Authors: Tsegaye Kassa, Baylie Damtie
This paper presents the effects of using computer simulations in place of laboratory equipment as teaching aids. The study was carried out at Bahir Dar University. We divided the 2007 first year Physics students at Bahir Dar University into two groups randomly named as VEG (Virtual Experimental Group) and REG (Real Experimental Group). Both groups were given lectures on basic direct current (DC) electric circuit together by one instructor. The REG carried out the traditional equipment-based DC experiment and the VEG did the same experiment via simulated equipment to enhance their conceptual understanding and practical skill. We then compared the two groups in their conceptual mastery and skills in handing real instruments. Moreover, they were compared in their attitude and group interaction. The main challenge was controlling other parameters that could have effects on the students’ performance. We carefully examined the experimental setting and other parameters by applying proper analysis method. We observed that there were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of their skill, attitude and group interaction. However, they were statistically different in their mastery of concepts in Electric Circuit Concept Evaluation (ECCE) post-test. Students who used computer simulations in learning DC circuits have scored better on ECCE post-test than those who have performed traditional equipment-based experiment. Moreover, the mean time taken to complete the practical setup was different for the two groups; REG took longer mean time than VEG. Hence, the VEG may have more time for critical thinking and drawing conclusions.