Evaluation of a web-based resource to support a molecular biology practical class—does computer-aided learning really work?

S. Gibbins, Michael Sosabowski, James Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In view of the increasing usage of information technology in learning and teaching there is an increasing need for meaningful evaluation of the effectiveness of information technology-based media. The aim of this study was to investigate whether a web-based computer-aided learning (CAL) package enhances the learning outcomes of a laboratory-based molecular biology class. A multiplex PCR practical exercise to detect genetically modified sequences in soybean DNA was carried out by students using either traditional (non-electronic) teaching and learning resources or a web-based CAL resource. The learning outcomes were evaluated by pre- and post-class subject-based comparative tests with self-assessed confidence ratings and questionnaires. Scores relating to four modes of student learning style were assessed by questionnaire and these were correlated with the effectiveness of the support resource used. There was a significantly greater improvement in knowledge-based test performance and self-assessed confidence rating by students using CAL-based learning support versus those using traditional resources. Learning style score did not correlate with the enhancement in performance by students supported by the CAL package, although one learning style did favor a response to the traditional support package. We conclude that compared with a non-electronic alternative, the use of CAL can enhance learning and teaching outcomes in a laboratory-based molecular biology class.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-355
Number of pages4
JournalBiochemistry and Molecular Biology Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2003


  • Computer-aided learning
  • learning style
  • PCR
  • molecular biology
  • laboratory class


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