You are here:

Evaluating learning outcomes in introductory chemistry using virtual laboratories to support inquiry based instruction

, Capella University, United States

Capella University . Awarded


In the U.S., future economic viability is being challenged by an increasing inability to replace retiring engineers and scientists through the year 2020 due to declines in learner motivation and proficiency in science. The expository laboratory appears to be linked with non-engagement and is one possible contributing factor to this problem (Elliott, 2006). In contrast, virtual laboratories appear to be linked with engagement. The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of virtual laboratories on student learning and motivation in science laboratory instruction. A sample of 110 undergraduate students at a university in the southwestern United States enrolled in Introductory Chemistry participated in this one-week study. Participants were assigned to two groups, both of which completed a virtual and expository laboratory experiment on titration along with motivation questionnaires and quizzes that were completed before and after completed each experiment. To evaluate the interaction effect between time point and lab order group upon quiz scores a separate 2 x 3 ANOVA was conducted for motivation scores and quiz scores. Each ANOVA had one between-subjects factor (lab order group) and one within-subjects factor (time point), meaning that the levels of independent variable reflect different measures for the same participants. In both analyses, the independent variable of lab order group had two levels and time point had three levels. The results indicated that the interaction effect of time point and lab order group on motivation and quiz scores was not significant. One group did not evidence greater motivation and engagement from time 1 to time 3 than the other group nor did one group evidence greater changes in scores pretest to posttest than the other group. Therefore, the hypotheses that virtual labs are associated with higher student motivation than traditional labs as well as virtual labs are associated with greater learning outcomes than traditional labs were not accepted. However, the data does not support the idea that participants were less motivated with virtual laboratories than they were with the use of expository laboratories that supports that there is room for further exploration of this approach.


Mallory, C.R. Evaluating learning outcomes in introductory chemistry using virtual laboratories to support inquiry based instruction. Ph.D. thesis, Capella University. Retrieved October 4, 2023 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

For copies of dissertations and theses: (800) 521-0600/(734) 761-4700 or