OER at City Tech

Category: Announcements (Page 1 of 6)

OpenLab Updates: Summer 2023

There are a number of new features and improvements that have been included in the monthly OpenLab updates over the Spring and Summer 2023 semesters that may be of interest for OER. 

New features

Choose a Template for your Site

When you create a new Course, Project, Club, or Portfolio, the site created uses a template that is appropriate for each type of site. For example, new Course sites come with pre-created pages for Syllabus, Assignments, etc. Now, instead of one template for each type of site, there can be multiple templates for different types of Course, Project, Club, or Portfolio Sites. For example, there are two templates for Course sites: Interactive, intended for use with active student posting and commenting, and Informational, for sites containing course materials, with instructor posts. You can choose the type of site template you want to use when you’re creating your new site. Learn more in OpenLab Help.

Activity Widget & Block

The Activity page that appears on every Course, Project, and Club Profile was introduced in January 2023. It includes all site activity and can be filtered by type (posts, comments, docs, etc). There’s now a version of this activity feed that can be included on a Course, Project, or Club Site. This can be done by adding the OpenLab Activity block to a post or page, or the OpenLab Activity widget to the sidebar or footer of your site. Learn more in OpenLab Help.

Non-active Status for Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios

This new feature allows admins of a Course, Project, Club, or Portfolio to switch it to ‘Not Active’ status if it’s no longer being actively used. This status change means that new members are not able to join or request membership, unless invited by an admin. A notice will be added to the profile and it will display on the last page of My OpenLab > My Courses, Projects, or Clubs. Faculty may wish to set past courses to ‘Not Active’ so that course materials can remain open and available to the community but students won’t be able to join a past course by mistake. Learn more in OpenLab Help.

OpenLab Connections

OpenLab Connections is a new feature that allows you to link related Courses, Projects, or Clubs and share information between them. For instance, members of one course section can follow activity from a connected section without needing to become members of that section (private content will not be shared). Learn more in OpenLab Help.

Embedding for Padlet, Geogebra, and Desmos

Padlets can now be embedded in posts and pages. Instructions are in OpenLab Help.

For math-specific resources, you can now embed Geogebra and Desmos applets by pasting the URL in a post or page.

New Plugins

Broken Link Checker is the new and improved version of WP Broken Link Status Checker. You can use it to scan for and alert you to broken links on your site.

Editoria11y Accessibility Checker checks your posts and pages for accessibility issues, and displays any existing issues with a thorough description of what they are and how you can address them. It is also helpful as a learning tool, providing easy-to-understand information about making your site more accessible. 

GTranslate allows you to use Google Translate to offer versions of your website in different languages, using Google Translate’s automatic translation service. You can add a widget with a dropdown allowing visitors to choose their language. 

Reckoning is an assessment plugin developed for Blogs@Baruch, and built on by the CUNY Academic Commons, that we’ve brought over to the OpenLab. Made for Course Sites, it allows the instructor to view all member posts and comments in one place. It also incorporates grades from WP Grade Comments, and allows you to export all data to CSV. 

WeBWorK Problem Embed is a new mathematics plugin created as part of City Tech’s “Connect the DOTS” grant that allows faculty to embed WeBWorK math problems on an OpenLab site. Students can interact with the problem directly on the site, rather than having to navigate away to the WeBWorK site.

Call for Applicants to the OER Fellowship, AY 23-24

Dear City Tech Faculty,

The Library seeks applicants for the Open Educational Resources (OER) Fellowship. Begun in 2015, this funded program runs in conjunction with the CUNY-wide initiative funded by New York state to “engage faculty in the redesign of courses through the replacement of proprietary textbooks with open educational resources to reduce costs for students, accelerate their progress, and better connect curriculum and pedagogy to student learning outcomes.” Research conducted at City Tech and other institutions shows a correlation between assigning zero-cost OER and positive student outcomes: higher retention and comparable or better grades. 

We invite proposals from faculty new and returning to the OER Fellowship. Projects may be proposed at various stages of progress, such as substantive expansions and/or revisions of existing OER.

Goals for the OER initiative at City Tech:

  • Provide students with long-term access to course learning materials (before, during, and after the course runs).
  • Support active learning and effective online instruction.
  • Help achieve curricular consistency across multiple course sections.
  • Help achieve coherence between sequential courses in programs.
  • Provide instructors with ready to use teaching resources that can assist with flexible teaching/learning modalities.

Considerations for applying to the OER Fellowship

Projects that incorporate active learning methods, take a student-centered approach, and address underrepresented and multidisciplinary subject areas are encouraged. 

Course selection:

We encourage prioritizing OER for courses that are gateway, high enrollment, part of a course sequence, required courses for a major or minor, pathways, etc., interdisciplinary in nature, course curriculum that is underrepresented, or inadequately represented by existing textbooks on the market.

Types of OER projects that may be funded:

  • Zero-cost OER for a course that previously required a paid textbook (this may include first time experimental pilots to assign OER in place of paid course materials).
  • Zero-cost OER for a course with a recommended text that does not require paid materials.
  • Zero-cost OER for supplemental/ancillary teaching and learning materials (e.g., study guides, review modules, lessons, discussion questions, class activities, lecture outlines, writing assignments).
  • Substantive updates to already assigned zero-cost OER (must be openly licensed materials authored by the applicant or another scholar).

Faculty Eligibility and OER Fellowship Requirements


  1. Full-time faculty that coordinate or regularly teach at least one section of a course, and have consulted with course / discipline coordinator and department chair.
  2. Part-time faculty on 1-3 year re-appointments, with the approval of course / discipline coordinator and department chair.


