This Month on the OpenLab: December Release

Image Credit: Kev Wheeler

December 2018

Version 1.7.76 of the OpenLab was released on December 17. This release was small, but did include some important new features and a bug fix.

Features

We added the ability to disable and enable Discussion, Docs, and Files on the profile page of any Course, Project, or Club. If you don’t use any of these tools you can now disable them, and they can always be enabled again if you decide to use them. By default these tools are enabled for new Courses, Projects, and Clubs, but they can be disabled in Profile > Settings > Settings, in the Discussion, Docs, and Files Settings section.

Two additional improvements to the Anthologize plugin were also included in this release. When editing a project, you are now able to view more details about each page and post, including categories, tags, and author, as you’re choosing them to add to a project. In addition, when exporting a project to save as a pdf or other file type, the author is now generated automatically from all post and page authors included in that project.

Bug Fix

We fixed a printing-related issue causing the OpenLab footer to overlap with content on a page or post when printing from an OpenLab site.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

Holiday Greetings from the OpenLab!

Image Source: geralt

Greetings from the OpenLab and congratulations to all on the closing of another successful semester!

While our weekly “Spotlight” blog series will go on hiatus until the Spring semester, we wanted to remind you of the sites we featured this past semester and encourage you to check them out if you haven’t already done so.

Courses

Projects

Clubs

Portfolios

We also had a few special posts to make you aware of new developments:

In addition to reviewing these posts from this past semester, you can find a full curated list of all sites that have been spotlighted in our Spotlight Archive. This archive offers visitors 3 curated lists to help them sort through the posts:

  1. For everyone (By type of site – course, project, club, portfolio)
  2. For faculty/staff
  3. For students

As always, we also encourage you to check out our in-house sites:

The OpenLab Community Team will continue to offer email support over the winter session – please contact us with questions or concerns.

We are also beginning to post our spring programming.

January workshops for Faculty/Staff have been posted – view the schedule and RSVP on the Open Road! We will be in touch as we get more events and workshops on our calendar.

Wishing you all a very happy holiday season!

The OpenLab Community Team

In the Spotlight: Girls Who Code

This week we’re spotlighting the Girls Who Code club. Girls Who Code is a FREE after-school program for 6-12 grade girls and female college freshman. The aims of the club are to empower women by building technical skills, knowledge, and confidence, while also growing community among those with interest in tech. In supporting young women in this way, the club aims to counter stereotypes about who is and can be a programmer, and to help close the gender gap in tech. City Tech’s Girls Who Code club brings this initiative to the City Tech community – bringing together young females who want to explore coding in a fun, friendly, and community-based way. Through joining the club, members are supported in their learning of different coding platforms but also, though the community-building aspect, club leaders help members become confident in everything they do!

Curious to learn more? You can view the curriculum you would work through when you join Girls Who Code. As you’ll notice, the club meets members where they are – beginner, intermediate, and advanced – meaning your curiosity and interest in tech is enough to join this growing group!

Also, one of the faculty facilitators, Professor Ayesha Javed, has begun a “Blog of the Day” blog series that would be of interest to anyone with an interest in tech, and/or an interest in joining the club. Professor Javed covers various topics related to coding and programming, including “5 Reasons Why Learning Coding in Important”, “Why Choose Python as your Programming Language?”, “10 Famous Websites Built with Python” and “The Advantages of using Scratch as your language!”. Moreover, her posts include spotlights on women in tech, including Tarah Wheeler, Ada LoveLace (one of the first computer programmers in the mid 1800s!), and Bissan Al-Lazikani.

Curious still? On their website, you can find a list of their student and faculty leaders, and contact information. Reach out to learn more and get involved!

In the Spotlight: Clubs on the OpenLab

Black and white image of intersecting metal staircases.
Image Source: bogitw

There are many ways the OpenLab can support the diversity of work carried out by the City Tech Community. Hosting a club site on the OpenLab is one way. This year 13 new clubs joined the OpenLab and nearly half of those joined this semester – so this week let’s take a moment to consider how hosting your club site on the OpenLab can support your club’s activities and membership.

Through a workshop with the Club Council in Fall 2017, we learned that many clubs already have an established digital presence. Whether sharing information on Facebook or Twitter, or videos and pictures on Instagram, Club leaders at City Tech have experimented with using different digital platforms to reach out to members and promote the work of the club more broadly. GREAT! Depending on your goals for using these platforms, using mainstream social media accounts may perfectly meet the needs of your club. However, because there are important differences between social media platforms and the OpenLab, and because contrasts better highlight their unique and complementary features, the first three points for discussion compare the OpenLab with social media platforms.

