Best Practices

Working with Courses

If you’re a faculty member, you might be wondering what practices might help organize your OpenLab course(s) to make semester-transition easier.  A few you might think about before the semester starts, others at the end.

Before the semester

Naming Courses

Choosing a name and URL for your course is critical part of organizing your OpenLab experience, particularly if you’re teaching multiple sections of the same course or teaching the same course semester after semester.  If you’ve not clearly distinguished your courses, things can get pretty cumbersome after a short time (imagine several years of the teaching multiple sections of the same “econ 101” course).

Everyone has their own solution for this, but we think specificity is a good practice, and recommend the following URL format:   FacultyLastNameCourseCodeSemYear (smithadv1100sp2012).  And if you’re teaching multiple sections of the same course, you can add the section number.  It might make might make for a long URL, but it makes organization easier.

Using the same site in multiple sections, or for multiple semesters

Another thing to think about is using one course/site as a central “hub” for multiple semesters or courses in a single semester. We have professors on the OpenLab successfully using this model: for example, one of our professors has a class site where she keeps readings and resources for her class, but no student writes or adds material there. Instead, students create their own projects and sites for their own work. As a professor, you then can either simply visit each student’s site, or you can create a list of links to all those student pages in the sidebar of your site (we’re happy to show you how to do this). Whatever your solution, set up this way “your” site can potentially be reused from course to course.

Or you could simply add students to a single course over time.  This can be particularly successful if you have the sort of course in which students can contribute to an ever growing resource or resources (an encyclopedia, for example).

If you’re interested in setting up this sort of structure, email us anytime for advice and assistance.

When the semester is done or Beginning a new semester

Copying (“cloning”) Courses

Our system makes it incredibly easy to “clone” a course, bringing all documents and most settings to a new and uniquely named site and profile.  Cloning a course is particularly useful for setting up multiple sections of the same course in a new semester.  You’ll find cloning is now integrated into the OpenLab’s course creation.  You can learn more about it here.

If you want to copy only certain parts of a course site, however, or to copy material created only by certain users (yourself, for example), you might want to use the import/export function on our sites.  You can learn more about that here.  Do note that the import/export function only copies course sites:  if most of your course material is on your profile page, you probably are better off using the clone feature.


You may be tempted to simply “clean out” a class site by deleting all the student work and starting fresh. Or you might not want incoming students to see “what happens” in your course, and be similarly tempted.

OpenLab work by the students belongs to the students, and we have promised them access to it for the remainder of their college career (and even beyond). After all, they might very well build on that work in later courses, or it may be used to show a potential employer (or even a proud parent), what they can do.   For that reason, we ask for your cooperation in not deleting student work from the OpenLab.

We do, however, have solutions.  Cloning or importing non-student parts of a course is one solution. Or privacy settings can be set so only students who were members of the old versions of a course can access it after it ends. We’d love to discuss other options with you.  Email us anytime at

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