N.D. Finkelstein, K. Perkins, W. Adams, K. Keller, P. Kohl, N. Podolefsky, S. Reid
University of Colorado, Boulder
Kavli Operating Institute
This paper examines the effects of substituting a computer simulation in place of real laboratory equipment in the second semester of a large-scale introductory physics course. The direct current (DC) circuit laboratory was modified to compare the effects of using computer simulations with the effects of using real light bulbs, meters and wires. Three groups of students, those who used real equipment, those who used a computer simulation that explicitly modeled electron flow, and those from another course that had no lab experience, were compared in terms of their mastery of physics concepts and skills with real equipment. Students who used the simulated equipment outperformed their counterparts both on a conceptual survey of the domain and in the coordinated tasks of assembling a real circuit and describing how it worked.