New MakerBot Trend Report Highlights Ongoing Use of 3D Printing in Remote Learning Environments

Findings show 3D printing's significance to continue engaging students and encouraging team collaboration in remote and virtual learning settings

The past year saw education’s transformation from traditional classroom settings into dynamic and fluid models designed to maintain student education while remote and online. 3D printing emerged as an integral part of student learning—and an unlikely hero—as educators waged an ongoing war with outdated or cumbersome school technologies.

In our 2nd annual report on Trends in 3D Printing and STEAM Education, we reveal how respondents leveraged 3D printing to amplify student engagement and collaboration in remote and virtual learning environments. The report also highlights some of the key factors that are leading to the increased use of 3D printing for lessons, coursework, and research projects.

Key findings from the report showed that while many schools were closed over the past year, respondents were still able to use 3D printing to support their lessons and drive student participation. Virtual learning has been a challenge for respondents, with many citing low student engagement (48%) as an obstacle.

To increase involvement, respondents added extra layers of complexity to their teachings to boost creative thinking and encourage student collaboration. 57% of respondents used 3D printing for student-designed prototypes for problem-based learning projects, while 36% used 3D-printed parts related to specific lessons plans to increase student engagement. But not all remote experiences were equivalent—40% of respondents cited that their students were unable to practice their learnings due to the lack of access to equipment.

Additional key findings from the Trends in 3D Printing and STEAM Education report include:

21st century skills development continues to be an impactful factor in teaching with 3D printing. Developing creative thinking (57%) and problem-solving skills (50%) were among the top reasonings behind why respondents chose to teach with 3D printing. Using the technology to turn ideas into reality (48%) and develop critical cognitive and practical skills (45%) were also essential when integrating into class lessons.

Teaching STEAM subjects during the pandemic was not much different than prior years. Budget constraints and insufficient funding were cited as the top reasons, at 57%, while insufficient equipment (46%) and training (38%) were additional hurdles for respondents.

Respondents look for reliability and ease of use in their printers. In their 3D printer purchase decision-making process, 97% of respondents cited reliability as one of the most important factors, while 93% also said that the ease of use and easy maintenance were also important to consider.

Advancements in 3D printing have propelled its use across a range of applications in higher education. Functional prototyping (65%) and concept modeling (65%) were the top applications, while R&D projects (47%) and manufacturing aids (31%) lagged behind.

Anticipation for an exciting new school year is high. 58% of respondents cited that they were looking forward to being back in the classroom with students, while over 50% were also excited to find creative ways to teach STEAM curricula and create authentic learning experiences in the new school year. Meanwhile, 44% of respondents were looking forward to more access to the equipment in the schools.

About the study

MakerBot surveyed over 1,000 education professionals who are in our global network and use 3D printing in traditional or non-traditional learning settings across grade levels from kindergarten to the university level. Respondents were based in over 60 countries across North America, Asia, Europe, South America, Oceania, and Africa. They teach a range of disciplines, including 3D printing, art & design, industrial arts, mathematics, engineering, language studies, history, and more.

Download the full report at https://pages.makerbot.com/21EDU3DPrintingTrendReport.html

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