Monthly Archives: March 2016

OpenLabyrinth and BIG data

The Ottawa Conference, an international medical education conference held every two years (and only occasionally in Ottawa (2002, 2014…)) has its main focus on educational assessment.

This year, as we noted in a previous post, there has been a lot of interest in Big Data in medical education. Now, before I am laughed out of the house by real big data scientists, I hasten to add that the amounts of data generated by medical education are still tiny compared to those from genomics, protein folding or the ginormous stuff from the Large Hadron Collider.

But size isn’t everything.

There are various V’s attributed to big data – initially three, but growing, and controversial but I won’t get into that digression.

  • Volume
  • Velocity
  • Variety

While our volumes are several orders of magnitude smaller than the big boys, it is the principles that matter. What we have been finding is that these principles are very useful and usable even when applied to personal learning data. Just before the conference, we posted some test pages about Precision Education. This theme came out over and over again at the Ottawa Conference with some fascinating insights that can be generated from such data sources.

If you want a nice, easy to understand overview of some of the key principle of big data, I suggest (again) that you take a look at Kenneth Cukier’s presentation at TED.

OpenLabyrinth has Experience

Just in time for the Ottawa Conference in Perth last week, we were able to demonstrate activity metrics generated by OpenLabyrinth via the ADL Experience (xAPI, a.k.a. TinCan API) to multiple Learning Record Stores (LRSs).

xAPI is really catching on in educational tracking and research. It is a much lighter, more agile approach than SCORM and looks set to replace it. Much has been written about xAPI over the past two years, which I won’t repeat here. Enough to say that it is simple, yet very powerful in what you can do with it.

Now, in OpenLabyrinth, which already has a very detailed and powerful set of internal metrics built into it, we can now extend what can be done with our platform and track learning experiences across many simulation modalities. OpenLabyrinth has already proven to be remarkably effective at integrating learning activities – our ‘conceptual glue’ as we call it. We have written about this many times in the past on how we have used OpenLabyrinth to tie together various activities into a consistent logical pathway or narrative.

Now, we can do this with a wider variety of other tools and yet still track what learners and teachers are actually doing within these learning objects. Sharing of open educational objects is not about the metadata of where they are stored and what learners can do with them; it is about the activity streams of what they actually do… in real life… and real time.

Our dev team at ITRex has done a really nice job of integrating xAPI into our core structures. We are now able to perform a post-hoc analysis in great detail over selected cases, scenarios or date ranges. This can even be done, thanks to OpenLabyrinth’s strong internal metrics, on cases that were written and played long before xAPI existed!

We can also do real-time tracking of activity metrics, send xAPI statements out to the LRS immediately. We have been cautious in implementing this so as not to bog down our poor little servers. But it works… and opens up some really interesting cross-platform communications.

At present, we are sending statements to our GrassBlade LRS and to SCORM Cloud, hosted by Rustici. If others are interested in exploring this with us, contact us via one of the usual methods.

Activity metrics and big data

OpenLabyrinth and the Experience API (xAPI) will be featuring prominently in several sessions at the upcoming Ottawa Conference in Perth, Australia, in a week.


The main focus of the Ottawa Conference is assessment and evaluation in health professional education. As part of this, there are several discussion on activity metrics and big data.

We have been adapting OpenLabyrinth to make better use of the xAPI and combining it with xAPI data from many other sources to get a fuller picture of what our learners do within their learning context.

We will post links to some of the materials generated at this conference during the workshops and PeArLS sessions that relate to activity metrics.

Learning about Procedures

On Wednesday afternoon, we will have a small local workshop on learning about clinical procedures.

This workshop will feature the CURIOS video mashup tool heavily and also some other functions in OpenLabyrinth that we can use for learning about clinical procedures. You can find a short one-page synopsis of the session, along with a bunch of links and resources here.

The course itself is led by Rachel Ellaway, our Director of OHMES, and renowned author on medical education. Rachel was closely involved in our PocketSnips project at NOSM, which led to many of the innovations and discoveries that inform this workshop. Many of the videos from that project can now be viewed on our Clinisnips channel on YouTube.

Precision Education – does one size fit all?

We came across some neat capabilities yesterday, while working on ways to integrate educational tools and functions from multiple different applications. We were able to combine functionality from OpenLabyrinth, WordPress, GrassBlade and some HTML5 applets from, into a neat little cohesive scenario.


Check out this Precision Education page and embedded applets

What may not be all that apparent from that page, because the pieces fit together reasonably seamlessly, is that the various functions shown could not be produced by any one of the educational applications alone. Each application was used in a blended manner but for the learner, is a single experience.

In the background, we are working on being able to track all the activities performed, using the Experience API from ADL, which will send xAPI statements to GrassBlade, our Learning Record Store.