THE IMPACT OF A WEB-BASED VIRTUAL LAB ON DEVELOPING CONCEPTUAL UNDERSTANDING AND SCIENCE PROCESS SKILLS OF PRIMARY SCHOOL STUDENTS
Technology University of Dresden, Faculty of Education (GERMANY)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Conference name: 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 15-17 November, 2010
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:Over the last few years, the use of the web and simulation technologies in school education has become widespread. The purpose of this paper is to compare the impact of a web-based virtual lab (WVL) environment with that of a traditional setting on the conceptual understanding and science process skills in natural science of fourth grade primary school students.
Using an instructional design model, the authors developed a WVL; the design consisted of 3D demonstrations and interactive experimental activities. The research instruments for the study were also developed; two online pre/post tests on conceptual understanding and science process skills were used to collect data. The sample used in the study consisted of 70 students from two private primary schools in Mansoura, Egypt. The sample was divided into an experimental group and a control group. The authors used an experimental design wherein the experimental group was exposed to the WVL, while the control group studied in a traditional setting and performed related activities.
The pre-test results indicated that the entry-level conceptual understanding in science and science process skills of both groups of students were equal, which guaranteed the reliability of the research. The findings of the post test highlighted the following points:
(a) Students in the experimental group had significantly higher mean scores in conceptual understanding.
(b) The experimental group performed better in science process skills, especially in five of these skills.
(c) There was no significant difference in the science process skills of males and females within the experimental group.
(d) The estimation of the effect sizes, which indicate the level of difference between the post-test scores of the experimental and control group, revealed that the effect size was medium for three of the skills. Further, it was large for two skills and small for only one skill.
The authors concluded that, in general, the WVL provided considerable support to fourth grade students and helped them to improve their conceptual understanding in science and science process skills. This result goes beyond preliminary research, which has not reported similar findings thus far. The findings of this study will contribute to the understanding of the learning outcomes of a virtual lab and provide empirical evidence of the advantages of web-based learning (WBL) to policy makers.
Keywords: Virtual lab, web-based learning, simulation, science education, e-learning, science process skills, primary education.