OLab4 Script Objects

In OLab3, for advanced authors, it was possible to make your scenarios quite complex and interactive. By using combinations of Rules, Counters, Timed Popups etc, you could get quite creative.

But it was quirky and limited. Debugging was a real challenge is things did not behave how you wanted. It was possible to embed some Javascript into OLab3 but it was still difficult and risky.

In OLab4, we have taken a quite different approach. We have come up with a way to embed Javascript safely into scoped objects so that they can be reused.

These Script Objects can interact with OLab4’s REST API in much greater detail. This allows advanced authors to be more creative in manipulating how their scenarios work.

We have a few taster examples to show at AMEE. See you there.

OLab4 Scoped Objects

Even in OLab3, it was possible to reuse some of the objects from one scenario to another, to some extent.

We have greatly extended this concept. You can create objects, such as Questions, that can easily be reused across multiple maps. We found that many authors were using objects over and over again. This is not hard with image files and fixed text. But it was not possible with Questions and Counters.

OLab4 changes that. You can set the scope of a Question or a Counter so that it is limited to a single map (like OLab3) or you can share the scope across multiple maps.

Server-level scope means that an object can be shared by any map on the same server.

Global-level scope will allow us to create a central library of objects that any author can use around the world, on any OLab4 server.

The Scoped Object concept is being extended to a number of items in the OLab4 arsenal:

  • Media resources and files
  • Constants (aka Elements in OLab3)
  • Scripts
  • Themes

OLab4 Designer

Yes, it has been quiet over the summer… too quiet.

The good news is that our teams have been beavering away (well, this is Canada) at the authoring interface for OLab4 scenarios. We will be introducing the OLab4 Designer at the AMEE Conference in Vienna.

In the meantime, we hope to release some teasers over the next few days. Watch this space.

An Active Repository for OLab scenarios

For several years, we have been looking at different ways to make OpenLabyrinth scenarios more accessible. We think we have found a solution that meets the needs of both consumers and contributors of scenarios: the OLab Dataverse.

Now at first glance, this looks like Yet Another OER. But we think there are a few things that may help this to be more successful. We are working on ways to make it dead easy for OLab authors to upload their best cases directly to the OLab Dataverse which should help with the tedious task of metadata entry.

Because the materials are given a proper citation and DOI by the DataCite service, it means that the scenario becomes a citable reference that can be added to the authors’ CV and makes it easier for them to get academic credit for publishing their cases.

We have created some short notes on how we currently upload OpenLabyrinth maps to the OLab Dataverse, using a template in the meantime.

The OLab Dataverse is hosted at Scholars Portal on Canadian servers. Using a non-USA based service will help to mitigate some of the concerns raised for some jurisdictions and granting agencies.

When we say ‘Active Repository‘, we also plan to make this process more useful in providing activity metrics, using xAPI and a LRS. At present, we can create simple Guestbooks, which help us to track when the datasets are downloaded. But we feel it is equally important to create some activity metrics around the contributions  by faculty members and teachers. Partly, this will be based on the new xAPI Faculty Profile that we are developing and will incorporate into our OLab uploading mechanisms.

It is time we did a better job of looking at how our contributions to open science are used, appreciated and distributed in the world of Precision Education. We just submitted an article to MedEdPublish on why this is so important.

If you are interested in working with us in exploring how we can make these processes more accessible and more rewarding, please contact us.

Publishing scholarly outputs

The approaches for journal publications of scholarly output from OHMES members are pretty straightforwards. There are a number of open access journals that are quite helpful. We have noted several of these resources on:

Writing Resources & Information Technology Exchange (WRITE) — this is an online web-brain, a dynamically linked set of resources with helpful annotations.

For some materials, such as virtual scenarios and learning objects, it is a little harder to publish the actual materials in a manner that is recognized as officially citable. Here are some suggestions on resources that you might find helpful.

Traditionally, the data repository for such things at UCalgary was DSpace: https://dspace.ucalgary.ca/submit — if you have a UCID, you can still use this, via the PRISM service. But it is now rather clunky and unreliable, and not cleanly maintained. You can edit a lot of the metadata associated with DSpace but it is hard to do so. Not friendly.

More recently, ResearchGate has made such things easier: https://www.researchgate.net/ — this is a free and easy to use service. No cost to create an account. It has some Social Media elements to it. But for the purposes of this note, you can also upload documents, technical reports and other materials. For some of these, you can generate a doi and make the material more easily citable.

