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OpenLab Development Updates: November 2019

There were two new features included in the OpenLab November release that are relevant for OER sites.

New Features

  • OpenLab Attributions is a new plugin built by the OpenLab development team that allows anyone to add attributions for Creative Commons licensed content they’re using on an OpenLab site. Each attribution will add a superscript number that links to a reference list at the bottom of a page or post.
  • There’s a new Library widget (in addition to the existing Library Tools) that can be added to the sidebar of any OpenLab site. The Library Subject Guides widget allows you to add links to any of the subject guides created by the City Tech Library.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the OpenLab team.

CUNY Arts Faculty Fellowship

The Office of Library Services, in conjunction with CUNYArts, is offering a new paid opportunity for full-time and part-time faculty. Check out the full call for proposals here: (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xaA4i7ZXrW1mg0mX80d8EG4YFnLLT6Dy/view).

Note: Applications are due by December 2, 2019. A summary of the program is as follows:

Starting Spring 2020, CUNY Arts will sponsor several Fellowships to support the development and dissemination of courses and innovative course projects that engage with a cultural institution in New York City . Those selected for the CUNY Arts OER Fellowship Program will be asked to share their work with CUNY colleagues, exchange ideas and approaches, and get and give feedback through a designated CUNY Arts OER website that will be housed on Academic Works and accessed through OpenEd@CUNY.

With CUNY funding CUNY Arts will augment the Program by creating an OER (Open Educational Resource) component. The OER element will complement CUNY Arts as it currently exists by adding pedagogical resources that will enhance both faculty and students engagement with the CUNY Arts program. CUNY Arts will also consider New York City cultural institutions as OERs as an opportunity to expand pedagogical choices, develop student information literacy, introduce a wider variety of course materials, and underscore interdisciplinarity, a strength of the CUNY system.”

OpenLab Development Updates: June – September 2019

There were a number of new features, themes, and functionality updates on the OpenLab in the June, August, and September releases that are relevant for OER sites.

New Features and Themes

  • Education Pro Theme: This theme is designed for OER sites on the OpenLab, although it can be used for any type of site. It has been customized to improve the design, ensure accessibility, and to include styles that would be useful for an OER.
  • Commons License Widget: Available for use on all OpenLab sites, this widget was built based on the one developed for the CUNY Academic Commons, which allows site admins to choose a Creative Commons license to display in their site’s sidebar. Although all content on the OpenLab is automatically licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license, the widget allows you to display a license more prominently on your own site, or to choose a different license.
  • PDF Embedder Premium Plugin: This plugin was retired due to accessibility and usability issues. It will continue to work on sites where it’s already activated but will no longer be available for activation on new sites.
  • Print this Page: There is now a ‘Print this Page’ button you can add to the bottom of pages and posts, which allows readers to print a nicely-formatted version of the page or post (you can see it in action at the bottom of this post). On a site’s Dashboard, when editing an individual page or post, there’s a checkbox asking if you want to display a ‘Print this Page’ button. If selected, the link will appear on the page or post. You can also enable or disable the button by default on all pages and posts in Dashboard > Settings > Reading. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the OpenLab team.

Open Scholarship in the News

Open Access appeared in the news recently, with an endorsement by the Big Ten Academic Alliance. The Alliance includes ten research Universities, mostly located in the Midwest, as well as New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The statement, collectively authored by the Provosts, characterizes academic publishing as “a price-inelastic market, with little relationship between demand and price,” referencing the rapid and continued inflation in journal subscription prices. The statement affirms the importance of openly accessible research, encouraging institutions to “advance more sustainable modes of funding publishing.”

OER and LGTBQ? A recent article from New America, a “think and action tank,” speculates on the possible benefit of Open Educational Resources (OER) for LGBTQ students. Noting that LGBTQ students are notoriously under served by the educational system (“never taught material that reflects, represents, or validates their identity”), the author concludes that OER could theoretically offer solutions to that problem, by offering high-quality, “queer-inclusive” content.

