learn.”