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A Virtual Classroom and a Virtual Laboratory; the Future of Science Lies in Simulation
Modern ab initio methods have proved to predict with high level of accuracy the ground state properties of materials. Computation results also tend to be in agreement with the available experimental and theoretical data.
By James Sifuna
Jan. 16, 2016

An image of ZrMgMo3O12 as modeled in VESTA software.

Research conducted in Kenya recently by James Sifuna, a research scientist in the computational and theoretical physics (CTheP) group of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, portrays an urgent need to revise the science curriculum and give room for simulation. The researcher applied the Solomon-four-quasi experimental design and found out that simulation has great impact in teaching and learning of science education.

"The future of science lies in simulation! A virtual lab enables one to model even nonexistent compounds and later on be manufactured in the laboratories for novel functionalities", Sifuna said.

Purposive sampling was used and students of almost the same capabilities were used in the research. The researcher ensured this by giving out a pre-test to one computational group and one control group and achieved a P value greater than 0.05. The sample size used was 150.

In the paper, Sifuna describes how an instrument was designed by CTheP and it was based on the Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives and later on the reliability calculated using the Kurder-Richardson 21 Formula. Two computational groups were taught using simulation and the control groups were taught using the traditional methods. After the groups learning for a period of one month, a post-test was given and it was noted that the groups that had done simulation, performed better than their counterparts. The paper strongly concludes that simulation had an effect in the teaching and learning of the periodic table.

Sifuna points out that simulation is cheaper and accurate compared to other means. Simulation may equally be used by people with physical disabilities since the traditional laboratories pose challenges to them. The paper also points out to the fact that simulation can be introduced to women so as to encourage them to join the male dominated field. This is encouraging since most women in developing countries tend to shun away from science. The developing countries are therefore urged to emulate simulation since simulation is cheaper, fast and accurate results are obtained and that experiments that are simulated can be paused and later on continued. These are qualities that lack in the real laboratory.

Author:
James Sifuna, George Simiyu Manyali, Thomas Sakwa and Alima Mukasia
George Manyali acknowledges the funding obtained from the African German Network of Excellence in Science (AGNES) Grant for Junior Researchers 2015. Support from Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology is also appreciated.
A paper about this study appeared in the Science Journal of education.

Paper link:
http://www.sciencepublishinggroup.com/journal/paperinfo?journalid=197&doi=10.11648/j.sjedu.20160401.11

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