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Table 2 Comparison of students’ activities with the two different environments as relevant to the three phases of inquiry

From: “Virtual Inquiry”: Teaching Molecular Aspects of Evolutionary Biology Through Computer-Based Inquiry

Inquiry phases and steps Inquiry supports
With the GSLC VRL With the MyDNA VRL
Search phase
 Ask research questions None predetermined but confirmatory question to focus on process can be added User determined questions can focus on the effects of voltage or concentration
 Select variables No variable selection possible User determined selection of variables via point and click
 Design experiments No experimentation via designing tests is possible Experimental design to investigate different variables. Click of button automation eases cognitive load
Evaluation phase
 Determine data analysis methods Measurement method given—compare predetermined end-product (fragment distribution) to molecular ruler User chooses method of measurement
 Measure data outcome/examine properties of data User determines length of each fragment based on molecular ruler (ladder DNA) User chooses to examine either distance traveled or end-product distribution—based on method selected above
 Interpret variable effects on data outcome No variable effect can be documented Evaluate the effect (or lack of effect) of user-selected variables based on data
Reasoning phase
 Infer the mechanism of the effects of focal variables Predetermined data provides visual support to conceptualize the fragment travel Effect of user-selected variables is determined based on data outcome by users
 Nature of reasoning Practical reasoning focuses on “proof-of-concept” or confirmation Scientific reasoning about variable effects on user selected dependent variable
 Inform new goals for learning Continued reasoning is possible about mechanisms of fragment distribution Continued reasoning is possible about mechanisms of fragment distribution or distance traveled