This Month on the OpenLab: September Release

boxes of apples at the farmer's market
apples” by Night Heron is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND.

On September 17, we released version 1.7.35 of the OpenLab. It included some new features, as well as few minor plugin updates and bug fixes.

New Features and Changes

There were three new features or changes to current functionality included this release:

  1. There’s a new widget available for use on OpenLab sites called Creative Commons License. We built it based on the widget in use on the CUNY Academic Commons, which allows site admins to choose a Creative Commons license to display in their site’s sidebar. Although all content on the OpenLab is automatically licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license, this allows site members to display a license more prominently on their own site, or to choose a different license.
  2. We added explanatory text on the OpenLab signup page beneath the field for username to clarify two things: (1) When signing up for the OpenLab, members don’t need to use their real name. (2) Usernames will be visible in the URL of a member’s profile and cannot be changed. For more general information, read the Open Road post, Privacy in Open Learning.
  3. We retired the PDF Embedder Premium Plugin, due to accessibility and usability issues. It will continue to work on sites where it’s already activated but will no longer be available for activation on new sites.

Bug Fixes

We fixed four small bugs in this release:

  1. There was an issue with the OpenLab Gradebook plugin causing special characters (e.g. accents or other characters, such as å, é, or ã) to appear incorrectly in the downloaded spreadsheet on Mac computers, due to different CSV encoding on Macs.
  2. Another Gradebook issue affecting Mac users was that CSVs created in the Apple program, “Numbers” could not be uploaded into a gradebook, also due to different CSV encoding in Numbers.
  3. We fixed a bug that was affecting certain sites cloned from a Math Department template site. When the TablePress plugin was activated on these sites, the site admin was not able to see the TablePress Settings page.
  4. The OpenLab logo that appears on the sign in page for private sites was incorrectly linked to wordpress.org. It now links to the OpenLab homepage.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: August 2019 Release

On August 14, we released version 1.7.34 of the OpenLab. It included new features, new themes, updates to all themes and plugins, and updates to WordPress and BuddyPress, the software that powers the OpenLab.

looking up from the bottom of a skyscraper
This untitled image is licensed under Creative Commons CC0.

New Features and Themes

There were a number of new features and themes included this release:

A new portfolio features allows any OpenLab member with a portfolio to turn on an “Add to My Portfolio” button, which appears on any post or comment they have created on an OpenLab site.  This makes it easier to add work from courses, projects, or clubs to a portfolio.  You can see step-by-step instructions for this new feature in OpenLab Help.

Another new feature created for portfolios is the ability to export the contents of a portfolio site, which can be imported into another site. This makes portfolios much more portable, and means they can be moved from one OpenLab community to another (for example, from BMCC’s OpenLab to City Tech’s OpenLab).

We added two new portfolio themes, which work especially well for the display of a visual portfolio.

    • Hamilton is described as “a clean WordPress portfolio theme for creatives. It displays posts in a beautiful image grid that can be set to either two or three columns, which makes it a perfect fit for photographers, illustrators or graphic designers looking for a theme for their portfolio.”
    • Koji is “a clean and lightweight theme for bloggers. It features a masonry grid on the archive pages, a beautiful and minimal design,” and more.

We also added a theme designed for Open Educational Resource (OER) sites on the OpenLab, although it can be used for any type of site. Built using the theme Education Pro, we’ve customized it to improve the design, to ensure accessibility, and to include styles that would be useful for an OER.

Improvements to existing features

We made an improvement to the WP Grade Comments plugin, which allows instructors to assign grades without comments. Previously, grades had to be accompanied by a comment.

A number of enhancements were made to the OpenLab Gradebook plugin, including:

    • Instructors can now add assignments and/or grades to their gradebooks using a pre-formatted CSV file that can be edited and uploaded to import new data.
    • The text on the About page has been improved to include more helpful information about the OpenLab Gradebook plugin with a link to the plugin’s help page.
    • A bug was fixed that prevented instructors from accurately pasting numeric grades.
    • The display of tables on mobile devices was improved.

We made a few improvements and additions to the Print this Page functionality that was introduced in the June release. We changed its appearance on pages and posts from a text link to a button.  The button is now turned off by default.  In addition to the ability to turn it on within each individual page and post, there is now a site-wide control, which will enable or disable it for the whole site.

We also improved the print formatting for two additional themes. Twenty Nineteen and Hemingway are now better formatted for printing.

One of the potential privacy settings available to OpenLab members is to have a hidden group with an open site. While this is not a common setting, if someone was viewing the site but was not a member of the group, they would get a “Page not Found” error if they clicked on the group profile link in the site’s navigation menu.  Now, this link won’t appear, except for members of the group who are logged into the OpenLab.

