Effectiveness of Computer-Based Instructional Simulation: A Meta Analysis

Article excerpt


The purpose of this paper is to analyze evidence concerning the effectiveness of simulation by examining the relationship between two forms of simulations, pure and hybrid, and two modes of instructions, presentation and practice. A review of previous reviews is discussed concerning the effectiveness of instructional simulation. Via a meta-analysis, 19 studies are examined. The meta-analysis leads to following conclusions: 1. Within the presentation mode, the hybrid simulation is much more effective than the pure simulation. 2. Simulations are almost equally effective for both presentation and the practice modes if the hybrid simulation is used. 3. Specific guidance in simulation seems to help students to perform better. 4. When students learn in the presentation mode with the pure simulation, they showed a negative attitude toward simulation.

The modern computer technology has made possible a new and rich learning environment, the simulation. In an instructional simulation, students learn by actually performing activities to be learned in a context that is similar to the real world. Instructional simulation is used in most cases for an unguided discovery learning. Students can generate and test hypotheses in a simulated environment by examining changes in the environment based on their input. Unlike the traditional classroom instruction, in which students' roles are passive in most cases, this particular type of instruction requires students to involve their learning in an active way.

There has been a great number of experimental studies to examine the instructional value of simulation. In most cases of these studies, researchers used expository instructional methods, such as traditional classroom lectures or computer-based tutorials for comparison groups. The research results from these studies were conflicting. The research efforts to integrate these primary studies in systematic ways in order to investigate the source of conflict outcomes have been rare.

One of the reasons for these conflicting research results of primary studies comes from using different instructional modes of simulations. There are two modes in simulations, presentation and practice. Some researchers suggest that simulations are effective only when they are used as practice modes, meaning students should finish a module of instruction first by an expository instruction and then allow the students to have a time for practicing the information in a simulation to store the knowledge in a meaningful way. These researchers claim that if simulations are used as presentation modes in which they are used for teaching new knowledge, the students would be lost during the instruction because they don't have instructional features like specific directions and explanations on instructional content. Because simulations are intended as a discovery learning method, they allow the students freedom of exploration in given learning environments without specific directions and explanations. Therefore, in light of these researchers' point of view, simulations should be supplements to expository instructions and are not appropriate to teach new knowledge without them.

In contrast, other researchers claim that simulation can be useful as a standalone instructional method if it includes both the presentation and the practice modes. What they mean by presentation in simulation is to provide students with a large number of examples and a series of guidance together. This type of simulation may be called a hybrid simulation in that it mixes pure simulations and some features of expository instruction. Few studies have been done to examine the effectiveness of hybrid simulations.

There is a need to investigate the source of conflict outcomes on the effectiveness of simulations in terms of different modes, presentation and practice, by integrating related primary studies in systematic ways. The purpose of this study analyzes evidence concerning the effectiveness of two modes of simulations, presentation and practice. …