Learning differences and eye fixation patterns in virtual and physical science laboratories

Kuei Pin Chien, Cheng Yue Tsai, Hsiu Ling Chen, Wen Hua Chang, Sufen Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


This project analyzed high school students' performance and eye movement while learning in a simulation-based laboratory (SBL) and a microcomputer-based laboratory (MBL). Although the SBL and the MBL both used computers to collect, graph, and analyze data, the MBL involved manual manipulation of concrete materials, whereas the SBL displayed everything on a monitor. Fifty senior high school students at three urban public high schools in Taipei were randomly assigned to the MBL and SBL settings. The participants conducted the Boyle's Law experiment with an accompanying worksheet and completed pre- and post-conceptual tests. FaceLAB and ASL MobileEye were used to record each participant's eye movements in the SBL and MBL settings, respectively. The results showed that lower achievers improved significantly from the pre-to post-conceptual tests. The SBL group tended to carry out more experiments. Moreover, the MBL group's performance on the worksheet was moderately correlated with their post-test. However, this correlation was not found for the SBL group. Furthermore, at the beginning of the laboratories, the SBL group had a higher percentage of fixations with longer fixation duration, which implies more attention to and deeper cognitive processing of the equipment and running experiments, while the MBL group focused on the worksheet. This study concludes that, for e-learning like SBLs, students tend to start off doing an experiment, and then think about the questions on the worksheets, whereas for physical laboratories like MBLs, they tend to think before doing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-201
Number of pages11
JournalComputers and Education
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Mar


  • Applications in subject areas
  • Secondary education
  • Simulations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Education


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