Students Perceptions and Experiences of Using Computational Simulations as Learning Tools

By Alejandra J. Magana

Purdue University

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This presentation summarizes the results of three research studies aiming to investigate students perceptions and experiences of using computational simulations as learning tools. The three guiding research questions were: (i) how do students with different academic level experience nanoHUB simulation tools? (ii) How do students react to professors' uses of nanoHUB simulation tools? and (iii) Can nanoHUB simulation tools support student conceptual understanding?
Findings from these studies provide descriptions of how students perceived nanoHUB simulation tools as useful for their learning. These studies also describe potential challenges students may encounter when using these computational tools for their learning. We conclude by describing how instructors provided supports to overcome these challenges as well as other recommendations to better support learners when using these tools.


Alejandra Magana, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Computer and Information Technology at Purdue University West Lafayette. Magana's research interests are centered on the integration of cyberinfrastructure and computational tools and methods to: (a) leverage the understanding of complex phenomena in science and engineering and (b) support scientific inquiry learning and innovation. Specific efforts focus on studying cyberinfrastructure affordances and identifying how to incorporate advances from the learning sciences into authoring curriculum, assessment, and learning materials to appropriately support learning processes.

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This work was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation via the Network for Computational Nanotechnology with NSF Grant # 0817486 and EEC-0634750.


Magana, A.J., Brophy, S.P. and Bodner, G.M. (2012). An Exploratory Study of Engineering and Science Students' Perceptions of Simulation Tools. International Journal of Engineering Education. 28(5). 1019-1032.

Magana, A.J., Brophy, S.P. and Bodner, G.M. (2012). Student Views of Engineering Professors Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Integrating Computational Simulation Tools in Nanoscale Science and Engineering. International Journal of Engineering Education. 28(5). 1033-1045

Brophy, S. Magana, A.J. and Strachan, A. (in press). Lectures and Simulation Laboratories to Improve Learners Conceptual Understanding. Advances in Engineering Education.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Alejandra J. Magana (2013), "Students Perceptions and Experiences of Using Computational Simulations as Learning Tools,"

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