Copyright, Fair Dealing and how best to include materials in your cases

Finally, after many years, we have some clarity in Canada about how we as educators can make fair and appropriate use of materials that we find on the Web for our learners.

Many educators have blithely relied on “Fair Use” (the USA term, more accurately known as “Fair Dealing” in Canada) as an excuse to copy parts of materials for educational use. The original Fair Dealing provision was designed for paper copies and it was only in 2012 that the Supreme Court of Canada finally made a ruling on Fair Dealing as it pertains to electronic materials, and parliament finally amended the Copyright Act in 2013. And it’s a pretty good one.

Now, fair warning: I am not a lawyer and this is not an official legal opinion. The comments that follow are based on writings in this area and consultations with colleagues. If you want an official ruling, fire up your own lawyers.

(… read more…) - this covers the several ways that you can include images in your cases.

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More on creating your own local help files

We created a few more notes on how to create your own localizable version of help files for your OpenLabyrinth cases. See…

This gives you the full skinny on how to do this.

This page is also an early example of where we are going with support, help and user guides for OpenLabyrinth. We have set up an Atlassian Confluence server, which will make it much easier for our support team to collaborate on keeping our documentation up to date. More on this soon.

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Improved online help for OpenLabyrinth

We have introduced a simple but flexible online help system for using along with your OpenLabyrinth cases.

Building upon the work that we did before,  we are now delighted to find that the new version is much easier to work with.

Check out this example case, showing all sorts of different ways to provide help and other information within an OpenLabyrinth case:

In particular, take a look at this page:

This makes it very easy to incorporate into established OpenLabyrinth servers. But it also means that case authors can easily adapt it to create help files that are specific to their own cases.

The new approach makes it quite easy now to have …

1. authors can easily make custom help pages for their own cases

2. users can now edit the page and download it to save their changes. Note that these user-created annotations are not saved on the original file on the OpenLabyrinth server, so the case author’s carefully crafted help file is not affected.

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SharcFM vp cases for medical students

SharcFM is a collaborative project, supported by the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC),, around shared curriculum and learning objects for Family Medicine.

SharcFM was launched a couple of years ago and is steered by the CUFMED group (family medicine clerkship directors across the country) to bring together a number of shared objects, cases and clinical cards. OpenLabyrinth, as an open-source, open-standards platform, has provided one of the tools by which such content is shared.

We received some funding a few months ago to bring the collection of virtual patient cases up to full speed. Based on the learning objectives specified by the CUFMED group, (, our small group of clinical authors have been busily assembling cases, instructor guides and ancillary materials to support this project.

Watch this space next month when we announce the full list of SharcFM cases.

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Why don’t we have an app for that?

We have been asked quite a few times whether we are considering doing an app for OpenLabyrinth. The short answer? Not at the moment.

We have focused on ‘responsive design‘ in our OpenLabyrinth interface when cases are being played. This means that the material on the screen scales quite well to the screen size so it is usable on phones, tablets or big screens. For an example of this, check out the

Street Drug Guide

that we developed for AFMC and Norlien. This case has been tuned for mobile use but we would love to have suggestions on how to make it more useful and portable.

So why no app? Well, funding is one thing – if there is a group that is keen to fund this or to take it on, OpenLabyrinth is an open-source application so anybody can have a go at this.

But more importantly, we wonder how much benefit there is to doing this. A simple app would lose all the background power (metrics, tracking, conditional logic) that the OpenLabyrinth server provides. You would still get linked pages but is that enough?

There are a number of sites that do offer app conversion and other reasons for/against doing so e.g.

If you do have ideas on how mobile can be explored further, we would love to hear from you.

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Password protected nodes in OpenLabyrinth

You can use simple passwords in your OpenLabyrinth cases to restrict access to parts of your case, using a hidden node.

This is a bit fiddly to do at present, primarily for advanced authors. (To be refined.)

1. In your case map, using Visual Editor, create a new node that is not linked to any other. Once you have updated the master map, make a note of the Node ID number for this hidden node.

