Penn State Researcher Touts Simulation Software As Effective Teaching Tool

Penn State Researcher Touts Simulation Software As Effective Teaching Tool
By Ronald Roach

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.

A Penn State researcher has found that using high-quality simulation software improves student achievement, motivation and graduation rates when compared to other online methods.
Dr. Brian Cameron has documented the study of two classes of a Web-based introductory networking and telecommunications course he taught to freshmen and sophomores. The students who used a commercial network simulation package scored higher and retained more information than students who used a popular network-diagramming software tool that depends on instructor evaluation for feedback.  
 “Online learning environments have been plagued with student motivational problems, leading to high drop-out rates,” according to Cameron, an instructor at Penn State’s School of Information Sciences and Technology (IST).
The simulation software allowed students to build and test different networking components and configurations and receive immediate feedback, according to the study. Students who used the static software package didn’t experiment with different configurations because they had no way to verify their designs worked other than submitting them to Cameron.
As a result of the findings, Cameron has suggested that educators seek programs that closely mimic real-world experiences. “Tools like simulation can enhance the educational experience of distance learning,” Cameron notes.
The need for effective online teaching tools is underscored by a new report from the U.S. Department of Education, which finds that enrollment in distance education courses has nearly doubled since 1995 to 3.1 million enrollments



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