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The PAS Researcher pack is an open source suite of tools, organized around the SAIL framework (described below), that can be installed by any research group and used as a platform for developing rich, interactive learning materials for students working in classrooms, at home, or in the field.

PAS stands for "Project, Activity, Step", and loosely derives from the previous WISE program, which offered a Web-based learning environment where students performed projects that consisted of a small number of activities (usually between 2 and 8) which in turn consisted of steps. Activities were our way of grouping together, semantically or pedagogically, the steps that would be done by students in a single class period, or in a certain portion of the project. They are basically like folders. Steps are discreet chunks of content, each one having a specific "ontology" or type. There are note-taking steps, online discussion steps, drawing steps, Web-page viewing steps, etc. The project thus consists of an overarching theme, divided into a set of activities, each one consisting of steps. The steps don't necessarily need to be done by students in sequence, but they usually are. WISE (and now PAS Researcher Pack) provides an easy-to-use authoring tool where researchers (usually graduate students) can open each step in "author mode" - and specify its content. For Discussion steps, the authoring tool asks for the topic, as well as some settings for students. For a drawing step, it asks for the background of the drawing, the canvas size, and so on for all the different step types.

There are thus three key elements to the researcher pack:

  • The PAS VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) where students interact with the materials
  • the PAS Authoring environment where researchers or teachers can author new content
  • the PAS Portal, where all students and teachers are registered, and all student data (e.g., drawings, notes, simulation settings, etc) are stored.

These three elements are multi-layered applications that share common code and libraries. In addition, a basic collection of curriculum units will be offered in the form of a project library to offer researchers a core set of content to get started. Much of this content was built during the WISE project and its subsequent center: Technology Enhanced Learning in Science TELS.

What are SAIL and PAS?

The SAIL framework is a Java based open source framework (API) to support the development of E-Learning systems. It has been designed to support distributed learning and authoring, to be adapted for use by many diverse education scenarios, to continuously evolve (rather than becoming obsolete within a few years as many E-Learning projects have done) and to allow content (curriculum and bits of curriculum) to be re-used and revised. The SAIL framework is still under development and is evolving in response to needs and requirements that emerge.

PAS (stands for Project, Activity, Steps) as described above. PAS is the first software framework implemented using SAIL (but very likely, not the last, as we envision many non-PAS type environments to come. This page, Extending SAIL and PRP describes some of this work. It includes an authoring tool for creating curriculum and a learner environment that allows students to work through your curriculum. The key to understanding PAS is to look at WISE first (see below), since the PAS Suite is based on the WISE technique of presenting curriculum, authoring, and serving data to users in a portal method. What we have done, in essence, is rendered the WISE model in a Java framework, and open sourced it so that other researchers could build forward from there. The hope is that such development will lead to an active open source community, supporting researchers as well as their technologists.

Here is a more detailed discussion of the PAS Suite, in terms of its relation to SAIL.

Here is a more detailed discussion of how to get started in SAIL development.


To get started in PAS, you really need to know a bit about WISE. An overview can be found through the WISE flash introduction.

After that sign up for a teacher account on WISE and explore. You can "preview" projects, edit them, and experiment with creating some simple curriculum materials. Refer to the help documentation for using WISE which is available once you are logged in. This help documentation is also useful when working with PAS, since PAS step types are essentially the same as WISE step types.

PAS Portal

The PAS Portal will be a simple portal that will allow Researchers and Teachers to set up PAS offerings and associate students with these offerings. Learn more about the PAS Portal. The PAS portal is currently under development.

In the meantime you can view and run PAS offerings on this website

PAS VLE (Virtual Learning Environment)

PAS VLE is a Java based application that is used to present curriculum to students. Learn more about the PAS VLE

PAS Authoring

PAS Authoring can be achieved via the PAS Author Runtime, an authoring tool that allows researchers to author, edit and extend curnits. Learn more about Pas Authoring.

The Curnit Library

The Curnit library is a collection of curnits that will be available by default as part of the PRP once it is complete. They will be available via the Pas Portal to run in the PAS VLE as well as to author using the Pas Authoring tool.

A Curnit is a SAIL-based curriculum unit which is created by an author is called a curnit (from "curriculum" and "unit" squeezed together). These are some PRP Curnit examples. In technical terms, a curnit is a jar file which contains XML descriptors and varios other files. The curnit.jar file defines the steps and activites for the curriculum unit. The XML descriptors relate to the id's of the steps and activities. See the Curnit archive file format description for technical details.

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