2. Create a single-line QUestion in the case, in the usual fashion.

3. Within the Rules for that QUestion, you will use a basic syntax something like this…

IF MATCH([[QU_ANSWER]], ‘password’) THEN GOTO [[NODE:12758]], BREAK;
IF NOT-MATCH([[QU_ANSWER]], ‘password‘) THEN GOTO [[NODE:12759]], BREAK;

The first line says to go to Node 12757 if the answer is blank. The second line says to go to Node 12758 if there is a successful match (but you wouldn’t use something as obvious as “password”, would you? (Yes, I know that millions do!)). The third line tells OLab what to do if there is no match for what has been entered.

Using this approach, the author can control where in the case the User ends up, depending on what they answer. This same approach was originally designed for basic interpretation of free-text entries. But several authors have found this useful for providing password-only access to their Instructor Guides (see previous post).

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Instructor Guides for cases

To facilitate sharing of cases between schools, it is helpful if there is an Instructor Guide (not same as the User Guide for OpenLabyrinth) for each case. This gives some tips to teachers about how best to use the case, special features, learning objectives etc.

At the moment, there is not a common repository for these. When cases are fully published, the Instructor Guides will be available via MedEdPortal. (MedEdPortal requires an Instructor Guide as part of the submission.)

Until recently, we had no particular place to put ‘em in a case either. So they only were sent along with a case, if the author remembered.

I am now pleased to say that we can now embed them directly into the case:

  1. Upload the guide into the Files section for the case.
  2. In the case Details, near the bottom, in a poorly named section called ‘Labyrinth verification’, you will see the last button says ‘Instructor guide complete’.
  3. When you click on [Yes], it then provides a drop-own list of stuff from that case’s Files section. Simply point to the guide.
  4. [Save changes] blue button at bottom.

Now your Instructor Guide can be moved along with the case when you Export it.

Some sites might be concerned that this is ‘giving away the answers’ along with the test. Taking the above approach does not immediately make the Instructor Guide available to learners; only to authors. You have to embed a link to the Instructor Guide in one of the Nodes if you want learners to see it.

Some of our authors have taken a neat approach where they hide the Instructor Guide in a node behind a password. Then they can control who gets to see the Instructor Guide, without providing author access to the case.

We’ll cover how to use password-protected Nodes in another issue in the blog.

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User Guide updated

There have been so many changes to OLab3. And, as usual, the documentation is woefully behind.

So I am very grateful to some authors from our SharcTOOTH project who have spent many hours in updating and reorganizing the User Guide.

The official guide for v3.1 of OpenLabyrinth is available from

This is always a work in progress – we aim to migrate it from its current state as a MS Word docx file to a wiki, using Atlassian Confluence. This will make it much easier to multiple authors to keep the guide updated, without worrying about version control etc.

While the guide is still being actively updated, the best place to grab the most recent (cluttered) version from is my Dropbox account:

If anybody has expertise with Confluence and would like to help us migrate this behemoth of a document, I’d love to hear from them. Email us at

info AT openlabyrinth DOT ca

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OpenLabyrinth v3.1.1 released today

The dev team has created a whole bunch of small improvements in v3.1.1

These improvements are particularly useful for advanced developers and teams.

As usual with a new release, there are likely also some glitches, so if you are using OLab in a production environment where stability is paramount, we suggest that you stick to v3.1 for the moment.

For those who want it, v3.1.1 can be downloaded from Github at

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More improvements for collaborative or team authoring

The dev team have done a wonderful job in placing some safeguards that help prevent team members from overwriting each others’ work.

Increasingly, we find that great cases are a team effort. But not many virtual patient authoring platforms out there support team authoring. The collaborative touches that we mentioned in January have been improved.

But the big thing is that there is now a check-out mechanism in place. When one author starts editing in a case, other authors are prevented from working in conflicting areas. Some of the editing modules like the Visual Editor open the entire labyrinth at once. So, when such a tool is in use, many other dev tools are locked for that case by OLab.

But when an author is working with a tool that is more focused, such as the Node Editor, only that node in that case is locked. So two authors can be working in two separate areas of the case concurrently.

This is not completely bullet-proof. There is only so much that is feasible in a browser environment, given the funds that we have. But it generally works pretty well and has saved my bacon several times now over the past couple of weeks while we had a team working on some competition cases.

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