Summer Series 2021

Part 3 of 5: Create on the OpenLab

Greetings,

This week, create on the OpenLab! In this case, “create” can refer to creating sites, but also to creating communities, collaborations, and dialogue by joining other sites, connecting with friends and colleagues, participating in discussion forums, and more. That said, task 2 is intended for instructors and focuses on the first steps of course creation, taking a particularly close look at the course template.

  • Task 1: Create Connections:
     
    • Join our 2 in-house sites to stay connected and updated about what’s happening on the OpenLab:
      • The Open Road: Our one-stop-shop for all things OpenLab: news, workshops, events, community, and support!
      • Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab: A site for sharing and discussing resources about open digital pedagogy!
  • Connect with your friends and join other groups related to your interests:
    • You can search through people, courses, projects, clubs, and portfolios using the menu at the top and the magnifying glass in the top-right.
    • You can also search for courses, projects, clubs and portfolios using the links titled by type of site (courses, projects, clubs, and portfolios) under the slider. From the search page, use the filters (top-right) to tailor your search.
    • Want to create a club, portfolio, or project? Learn more here.
  • Task 2: Create a course site! The tasks below will get you started on the task of building a site.
    • Get familiar with the (new!) course template. Take a video tour of the template and read our help documentation.
    • Follow these steps to create a course site from this template.
    • Take time to fill out your course profile:
      • Customize your course avatar. If you do not have an image for your avatar in my mind, you can search for reusable images online. You can also create an avatar of your own; Barbara Smith Mishara from Architecture, for example, has created an avatar that clearly features the name of her course and the semester. This is a great way to make your course easy to find for your students.
      • Include a course description and your contact information in the course profile. A good example of an information-rich  but easy to read course profile is John De Santis’ Spring 2020 COMD1127 class.
      • Get familiar with course profile tools, including Discussion boards, Files, and Docs. You don’t have to decide now whether  you will use any of these tools, but it’s a good idea to play around and see what each can do.
    • Customize your site’s appearance:
      • You can choose a header image.
      • Under Dashboard> Appearance, you’ll have the option of changing the title to your site (we recommend making this your course’s name!), the site’s tag line (we recommend that it feature your name, the course section, and semester), and the site’s identity.
      • You can edit your site’s widgets. You will want to edit the “About this Course” widget to share your name, office hours, contact information, and a brief paragraph about this Course. You may also want to include a picture of yourself in the “About this Course” widget.
      • As always, as you begin the course creation process, we recommend consulting our example courses for inspiration and model work.

We’ll be in touch next week to help you answer: How can I design my course to facilitate communication with my students?

Summer Series 2021

Part 2 of 5 of: Explore the OpenLab and Learn How to Get Help with Using the OpenLab

Greetings,

This week, we continue our 5-part self-guided series and ask: How do others use the OpenLab? How can I get help using the OpenLab? The tasks below will help everyone explore how members of the City Tech community use the OpenLab to learn, teach, build community, and pursue other scholarly and pedagogical interests. These tasks will also show how to get support using the OpenLab.

  • Task 1: Check out In the Spotlight, our blog series that features a different exemplary site each week. Begin with the  Spotlight Archive:
    • If you are a student, you may want to scroll through some student ePortfolios and clubs.
    • If you are faculty, you may want to scroll through some spotlighted courses. 
    • If you are staff, you may want to look at some spotlighted projects.
  • Task 2: Check out our example courses.

  • Task 3:  Check out our in-house site Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab: A site for sharing and discussing resources about open digital pedagogy. This site will help you understand what we mean when we talk about learning/ teaching online and in the “open”:
  • Task 4: Continue to explore the community using various search and filter options:
    • You can search through people, courses, projects, clubs and portfolios using the menu at the top and the magnifying glass in the top-right.
    • You can also search courses, projects, clubs and portfolios using the links titled by type of site (courses, projects, clubs, portfolios) under the slider. From the search page, use the filters (top-right) to tailor your search.