  • Active participation in an intentional community of practice among college peers. Fellows will participate in seven mandatory synchronous zoom meetings held on Fridays throughout the year (3 in fall; 4 in spring).
  • Learning materials created/compiled through this project must be Creative Commons licensed (CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC BY-NC, CC BY-NC-SA), public domain, library digital resources, or freely available to link to without violating copyright
  • Finished projects must be shared publicly via an OpenLab site or other CUNY supported public platform (Pressbooks, Manifold)
  • Project work must be completed during the 2023-2024 academic year. All participants must complete their projects by June 15, 2024. 

Funding Information

Faculty compensation will include project work and faculty development training. Faculty will be paid for participating in 14 hours of professional development meetings (at adjunct hourly NTA rate). In addition to this, faculty stipends for OER projects typically range from $1,300 – $5,000, depending on scope of work, and are also calculated at the average non-teaching adjunct hourly rate.

Apply online by Tuesday, September 12th, 2023. 

Faculty interested in proposing projects that may be outside the scope of this opportunity are encouraged to get in contact with Cailean Cooney promptly to explore whether the OER initiative can support your work this academic year. 

Other questions or things you’d like to discuss? Please get in touch with OER Librarian, Cailean Cooney (ccooney@citytech.cuny.edu) or Interim Chief Librarian, Anne Leonard (aleonard@citytech.cuny.edu). 

Check out our website at Open Educational Resources at City Tech.

View and download a PDF version of this call.

OER Tune-up Workshop: August 2023

This month we conducted a workshop to help faculty tune up their OER course sites on the OpenLab. We reviewed best practices for formatting course materials and your website at large for maximum accessibility. As instructors and students continue to rely on online and hybrid courses, these principles can be very helpful in easing communication with students and providing strong access to course resources. 

Formatting and Design Considerations for Accessibility and Ease of Use with Course Materials

Use Descriptive Hyperlinks

  • Avoid using links that don’t make sense out of context. Instead embed the link in a sentence with text that could stand alone. This will help users locate resources if links no longer work and create a usable list of links with screen readers.

    DO: Please read the City Tech Library’s OER Resource Guide for our next class meeting.
    DON’T: Get the reading for our next class meeting here.

  • Avoid using images as links. Don’t include a URL address as the link text. Screen readers will have a difficult time navigating either of these.

    DON’T: Get the reading for our next class meeting: https://libguides.citytech.cuny.edu/OER/find

  • Links should open in the same tab. Opening links in a new tab can be confusing for those who utilize screen readers or rely on the browser’s back button for navigation.

For more information on descriptive hyperlinks, watch:
Creating Descriptive Hyperlinks (video), by Syracuse University Accessible IT (2019).

Use Headings, Bullets, and Numbering Formatting

  • Use headings to create a logical structure that allows users to better understand where to focus their attention.  It helps people using screen readers to navigate among different sections of the site and helps sighted readers scan a page

  • Use specific Heading styles rather than bold or italics to indicate a heading on your OpenLab site. Bold and italics can be used for emphasis but not for site organization and navigation.

  • Breaking text and media in smaller sections (or “chunks”) makes scanning easier for users and can improve their ability to comprehend and remember information.

  • Keep related items close together and aligned. Use bullet points and numbered lists where appropriate for organization and ease of scanning.

Provide Alt Text for Images

  • Alt text is a short description you write for images that will be read aloud by screen readers and is required for accessibility. Alt text can also be helpful for users on mobile devices or slow internet connections, where the text can be read if images are turned off or not loading.

Create Stable Links to Digital Library Resources

  • Creating permalinks is the best option for providing stable links to students that work on and off-campus.

  • It allows City Tech affiliated users access to copyright protected materials legally, that the Library has licensed.

  • Linking to resources through the library, instead of a saved PDF through BlackBoard, helps the library with collection development and resource retention.

Accessibility tools on the OpenLab for building and maintaining your course site:

Mammoth DocX Converter (plugin)

  • Mammoth is designed to convert .docx documents, such as those created by Microsoft Word, Google Docs and LibreOffice, and convert them to HTML. Mammoth aims to produce simple and clean HTML by using semantic information in the document, retaining the formatting of the original document.

More Resources: WAVE & OpenLab Support 

Check your site’s accessibility compliance easily with the WAVE: Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool. “WAVE is a suite of evaluation tools that helps authors make their web content more accessible to individuals with disabilities. WAVE can identify many accessibility and Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) errors, but also facilitates human evaluation of web content.”

The OpenLab Help Page is also available to help answer any questions you might have about site construction, tools, plug-ins, and more.

Additional accessibility resources at City Tech and CUNY include:

Introduction to Accessibility: Accessible Organization and Layout

  • This section of the Introduction to Accessibility module site, created by Bree Zuckerman of the OpenLab, covers the accessibility concerns for design and formatting in more detail.

The Center for Student Accessibility at City Tech

CUNY – Student Affairs Disability Services

If you have questions about the OpenLab in general, contact the OpenLab team at openlab@citytech.cuny.edu.

If you have further questions about accessibility and OER, please reach out to the OER team at City Tech Library!

Take care,
Cailean Cooney, Assistant Professor, OER Librarian, ccooney@citytech.cuny.edu
Joshua Peach, Adjunct Reference & OER Librarian, jpeach@citytech.cuny.edu
Joanna Thompson, Adjunct OER Librarian, jthompson@citytech.cuny.edu

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