City Tech’s Digital Community

When you publish content on a social media platform, the content is shared with the world, but generally speaking, those who follow your platform receive the content. To the extent that this content is then shared by your followers, it then reaches a broader but indeterminate audience. When you publish content on the OpenLab, it can also be shared with the world (if your privacy settings are set to “public”), but it is also shared with a determinate audience – the 27,000+ members of City Tech’s community who are also members of the OpenLab. When groups like clubs make new posts or comments on their sites, it shows up at the top of the “Clubs” section on the homepage and in the activity feed. We also may choose to “Spotlight” it in our weekly blog series. Each of these mechanisms gives your club greater exposure within the City Tech community – or within the community of people eligible to become members of your club and support, carry-out and grow the already amazing work you are doing.

Content Control

When you post on social media sites, your (club’s) content is copyrighted, but legal rights to use and repurpose your content are also extended to the platforms on which you are posting. This means that Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter can reuse and sub-license your content out, and profit off of it, without you being aware or compensated. When you share content on the OpenLab, you retain all rights to that content, and none of your content can be repurposed for someone else’s profit, and all content must be attributed to the original author. You  may also change the licensure on the content you post to meet your specific needs. More information here.

Static vs. Dynamic Content

When representing the work of your club on a digital platform, there is likely static and dynamic content you want to share. Static content is content that doesn’t change too often – maybe its updated each semester or each year. Static content might include the mission of your club, any recurring events you may host or participate in, when and where your meetings are held, who your club leaders are, resources that may be of interest to your members or future members, contact information and more. Dynamic content is content that is timely and current – maybe you have an upcoming event that you want to remind people about or opportunity that you are recruiting participation in. This is content that becomes outdated and no longer relevant to the work of the club.

Social media accounts are great for pushing out new and dynamic content, but often times there is limited space for housing static content, and groups link out to a stand-alone website that houses their static content. This is an approach you may want to consider, especially if your dynamic content is work your club has produced that you want to share with the world. The OpenLab has technical options for housing static and dynamic content. For static content, use pages and add them to your main- or side- menu. For dynamic content, create posts that will auto-populate your blogroll in reverse chronological order (the latest news at the top).

Ultimately which platform(s) your use, and how you may or may not integrate them (using a Facebook page and an OpenLab site, for example) depends on what content you want to share, and who your audience is. It may be that you use the static and dynamic content features of the OpenLab, AND a social media site – which would let you share certain content with the City Tech community specifically, and released more freely out into the world.

A One-Stop-Shop

Beyond housing public-facing static and dynamic content, the OpenLab allows for file sharing, collaborative drafting, discussion, and hosting a shared calendar on its group profile pages. These can be useful for a group’s internal organization, and is moreover useful because the site is easily accessible from this same digital space. This makes your club’s OpenLab account a one-stop-shop for all internal documents and public-facing content. Keeping things centralized and in one location makes it easier to find things, and can make onboarding new group members easier and efficient.

Recertify with Ease

Each year clubs at City Tech need to submit documentation to recertify their clubs, which allows them receive funding and more. As of Fall 2017, clubs are allowed to use their OpenLab sites in this process, making this process simple and easy!

Looking for Examples

If you want to see how other clubs have used the OpenLab to support their activities you can:

In the Spotlight: Black Theatre (AFR 1321)

This week we’re spotlighting Professor Foster-McKelvia’s AFR 1321 Black Theatre course, an introduction to African American dramatic literature that “explores the complex ways in which the black experience is constructed and presented by playwrights”, and offers one entry point for understanding the African American experience more broadly. Exploring this course site would be of interest to faculty looking for examples of how to organize course sites, as well as for students who may be interested in taking this course in the future.

For students, the clean structure of the site is helpful in knowing what you can expect of the course, and what the expectations, requirements, and opportunities of the course are. For starters, read through the course overview and prerequisites, download a pdf of the syllabus, and review the response papers.

For faculty, the organization of the content on the site offers useful insights for thinking about how to use the OpenLab to support your coursework. Professor Foster-McKelvia strategically uses a mix of static pages and categorized posts to organize content in an easy-to-navigate way.