For PowerPoint presentations, there are a number of options. The commonest is SlideShare: https://www.slideshare.net/ — this was open but is now owned by LinkedIn and there are questions about the rights that you give up with this service.

For educational objects and datasets, we have recently been exploring Harvard Dataverse: https://dataverse.harvard.edu — this is also free. You can either use the master dataverse that is hosted by Harvard, or you can create your own dataverse for your group. We have created two so far: https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataverse/olab for general OLab related documents, files and cases; and https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataverse/openlabyrinth for materials that are more specific to projects that use OpenLabyrinth v3. This service is quite powerful but is still a little glitchy in use.

CRAWWLA progress

In the past couple of weeks, we have made some significant progress on the CRAWWLA project. This has been helped by some buttressing activities from within other projects at OHMES.

You may remember that a key tenet of the CRAWWLA Project was that of orthogonal data. Based on a concept originally raised here, the principle behind orthogonal data was not falling into the trap of merely making redundant archive copies of your data.

So we have now installed 3 services that help to integrate information across different educational software platforms. We have an instance of Learning Locker in place. This will be set up to accept data from 4 other sources, all looking at integrating information across a bunch of common software apps.

This will also tie into the progress being made by Michelle Cullen from the School of Nursing at the University of Calgary, on integrating different approaches to assessing learners, their communication and problem solving skills, in a professional nursing program.

Testing is ongoing – we should soon be able to make these tweaks publicly available.

OLab changing sites

Hi everyone,

We have been changing where we are hosting the olab.ca services over the next few days. We apologize to those of you who found that some things did not respond while we switched over. Or you may have received a (mildly alarming) message about a bad security certificate. We are gradually fixing all these issues, while continuing to develop our various tools and components in the platform.

The switch is partially complete, and it helps us to open up a bunch of new OLab services. This site, https://olab.ca, will be the main distribution point for services and projects related to our OLab4 educational research platform.

At https://demo.olab.ca/olab, we are running a demo version of our OLab4 virtual scenario platform. The player has been complete for some time and has been shown to be nice and stable. The authoring interface for creating new scenarios is still in progress, I’m sorry to say, but we are now making great progress.

There will be 3 other platforms and 3 other services linked into this. More info as we gradually integrated them.

OLab4 development update

Sigh. Things always take longer than anticipated in software development. We have been caught by the same upgrade traps as many other application developers. So, where are we up to?

The main structures and data architecture for OLab4 remain sound through our testing phases. Because the underlying data schema in OpenLabyrinth v3 is pretty solid and stable, we have not made extensive changes here.

Probably, the biggest change here, which seasoned OLab authors will welcome, is much better ability to reuse existing objects within your cases. In the past with OLab3, it was relatively common practice to reuse of copy items like images or questions or avatars from one map to another. But this often broke the portability of a case.

With OLab4, we have introduced Scoped Objects, which will make such reuse much more rational and extensible. See http://olab.ca/olab4-scoped-objects/ for a better description of how these work.

We have put a lot of effort in making xAPI and Learning Record Store integration into a more integrated component of OLab4. We already have pretty decent xAPI functionality in OLab3 but now is the time to make this more accessible across a range of educational tools and platforms. In learning analytics, activity streams are much more useful than focusing on content aggregation.

Our biggest delays have been in redesigning the authoring interface for OLab4. Experienced OLab users know how powerful and flexible it is. But the creation of scenarios and cases has remained daunting for new users, mostly because our interface is pretty ugly and old-fashioned.

We have been working with the OLab community, and a team of UX designers, to improve the usability of OLab4 for beginning authors. And yet, we also hope that our power users will also find the new authoring approach to be a more efficient and effective use of their time.

CRAWWLA Project update

Competence, Resilience, and Adaptability With and Without Learning Augmentation (CRAWWLA)

This project was slow to get off the ground… apt for its name. Supported by the Taylor Teaching Scholars program, the aim of this project was to explore how teachers and learners adapt to increasing and decreasing availability of various learning augmentations.

The concept of ‘learning augmentation’ tends to focus on information technology but we should remember that there are many other forms of augmentation. So what happens when we lose it?

Do we just ‘lose it’? …as in meltdown, tantrum, go off in a huff etc.

Even the web site for this project, http://crawwla.space, took so long to get up and running that it was no longer useful to engage teachers or learners and we had generally moved on. An interesting example of the ‘Without’!

However, the project has been progressing with all sorts of work behind the scenes. Watch this space for a series of updates over the coming weeks.