OER at City Tech

Category: Workshops

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

Introduction to Open Educational Resources workshop, September 28th

Introduction to Open Educational Resources

You’re invited to learn more about free and open educational resources (OER) and how they can support instruction and student access to course materials.

Wednesday, September 28

11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Join Zoom Meeting

Please RSVP to:  jpeach@citytech.cuny.edu

Participants are encouraged to bring questions; no level of familiarity with O.E.R. is required. Workshops will be conducted remotely over Zoom.

This workshop will provide an introduction to Open Educational Resources (OER) and related topics such copyright, Creative Commons licensing, Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC), and where to find free and open materials in your discipline.

Part-time faculty who participate will be compensated at their hourly non-teaching adjunct rate for attending.

Any questions? Please contact Joshua Peach at jpeach@citytech.cuny.edu

Publishing with Manifold and Pressbooks at CUNY

On Wednesday January 26th, we heard presentations from our CUNY Libraries colleagues Robin Miller and Andrew McKinney on the digital publishing platforms Manifold and Pressbooks, respectively. Andy was joined by GSLIS fellows Elizabeth Arestyl and Rachel Nevins, who have been working together with Andy to help bring Pressbooks to CUNY.


Robin started us off discussing Manifold, an online publishing platform that got its start in 2012, developed at the CUNY Graduate Center, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota Press and Cast Iron Coding.

It is a place to publish open electronic books, and soon journals, at CUNY.

Manifold can be used for:

  • Textbooks
  • Monographs
  • Student projects
    • Undergraduate work
    • Essay anthologies
  • Personal projects
  • Workbooks, manuals, and guides

Though it is not an editing platform, it’s possible to bring in many different types of resources to augment your Manifold book, such as:

  • Interactive Media
  • Data Visualizations
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Powerpoint presentations
  • Excel spreadsheets
  • PDFs

Manifold is also a responsive platform (as is the OpenLab), built for students, with accessibility in mind.

  • It is adaptable for phone, tablet, and laptop. Everything can be done on any of these devices.
  • Can be used with adaptive technologies

Projects on Manifold can be downloaded for offline use in the following formats:

  • EPUB
  • PDF

Many great projects on Manifold at CUNY include:


Register for an account: Anyone with a CUNY affiliation can create projects on Manifold that can be shared around the world. You can collaborate with colleagues at other institutions and publish on Manifold, as long as one creator is connected to CUNY.

Robin Miller is available by email at rmiller2@gc.cuny.edu to set up meetings to discuss Manifold, answer questions, and work through ideas. She can also be available for presentations, workshops, and tutorials on Manifold.


Next, we heard from the Pressbooks team which included Andrew McKinney, OER Coordinator at CUNY Office of Library Services, and Elizabeth Arestyl and Rachel Nevins, GSLIS fellows from Queens College. They introduced us to a new digital authoring and publishing platform at CUNY, Pressbooks, built on the popular WordPress platform.

As they are just getting started, the first publication for CUNY Pressbooks will be a how-to user guide for Pressbooks. Pressbooks, as a platform, spans a wide variety of resources across 112 networks. You can find open textbooks outside CUNY at the Pressbooks directory.

Pressbooks users can create a book, starting from scratch or importing an existing book. You can also clone a book from the Pressbooks network, to edit and customize to your teaching context. Editing and navigation of book content is through the WordPress editor and dashboard, so it will be familiar to those of you that have used the platform before. Two people can work on a book simultaneously, as long as it is not the same section.

Tools available on Pressbooks include:

  • H5P
    • Create interactive content such as quizzes and data visualizations

  • MathJax
    • Create and display mathematical equations within your text
    • Supports LaTeX, AsciiMath, and MathML
    • Use shortcodes to define LaTeX in the visual and text editors. MathJax does the rest.

  • Hypothes.is
    • An annotation tool for your textbook. Allows for instructors and students to include notes and highlights within a textbooks
    • Integrated into Pressbooks
    • Any users with Pressbooks account can add annotations
    • Annotations can be available for whole book or just parts of books
    • Can create private groups for just your class/students for annotations

Pressbooks can support LTI

  • There is an ability to have your Pressbooks book available on BlackBoard, though that functionality is not available yet
  • There is also a pilot for H5P tools to assess and push grading into BlackBoard


Register for an account: Email Andy at andrew.mckinney@cuny.edu to create an account.

The Pressbooks User Guide is quite robust and can provide self-directed assistance.

If there are plug-ins that you need for your book that are not currently available, contact Andy McKinney who will discuss the possibility with PressBooks.