A study of the effectiveness of computer laboratory classes as learning environments.
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This study focuses on the computer laboratory class as a learning environment in university courses. It involved the development and validation of two instruments, the Computer Laboratory Environment Inventory (CLEI) and the Attitude towards Computing and Computing Courses Questionnaire (ACCC). The CLEI has five scales for measuring students' perceptions of aspects of their laboratory environment. These are Student Cohesiveness, Open-Endedness, Integration, Technology Adequacy and Laboratory Availability. The ACCC has four scales, Anxiety, Enjoyment, Usefulness of Computers and Usefulness of the Course. The instruments were administered at three universities, one in Australia, one in England and one in the United States. The classes surveyed included those in which the development of software was the focus of study, such as Information Systems and Computer Science, and others in which the computer was used as a tool. With the exception of Laboratory Availability, all the environment variables were found to correlate significantly with all attitudinal variables. The only environment variable with significant association with achievement was Student Cohesiveness. However, the results showed that there were significant associations between the attitudinal variables, Anxiety, Enjoyment and Usefulness of the Course and achievement. Regression analysis supported the findings that the environment variables made a significant contribution to the attitudinal variables, and these in turn made a significant contribution to achievement. Further analysis using structural equation modelling suggests that computer laboratory environment affects achievement indirectly by directly affecting students' attitudes towards computers but even more so their attitude towards the course.The significance of this study is, that it is one of the first that has investigated the effectiveness of computer laboratory classes in a university setting in which the computer is central to the discipline being studied. The results demonstrate the importance of the laboratory environment in those courses in which the computer plays a major role. The CLEI will prove useful in the design and implementation of the laboratory component of a course and in the formative evaluation of such a course.
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