Category Archives: Uncategorized

Chatbots and OLab

Thinking of using a chatbot to improve interactions with students?

Chatbots are getting better. Yes, some of the most powerful are now remarkably good. But what about the chatbot services available to the average educator?

Well, these are steadily improving and we have been testing them out for use with OLab. For more information on what we have found, check out this short article.

As you will see, they are proving to be very beneficial to large and medium-sized companies.But the resources needed to create a good scenario are still a bit beyond the average educator.

Using Chats for spoilers in OLab3

Spoiler Alert

Everyone hates spoilers. But sometimes they have a useful function. We recently came across a very neat way in which they had been used.

This reminded us of our Chats widgets in OLab3, a function that has not seen a lot of use. We created a map here that demonstrates how Chats can be used to selectively reveal spoilers and why you might want to consider them. Use ‘demo‘ to unlock the case.

CURIOS service up and running again

Nice to have some good news in the current Covid outbreak: not a big item but it will help those who are trying to create content for online learning, which is much more needed now.

We have finally managed to fix an annoying bug which was preventing proper use of our CURIOS video mashup service. It is now fully functional again.

For those of you who may have missed it previously, here is more information on how to use the CURIOS video mashup tool.

Servers properly secured again

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 warning about the site being insecure or have 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 Designer launch

Things have been really quiet over the summer but we are now ready to show you our work on the the OLab4 authoring interface.

Check out a series of upcoming posts on which give more information on the OLab4 Designer and other new capabilities.

As before, all the source code will be posted on GitHub.

OLab site updates

We have been changing where we are hosting the 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,, will be the main distribution point for services and projects related to our OLab4 educational research platform.

At, 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.

Porting Medbiq standard virtual scenarios between servers

In past years, there has been a lot of focus on making virtual scenarios and virtual patients portable between systems. No organization wants to put a lot of effort and resources into creating a set of scenarios for their learners, only to find that they cannot be used because the systems cannot play them any more. A huge waste of effort and resources.

Indeed, this problem was the genesis of the Open Educational Repositories (OER) initiatives that we saw a few years ago. We like to think that the Virtual Patients community was ahead of its time in generating things like this eViP repository several years ago:

This project was largely the stimulus for the creation, under the auspices of Medbiquitous (, of the ANSI/Medbiq Virtual Patient standard. ( This standard provided the means by which cases could be ported between servers. For VP players who are compliant with the MVP standard, you can also port virtual scenarios between different systems.

Given that many virtual patient players do not last very long, this portability of cases and being able to take your content to another server or system was a mitigation against the risk that your own system went bust.

We are pleased to note that OpenLabyrinth is now one of the longest lasting systems, over 16 years old, and is also the most compliant with the MVP standard.

As we move onwards to OLab4, we will continue to support the MVP standard as far as possible, although we now note that its format does inhibit the migration of more advanced scenario features and functions.

The WAVES Project, has been exploring this aspect of portability as part of its wide reaching mandate. In particular, they have created a very useful document describing some of the challenges with the MVP standard. Hosted on GitHub, this is a live document that will continue to evolve:

Integration of systems remains a challenge. The impetus now seems to be leaning away from portable content and reusable objects. SCORM was widely heralded but not widely adopted. Now the focus seems to be more on the ability to explore activity streams across a broader range of tools and platforms. This is why, in OLab4 and in the WAVES Project, we are furthering the use of xAPI and the LRS as a common data repository where you can aggregate activity metrics, no matter what educational platform the learner is using.

Turk Talk on MedEdPublish

Michelle Cullen and the faculty members at the University of Calgary School of Nursing have been making great use of Turk Talk for teaching and assessing therapeutic communication. An article has just been published that summarizes the work so far:

Turk Talk: human-machine hybrid virtual scenarios for professional education 

Cullen M, Sharma N, Topps D, Turk Talk: human-machine hybrid virtual scenarios for professional education, MedEdPublish, 2018, 7, [4], 45, doi:

Logical pathways in a Turk Talk map

In the article, they describe how they have been able to scale up this approach, its practical applications and utility, and the potential cost savings compared to using standardized patients.

If you are interested in exploring the Turk Talk approach further, please contact us.