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The Virtual Physiology of Exercise Laboratory (VPEL) program was created to simulate the test design, data collection, and analysis phases of selected exercise physiology laboratories. The VPEL program consists of four modules: 1) cardiovascular, 2) maximal O2 consumption (VO2max), 3) lactate and ventilatory thresholds, and 4) respiratory exchange ratio. The purpose of this investigation was to compare student learning from the VPEL program with that from traditional "hands-on" exercise physiology laboratory activities. Student participants from the spring 2009 Integrated Fitness Programming course were randomly assigned to either experimental group 1 or group 2. Group 1 completed a hands-on version of a typical VO2max laboratory activity, whereas group 2 completed the VPEL VO2max module. Both groups then completed the same assessment to evaluate their understanding of VO2max laboratory concepts. Group 1 then completed the VPEL lactate and ventilatory threshold module, whereas group 2 completed a hands-on version of that same activity. Both groups then completed the same assessment to evaluate their understanding of lactate and ventilatory threshold laboratory concepts. Mean VO2max assessment scores were 86.39 Â± 4.13 and 85.64 Â± 6.72 and mean lactate and ventilatory threshold assessment scores were 85.50 Â± 8.05 and 86.15 Â± 6.45 for groups 1 and 2, respectively. These findings lend additional support to the following conclusion of similar investigations (2, 4, 6): that virtual laboratories instruct students as effectively as hands-on laboratories.
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