  • Task 5: As you explore, you may find yourself inspired to start creating your course or ePortfolio. To get help with these tasks and using the OpenLab you can:
    • Check out our Help Documentation – it has everything you need to get started joining and building sites on the OpenLab. Get help with everything from Creating a Course, inviting students,sharing materials, and using the new WordPress block editor
    • Throughout this summer, we have virtual office hours: these are  one-on-one consultations with a member of the OpenLab team. You’re welcome to meet with us at any stage of your work, whether you are just starting to think through how you will set up your site or whether you’re more advanced.  
    • We are available to support you seven days a week via email at openlab@citytech.cuny.edu.

We’ll be in touch next week to help you create on the OpenLab. 

Summer Series 2021

A 5-Part Self-Guided Series To Get Everyone Started on the OpenLab

Part 1 of 5 of: Get to Know the OpenLab

As in past summers, we are releasing a 5-part self-guided series that provides short tasks to help everyone in the City Tech community get to know the OpenLab. Many of us will be teaching/ working remotely for the fourth straight semester. While remote teaching has become more familiar, many of us are feeling some wear from the isolation and the realities of remote work, not to mention the general anxiety of living through a global pandemic.  The OpenLab team has been impressed and moved by the creativity, adaptability, and compassion that faculty, staff, and students have shown on and off the OpenLab; we also recognize that in some ways, as the pandemic wears on, enlivening an online classroom (or club, or event) is becoming increasingly difficult. The primary goal of this series is to introduce everyone to the OpenLab, but it is also to highlight strategies for combating inertia  and cultivating an online community. 

Each week, we will guide everyone through different tasks to start or reinvigorate their work on the OpenLab.  Tasks are oriented around different questions, beginning with the most basic question – How do I join the OpenLab? The tasks below will help you create an account and set up your OpenLab profile. 

  • Task 3:  Set up your OpenLab profile. You’ll notice as you do this that only some fields are required. You can always come back and complete missing information later when you have time to learn how to manage your account and profile. That said, we recommend filling out as much as you’re comfortable with in this early stage: your OpenLab profile communicates who you are to the OpenLab community. If your OpenLab profile is public, it can also be indexed in internet search engines. 
    • What kind of relevant information would you like to include here? If you are a student, you may want to specify your major/minor, contact information, pronouns, extracurricular interests, any awards or honors you have received, and even a brief overview of your projects and goals. 
    • If you are faculty or staff, you will want to make your contact information available to your students and colleagues, and you may also choose to detail some of your academic interests, as well your experiences and roles within the college. 
    • Finally, profiles provide the opportunity for OpenLab members to include a photo associated with their OpenLab display name: please note that this photo can be of anything that you feel represents you adequately, and does not have to be an actual photo of yourself.
  • Task 4: Practice logging in to your account. Sign out of your account and close your browser. Then open a new browser window, navigate back to the OpenLab, and log in to your account

We’ll be in touch next week to help you answer: How do others use the OpenLab? 

Summer 2021 Virtual Support

The OpenLab is a great community-run platform for anyone at City Tech to expand their web presence. But we realize that you may need support in setting up your OpenLab site, or managing it as the semester continues. The OpenLab team is here to help!

We have scheduled virtual open hours this summer (see full schedule below), with two kinds: one-on-one appointments, and open drop-in hours.  Both kinds offer the opportunity to meet with a member of the OpenLab Community Team. All are held via Zoom and are open to faculty, staff, and students.

Drop-In Open Hours

Support in drop-in office hours is first-come, first-served. Come with specific questions, or ask us to review topics ranging from getting started, using the OpenLab for courses, facilitating communication within your class or group, to using a specific tool or pedagogical approach. If possible, please reach out to the OpenLab team in advance to let us know what questions you have or topics you want to hear about. Our drop-in open hours will take place during the following days and times:

June

6/9 (Wednesday), 10:00am-11:00am

6/23 (Wednesday), 12:00pm-1:00pm

July

7/6 (Tuesday), 12:00pm-1:00pm

7/22 (Thursday), 10:00am-11:00am

August

8/6 (Friday), 12:00pm-1:00pm

8/19 (Thursday), 2:00pm-3:00pm

8/23 (Monday), 10:00am-11:00am

8/24 (Tuesday), 2:00pm-3:00pm

To RSVP for drop-in open hours, use the scheduler here

When it is time for your open hours session,  click here to join us in our Zoom room.

