First Advisor

Keenan, Susan

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Date Created



College of Natural and Health Sciences, Biological Sciences, Biological Sciences Student Work

Embargo Date



Community colleges deliver more courses online; laboratory-based courses face challenges in how to do this. This study examined how ecology and evolution laboratories could effectively be delivered in an online biology community college course. Virtual simulations and hands-on, at-home kits were used in two groups. Results showed that students using the virtual simulations had higher learning gains and more positive perceptions towards their laboratory experiences than those students using athome kits. By evaluating learning gains on a pretest/posttest and utilizing interviews and focus groups, this research concluded that virtual simulations offered a superior learning experience for online learners. The results suggest that laboratory experiences offered students important advantages: course engagement, opportunities to think about the processes of science, and opportunities to engage with difficult or abstract content. Students expected laboratories to be streamlined. The results of this research suggest that instructors and administrators at community colleges critically examine the use of virtual simulations for abstract or difficult content as virtual simulations provided opportunities for greater student success than traditional, hands-on labs when delivered online. Virtual simulations provide viable alternatives to traditional laboratories for online students.


Biology Education, Distance Education, Virtual Labs


313 pages

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Copyright belongs to the author.