Static pages like the Course Overview and Prerequisites, Syllabus, Theatre Termonology and Student Resources are pages specifically created by Professor Foster-McKelvia and contain content that she wants to communicate to students that for the most part will not change over the course of the semester.

In contrast, Announcements, Assignments, and Response Papers rely on “category archives”. Category archives collate all POSTS (not pages) which have been given a specific category (announcements, assignments and response papers, for example) and renders them in reverse chronological order on the screen. This means that the most recent posts (ex. announcements made today) are at the top, while older posts (ex. announcements made last week) are pushed down further in the feed. As Professor Foster-McKelvia has done, category archives can be inserted into the main menu so they are easily accessible to visitors of the course site. Posts, whether categorized or not, are great for dynamic content, or content that changes or may be updated over the course of the semester. Furthermore, posts can be created and published by students so, like Professor Foster-McKelvia, they can be used to submit assignments, engage in course discussions or ask questions.

Curious about how you can use these techniques in creating your course site? Join us for our Open Hour next THURSDAY (12/6) and ask our Community Team members! Sign up here!

This Month on the OpenLab: October and November Release(s)

Image Source: Ian Sane

October & November 2018

The last two OpenLab updates were on October 15 and November 13, 2019, for versions 1.7.25 and 1.7.26 of the OpenLab. They were both fairly small releases, but each included some notable new features.

Features

The October release included an improvement for staff profiles, which has been under development for quite some time. Staff are now able to add their office or department to their profile, which can also be used as a filter to search for staff members on the OpenLab People page.

The November release included an update to the default tagline for Openlab sites, which used to be “Just another City Tech OpenLab site.” Now each tagline is specific to the type of site, such as “A City Tech OpenLab Course Site.” However, we still encourage members to create their own unique site tagline that briefly describes their site!

OpenLab members may also notice that the Users page of their site Dashboard includes a column with the Display Names of all site members. Hopefully this will make it easier to identify each member, and match usernames with Display Names and real (first and last) names. As a reminder, members may choose to remain pseudonymous, and should never be required to use their real name unless they choose to do so.

Plugins

We made a number of enhancements to the Anthologize plugin, including a number of accessibility improvements to the dashboard interface. We are also including some changes to the formatting and options available for PDF exports. These include improvements in the way image captions display, and the way text wraps around images. In addition, we added options for including the author and date for a post or page being included in a project.

We added one plugin, Easy Table of Contents, which improves upon the functionality of the Table of Contents plugin we currently have installed but is no longer being maintained by its developer. We recommend that members use Easy Table of Contents rather than Table of Contents Plus, but the latter does still work.

Bug Fixes

Both releases included a few small bug fixes. One was a bug in the Twenty Sixteen theme that caused the black border to be fixed when scrolling down a longer page. There was another bug which prevented Course, Project, or Club admins from “unbanning” a member who had previously been banned from the group. Now the interface that allows admins to unban members can once again be found in the Membership section of a group’s profile.

As always, please contact us  with any questions!

In the Spotlight: ACF Club

Student members of ACF ClubThis week we’re spotlighting the ACF – or American Culinary Federation – Student Club. To paraphrase their description, this club is dedicated to sharing professional knowledge and skills that further culinary education and experience among City Tech students. In addition, the club aims to promote the culinary arts through demonstrations, culinary competitions and developing industry connections. Further still, the Club gives back to the community by participating in community service events and holiday meal preparation for community-based organizations. In accomplishing this goal, the club uses the OpenLab to share info and updates about upcoming events, fundraising efforts, and how City Tech students can get involved.

Their site evidences these activities and opportunities in a well-organized and easily navigable way. Their Club Information page lets you know that they meet regularly on Thursdays during club hour to coordinate their upcoming activities, while their Opportunities page will inform you of any upcoming volunteer events. Their Past Events page gives you a sense of what events the group has worked in the past, while the Upcoming Events page tells you what is on the docket for this Fall. You can also learn more about the student leaders on their Officers page..

Want to learn more or get involved? Join them during club hour on Thursdays, or email them at their new gmail account, CityTechACF@gmail.com – join the current club members as they grow from students into tomorrow’s industry leaders!

In the Spotlight: OERs on the OpenLab

Since the inception of City Tech’s OER Fellowship in 2015, and CUNY Central’s investment in OERs CUNY-wide, the number of Open Educational Resources that are public and freely available on the OpenLab have been growing. Each year the program has grown, with more new fellows each year than the last (3 in 2015, 7 in 2016, 14 in 2017, and 19 in 2018) and more OERs for a greater range of courses, from Culinary Tourism, to Biology, to Introduction to Mechanics.

