Incorporating hands-on experiments into an online science course

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Centers and Institutes


Background: With the rapid proliferation of online education, it is incumbent upon teachers to find ways to provide online students with science laboratory experiences. Existing research on online labs focuses heavily on computer-supported inquiry learning environments, such as virtual laboratories and remote laboratories. There are limited studies on kitchen labs or home labs. Objectives: This study investigated the effectiveness of home labs using lab kits from two perspectives: students' perceptions and experiences of labs conducted in a home environment, as well as whether home labs help with students' knowledge acquisition. Methods: This study employed lab quizzes to assess students' performance and lab reports to evaluate students' ability to interpret the lab results accurately in the authentic home lab contexts. Surveys and semi-structured interviews were used to collect students' perceptions and experience data regarding these hands-on experiments at home. Results and Conclusions: We found that students' perceptions of home labs are similar to that of face-to-face labs, but they generally perceive home labs to be less complex. Students' performances on lab quizzes and lab reports indicate that the majority of them were able to apply the key scientific concepts to accurately interpret lab results in authentic home lab contexts. Students perceived that home labs provide flexibility and help in connecting learning to the real world. However, they also face challenges such as unexpected results and ambiguity during the process. Implications: Based on the key findings from this study and our reflections, four practice guidelines were provided for teaching hands-on experiments online.

Publication Title

Journal of Computer Assisted Learning