Virtual labs versus hands-on labs for teaching and learning computer networking: A comparison study


Shimba, Martin
Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania (

Mahenge, Michael P. J.*
Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania (

Sanga, Camilius A.
Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania (


The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of simulation approach (virtual labs) versus hands on labs approach for teaching and learning computer networking skills in Higher Learning Institutions in Tanzania. The study was conducted at Sokoine University of Agriculture. The theoretical framework which guided this study is Experiential Learning Theory. Experiments were conducted involving configuring Virtual LAN using simulation and hands on Lab approach for teaching and learning. The experiment involved control group and experimental group. In a control group students were taught using Hands on Lab approach while in experiment group students were taught using Simulation approach. In a control group, students were able to configure VLAN and verify or troubleshoot the connection while in the experimental group students configured VLAN with difficulty and failed to verify the connection. From the analysis of data obtained from instructors, it was found that simulation approach is used to a greater extent compared to hands on labs. The reason for this is because of the shortage of tools and hence, instructors rely mostly on the use of simulation approach. Furthermore, students considered both simulation and hands on lab approaches as useful teaching methods to enhance teaching and learning of computer networking skills. Students preferred hands on lab approach to be used over simulation approach due to different reasons including: hands on lab approach enables students to acquire practical or concrete skills and problem solving skills compared to simulation approach. Therefore from the results of this study, hands on lab approach is more effective for imparting practical and problem solving skills, knowledge and competency to students compared to simulation approach.

Keywords: virtual labs; hands-on labs; learning; teaching; computer networking; comparison



*Corresponding Author