Architects want to work online, finds NBS study

by Sion Geschwindt
Architects want to work online, finds NBS study

This week NBS and RIBA (The Royal Institute of British Architects) revealed the findings from their latest study on free continuous professional development (CPD) courses in the RIBA CPD Providers Network.

The study examines how and when architects are using these courses to further their professional knowledge and how the landscape of CPD is changing.

One major finding is that in-person seminars, once the go-to format for CPD, have now been surpassed by digital learning.

In fact, nearly half as many attendees now choose an online format (91%) over an in-person presentation, compared with stats back in 2019. 81% also anticipate watching webinars ‘on-demand’ and just over three-quarters (77%) are choosing to view them live.

Given the continuing digitisation of the construction sector over the past two years, there’s no doubt that the pandemic and an increase in remote working has been a catalyst for this change. For context, only 49% of RIBA network members delivered online CPDs back in 2018 yet in 2021 this has risen to 70%.

Rise in ‘microlearning’

This also supports the growing trend amongst specifiers for bite-sized ‘microlearning’, where architects are able to access information as and when schedules allow, rather than dedicate a full hour in one block.

However, an appetite still remains for in-person seminars, the report said, where the experience of being in the same physical space as presenters and colleagues still holds weight and where collaborative discussions can take place more easily.

Nearly half (47%) still take part in in-person CPDs and at least three-quarters of respondents say they would like to.

The study also found that the ‘lunch time seminar’ for in-person presentations is still proving popular (54%) whilst just under half prefer a webinar (49%).

CPD Perceptions

CPD from members of the RIBA CPD Providers Network are seen as trusted sources of information and perceptions around the quality of content are positive.

Nearly eight out of ten see it as ‘professional and credible’ and over 70% say it is of a high quality. The RIBA accreditation also holds weight – three quarters stated that this is important to them (75%), up from 71% back in 2019.

Specifiers in particular are also happy with the quality of content – 87% say that both online and in-person seminars are good or very good overall and 76% are satisfied with the CPD delivered through the Network.

These stats also reflect the effectiveness of CPD when it comes to choosing products for specification, said the report.

The number of respondents specifying one of more of a suppliers’ products after undertaking their CPD has increased incrementally – nearly two thirds are willing to do so (64%), a 15% rise since 2017.

This also extends to the number of specifiers downloading a supplier’s BIM or digital objects following a CPD, growing in the same time period from 18% to 26% and 36% in 2022.

Barriers to carrying out CPDs

Whilst the overall picture shows that CPD is proving to be successful – both in terms of the level of content accessible to specifiers and the likelihood of product specification on behalf of manufacturers – what are the barriers preventing built environment professionals from undertaking more CPD and is there room for improvement on the current offering?

The report’s results mirror those of in previous years: specifiers are still strapped for time. 85% stated that lack of time is a barrier and 38% a significant barrier.

This is followed by the cost of a CPD – 83% stated this was a barrier, with 36%, stating it a significant one. There were similar results for the location of CPDs, 83% and 30% respectively.

This also highlights why the free CPD from the RIBA CPD Providers Network is so important to architects. In turn, the study highlighted the “sweet spot” for webinars – just over half an hour, a little less than an hour for in-person seminars and around 90 minutes for factory visits.

An important point raised in the study was also the subject of impartiality. Providers need to be sure that they are striking a balance between unbiased content and showcasing the benefits of their product – focusing primarily on education value over a sales pitch.

Joni Tyler, Head of CPD, RIBA, said: “In today’s climate, RIBA-assessed CPDs have never been more relevant. Assessed CPD ensures that architects can specify safely and accurately.

“This study underlines that the joint focus RIBA and NBS have taken on digital CPD in the Providers Network is something that architects want.

“With forthcoming changes to the Building Safety Act on the horizon and further regulatory amends to product safety legislation imminent, architects need to be on their A-game when it comes to additional learning.”

David Bain, research manager at NBS, added: “The results of this study will help providers to improve how they deliver their CPD, so that specifiers receive relevant information in a format that suits them, enhancing the level and speed of learning.

“It also highlights why RIBA-approved content should be the first point of call for architects seeking high quality CPD.”


Read next: To address skills shortages, construction must explore alternative paths to entry

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