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Journal of Information Systems Education

Abstract

In Computer Science and Information Systems courses, where the computer is an integral part of the course, there are two main ways in which the practical component of the course, the computer laboratory class, may be organized. They may be closed laboratories which are scheduled and staffed in the same way as other classes, or open laboratories where the students come and go as they please. In universities in the United States, the open laboratory is more common, whereas in Australia, it is the closed laboratory that provides the practical experience for students. This study investigates differences between students’ perceptions of some aspects of the learning environment of open and closed computer laboratories, and also investigates differences in student outcomes from courses that adopt these two approaches to organizing computer laboratory classes. The use of closed laboratories requires more resources in terms of physical space and equipment and greater commitment on the part of the faculty. This study investigates whether the extra resources and commitment lead to an improvement in student outcomes. In the study, two previously developed instruments, the Computer Laboratory Environment Inventory (CLEI) and the Attitude towards Computing and Computing Courses Questionnaire (ACCC) were used. 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. Of the environment variables, significant differences in the means were found for Open- Endedness, Technology Adequacy and Laboratory Availability. There was also a difference for Anxiety. There was no significant difference in achievement by students on the courses.

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