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OpenLabyrinth is a very powerful platform for creating and navigating virtual patient cases. This set of tools is browser-based and most users only need to point their web browser at one of the virtual patient libraries to try out a case. 

Teachers who wish to experiment with creating and editing cases for themselves need access to a site where somebody has set up an OpenLabyrinth server. 

While setting up a server is not that hard for techies, most teachers should just persuade their favourite tech to do this for them. 

Tip: How to insert objects like this "Table of contents" into your page.

What are Virtual Patients?

  • This is not virtual reality with silly 3D headsets and visors etc
  • They are simple screen-based case narratives.
  • The power is in the story - but more like a Choose Your Own Adventure. 
Virtual Patients are presented to teachers and learners via a simple computer screen, often just using your web browser. Their simple interface hides some really powerful underlying game-related logic, which allows teachers and learners to explore some complex concepts in an engaging and fun way that is still very educationally effective. 

How do I find out more about them?

What are Virtual Patients useful for?

  • Virtual patients are a form of simulation that are usually cheap and quick to build
  • They are particularly good for exploring reasoning skills and problem solving
  • They can be simple cases illustrating just one or two key points
  • They can be complex, multi-branching narrative games that can be replayed many times
  • They have powerful built-in metrics allowing for quite detailed, reliable, objective assessment 
  • They can be used to easily bridge to and provide context for other types of simulation
  • They are very good for integrating multiple activities into a cohesive Learning Design or scenario

Using Virtual Patients for Teaching

Using OpenLabyrinth to create your own Virtual Patients can be a bit daunting, if you are trying to do everything on your own. It's time to round up a posse and do this collaboratively. Get your friendly local techie to set up OpenLabyrinth on a local server box. Get your buddy who is a camera buff and local artist to help out, if you're feeling really adventurous - you can include any kind of media in a VP case. But most of all, get together with some clinical colleagues and share some war stories. In our VP workshops, we have frequently been criticized for the noise because our authors have too much fun making these cases. 

What do I need?

  1. Access to an OpenLabyrinth server - see tip above
  2. Some good stories. 
  3. All the rest can be done on a web browser (Firefox and Chrome work best). 

Using Virtual Patients for Assessment

With OpenLabyrinth, as we mentioned above, there are detailed metrics built into the server. Every action that the learner takes, every click, how much time it took, which paths were chosen or repeated - it's all stored for further analysis. Graphing widgets provide you with a visual analysis of some elements. Case authors can include complex branching logic. Counters can be used to measure a variety of parameters such as pulse or blood pressure, which vary depending on how your author has set up the case. We have successfully used OpenLabyrinth to create a number of different assessment formats, including Script Concordance Testing, a very powerful way of assessing problem solving. 

OpenLabyrinth can also be run as a web service. This allows complex connections, with data exchange and control signals passed between virtual patient cases and other simulation devices. For more information on the latest research in this area, consult our Health Services Virtual Organisation web site.  

Project Constraints

OpenLabyrinth is free open-source software. It's amazing what you can get for free... but this is free as in puppy (as compared to free beer or free Nelson Mandela). If you don't pay attention, feed it occasionally, it will whine and pee on your shoes. So it is dependent on the good will of those of in the ever growing community of users around the world. Get stuck in. Contribute. Get your hands dirty. Post your cases to open libraries. Make them available under Creative Commons. Above all, come and have fun with us.