Now you may be wondering:

How can I find these resources and use them to support my own course work?

Good news! The OpenLab now has created “OER Badges” that indicate when a course or project is an OER.

green circle with "OER" written in middle
Look for these OER Badges on course and project profiles!

These badges are also searchable. From the homepage, click on the magnifying glass in the upper right, and select EITHER courses or projects (OERs are built on either of these types of sites). If you don’t see what you’re looking for in one, try the other type.

shows search function on OpenLab site with dropdown menu to choose type of site.

On the Search page, all of the filters may be set to your interests, except “Select Type”; for that field you’ll want to select “Open Educational Resources”. This will pull up any and all OERs that match the other filters you set.

shows search page with dropdown menu for type of site showing option to select OERs

In some cases, you can clone an entire course, and remix, add to, or delete some of the content to meet your needs, and use it to support your courses.

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to OERs, and open digital pedagogy in general – where educators are putting resources and course materials online in free and publicly accessible ways – is to give credit where credit is do. Acknowledge whose materials you are pulling from and how you used them. Did you clone the work of another professor and use their work directly? Did you “adapt their material or part of their material, or remix it with some of your own course materials? This information should be visible somewhere on your own site.

Looking for more tips on OERs and sharing and remixing content on the OpenLab? Check out:

You can also join us in-person for an office hour or workshop!

Announcing Commons In A Box OpenLab!

Commons In A Box OpenLab logoEver since the OpenLab launched at City Tech back in Fall 2011, the OpenLab team has  been asked: “How can I get the OpenLab at my campus?” There wasn’t a good answer, until now.

The OpenLab team is excited to announce the public release of Commons In A Box OpenLab, a free open-source software platform for teaching, learning, and collaboration.

For the past two years City Tech’s OpenLab team has partnered with the Commons In A Box team, based at The Graduate Center, CUNY, to create a new teaching-focused version of their Commons In A Box community-building software that’s modeled on City Tech’s OpenLab.

Because the software is freely available, faculty members, departments, and entire institutions anywhere in the world will be able to create and customize their own OpenLabs!

This exciting development would not be possible without the contributions of our 27,000 OpenLab members over the past seven years. The OpenLab is a community-focused and community-driven platform, and it is so successful because of our community. So a big thank you to each and every one of the OpenLab’s members.

CBOX OpenLab homepage

The project was made possible by a Digital Humanities Implementation Grant awarded to The Graduate Center, CUNY, by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) Office of Digital Humanities.

To learn more, check out the official launch announcement and the Commons In A Box site. And, as always, contact us at openlab@citytech.cuny.edu if you have any questions.

In the Spotlight: Virtual Reality & Artificial Intelligence (VR & AI) Club

A comic-style woman with a VR headset on, who is looking amazed.

This week we’re spotlighting the new VR & AI Club site. According to their club profile, “[t]he Virtual Reality & Artificial Intelligence (VR & AI) Club at NYCCT seeks to explore the interdisciplinary practices and applications involving VR and AI, including mechatronics, robotics, computer vision, internet of things, and embedded systems, as well as the social, psychological and political implications of such.” Said another way, this club “aims to explore the world of virtual reality and artificial intelligence by playing, learning and making”.

In this vein, the club has listed out a number of ongoing projects club members can work to improve their skills. Though they have 6 projects listed, it looks like 5 are waiting for additional resources – whether funding, approval, ordered materials to arrive. These include offering students an opportunity to play with VR headsets, a social robot able to communicate and interact with humans, and VR game and app development. In the meantime, one project is “ACTIVE” – the Virtual Robotic Limb – a robotic limb used by patients in virtual rehab after a stroke.

The site also has a list of events around the City – some of which the group plans to attend together – and a list of resources that may be of interest to members (or future members!) of the club. Though you should follow their blog on the homepage to get the most up-to-date information about their meetings, their About Us page suggests they convene regularly in V-509 in the Voorhees Building during Club Hour on Thursdays from 12:45 pm to 2:15 pm.

Questions? Reach out to the club at nycct.vrai.club@gmail.com.

All-in-all this club seems like a great opportunity for students interested in learning more about VR & AI – offering both hands-on experience and community as supports in that endeavor.