We made a few improvements to the layout and design of the Related Links List settings in a group’s profile settings, making them easier to understand and manage.

We improved the accessibility of the create/edit screen for a group’s Docs, including fixing some missing form labels and improving the color contrast for some of the links and other text.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: June Release

On June 24, we released version 1.7.33 of the OpenLab. It included a number of new features, as well as a new theme, and a few bug fixes.

Brooklyn Flyer ride at Coney Island
“Brooklyn Flyer” by Studio Sarah Lou is licensed under CC BY 2.0

New Features and Theme

There were five new features included this release.

  1. We added new functionality to the Files section of a group’s Profile, allowing files to be organized into folders. You will be able to create folders for new files as you upload them, or for existing files by editing a file.
  2. We added better printing functionality to posts and pages on group sites. You’ll see this in two different places.  On a site’s Dashboard, when editing a page or post, we added a checkbox asking if you want to display a ‘Print this Page’ link.  If selected, the link will appear on the page or post, allowing readers to print a nicely-formatted version of the page or post.  In the August release, we will make a few adjustments to improve the formatting for Hemingway and Twenty Nineteen themes, but it works well with all other themes.
  3. In group Settings, we added a checkbox to disable or enable the Calendar functionality for a group, similar to the way Discussion, Docs, and Files can be enabled or disabled.
  4. We added the Twenty Nineteen theme, which you will see available in the list of themes for any OpenLab site.

Bug Fixes

We fixed three bugs in this release:

  1. Files uploaded to group profiles were only sorting in alphabetical order, not by newest. Files can now be sorted correctly by any criteria.
  2. For OpenLab members using the new WordPress Block Editor (Gutenberg), we fixed an issue causing the editor sidebar panel to obscure the publish button and some of the other elements, after clicking the settings icon in the top.
  3. We fixed a few very small formatting issues in the OpenLab footer on sites using the Hemingway theme.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: May Release

fern unfurling
Image credit: “Brooklyn Botanic Garden – May 2013” by David Pizzitola

On May 15, we released version 1.7.32 of the OpenLab. It was a small release, and included two new features, minor plugin updates, and bug fixes.

New Features and Updates

There were two new functionality updates in this release.

  1. We added Course and Project “Type” as a heading on the search results page, when you filter Courses or Projects by Type (e.g. FYLC, OER, or Cloneable).

course type heading on results page

  1. We added breadcrumb navigation to the default site for new courses, in order to improve navigation on a site’s subpages. Currently breadcrumbs are available with the OpenLab Twenty Sixteen and OpenLab Twenty Thirteen themes, but they will now be included by default on all new course sites, created after the May 15 release.  A few things to note:
    1. If you change from the default theme to anything other than OpenLab Twenty Sixteen and OpenLab Twenty Thirteen, the breadcrumbs will no longer appear.
    2. If you want to keep the default theme but don’t want the breadcrumbs, you can remove them by deactivating the Breadcrumb NavXT plugin in Dashboard > Plugins.
    3. You shouldn’t need to change any of the plugin settings, but if you do, you can find them in Dashboard > Settings > Breadcrumb NavXT.

Breadcrumbs navigation on course site

Bug Fixes

We fixed two small issues in this release:

  1. In rare cases where a course was cloned through shared cloning but the original source course was deleted, it appeared in the credits as “Course – “. We made a change so that if the original course was deleted, nothing appears in the credits line.
  2. For OpenLab members using the new WordPress Block Editor (Gutenberg), you may have noticed that the OpenLab toolbar at the top of your site covered up some of the elements at the top of the Block Editor page. We’ve fixed this so that it no longer overlaps.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: April Release

person's shadow holding flower drawn on sidewalk
Image credit: “Happy Spring!” by Ian Sane

On April 18, we released version 1.7.31 of the OpenLab. It was a small release, including a few new features as well as few minor plugin updates and some bug fixes.

New Features and Updates

We made two additions related to features added in the March release:

  1. Last month we made a text change to the widget on sites with shared cloning enabled. This release, we’ve made the same change to the course profile so that text “Logged-in faculty members can clone this course” appears beneath the course description. Logged-in faculty will continue to see the “Clone this Course” button that appears beneath the course avatar.
  2. We also made an addition to the email notification checkboxes added last month, and have also included this functionality for Docs.

In addition, on all directory pages (People, Courses, Projects, etc.) we changed the text for group and member counts so it no longer breaks onto two lines. For example, instead of “1 to 12 (of 2,516 Projects)” it now reads “1 to 12 (of 2,516).”

In the footer text describing the OpenLab, we made a small edit to better align with City Tech branding guidelines.

