Contribution: Prior studies comparing the effectiveness of different laboratory learning modes do not allow one to draw a universally valid conclusion, as other influences are mixed with the learning modes. In order to contribute to the existing body of work and to add another piece to the puzzle, this article demonstrates an improved methodology to evaluate the effectiveness of computer-simulated laboratories in comparison to hands-on exercises using a battery basics practical course as a case study. Background: Computer-simulated experiments are becoming increasingly popular for conducting laboratory exercises in higher education and vocational training institutions. To ensure the consistent quality of laboratory learning, an accurate comparison between the results of simulated experiments and practical hands-on experiments is required. Intended Outcomes: In this article, the achievement of the following learning objectives were compared between the two laboratory modes: 1) comprehension of the most important parameters of battery cells and 2) knowledge on how these parameters can be determined using adequate experimental procedures. Application Design: To avoid interference of factors other than laboratory mode on the learning, laboratory instructions and experimental interfaces ensured identical execution of the experiments in the compared modes. Using a counterbalanced methodology, the two laboratory modes alternated by the session, while the experimental procedures remained constant regardless of the respective modes. Findings: Tests taken by the participants after conducting the laboratory experiments revealed that hands-on laboratories resulted in statistically significantly better student performance than simulated laboratories. This difference was even more pronounced for the participants that finished a vocational education and training program before the university studies.
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Published in: IEEE Transactions on Education
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