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ERIC Number: EJ889519
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Jun
Pages: 9
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 33
ISSN: ISSN-1479-7860
Assessing the Effectiveness of a Computer Simulation for Teaching Ecological Experimental Design
Stafford, Richard; Goodenough, Anne E.; Davies, Mark S.
Bioscience Education, v15 Article 1 Jun 2010
Designing manipulative ecological experiments is a complex and time-consuming process that is problematic to teach in traditional undergraduate classes. This study investigates the effectiveness of using a computer simulation--the Virtual Rocky Shore (VRS)--to facilitate rapid, student-centred learning of experimental design. We gave a series of tests to biology undergraduates to determine how well experimental design and data analysis was understood: 1) before any teaching sessions on this topic; 2) after theory sessions on experimental design; and 3) after an additional practical session using the VRS. Due to poor weather, sample sizes were small with a total of 12 students participating in all three sessions. Nevertheless, marks increased significantly between the initial and final tests (1 and 3). The variability of marks during test 2 was also significantly higher than for the other two tests. Thus some students learned experimental design effectively from the theory sessions alone, while others only understood the process after the experiential learning component of the VRS. Feedback from students on the process was mainly positive, although some students found the VRS too abstract, indicating that the use of digital learning resources may need to be supported by real experience in the field or laboratory. (Contains 1 table and 1 figure.)
Centre for Bioscience, The Higher Education Academy. Room 9.15 Worsley Building, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK. Tel: +44-113-343-3001; Fax: +44-113-343-5894; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom