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There are several advantages to the interactive online modeling environment for educational use:
  • The online models are ready to use and there are no download, installation, or external disks to worry about.
  • The models are usually very easy to use and there is very little time required by students to learn how to use the modeling tools (unlike Excel or Stella activities).
  • Since online models are so easy to use, students focus on understanding model behavior not on the details of getting the model to work. This is great for students in introductory courses with limited time and possibly limited quantitative abilities. This can easily be seen as a weakness for more advanced courses where students can benefit from learning the nuts and bolts of creating models from scratch. However, even for such courses, an interactive online modeling environment might be one of the initial steps in helping students build their own models. After developing a conceptual understanding of a system with an online model students could then use something like Stella II, or some more traditional programming language like Visual Basic, FORTRAN, or C to build a model of their own.
  • In most cases an interactive online modeling environment can be used on any platform. This allows students to access and use models from many locations with little technical effort.
  • Images, animations and dynamic graphs can be used before students interactively work with the model to help them develop a conceptual understanding of the physical system being investigated.
  • Images, animations and dynamic graphs can be used after students interactively work with the model to help them better understand model behavior and model sensitivity to variations in model parameters.
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