One-On-One Appointments

We are also happy to offer one-on-one/private appointments. All of these appointments will take place on the same days listed above, but either immediately before or immediately after the drop-in hours. These one-on-one appointments will be limited to 30 minutes each. If you want additional support, please also attend the open hours.

June

6/9 (Wednesday), 11:00am-11:30 am OR 11:30am-12:00 pm

6/23 (Wednesday), 1:00pm-1:30 pm OR 1:30pm-2:00 pm

July

7/6 (Tuesday), 1:00pm-1:30 pm OR 1:30pm-2:00pm

7/22 (Thursday), 11:00am-11:30am OR 11:30am-12:00pm

August

8/6 (Friday), 1:00pm-1:30pm OR 1:30pm-2:00pm

8/19 (Thursday), 3:00pm-3:30pm OR 3:30pm-4:00pm

8/23 (Monday), 11:00am-11:30am OR 11:30am-12:00pm

8/24 (Tuesday), 3:00pm-3:30pm OR 3:30pm-4:00pm

To book a one-on-one appointment, please use the scheduler here.

We look forward to working with you!

In the Spotlight: The Spring 2021 Semester, In Review

Photo by Federico Respini on Unsplash

Summer greetings from the OpenLab and congratulations to all on the closing of another semester! A special congratulations to the class of 2021!

While our weekly “Spotlight” blog series will go on hiatus for the summer, 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.

Spring 2021 Spotlight Posts

This past year, we released a series of OpenLab screencasts, providing audiovisual guidance to using different features of the OpenLab.

In addition to reviewing these posts from this past spring, 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 summer– please contact us with questions or concerns.

We will also soon announce our summer programming, including one-on-one office hours. We will be in touch as we get more events and workshops on our calendar!

Wishing you all a very happy summer!

The OpenLab Community Team

In the Spotlight: City Tech Astronomy Club

This week we spotlight the City Tech Astronomy Club, which allows students to come together to explore the universe, even in a remote semester. Students in the club can use “Slooh.com” to access “online remote controlled telescopes located around the world.” Members can “conduct and participate in live observation observation sessions through a web browser interface,” and “look at remote galaxies, dying and exploding stars, dark spots on the sun’s surface, rings around Saturn and craters and mountains on the Moon.” 


Interested in learning more about the club? You can visit the club site to find out more! The City Tech Astronomy Club leaders have made information readily available for you by featuring a video on the evolution of telescopes and their current use in slooh.com, as well as a slideshow to teach you more about slooh.

In the Spotlight: PHIL2203ID Healthcare Ethics, OL 50, SP 2021

Header image for Heathcare ethics, two healthcare workers in the operating room.

This week, we spotlight Professor Rob MacDougall’s philosophy course, Healthcare Ethics. The timely course examines “major ethical theories of what is morally right and wrong, and the meaning of moral concepts (e.g., the concepts of right and duty). Focus is on ethical problems associated with the practice of medicine and biomedical research.” The course builds from the OpenLab OER template, using a clean, intuitive design that facilitates ongoing communication with students. It also shows how the OpenLab can be used in conjunction with other platforms (e.g. YouTube, Blackboard). Here are some highlights from the course:

