Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) have the potential to improve undergraduate biology education by involving large numbers of students in research. CUREs can take a variety of forms with different affordances and constraints, complicating the evaluation of design features that might contribute to successful outcomes. In this study, we compared students’ responses to three different research experiences offered within the same course. One of the research experiences involved purely computational work, whereas the other two offerings were bench-based research experiences. We found that students who participated in computer-based research reported at least as much interest in their research projects, a higher sense of achievement, and a higher level of satisfaction with the course compared with students who did bench-based research projects. In open-ended comments, similar proportions of students in each research area expressed some sense of project ownership as contributing positively to their course experiences. Their comments also supported the finding that experiencing a sense of achievement was a predictor of course satisfaction. We conclude that both computer-based and bench-based CUREs can have positive impacts on students’ attitudes. Development of more computer- based CUREs might allow larger numbers of students to benefit from participating in a research experience.
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We thank Jerrius Jubran and Kaitlyn Redford for coding student comments, course instructors and research mentors (Adam Engelhardt, Neal Jahren, Michael Jarcho, Tyler Koep, Elise Morton, Vanessa Pompei, Marc Tye, and Tonya Ward, as well as many graduate and undergraduate TAs) for their contributions to this project, and Robin Wright for support and guidance, as well as the reviewers and other readers of the article for their feedback. This work was supported in part by a National Science Foundation IUSE grant (Integrated Science Education for Discovery in Introductory Biology, proposal no. 1432414), awarded to S.C. and C.K., Department of Biology Teaching and Learning, University of Minnesota.