Given that there is currently very little OER content specifically geared towards queer students/topics in the field, this argument is purely theoretical. Prof. Matt Brim, at the College of Staten Island, challenged his graduate students to seek out such content, with his project Free Queer CUNY. In the absence of openly-licensed Queer Studies materials, his students curated a variety of disparate readings and sources from around the web.

Open Educational Resources in the News

Let’s take a look at the ways OER have emerged in the news lately. 

  • CityTech’s OER Librarian, Cailean Cooney, was featured in a recent article about online learning. Cooney notes that “faculty are generally very sensitive and aware of our student population,” and that the program is structured to support their needs.
  •  Another article from InsideHigherEd posits OER as an “institutional survival strategy, making the pitch that OER is a “win-win.”
  •  The Justice EReader is a new project developed at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, “offering a collection of key texts on the topic of justice, broadly defined, that functions as an intellectual hub for conversations about justice among undergraduate students and their teachers at the college.” As an OER, this project is freely accessible for widespread use.

If you’re still not clear about the dynamics of OER in the classroom, check out our previous blog post reflections by OER Fellows. Also, you can take a look at the OER developed within the Fellowship at CityTech, here.

OpenLab Development Updates: May 2019

Last month, there were no OER-specific OpenLab updates to report, but there were a few that are relevant to OER in the May OpenLab release.

New Features and Updates

  • Course and Project “Type” was added as a heading on the search results page, when you filter Courses or Projects by Type (e.g. FYLC, OER, or Cloneable).
  • Breadcrumb navigation is now included in the default site for new courses, in order to improve navigation on a site’s subpages. Currently breadcrumbs are available with the OpenLab Twenty Sixteen and OpenLab Twenty Thirteen themes, but they will now be included by default on all new course sites, created after the May 15 release.  A few things to note:
    1. If you change from the default theme to anything other than OpenLab Twenty Sixteen and OpenLab Twenty Thirteen, the breadcrumbs will no longer appear.
    2. If you want to keep the default theme but don’t want the breadcrumbs, you can remove them by deactivating the Breadcrumb NavXT plugin in Dashboard > Plugins.
    3. You shouldn’t need to change any of the plugin settings, but if you do, you can find them in Dashboard > Settings > Breadcrumb NavXT.

Bug Fixes

  1. In rare cases where a course was cloned through shared cloning but the original source course was deleted, it appeared in the credits as “Course – “.  Now, if the original course was deleted, nothing appears in the credits line.
  2. For OpenLab members using the new WordPress Block Editor (Gutenberg), you may have noticed that the OpenLab toolbar at the top of your site covered up some of the elements at the top of the Block Editor page. This was fixed so that it no longer overlaps.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the OpenLab team.

Involving Students in OER

Given that Open Educational Resources (OER) are a relatively recent development in higher education, many people are still exploring the ways they can be leveraged towards the goal of increased student engagement.

For the most part, OER are made available online, thereby granting all users access ( (as long as the individual has a working Wi-Fi connection and internet-ready device). But OER are not synonymous with “digital,” since they require the additional consideration of being openly-licensed.

Theoretically, a printed course pack could also qualify as an open resource, if it had been released under an open license. For this reason, identifying the specific advantage of OER (as opposed to digital materials or online learning) can be tricky. A variety of projects are underway to explore this issue.

1) Prof. Matt Brim (College of Staten Island, CUNY) challenged his graduate students to seek out materials that could be integrated into OER, for the field of Queer Studies. The resulting site, Free Queer CUNY, showcases these items and offers student feedback about how they could be used in class.

2) Although created for a high school class, the concept has potential for the college level as well – students were asked to “translate” Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities into 21st century English. Their “translation” is offered as a parallel to the original, providing an interesting comparison for discussion.

Feedback on the Learning Objects assignment from U. of British Columbia

3) A Physics course from the University of British Columbia requires students to create “learning objects.” The concept is that if students interact with the material with the goal of teaching others, it will enrich their own experience.

And finally, here is a list of Open Pedagogy Assignments, compiled into a shared doc by educator Quill West.