  • A simple, sparse main menu that includes tabs for the Syllabus, Lecture Materials, and Assignments. We especially like that the syllabus is broken up into smaller parts: course policies on the one hand, and course readings and schedule on the other. This shortens the text contained on a single page and makes vital information more digestible and find-able!
  • A sidebar widget that directs students to the City Tech writing center. This is a great use of the sidebar widget space. Often, faculty opt to have a full page of additional resources that students can consult, including the Student Help Desk, the library, etc. But if you have a writing-intensive course and know your students will benefit from writing help, it can’t hurt to highlight the writing center in a widget, thus making it more visible.
Sidebar text widget that reads “visit the City Tech Writing Center for help with writing.”
  • A home page with regular announcements. Professor MacDougall makes sure to remind students when assignments are due, when they have been graded, when synchronous course is cancelled, etc. Remember that you can set your site’s email notifications to have your students receive a message when a new announcement is made.
  • Linking directly to turnitin.com in blog posts announcing that papers have been graded. For faculty who use turnitin or Blackboard to collect assignments, this is a good option. Working across platforms is necessary these days, but regularly linking out to these other platforms from your OpenLab site makes navigating back-and-forth easier for your students!
  • Using short YouTube videos for lectures and guest lectures (for example, here). As always, we recommend giving your students ample opportunities for this type of asynchronous learning. 

Healthcare Ethics is a thoughtfully designed course, kept current and engaging throughout the semester. Keep the link around as a model of an easy-to-navigate, effective site!

In the Spotlight: Teaching Math in a Remote Semester

Even in more “normal” times, few subjects cause college undergrads more anxiety than Math! Add to this the stress of distance education during a global pandemic and, well, you have a definite challenge on your hands. 

However, the Math department has done incredible work this semester, leveraging the OpenLab to facilitate effective remote teaching. This week, I spotlight three of their recent initiatives.

Model Courses

Over the summer, three departments/ programs created Model Courses: Communication Design, the English Department’s First Year Writing program, and Mathematics. These model courses are subject-specific and open to all faculty to clone to use with their students, via the OpenLab’s shared cloning feature. They contain course information, sample assignments, and resources for students–all of which are designed to help faculty meet recommended best practices for teaching online. Math faculty can choose to use these courses in whole or in part, adapting them to meet their needs. Because the courses are public, faculty can still access course materials if they are using another platform (e.g. Blackboard) to teach. You can find these model courses in the Courses directory by checking the “Model” checkbox.

Course Hubs

The Math Department also created Course Hubs, each boasting a collection of vetted open source materials that address core topics. These were created through the OpenLab Model Course Initiative and made publicly available on the OpenLab. In the space of a few weeks, Hubs were created for seven different math courses, including the traditional sequence from Algebra through Calculus and a number of others. In preparation for a fully-online semester and in support of a large and heterogenous department, the team collected student- and faculty-facing resources to support a wide variety of distance-learning activities and approaches, including online lessons, course coordination information, and more. We especially like that these resources include videos that are useful to students, and training opportunities for faculty adapting to distance education!

Assignments to Foreground the Human Side of Math

While the model courses and course hubs provide faculty with valuable teaching resources, they are, at the end of the day, tools that have to be made effective by the instructors implementing them. No tool will ever replace the boost in confidence students receive when surrounded by supportive faculty members and peers. This is why assignments like Prof. Kate Poirier’s are so important. Prof. Poirier invited students from one of her more advanced math classes to post advice to students in her introductory class. Conversely, students in the introductory course were invited to post questions to more advanced students. You can view some of the wonderful advice the more advanced students gave here, and the questions newer students had here. There are too many witty, compassionate, and insightful comments to list here, but as a highlight, I’ll just mention student Sierra Morales’ post encouraging newer students to slow down and write their work step-by-step (no rushing to get quizzes in first!), and to “practice writing out your method and reason for solving each problem the way you did.” The post ends by reminding students to be patient, invest in themselves, and seek out peer advisement when needed. I also want to point readers to Kate Poirier’s other creative assignment inviting students to watch and respond to a viral TikTok video on “whether Math is real” (i.e. useful in real life). In the absence of face-to-face interaction, this online dialogue is heart-warming and necessary–an undervalued but brilliant component of successful learning and teaching.

