Virtual laboratory vs. traditional laboratory: which is more effective for teaching electrochemistry?
The use of virtual laboratories has become an increasing issue regarding science laboratories due to the increasing cost of hands-on laboratories, and the increase in distance education. Recent studies have looked at the use of virtual tools for laboratory to be used as supplements to the regular hands-on laboratories but many virtual tools have not been used as replacements. In order to understand the effects of virtual laboratory methods as well as ascertain the effectiveness of our normal lab procedures, we used a virtual versus hands-on scenario for an electrochemistry laboratory. We separated our General Chemistry II Lab students into two groups. Each group completed an electrochemistry lab either through our normal hands-on format or with the use of a virtual lab animation created by the Iowa State Education Group. Pre- and post-test data for conceptual and factual understanding were collected as well as a post-test hands-on setup of an electrochemical cell. There were no significant differences in scores on either the pre-test, post-test, or the hands-on setup test. However, individual item analysis on the tests revealed a significant difference in the use of the salt bridge during the post-test and the hands-on setup activity.