Impact of Free vs. Guided Exploratory Learning via Interactive Computer Simulation on Students' Learning
AdvisorEffken, Judith A.
Committee ChairEffken, Judith A.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractComputer simulations are increasingly recognized as educational tools that facilitate students' learning in a safe environment. However, the way in which the simulations are used can have considerable impact on learning outcomes. Some have argued that exploratory learning is an effective strategy for learning new materials; but others have expressed concern that allowing free exploration may result in less efficient, or even inaccurate, learning and therefore encourage more guided exploration. The purpose of this research is to compare learning outcomes of nursing students in a critical care course when using an interactive computer simulation designed to teach fundamentals of oxygenation management under two exploratory learning methods (free versus guided exploration). The conceptual framework for the study was derived from the Informatics Research Organizing Model. The experimental study used a pretest-posttest design. Students in an existing or just finished critical care course were invited to participate in the study. Following a pretest that included a paper and pencil assessment of students' oxygenation management knowledge and two computer-generated clinical scenarios, students were encouraged to learn about the simulation using either guided or free exploration. The Guided Exploration group was given tasks to achieve, while the Free Exploration group was asked to learn about the instructional oxygenation management simulation without any specific tasks. Students then completed a posttest that was identical to the pretest with the addition of one novel clinical scenario to assess knowledge transfer. The results of data analysis using paired t-tests showed no significant differences in learning in the post test for the total group. The independent t-test showed no differences in the mean score between the Free and Guided Exploration groups.