We just released a significant new version of OpenLabyrinth today. Version 3.1 is a significant advance on v3.0.2 and has a number of new features. We have been running 3.1 on our demo servers for several weeks now with no crashes. You can get version 3.1 from:
v3.1 brings quite a few new features:
- Scenarios: a way of grouping cases into a scheduled series of activities. (working towards integrating full scenario-based learning capabilities)
- Forums: an integrated discussion forum, both for use with Scenarios and for other case discussions.
- Rapid Reporting: for group use. You can generate rapid group comparisons of how various sections within a case were tackled. (Most useful when used along with Scenarios)
- OAuth authentication: now you can login using your Google, Facebook etc ID.
- Questions: several improvements to question types: sliders and drag/drop, as well as radio button/check box improvements.
- Free text input: within Questions. You can now include simple rules to process free text with MATCH() etc.
- Rules: several improvements from v3.0.2 about how conditional rules are parsed.
There are a few other fixes. As usual, the documentation is not as up to date but we’re working on it.
For serious use, it is best to have your tech guys set up an OpenLabyrinth server for you.
But many clinical teachers, who just want to try out the software and see what it does, do not have ready access to a tech team who will do this at a moment’s notice.
If you are a Mac user, it is not hard to set up your own OpenLabyrinth server that you can run on Mac OS X, at no cost at all. Download these instructions and simply follow the steps.
We do this using a free application called MAMP, which is also very easy to install.
The instructions show you how to install version 3.0.2 of OpenLabyrinth, our most stable version, which has all the main features of version 3.
For users on other operating systems, it is only a wee bit harder to get OpenLabyrinth running. For example, Windows users can use WAMP and Linux or Android users can use a standard LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP) setup.
This wee server will be empty and have no cases that you can play with. We soon hope to provide you with an annoted list of OpenLabyrinth cases that you can download and import into your wee server.
Today we are pleased to announce that OpenLabyrinth has a powerful new feature. Case authors can now ask users to type in free-text answers, rather than always relying on clicking on a predefined list of choices.
For an example of all the new features provided by OpenLabyrinth QUestions, check out this example case: http://demo.openlabyrinth.ca/renderLabyrinth/index/118
Now what do we mean by this? First of all, we want to stress that this is not full blown natural language processing (NLP). NLP is often asked-for in virtual patient cases but is really hard to implement. The Maryland Virtual Patient, presented at the Medicine Meets Virtual Reality conference in 2009 by Nirenburg et al, was an impressive attempt at this. But it took millions of dollars and years to develop – rather out of reach for most of us.
No, this is text-matching against a set of predefined words or phrases, a much cruder solution. Our apologies to case authors who have to work a lot with such input because it is a nuisance to program in any system. We hope we have made things easier for our authors by providing a more flexible set of rules.
The educational advantage of this approach is that it allows the case author to pick the brains of the learner, asking for suggestions, without prompting or giving away the possible correct answer.
This feature is only currently available on development code. If you want early access to this, contact us through the web site.
We have been running version 3.0.2 for a while now on our development and testing servers. Pretty stable with no data losses. For those sites who have been waiting for the development iterations to settle down to a less hectic pace, now is a pretty good time to install.
There have been a lot of minor tweaks to the underlying code and usability improvements for authors.
The above link is for downloading the latest version from Github, but if you just want to try out some cases for yourself, check out:
You will also notice quite a few Greek language cases on there. A nice testament to the regional flexibility of OpenLabyrinth.
I am a big fan of concept mapping tools and we have made strong use of them in our virtual patient projects. For personal learning, web research and idea integration, I often use a program called Personal Brain (or now ‘The Brain’). www.thebrain.com
This is not a cheap program but I find it very powerful and hugely useful. However, there is a free viewer called WebBrain. I sometimes find this quite a good way of illustrating a number of topics with a complex set of inter-relations.
So, I have created a WebBrain illustrating some of the stuff that is currently going on with OpenLabyrinth. http://webbrain.com/brainpage/brain/FC0EA9E0-95BF-5CF2-3BCE-F95D6FF7886B#-1
It appears a bit confusing at first but the beauty is that you can explore the various connections, seeing how various projects or areas of development are linked to each other. If this proves to be of interest to others in keeping tabs on what we are doing, I’ll update and enrich this concept map to show more about these areas interlink.
We have added some simple means of logging into cases on an OpenLabyrinth server. This means that users can play a wider range of cases without having to mess around with remembering new passwords. They can now login using Facebook, Google, Twitter or several other authentication systems.
This is all done with OAuth, an open-source, open-standard, authentication system. To see this in action, check out our test server at http://demo.openlabyrinth.ca/
For more details on how to set up your own OpenLabyrinth server for OAuth, check out this step-by-step guide in the Support section of this site.
