Using Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle to improve student learning in virtual computer laboratories

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125 Citations (SciVal)


In information security education, learning experiences that involve hands-on experimentation are extremely important. However, information security topics are challenging to teach in traditional computer laboratories mainly due to restrictive information technology policies. In the literature, virtual computer laboratories have been proposed to address the challenges of providing students with hands-on learning experiences in information security. While the literature mainly focuses on technical aspects of virtual computer laboratories and related hands-on activities, pedagogical aspects of hands-on activities are overlooked. Our experiences with a virtual computer laboratory have shown that hands-on activities which are designed based on a prescriptive, step-by-step approach do not always achieve the expected learning outcomes. In this paper, we propose Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle as a framework to design hands-on activities in virtual computer laboratories, and we argue that hands-on activities designed based on this framework enhance student learning outcomes. We illustrate how the stages of Kolb's model can be incorporated into hands-on activities and present results from two empirical studies to test the effectiveness of the proposed framework. The empirical findings in the first study suggest that hands-on activities designed based on the proposed framework are more likely to increase student interest and competency compared to step-by-step hands-on activities. In the second study, the collected data is analyzed using structural equation modeling to determine the relationships among the factors affecting student learning outcomes as a result of hands-on activities. The results of the second study show that student-to-student interaction is an important factor determining student learning experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-22
Number of pages12
JournalComputers and Education
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Computer Science
  • Education


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