The Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.8

Image Source: Torbakhopper

We released version 1.7.8 of the OpenLab on February 15, which included mostly behind-the-scenes updates.

The only change that will be noticeable to members of our community was another improvement to the WP Grade Comments plugin. Last month we updated the plugin to hide grades by default when viewing a graded post, in case a faculty member is logged into the course site in class or another public setting so as not to accidentally reveal a student grade. The same functionality now applies to comments as well. To view a comment or grade, click the link that says “Show” and the comment or grade will appear.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: HGMT 4989 – Culinary Tourism


This week we’re shining the spotlight on Professor Krondl’s Culinary Tourism course (HGMT 4989). This course facilitates students exploration of the concept of culinary tourism, and highlights its impact on the tourism industry. The first thing you notice about this course site is that it is easily navigable. In the top menu, students and site visitors can quickly find information on assignments and field trips, as well as download a copy of the syllabus. Organization is essential during the first few weeks of class, particularly because it sets up student’s expectations of the class and helps them prepare for successful completion of the course.

 

From the course site, it becomes quickly obvious that Professor Krondl’s course is organized around a series of experiential assignments that get students out exploring the city around them. These assignments are organized around four field trips that take students to different locations across the boroughs of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. These trips are accompanied by brief prompts that ask students to examine the culinary tourism of a particular neighborhood in relation to its historical and contemporary contexts. In the context of these assignments, the course site primarily serves as a place for sharing analytic reflections of their experiences with the class and beyond.

This is a great example of how to use your course site to support your assignments while not limiting them. Here at OpenLab, the objective is not necessarily about what you can do with the technology we’re offering, but how can this technology support you in your pedagogical goals.

For more information and/or to meet with us one on one, attend a workshop or come visit us during an office hour! We also have two upcoming Open Pedagogy events – we hope to see you there!

Image Souce: Marco Derkson

The Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.7

Image source: Alexas Fotos

We released version 1.7.7 of the OpenLab on January 17. The bulk of the release included major updates to WordPress and BuddyPress, the software that powers the OpenLab. These updates will largely be transparent to users, but we did also include a few noticeable changes in the release.

We added CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP) to our list of departments, so that CLIP courses can be correctly categorized, and CLIP students and faculty can add this designation to their profile. You can find it under School: Other > Department: CLIP.

We made two important changes to the WP Grade Comments plugin. One was to hide grades by default when viewing a graded post. This helps avoid accidentally revealing a student’s grade in cases where a faculty member is logged into the course site in class or another public setting. To view the grade, users will now just click a link that says “Show” and the grade will appear. The second was to ensure that faculty receive email notifications if students make a private reply to a private comment or grade.

We also hid a number of plugins that are no longer being updated, including TaskFreak and Featured Content Gallery. We also decided to retire AN Gradebook and continue to look for a better Gradebook plugin.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: The Open Road

Image source: George Hodan

Hello all, happy new year, and welcome back (nearly)! It’s that time of the year again when professors are scrambling to finish composing their classes, finalize assignments and get their course sites up and running on the OpenLab. With this in mind, this week we’d like to, once again, bring your attention to the Open Road, your one-stop-shop for ‘all things OpenLab’. The site houses information about our monthly updates, office hours, detailed information about our upcoming workshops and our weekly blog series, ‘In the Spotlight’.

Here at the OpenLab we are committed to helping you start the semester off right. With this in mind, we are offering numerous workshops in the next couple of weeks. We have workshops for everyone from first- or second-time to more advanced users (our ‘Open Hours’ are most appropriate for the latter) and remember, newly-attending part-time faculty receive a stipend. RSVP today (January / Spring 2017) !

‘In the Spotlight’ is another resource on the Open Road that may be helpful in making sure you are prepared this Spring. ‘In the Spotlight’ is a weekly blog that highlights best practices in site-making and course design here on the OpenLab. Thus, the archive – being full of analytic course reviews – is an important resource for thinking about how your site or course might be structured or what kinds of assignments might be possible when hosted on the OpenLab. In case you didn’t know, ‘In the Spotlight’ also has a participatory feature, ‘People’s Choice’, wherein you have the opportunity to recommend sites to be featured in the weekly series. Check it out and make a recommendation!

We look forward to hearing from you and working with you more closely this semester!

The Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.6

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Image Source: Ingvild Hunsrød

We released version 1.7.6 of the OpenLab on December 14, which included a few behind-the-scenes updates, a few bug fixes, and some web accessibility improvements.

There were a few plugin issues, including one with Gravity Forms causing it to prompt users for a license key when activated for the first time. We also fixed a bug in the plugin WP Post to PDF, which displayed an error when uploading images to posts, and put in another fix for Screencast video embedding.

We also addressed a bug causing a blank screen to display at the end of group creation, and a very obscure issue causing an error when a project profile used a file uploaded to the Files section of the project as an external site.

We made a subtle change to the teal color on the site in a few places, to a teal with a contrast ratio that is accessible. For more information about color contrast, see our help post on accessibility.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: Science Fiction at City Tech

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-1-55-54-pmThis week we’re spotlighting the faculty-run site, “Science Fiction at City Tech”. This site strives to “connect individual and collective efforts that study Science Fiction directly or leverage it to enrich City Tech’s students’ experiences, deepen classroom learning with archival research, and connect City Tech to the networks of science fiction research around the world”. In this way, the site operates as a hub connecting interested parties at City Tech with each other, with other resources at the college, and beyond. This ambition is embedded in the infrastructure of site, which includes information on City Tech courses and faculty members, a growing list of resources, and an active blog that shares updates about science-fiction-related events at City Tech such as the recently held Symposium on Amazing Stories: Inspiration, Learning and Adventure in Science Fiction.  

