OpenLab Pioneers!

Now that we’ve begun using the OpenLab in our teaching, we can compile a tip sheet based on what we’ve done well–and what we wish we had done!

Here are a few categories to get us started, but feel free to edit them as you see fit.


Signing up

First assignments

  • As students to do something relatively easy and early  so that the assignment itself doesn’t intimidate them–then they will have mastered the technical skills by the time the assignments get more challenging.
  • If you have your site set to allow anyone to post, you might want to set it to require moderation for the first comment from any user or email address.
  • If you need to moderate a comment, no one can see it until you do! That means that you have to check in frequently if you want students commenting to each other at the beginning of the semester.
  • Only authors can write posts, but anyone can comment (if you choose that setting). That means that someone who can’t get signed in for whatever reason can still comment–this can be helpful at the start of the semester. Transition to posts after an initial registration and troubleshooting period.

Semester-long assignments

Using categories and tags

Tips from “Teaching Introductory Courses Digitally,” presentation at CUNY IT Conference (Dec. 2, 2011)

From Tom Harbison, Baruch/Modern American History:

  • Ask students to include an image with their first post; use these images as the header for the course site on a rotating basis
  • If you have two sections writing to the same site, ask students to comment 2x on posts written by those in their section, 2x by those in the other section
  • Have students revise their posts based on commenters’ suggestions
  • Have a “no repeat” rule: students can’t repeat something already on the blog (this incentivizes early posting)
  • Ask students to assign at least 3 tags to their posts (a useful metacognitive activity, it also facilitates the growth of the tag cloud and students’ sense of ownership over the site)
  • Include assignments that emphasize creating and making: e.g. “micro-monographs” in a history course


From Erica Kaufman, Baruch/Composition:

  • Ask students to generate a lexicon or glossary, and to edit the entries of others – without using a dictionary
  • Adapt the strategy of the dialectical or double-entry journal a course blog: ask students to comment on and pose questions about their peers’ posts
  • Include a digital essay assignment to accompany traditional writing assignment – e.g. ask students to interpret a poem visually