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Enhancement of Student Learning in Experimental Design Using a Virtual Laboratory

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4 Author(s)

This paper describes the instructional design, implementation, and assessment of a virtual laboratory based on a numerical simulation of a chemical vapor deposition (CVD) process, the virtual CVD laboratory. The virtual CVD laboratory provides a capstone experience in which students synthesize engineering science and statistics principles and have the opportunity to apply experimental design in the context similar to that of a practicing engineer in industry with a wider design space than is typically seen in the undergraduate laboratory. The simulation of the reactor is based on fundamental principles of mass transfer and chemical reaction, obscured by added ldquonoise.rdquo The software application contains a 3-D student client that simulates a cleanroom environment, an instructor Web interface with integrated assessment tools, and a database server. As opposed to being constructed as a direct one-to-one replacement, this virtual laboratory is intended to complement the physical laboratories in the curriculum so that certain specific elements of student learning can be enhanced. Implementation in four classes is described. Assessment demonstrates students are using an iterative experimental design process reflective of practicing engineers and correlates success in this project to higher order thinking skills. Student surveys indicate that students perceived the virtual CVD laboratory as the most effective learning medium used, even above physical laboratories.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Education  (Volume:51 ,  Issue: 1 )