Bug Fixes

We fixed one bug in this release, which was causing the upload date for all files uploaded to a group’s “Files” section of the profile, to display as the current day.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: March Release

pussywillow buds
Image credit: “March Tree Branch” by _Alicja_

On March 19, we release version 1.7.30 of the OpenLab. It included a number of new features as well as few minor plugin updates and some bug fixes.

New Features

On the OpenLab Courses directory page, we added “Cloneable” as an option Cloneable dropdownunder the “Type” dropdown, so you can now search for courses that allow other OpenLab faculty to clone them.

In another cloning-related update, we made a change to the widget on sites with shared cloning enabled. Anyone who is not faculty, or faculty who are not logged in will now see the text, “Logged-in faculty members can clone this course.” Faculty who are logged in will continue to see a link to “Clone this Course.”

Sharing Widget

We also added a checkbox allowing site admins to control on a more fine-grained level what actions will send email notifications for Notify members checkboxDiscussion, Docs, Files, and Calendar.  Now, any time you add new or edit existing content, you can choose whether or not you want to send an email notification to all members of your group.

 

WP Broken Link Status Checker is a new plugin that allows you to run scans on your site to check for any links that no longer work.  This could be helpful especially for evergreen sites that include links to many external resources, such as OERs.

Bug Fixes

We fixed five bugs in this release.  One caused “Library” to stop appearing as a department choice under the School of Arts and Sciences, meaning there was no way to categorize Library courses.  Now, all projects, clubs, portfolios, and people can choose Library as an option under Arts and Sciences and/or Academic Affairs, and courses can choose Library under Arts and Sciences.  If you teach a Library course this semester, and weren’t able to properly categorize it, you can correct this by going into Profile > Settings, and then choose School: Arts and Sciences > Department: Library.

Another bug was causing the time reported for activity of different kinds in a group (e.g. blog post, comment, discussion post, new doc, etc) as five hours ahead of the correct time in daily and weekly digest email notifications.

There were two bugs fixed in the OpenLab Gradebook plugin.  One caused an issue for people who had cloned a course with Gradebook active on the source course.   The plugin on the new course didn’t allow them to save new gradebooks or add students to a new gradebook.  This issue is fixed for all newly cloned sites, but if you cloned a site prior to March 19 and are experiencing this issue, you can fix it by deactivating the Gradebook plugin and reactivating it.  The second issue was a conflict with the “Page Links To” plugin, which has been fixed.

We also fixed an accessibility issue with the Hemingway theme by adding labels for screen readers for two buttons that were missing the labels that identify the element as a button so users with screen readers are aware of its function.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: HMGT4997 – Wine of the New World

In Profs. Karen Goodlad and Robert Dagorn’s course, students are learning about the art and science of wine making, blending, and tasting.  They have recently made two visits to Red Hook Winery, where they were able to take part in the wine-making process and create their own blends to pair with a particular meal.  You can view photos and read their reflections on this visit and the excellent hands-on experience they gained.  If you’re lucky enough to visit the Janet Lefler Dining Room at the right time, you’ll be able to taste their blends!

In the Spotlight: Biology Open Educational Resources

(Image credit)

This site, developed as a collaboration between the Library and the Biological Sciences Department and maintained by Prof. Jeremy Seto, contains many wonderfully rich Open Educational Resources (OERs) for students of biology at City Tech (and beyond!).  OERs are materials for teaching and learning that are not licensed under copyright and thus able to be freely accessed and shared.  (For more information, see the library’s great guide to OERs).  The Biology OER contains textual and multimedia resources organized by topic, including descriptions, images, and videos of different biological processes, research tools, and class activities.  Take a look and enjoy this excellent resource!

 

In the Spotlight: ENG 2720: Writing with New Media

Students in Prof. Jill Belli’s Writing with New Media course are considering the ways in which writing practices have been affected by digital spaces.  The course site is very active, with lots of great discussion.  Students have been posting and commenting on Prezi presentations they created about different types of social media.  Coming up next, they’ll be posting internet memes, and reflecting on a recent visit to the Museum of the Moving Image to see the exhibit “How Cats Took Over the Internet.”  They also recently had a visit from some of The Buzz bloggers, including a great follow-up virtual discussionCheck out their work!

In the Spotlight: LIB/ARCH 2205 – Learning Places

Learning Places is an interdisciplinary course, taught by Profs. Anne Leonard (Library) and Jason Montgomery (Architecture).  Students have been reading, writing, and thinking about the future of Wikipedia, in preparation for an upcoming assignment in which they will choose a Wikipedia article to edit or create, related to the NYC locations they’re studying.  They’ve also added their reflections and site reports about a recent visit to nearby Vinegar Hill and Farragut Houses.  Take a look through this dynamic and well-organized course site!