Simulations and visualizations can lead to significant improvements in students'
conceptual understanding. This increased understanding may be due to the formation of expert-like dynamic mental models. Laboratory simulations have been used in educational contexts for
inquiry learning by allowing learners to perform experiments as they would in a laboratory. The goal of this research study is to describe the way in which an instructor and his students perceive and experience computational tools in the context of a semiconductor devices graduate course.
To accomplish this, a case study research design is presented. The case study consists of two
levels of qualitative and quantitative data collection. An instructor and 19 graduate students in his course participated in this study. The initial study uses a student survey administered in the fall semester of 2008. The results of these survey help to identify instructors utilizing effective instructional methods by the students. The second part of the study consists of individual case studies of the instructor and one of his students followed by a cross-case pattern analysis. Results suggest that the instructor leveraged the potential of using computational simulation tools as laboratory simulations by creating meaningful learning experiences for his students. These experiences in turn, seemed to be well perceived and experienced by his graduate students.
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