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Media and Emerging Technologies to Advance Learning (METAL Lab)

Media and Emerging Technologies to Advance Learning (METAL Lab)

The METAL Lab is dedicated to exploring and developing new and emerging media technologies with a focus on their application to improving learning and interpersonal communication via the internet. In the METAL Lab students build both web-development infrastructure (i.e. reusable frameworks and modules) and projects using that infrastructure. Current projects include work from undergraduates, graduates, and alumni.

Media and Emerging Technologies to Advance Learning (METAL Lab) Projects


Molly is a general purpose server-side development framework designed to simplify the development of complex web sites and apps, while not locking the developer into any particular design paradigm.

Molly has been used to build distance learning tools, virtual communities, electronic health record components, mobile apps, commercial web sites, and even a grid-super computing portal.


MollyPoint is a system built on Molly (implemented as a module) for creating, sharing, and teaching with online web-based lecture slides. MollyPoint can be used in the classroom, or for distance education in it’s video lecture driven mode. Authors create slides using a WYSIWYG and drag & drop interface right in their browser.

Molly Media Server: This project’s aim is to design and develop a multipurpose media server. It would help users consume and share digital media content in a variety of forms and formats allowing a diverse set of users to collaborate across multiple disciplines.

Case Based Learning (CBL)

Case Based Learning  (CBL) (and variations like Problem Based Learning) implements an educational approach based on realistic real-world cases to provide the context for learning. CBL is widely used for teaching in Law, Medicine, Information Technology, Psychology, and other fields where problem solving and understanding the human component is important. Here in the METAL Lab we have developed web-based tools for creating and using online Case Based Learning materials. Chief among these is the Molly web development framework.



We believe that Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are going to be “the next big thing.” Between the disposable Google Cardboard and the pricey Oculus Rift there is still much room for makers to experiment and students to learn the nuts and bolts (both literally and figuratively) of VR/AR. This is a project to develop an inexpensive, customizable VR/AR headset kits appropriate for use in the classroom and beyond. The project’s goals include using off-the-shelf materials, keeping costs low, and supporting the student software and media development of the VR Web Rocks! project.


VR Web Rocks!

Two tag-based authoring systems, A-frame on the client-side, and Molly on the server-side, when used together can dynamically generate web-based Virtual Reality (VR) scenes. A-Frame is a tag-based abstraction layer built on top of WebVR and JavaScript and is used to create virtual reality environments and applications that run in a web browser. Molly is a tag-based abstraction layer on top of PHP and SQL used server-side designed to facilitate construction of web sites and applications. When combined they enable the creation of sophisticated dynamic web-based VR environments. The VR Web Rocks! project is exploring the many creative ideas students can develop VR/AR using these technologies.

Project Galen

Project Galen began in 2011 as a student-developed, open-source, standards-based Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. It was built for touch-screen tablet devices that would access a database server rather than store data on the tablet. Project Galen employed user-centered design techniques that reduced the depth of hierarchical structures that are commonly found in menu-driven EHR systems. We are in the process of repurposing components of that original EHR as Case-Based Learning tools for the healthcare domain.