If you don’t already use OpenLabyrinth’s modules for authoring VP cases, this post will not make much sense to you.
We have some new functionality in the Node Grid in the OpenLabyrinth VP authoring tools.
Previously, the list of nodes and their content could only be viewed in ascending order by NodeID number. For a simple case, created in one step, this is fairly natural. But this all breaks down when you have added other new sections to your case, or if you have two authors working on different sections of a case concurrently. Then having nodes in order by NodeID is not helpful at all. It can sometimes be quite hard to find the node you want if you did not grab the NodeID.
The new Node Grid uses a traditional table format. Now you can sort the table by any of the columns. This means that you can put the nodes into alpha sorted order by Title, which is sometimes easier when you are having trouble with finding nodes.
We also have two new features in the sort order that allow you to see nodes that are logically grouped together. Firstly, on the assumption that nodes that are closely collocated on the Visual Editor map, and that a map will generally work from top to bottom and left to right, you can now sort the table on the x or y coordinates of the Visual Editor map.
You can also toggle on/off at the top of the table as to whether to have logical sorting turned on or off. This logical sort works well on linear cases. I suspect it might have trouble interpreting the logical order on a highly branched or complicated map. If logical sort is turned on then the other sort options are not effective.
There is also a global Find and Replace now built into Node Grid. The Find function works well. We still have a glitch or two in the Replace but that should be fixed soon.
Try it out. Let us know what you think.
The Script Concordance approach to testing clinical reasoning was developed in Montreal a number of years ago. (www.cpass.umontreal.ca/sct.html) It is based on the premise that experts follow pre-built mental scripts in solving problems. The testing aspect compares a learner’s performance on a series of decisions to see how concordant they are with the decisions made by a panel of experts.
The approach is well developed with very good evidence behind it but not yet widely used. We are exploring some key factors around this and whether our OpenLabyrinth virtual patients might be adapted to a Script Concordance approach. One of the key points in decision making is that all the choices should be reasonable options. This is in contrast with the classic MCQ style best-of-five where only one choice is right, and the question writer has to create credible distractors that are still not correct. In SCT, all choices are potentially correct.
This aligns nicely with the style that we use in our more effective cases. Create a case where all the branch options are reasonable and realistic. So now we are looking at improving some of the interactive tools available within OpenLabyrinth in order to better support the Script Concordance approach to learning and assessment.
We are part way into a project where the learning designs will be based on SCT. We are also exploring what could be done in extending this approach, afforded by the increased flexibility in how we present data and ask for decisions and rankings.
More on this to come soon.
At the Canadian Conference on Medical Education #ccme13 this weekend, there was lots of interest in what has been happening with OpenLabyrinth v3 over the past few months. Some nice new collaborative activities arose out of this as well.
Just before launch, one of our development teams at Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, added semantic indexing capacity to OLab3, which really opens up the discoverability of case material on an OLab3 VP server. Lazaros and his team have done some really nice work there – more on this shortly. This generated quite a bit of discussion in both technical and clinical author groups. Powerful stuff.
Also some useful discussions with groups who are looking at ways to connect OLab3 with other educational resources such as Moodle. At the moment, it looks like the IMS-LTI approach holds the most promise here. We will be working on a spec to insert the LTI Provider Layer within the OLab3 code base. For those who are less technically inclined, this basically means that we will be able to integrate OLab3 into other educational resources and systems in a much more seamless manner. Gone are the days when a virtual patient engine could be entirely standalone.
OLab3 featured in several workshops and presentations. The new Visual Editor interface was well received by both clinical and technical authors. Nice and easy to use – the concept mapping approach seems to be a nice intuitive approach and provides much more power and flexibility than a simple fill in the blanks linear model.
It is clear that most clinical authors need more in the way of examples and how-to cases in order to move them further towards creating decision branch points in their cases that are truly challenging and thoughtful – this is not a technical issue. It is a faculty development issue around basic teaching/learning principles. More examples coming soon.
So lots of development work to go and lots of ideas coming in. Let us know if there are particular aspects of OLab3 that you would like enhanced or strengthened.
This weekend we are officially launching OpenLabyrinth v3 at the Canadian Conference on Medical Education in Quebec City.
Our main case site is at http://vp.openlabyrinth.ca
For those of you who have been following along with the progress on OpenLabyrinth v3, you will have seen that we have a number of servers already running OLab3 code and cases.
OLab3 is an ongoing open-source project, still under lively development. This is a signficant milestone for us this weekend, but you will see continuing changes to this platform over the coming months as we build in more capacity and useful features.
For a peek at the latest examples of what can be done with beta code, check out http://demo.openlabyrinth.ca
Now is a good time to give us feedback or to put ideas into our heads for wish-list features. Of course, we cannot accommodate all of these but nevertheless, all ideas are welcome, big and small.