Server security improved

Our various servers, supporting OpenLabyrinth and the OLab education research platform, had some hiccups for a while, which resulted in our support of https and SSL being rather patchy.

Most people will find these days that many web browsers have conniptions about visiting unsecured sites, so many of you were getting dire warnings about the site being insecure or having an invalid security certificate.

I think we have all that fixed now and there should be no more warnings.

Just to reassure you, there was no actual compromise of our sites and the data remains secure.

OLab4 demo at AMEE

Our first launch and demonstration of what the new OLab4 Designer, the authoring interface for scenario development, is taking place today at the AMEE Conference in Vienna.

The main concept mapping tool will be familiar to OpenLabyrinth v3 authors. We have retained its basic useful functions, made it simpler and more accessible.

To take a look at some of the demonstration scenarios that we have created, go to¬† — login as ‘ltopps‘ (that’s with a small L at the front for Learner) and with a password of ‘learner‘ when asked to sign in.

There are just a few simple demo cases to start with. We will build more to demonstrate OLab4’s new capabilities.

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: — 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: — 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: — 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: — 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: for general OLab related documents, files and cases; and 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.