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This presentation outlined the research design and data collection and analyses methods of my intended dissertation study which measured the effects of mode of lab delivery on student achievement in biology.
The Effect of Virtual Laboratory Investigations on
Student Achievement in Biology
Jaime McQueen (Doctoral Candidate)
Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southwest Educational
Research Association, New Orleans, February, 11, 2016
Current college students are largely represented by
Increasing numbers of students are taking courses in non
face to face learning environments
Learning institutions are expanding their offering of online
Students’ educational technology use is increasing
Statement of the Problem
Physical Lab issues:
Content often difficult for students to visualize
Non-majors students struggle
Require extensive time and space commitments
Virtual labs may help to:
Provide an additional level of support to students
Ease demand for STEM physical lab sections
Statement of the problem
Virtual labs:
Viable economic alternatives to costly laboratory equipment and
Conserve laboratory resources
Save valuable laboratory space
Virtual lab issues:
Do not adequately represent dissection of physical specimens
May not give students the necessary foundation of laboratory
Lack effectiveness of modeling physical laboratories
Literature Review
Studies on physical vs. virtual labs in STEM (Akpan, 2001; Zacharia
et al., 2015).
Virtual labs provide guidance to students (Parker & Loudon, 2012;
Swan & O’Donnell, 2009)
Effectiveness of virtual labs (Carnevale, 2003; Flowers, 2011).
Recent studies on virtual labs (Brinson, 2015; Hallyburton & Lunsford,
2013 Ma & Nickerson, 2006; Zacharia et al., 2015)
Theoretical Framework
Constructivist theory is the framework of this study
I will explore the ways that college students learn, practice science
inquiry, and construct new knowledge using virtual biology labs
Previous knowledge builds new knowledge (Perry, 1968; Piaget,
Communication important in science classes (Tobin, McRobbie,
and Anderson,1997)
Further study needed on constructivism in virtual labs(Brinson,
Research Questions & Hypotheses
Research Questions
1. To what extent does use of virtual biology laboratories affect student
achievement in face-to-face, blended, and fully online learning environments?
2. Do supplemental instructions from course instructors impact student success in
virtual laboratory use?
3. How do student perceptions toward technology use affect the efficacy of virtual
labs in a college-level course?
Research Hypotheses
H0= Use of Virtual Laboratory investigations will have no effect on student
scores on biology content tests.
H1= Use of Virtual Laboratory investigations will increase student scores on
biology content tests.
Quantitative Variables
Virtual biology labs
Levels of guidance (face to face, blended, and strictly online environments).
Post Test Scores
Scores related to (face to face, blended, and strictly online environments).
Qualitative Variables
Students’ attitude toward technology
Virtual lab efficacy as a function of student attitude toward internet use
Data Collection, Instruments, and Analysis
Instrument-Sapling Learning’s -General Biology virtual labs (Sapling Learning Higher
Education General & Introductory Biology website, 2015) (face to face, blended
learning, online).
Incomplete factorial design, regression model analysis (Trochim, 2006).
Pre-test / Post-test, Test score means
IBM SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) version 22.
Survey Internet Attitudes Scale (IAS) (Dr. Yixin Zhang,
Forty four-point Likert scale (1-strongly disagree, 2-disagree, 3-agree, 4-strongly
agree). Survey descriptive statistic analysis
Magnitude coding, describing frequency (Saldana, 2009).
Target Population and Sample
Participants will be non-majors students enrolled four sections of a
college level undergraduate introductory biology course (BIOL 1308)
at a south Texas University during the fall 2016 semester.
Two Online sections
Two face-to-face sections
Sample size for based on historic course enrollment numbers
(n 117).
Research Design
Mixed methods concurrent triangulation (Creswell et al. , 2003),
quasi-experimental design.
I will purposively select study participants, I will lack the random
sampling of a true experiment (Campbell & Stanley, 1963, p.34).
Explore the effects of virtual biology labs from both a quantitative
and qualitative perspective
There are other designs which could be used for this study:
Phenomenology (Saldana, 2011), Case Study (Saldana, 2011).
Significance of the Study
Virtual Labs can:
Expand science education options for college students.
help online learners, non-science majors students, students with disabilities.
I believe my research will help inform the fields of higher education, curriculum
and instruction, and educational technology.
Virtual lab research is timely and relevant (Darrah et al., 2014; Johnson,
2002; Miller, 2008).
I intend to share my study and findings with institutions of higher learning,
curriculum publishers, and all other parties interested in the utility of virtual
Work in Progress
Quantitative methodology has changed to omit
blended learning group
Qualitative methodology has changed to replace
attitudinal survey (IAS) with focus group
This proposal is a work in progress, and will be
modified based on further study, and the
recommendation of my dissertation committee.
Akpan, J. P. (2001). Issues associated with inserting computer simulations into biology instruction: A review of the literature. Electronic Journal of Science Education, 5(3).
Bell, J. (1999). The biology labs on-line project: Producing educational simulations that promote active learning. Interactive multimedia electronic journal of computer-
enhanced learning, 1(2).
Bhargava, P. Antonakakis, J., Cunningham, C. & Zehnder, A.T. (2006). Web-based virtual torsion laboratory. Computer Applications in Engineering Education, 14(1), 1-8.
Brinson, J. R. (2015). Learning outcome achievement in non-traditional (virtual and remote) versus traditional (hands-on) laboratories: A review of the empirical research.
Computers & Education, 38(3), 218-237. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2015.07.003
Chen, J. A., Tutwiler, M. S., Metcalf, S. J., Kamarainen, A., Grotzer, T., & Dede, C. (2016). A multi-user virtual environment to support students' self-efficacy and interest in
science: A latent growth model analysis. Learning and Instruction, 41, 11-22.
Flowers, L. O. (2011). Investigating the effectiveness of virtual laboratories in an undergraduate biology course. The Journal of Human Resource and Adult Learning, 7(2),
Ma, J., & Nickerson, J. V. (2006). Hands-on, simulated, and remote laboratories: a comparative literature review. ACM Computing Surveys, 3(1), 1-24.
Swan, A. E., & O’Donnell, A. M. (2009). The contribution of a virtual biology laboratory to college students’ learning. Innovations in Education and Teaching International,
46(4), 405-419.
Zacharia, Z. C., Manoli, C., Xenofontos, N., de Jong, T., Pedaste, M., van Riesen, S. A., & ... Tsourlidaki, E. (2015). Identifying potential types of guidance for supporting
student inquiry when using virtual and remote labs in science: A literature review. Educational Technology Research and Development, 63(2), 257-302.
Questions ???
I appreciate your feedback and questions.
Thank you
Contact me via e-mail
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