OpenLab Tour 1.0

As some of you may know, we presented at the CUNY IT Conference on Friday, November 30, 2012.  In the presentation we showcased a few examples of the excellent work City Tech students, faculty, and staff are doing on the OpenLab.  We thought we’d recap some of that here, taking you on a guided tour of the site, with stops at some of the examples from our presentation.  Please add anything else you think should be highlighted in the comments–we know there’s much more to showcase than what we’ve included here!



The OpenLab homepage offers a dynamic peek into all of the current activity on the site. The courses, projects, clubs, and portfolios that appear on the homepage are constantly refreshed, with the most recently active groups appearing at the top of the page.  We also have an “In the Spotlight” section where we can feature something great that we find on the OpenLab, and a slider where communicate with our community of users.  From here you can access our listings of courses, projects, clubs, and portfolios, as well as My OpenLab (for logged-in OpenLab users) and the Help section.


People: Our Community

We have over 4400 members, including over 4000 students, and are growing daily!  On the People page,  you can search for a specific OpenLab member, browse or search though all OpenLab members, or sort by member type–student, faculty, or staff.


Courses: Extending the Classroom

Courses on the OpenLab offer an open online extension of the classroom-learning environment, offering a space to share and discuss each other’s work.  They can provide a forum for students and faculty to maintain ongoing conversations and collaborate outside of a set course time.  Since they can be open to others outside of the classroom, they have the potential to broaden the conversation and share the great work happening in City Tech courses with a wider audience.

Lisa Brundage – English 2000 – Perspectives in Literature

Lisa Brundage’s Perspectives in Literature course site hosts her course syllabus, course assignments, a place for students to introduce themselves to their fellow classmates, a student-generated reading journal, and a set of interactive primary text readings.  The page that Lisa created for primary texts is layered with additional information, including alternative translations, videos about textual tone and language, photographs from the time period of the texts, and information about authors’ lives.  Lisa’s class carefully mixes the formal and informal aspects of classroom teaching into her OpenLab course site.  Students can find necessary course information here, but they can also contribute more informally to larger discussions about course texts, as well as engage with other students in the class, whether by reading others’ comments or commenting themselves.

Karen Goodlad – Hospitality Management 1101 – Perspectives in Hospitality Management

Karen Goodlad’s Perspectives in Hospitality Management course site is rich with student-generated visual and textual information.  Many of Karen’s course assignments ask students to go outside of the classroom and chronicle or create visual content modeled for the hospitality industry.  Two very exciting assignments here are the Concierge Marketing Assignment featured in the “Concierge Blog” section of this site, as well as the “Experiential Summary and Oral Presentation” assignment.  In the first assignment, students were asked to think of themselves as concierges from boutique hotels and to draft 1 1/2 to 2 minute promotional videos for tourists about the Brooklyn Waterfront.  In the second assignment, students were asked to provide something like the New York Times’ “36 Hours” tourist attractions’ segment aimed at tourists coming to New York City.  Both assignments feature student made video and photography projects and make extensive use of the open online platform provided by the OpenLab.

Jonas Reitz, Math 1575: Calculus II and Math 1275: College Algebra

Jonas Reitz creates very interesting and exciting courses using the OpenLab!  His courses provide continual inspiration for those looking to craft creative, engaging course assignments.  In Jonas’ Calculus II course, he makes effective use of the OpenLab’s facility for combining images and text by asking his students to capture a visual representation of infinity for a “conceptual catalogue” of infinity.  Students are asked to take a photograph of something in the world that represents the concept of infinity for them and then explain why they think that’s the case.  They are given the creative freedom to pick images that speak to them as well as fashion creative explanations of their own photographs.  The class collection is then put up on the OpenLab where Jonas and other students can comment.  Jonas often gives his students the option of receiving extra credit for thoughtful commenting on other students’ posts, and this seems to draw out in a low-stakes way, students who may be shy or less likely to comment in a classroom setting.  If you look through Jonas’ courses, you’ll notice an incredibly high volume of commenting by students—it looks like this approach is working!


Projects: For Research and Service

Projects on the OpenLab can encompass anything including research projects, course projects, official City Tech committees, events, and everything in-between.  In browsing through the projects page on the OpenLab, it’s clear that they cover a diversity of purposes.

Living Lab Second Year Fellows

The Living Lab Second Year Fellows project is a collaborative space for Second Year Fellows participating in the General Education Seminar component of the Title V grant-funded initiative, “A Living Laboratory: Revitalizing General Education for a 21st-Century College of Technology.”  Here, Second Year Fellows use the project profile to create, edit, and comment on collaborative documents and use the Second Year Fellows site to post important information and announcements, post and comment on course assignments, and maintain a working bibliography for the group.

