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As a broad field of inquiry, science has many basic principles and intellectual approaches. One of the goals of science education is to teach students a framework based on these principles and approaches that can later be used to solve science-based prob lems. In addition, a specific scientific field is content based. If a student is to have a successful career in science, she/he must master the content of a discipline. The challenge for science educators is to develop educational tools that deliver th e principles but at the same time teach the important content material in a meaningful way.

The development of computer-based courseware can significantly affect how and to what depth principles and content are delivered to the student. For example, it was not that long ago that engineering students would be given the overnight assignment of me asuring the load on a beam. With the development of sophisticated CAD software, the overnight assignment can now be to design an entire room in which all of the load bearing walls meet a specific code requirement. The impact of the software is two-fold. First, the principle of load is taught in relation to the real-world realm of a room or even a building. In addition, content can be delivered at a faster rate because the rate of student learning is not limited by the tools used to solve course-relate d problems. Over an extended period of time, what were once advanced topics will be taught earlier in the studentís education. This evolution will lead to a richer education experience that better prepares students for science careers.

New issues are also affecting the science educatorís choice of tools and methods. The student body is more diverse than ever on any student campus. The demographics of the student body suggest the average age of the student body is older with a greater percentage of the students having to simultaneously support their education by outside employment. The students also have a different motivation toward their education. All of these factors require the educator to search for additional instructional met hods to augment the lecture-laboratory approach to science education.

Computer technology potentially can address some of these concerns. For example, multimedia-based delivery of course materials also offer multiple modes that reach students with different learning styles. Network-based instruction tools can relieve some of the place-bound and time-bound problems our students are experiencing. Finally, actively engaging students with unique visualization tools or role-based educational games or dynamic interfaces that overlay a simulation of a critical principle may mot ivate more students to engage science-based course materials.

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Last update: 5/17/00