Project Team – Kathy Perkins, Director and Jonathan B Olson, Software Engineer
“PhET provides fun, interactive, research-based simulations of physical phenomena for free. We believe that our research-based approach- incorporating findings from prior research and our own testing- enables students to make connections between real-life phenomena and the underlying science, deepening their understanding and appreciation of the physical world.”
The PhET LRMI implementation project ran from July 2012 – July 2013. PhET currently has 128 simulations which are used over 45 million times per year. Since the site has 36 current website translations, unique metadata is provided on 4608 pages (each translated page has LRMI metadata in that language). The simulations are aimed primarily at K-12 and college use, but are designed to be compatible with any type of education. All simulations are licensed under the GPL, and most are also licensed CC BY.
LRMI is integrated into PhET metadata, so it is detectable by third parties that crawl or search the website. The site also provides Dublin Core, NSDL Dublin Core, IEEE LOM, IMS LODE ILOX, and a custom super-set of this metadata available via OAI-PMH and a REST API. Additionally, various custom exports have been created, usually CSV-based and customized to a particular portal. Metadata is stored in the PhET website’s main database and metadata for third-parties is automatically generated from the database, on demand, in a variety of formats. Since metadata is provided only for simulations, PhET does not store many of the LRMI properties internally in the DB since they are the same for every simulation. However the mapping includes translations (viewing a page on the Korean translation of the website will include Korean terms in the metadata).
PhET has implented the following LRMI properties and types:
- educationalAlignment: yes, includes multiple standards alignments
- educationalUse: yes, “classroom”, “homework” and “solution” for simulations
- interactivityType: yes, “active”
- learningResourceType: yes, “simulation”
- useRightsUrl: yes, can include multiple URLs (many simulations are dual-licensed)
PhET has not implemented:
- timeRequired: no (for inquiry-based simulations, there is no “standard” time required)
- typicalAgeRange: not yet, had previous uncertainty about format
- isBasedonUrl: no, simulations are original works
Currently “educationalAlignment” aligns to the Math Common Core, but the project team is currently working with teachers to create an NGSS alignment, which can be added.
PhET also implements the Schema.org “SoftwareApplication” type which enables them to provide available language information, denote PhET as the publishing and authoring organization, provide thumbnail and screenshot image URLs, denote it as applicationCategory:Educational, provide the “run now” and “download” URLs (url and downloadUrl), the download filesize, version/softwareVersion, description (in the language provided), a list of keywords, and dates created / modified.
During the funded phase of their LRMI implementation project, PhET initially shared their metadata with the Learning Registry, but as the Learning Registry has changed their protocols so frequently the project team has not been able to keep up with their change requests. PhET is currently not listed as Learning Registry contributors, but the team hopes that they will be able start sharing their metadata again once the protocols have settled down.
PhET has no current plans to develop their LRMI implementation further, unless there is additional demand from other organizations. The project team is unsure of how to measure the direct benefits of LRMI implementation but they are pleased that their simulations include LRMI metadata. Other third-party projects have also been pleased that PhET make LRMI metadata available and have pulled that data into their own applications.