Congratulations to the Math Department and Math instructors on their innovative work this semester! Make sure to check out these resources and assignments for inspiration!

In the Spotlight: Experiential Art & Design Club

This week, I spotlight the amazing student-led group, the Experiential Art & Design Club. This club provides a “space to create & playtest digital experiences”: you can join to “make video games, immersive art, AR filters, websites, and literally anything else you can think of.” How has this club adapted to remote learning? They’ve moved 100% online and use the OpenLab to maintain an effective digital presence! Some highlights from their OpenLab site and profile include:

  • Featuring links to their Discord (where they meet every two weeks) and Instagram on their profile page.
On their profile page, the club features links to their social media accounts.
  • A “Sign-Up Now!” button at the top of their home page, where it is difficult to miss–and that’s a good thing!
EXP Club's "Sign Up Now" button sits at the top of their home page,
  • A sign-up form in the right-hand widget sidebar of their site, again making it as easy as possible for folks to join the club and get in touch with club leaders.

  • FAQs directly on the site’s home page. These are featured at the bottom of the page, in a collapsible accordion menu which doesn’t take up too much space. The reader can glance at the questions when first landing on the site, and decide whether or not they need answers before joining the club. I love that these questions address potential student insecurities about participating: “I suck at coding,” one of these questions reads, “can I still join?” The club leaders want to reassure you: “the whole point of our meetings is to get better. None of us started off where we are right now. If you’re bad at it, come anyway.”

Finally, beyond maintaining a wonderful site, the EXP club has also adapted their 2020 activities to fit the constraints of a pandemic-stricken world. They note: “For 2020, we’re switching to quick solo projects so everyone can try something new at their own pace. These ‘challenges’ take place every 2 weeks and come with inspiration, tutorials + download links to get started. Check out all of those here.”

This site provides a great example of how to use the OpenLab to keep your club members active and engaged. Check them out for inspiration!

In the Spotlight: OER at City Tech

This week, I spotlight the library’s fantastic new(ish) resource: the O.E.R at City Tech OpenLab site. As a reminder, the acronym “O.E.R” stands for Open Educational Resources and “refers to any educational content that is free and openly-licensed.” From the academic year 2017-2018 to the present, NY State has awarded CUNY $4 million annually to “scale-up O.E.Rs” across the university system. This site is your go-to hub for all things O.E.R at City Tech and–dare we say–at CUNY. Its main function is to showcase exemplary O.E.Rs at the college, but it also includes other invaluable resources, such as O.E.Rs developed CUNY-wide (not just City Tech-specific), different search engines and repositories from which to search for O.E.Rs developed worldwide, and a curated list of O.E.Rs by Subject, relevant to the disciplines offered at City Tech.

The entire site is worth checking-out, but I’d like to draw your attention to a page titled Find O.E.R to teach with. This page builds out from more generalized O.E.R search tools to repositories that showcase a specific digital medium. Thus, you’ll find a list of search engines to help you with Getting Started on your quest to find O.E.Rs, but also narrower repositories of open textbooks and curricula and open courses. Lest we forget, O.E.R refers not only to texts or websites, but  also to audio files, images, and videos, that is to say to things like free digital recordings of concerts and music, public domain photography, and TED talks. The site helpfully points the visitor to search directories to find each of these, including highly specialized repositories that curate collections of media such as “pictures of trans and non-binary models” and “music remixes under Creative Commons licenses.” I highly recommend navigating to this page as you teach this semester and look for new, creative, online tools to enhance your pedagogy. Using multimedia is important to meet the needs of different learning styles, and the library has done us all a great favor by highlighting these resources and search tools.

I also recommend following the O.E.R at City Tech News blog which, highlights “one O.E.R relevant to each school at City Tech in every (weekly) post.” The O.E.R featured here are exemplary and can inspire your teaching in a remote semester.

Curious about O.E.R.? Visit the site to learn more. Note also that if you’d like to get more involved in developing O.E.R at City Tech, the site lays out different workshops and faculty development programs to help you do so. Happy exploration!