Undergraduate Research Committee

Several committees are using the OpenLab for collaboration and to share their work with the college community. The Undergraduate Research Committee, for example, has a robust site that explains their work, publicizes opportunities to get involved, and provides resources for students and faculty. They are also taking advantage of the OpenLab’s ability to support both private and public conversations: the site is public, but the project profile is private, allowing discussion, file sharing, and document editing to take place among committee members while maintaining a public presence on the OpenLab that all can see.

Literature Roundtable

Users are also turning to the OpenLab to share information about college-wide events. The Literature Roundtable, run by English professor Rebecca Devers, is a yearly roundtable discussion of a short story, play, or novel, this semester featuring Ron Wimberly’s graphic novel Prince of Cats.  The site Rebecca created for the roundtable features information about the event, resources related to the book, and suggestions for assignments faculty might use if they are teaching this novel in their courses.

The Open Road

This project actually wasn’t included in our presentation and we don’t want to be too self-promoting here, but Scott Henkle, one of our community facilitators, does such a great job writing weekly round-ups of OpenLab activity, and also includes plenty of helpful tips and tutorials.  It’s a great way to stay abreast of what’s happening in the OpenLab community, and find out about new tools, or old tools or tricks you never knew existed.


Clubs: Building Communities

The clubs section on the OpenLab includes officially chartered student clubs, but clubs can also be created by more informal groups as a space to share information and interact around a common interest.

Peer-Led Team Learning

The PLTL club’s mission is “to promote and disseminate the Peer-Led Team Learning model by assisting students to succeed in their studies through peer-led workshops, informing faculty of the model, sharing success and opportunities for Peer Leaders, and creating a community of practice among peer leaders.” As Scott noted in his post on the OpenRoad featuring the group, their site does a great job identifying a need, responding to that need, and using the OpenLab to its fullest. While not fancy, the site is much more than just a display of written and visual information, and each of its pages is distinct and useful. It uses a number of tools (such Google forms), and thus offers a number of ways for users to engage with the site creators.  They’re in the process of creating a logo, so hopefully they’ll have an avatar up soon!

Gamma Epsilon Tau

Gamma Epsilon Tau is a national graphic arts honor society, and we’re excited to see them here on the OpenLab.  They have a great site, hosted outside of the OpenLab (which is, not surprising, very well-designed) and are taking advantage of our new feature allowing users to link an external site to an OpenLab course, project, club, or portfolio profile.

Chemistry club

The Chemistry club space on the OpenLab is open to all students and run by its faculty advisor, Diana Samaroo. The Chemistry club site provides a new space where students can post announcements about club talks, meetings, and internship possibilities.  We hope that the club continues to grow and help serve students potentially headed toward medical, dental, or pharmacy school, as well as chemistry-lovers throughout the City Tech community.


Portfolios: Sharing our Work

Jes Bernhardt’s ePortfolio

Jes Bernhardt’s ePortfolio’s is creative, well-structured and designed, and features plenty of great work.  We love her metaphor of teeth as tiny buildings and mouths as tiny cities, and how she ties in the site’s header image and subtitle (building cities of teeth) to this idea.  Jes has created an excellent site to showcase her work that is at the same time professional, personal, and visually beautiful.  It also takes advantage of some of the OpenLab’s tools, like embedded video, images, the text widget, and links.

Muhammad Hasan Ali’s PoemFolio

This is not just a Portfolio but a PoemFolio!  Muhammad is a Mechanical Engineering Technology student  who also happens to be a poet.  While he is taking a Poetry course in the English department this semester, this portfolio was not created for his course.  We think it’s great that he took it upon himself to set up this excellent portfolio showcasing some of his poetry.  It also highlights one of the important aspects of the OpenLab community–that anyone, not just faculty can and should feel that this is their space where they are free to create, share, and collaborate.  Moreover, the OpenLab makes it easy for all users to create a portfolio or project, which we hope will facilitate more of this kind of sharing.

Jenna Spevack and Libby Clarke

Faculty and staff portfolios are new to the OpenLab this semester, and one of our other new features allows users to link an external site to any course, project, club, or portfolio on the OpenLab.  Advertising Design and Graphic Arts professors Jenna Spevack and Libby Clarke have done just that.  Jenna has linked her self-hosted teaching portfolio site, and Libby’s portfolio is attached to her personal website, which includes examples of and links to her work, student work, other projects, writing, and more.



We have a new and improved help section that includes all the main steps involved in created an OpenLab account and profile, and setting up and participating in a course, project, club, or portfolio.  And, we’ve added the ability to look for help topics using tags, so users can see all content grouped together with tags like Profile, Creating, Joining, etc. We have a lot of content already posted, but it’s still a work in progress and we continue to add to and update what’s there.


This concludes our short tour of the OpenLab.  Since we have limited space (and this post is already quite long), there are many great courses, projects, clubs, and portfolios we didn’t include here, but please add a comment with anything you’ve seen or created that you’d like to share.  Thanks!