An important service of the site is to provide a digital presence for The City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which is held in the Archives and Special Collections of the Ursula C. Schwerin Library at City Tech. Gifted to the college by an anonymous science fiction scholar, this collection spans approximately 600 linear feet and contains monographs, anthologies, over 4000 magazines (including nearly full runs of every professional science fiction magazine from 1950 to 2010), scholarly journals and novels. Though the collection is still being processed, the site provides two way for students to see just what the collection contains: a searchable PDF that catalogs the magazine portion of the collection and a shelf-by-shelf photographic inventory. In addition, updates about the progress of the collection – such as a visit from CUNY Graduate Center Digital Initiatives – can be found on the blog. Learn more about the collection from the video below!

 

In the Spotlight: Energy and Environmental Simulation Laboratory

This week we’re spotlighting City Tech’s Energy and Environmental Simulation Laboratory (EESL). EESL is a research group organized by Professor Masato R. Nakamura in the Mechanical Engineering Department at City Tech. Though a research group, this group is open to anyone interested in conducting research on energy, environmental engineering and computing for sustainability. We’re spotlighting EESL’s site this week because of their clear presentation of content. EESL’s site is very easy to follow. Their site cleanly houses information on the group’s goals, work, activities and membership. Each page is organized around images, information, and links that can connect readers to more information. In addition to being easy to follow on its own, the consistency in style across pages helps the reader navigate the site more efficiently, feeling familiar on each page before taking in the content. The significance of this style of site presentation is that it is easily translatable in professional environments. In this way it offers Professor Nakamura and his colleagues a place to send other scholars and researchers if they are interested in learning more about their work. Additionally, it provides students with documentation archived chronologically overtime that speaks to – and shows – the work they’ve completed for the group. In sum, EESL is an example of site that has a strong public, professional face that can be interfaced with by an array of others – who might find the work interesting, might consider joining the group, might be assessing one of the member’s skills in relation to another position. In this way, it is an example that speaks to the reach of what OpenLab can offer its users, beyond their experiences here at City Tech.

In the Spotlight: RoboQuín

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-9-21-22-amThis week we’re spotlighting CityTech’s own “Roboqn”. In addition to being a seemingly futuristic mannequin robot fashion model that can interact with people via Bluetooth and Wifi connectivity, Roboqn is also a larger multidisciplinary project composed around the construction and showcasing of the mannequin robot (hereafter the robot will be referred to as RoboQueen and the project will be referred to as Roboquín). Though supervised by Professor Farrukh Zia of the Computer Engineering Technology department, this project is comprised of professors and students from a range of departments including Architecture, Mechanical Engineering, and Computer Science Technology. In this way, Roboqn is an excellent example of how OpenLab can facilitate cross-disciplinary communication and workflow.

In addition to a description of the project and its members, the group uses their site for two purposes. First, they use the site to showcase ‘the travels’ of RoboQueen – from the 2016 World Marker Faire in Queens to CityTech’s own Annual Open House – and the visitors it has dazzled.

Second, Roboqn’s project site hosts images and information detailing the construction of RoboQueen, and includes links to resources that could be used by another team in the construction of their own ‘RoboQueen’. Beyond the potential for visitors of Roboqn’s site to replicate the designs, this information is emblematic of the kind of transparency OpenLab affords its users.  

Together, these two qualities allude to another important affordance embedded in OpenLab’s infrastructure – the ability to archive information in a centralized, organized and chronological way. Beyond sharing information, archiving is a critical process in project development as it allows one to see where a project has been and envision where it might go in the future. 

In the Spotlight: COMD 2313 — Illustration 1

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-8-46-05-pmThis week we’re highlighting Professor Sara Woolley Gómez’s course, COMD 2313: Illustration 1. Similar to other course sites, Professor Woolley Gómez has basic course information on it (syllabus and course policies). However, based on the other features on her course site, Woolley Gómez seems more inclined to use the site as a place for introducing additional features of the course and sharing student work. “Sketchbook” is such a feature that falls at the intersection of these two ambitions. Sketchbook is a place where students can upload photo essays documenting their process of creation with a particular assignment, activity or concept. In some cases these are supplemented with text-based descriptions that provide further insight into the process. In this way, Sketchbook is a good example of a digital assignment that structures space for meta-cognitive learning practices and growth. Moreover, these are shared publicly with the class and beyond, creating a space for students to think critically about public presentation and audience, and to engage peers in a discussion about learning practices and process. In addition, Woolley Gómez populates student assignment submissions under corresponding labels, creating an opportunity for students to review or engage with other student’s assignments. Lastly, there is a more general discussion page for sharing articles, illustrations and other art that may be of interest to peers. Visit Professor Sara Woolley Gómez’s course page for more!

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.5

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Image Source: Michael Levine-Clark

We released version 1.7.5 of the OpenLab on November 15, which in addition to a few behind-the-scenes tweaks, included some noticeable additions and improvements.

We added two plugins — AN Gradebook and SyntaxHighlighter Evolved. AN Gradebook replaces KB Gradebook, which is no longer being updated. We think it is easier to use than KB Gradebook, and also doesn’t require an external spreadsheet. Syntax Highlighter allows users to easily post and highlight nicely-formatted code on an OpenLab site.

This release also included a number of bug fixes. One addressed a problem preventing screencast.com videos from embedding properly. We also fixed a bug in the WP Pro Quiz plugin that caused the results of quizzes to not appear properly. Finally, there was an issue with the WP Grade Comments plugin that did not allow users to enter a grade of “0”.

As always, contact us with any questions!