Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Instructional Technology

Major Professor

James White, Ph.D

Committee Member

William Keally, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Ferron, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dewey Rundus, Ph.D.


Modulation, Demodulation, Electronics, Quantitative, Qualitative


This study was designed to investigate an alternative to the use of traditional physical laboratory activities in a communication systems course. Specifically, this study examined whether as an alternative, computer simulation is as effective as physical laboratory activities in teaching college-level electronics engineering education students about the concepts of signal transmission, modulation and demodulation. Eighty undergraduate engineering students participated in the study, which was conducted at a southeastern four-year university.

The students were randomly assigned to two groups. The groups were compared on understanding the concepts, remembering the concepts, completion time of the lab experiments and perception toward the laboratory experiments. The physical group’s (n=40) treatment was to conduct laboratory experiments in a physical laboratory. The students in this group used equipment in a controlled electronics laboratory. The Simulation group’s (n=40) treatment was to conduct similar experiments in a PC laboratory. The students in this group used a simulation program in a controlled -PC lab. At the completion of the treatment, scores on a validated conceptual test were collected once after the treatment and again three weeks after the treatment. Attitude surveys and qualitative study were administered at the completion of the treatment.

The findings revealed significant differences, in favor of the simulation group, between the two groups on both the conceptual post-test and the follow-up test. The findings also revealed significant correlation between simulation groups’ attitude toward the simulation program and their post-test scores.

Moreover, there was a significant difference between the two groups on their attitude toward their laboratory experience in favor of the simulation group. In addition, there was significant difference between the two groups on their lab completion time in favor of the simulation group.

At the same time, the qualitative research has uncovered several issues not explored by the quantitative research. It was concluded that incorporating the recommendations acquired from the qualitative research, especially elements of incorporating hardware experience to avoid lack of hands-on skills, into the laboratory pedagogy should help improve students’ experience regardless of the environment in which the laboratory is conducted.