In the Spotlight: Winter Greetings from the Openab

Brooklyn Bridge lit up at night. Dark, cloudy winter skies over hed.,
Photo Credit: Lerone Pieters

Holiday greetings from the OpenLab and congratulations to all on the closing of another semester! 

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

Fall 2019 Spotlight Posts

We also continued a retrospective series, looking back at the OpenLab’s evolution over the past (quasi) decade. This time we focused on the OpenLab’s work to improve accessibility, spotlighting:

…and improved our practices and incorporated some new functionalities and features:

In addition to reviewing these posts from this past fall, 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 winter break– please contact us with questions or concerns.

We will also soon announce our winter programming. 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: the Fourth Annual Science Fiction Symposium

This week, we spotlight the Fourth Annual Science Fiction Symposium, to be held on Thursday, Dec. 12 in the Academic Building (285 Jay St, A105). Organized by Jason W. Ellis (City Tech) and Emily Hockaday (Analog Science Fiction and Fact), the Symposium will be held in partnership with Analog Science Fiction and Fact and its publisher Penny Publications. It will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Analog Science Fiction magazine.

All are welcome to drop by! The Symposium is all day long but you can dip in and out as your schedule permits. It’s also open to the public, with no RSVP required. The schedule with the editors/writers panels and scholarly presentations is available here. 

Hope to see you there!

In the Spotlight: The OpenLab at CUNY IT

*This post is part of the OpenLab’s “Retrospective Series,” through which the OpenLab team and community is curating and reflecting on the ways in which the OpenLab has grown and transformed since its launch in Fall 2011. (You can check out the original posts in the series here and here).

For this year’s CUNY IT , hosted at John Jay College, the OpenLab team is reporting back from our ongoing conversations about access in pedagogy and open learning. These conversations have occurred at our two Open Pedagogy events this semester, where we focused on how to broaden the notion of access beyond compliance with the ADA, as well as how to make ourselves more accessible as educators. You can read recaps of these events here.  The OpenLab team is excited to share the many valuable insights that have come out of these discussions, and think through how these insights might be integrated into the OpenLab–City Tech’s homegrown open-source digital platform for teaching, learning, and collaborating. In keeping with this year’s conference theme, “bridging gaps,” we will showcase the stories of educators who embrace open, digital pedagogy but also have concerns about making teaching and learning accessible to all. 

We’re excited to tackle the three big questions of the conference:

  • What barriers to success do our students face that technology may address? What emerging technologies have the potential to create new solutions to old problems?
  • What are challenges that our faculty and administrators face in using these technologies to bridge gaps at CUNY? How do we best address these challenges?
  • How can CUNY continue to develop and sustain outstanding digital pedagogy, along with a commitment to access and digital equality for CUNY’s students?

OPENLAB CUNY IT Presentation

Some background: When City Tech’s OpenLab launched in 2011, its team anticipated students, faculty, and staff creatively imagining it as a platform to learn, work, and share within and beyond the college community. The open digital platform, built with blogging and social networking software (WordPress, BuddyPress), thrives with innovative member-generated content. The 28,000+ OpenLab members have pushed it in new and exciting directions.  The OpenLab is a perpetual experiment, and development on the platform moves quickly. Still, we make sure to take time to reflect on the work that we do. We hold two events per semester called Open Pedagogy in which educators from CUNY and New York City at large come together over wine and cheese to discuss various questions concerning digital pedagogy. As noted above, this year our discussions are centered on access.

In frameworks of disability justice, the term accessibility conveys the degree to which a space, process, or concept is accessible. By contrast, access denotes the process by which accessibility is achieved. While we think of digital technologies as lowering some barriers to learning—such as the OER initiative at City Tech and our collaboration with BMCC to better serve transfer students—technology can also present new challenges to access. Our CUNY IT presentation will highlight some of our takeaways from our fall programming and will include interactive components to engage participants as we bring the conversation to the larger CUNY community. 

We hope that the presentation (slides below) and the accompanying material helps to provide a sense of how deeply and meaningfully we have taken up the theme of access. The presenters at the conference include a number of members of the OpenLab team: OpenLab Co-Directors, Jody R. Rosen (Associate Professor of English), and Jason Ellis (Assistant Professor of English), as well as the OpenLab Digital Pedagogy Fellows Claire Cahen, Jesse Rice Evans, and Olivia Wood.

*If you’re at the conference, please do come join us in person, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM.

 

In the Spotlight: Arch 2331, Building Technology 2

Header image for the architecture course; it is a rendering of an urban waterfront landscape that includes a bike path by aa river and large, triangular red building siting along the path.

This week, we spotlight Professor Aptekar’s Arch 2331, Building Technology 2. The course features many of the elements of a well-designed and compelling site. These include:

  •  A customized header image. The image here is a rendering of an urban waterfront landscape–so highly relevant for an Architecture course on building technology! Note also that it is a horizontal image and so works well in the header space.
  • A customized tag line that reads simply “Building Technology Support.” By tag line, I’m referring to the short bit of text featured (usually in italics) next to the site title. The default tag line reads: “An OpenLab course site.” Many OpenLab users forget to customize it, but note here that you can actually adapt it to your needs and use it, as Professor Aptekar does, to inform the visitor of the purpose of the site.
  • A search functionality at the top of the page in the widget area. The search widget here is very well-placed in that it is impossible to miss! It sits at the top right-hand corner of the site, such that anyone will know at first glance that they can simply type what they are looking for in the search box, rather than sift through the content of the entire site.
  • Rich and diverse course content, from lecture notes to assignments to additional resources. This content is cleanly-organized in various pages and posts, clearly labeled and accessible from the main navigation menu and its associated drop-downs menus. Lecture notes are featured in chronological order, with first lectures appearing first and last lectures appearing last.
  • An innovative question and answer set up on the home page. Here, Professor Aptekar posts questions that students ask about the course. These questions are updated weekly and range from inquiries regarding due dates for homework to questions about architecture and the course material. Professor Aptekar posts the student questions in green and his answers in black. These colors serve as neat visual cues. This is also a smart and original way to use the blogroll, such that students don’t miss key, up-to-date information and know that they can engage their professor in open dialogue through the OpenLab. Note how much more efficient this is to communicate information than a private, one-on-one e-mail exchange!

Curious about the course? Check it out for yourself here!

In the Spotlight: NYCCT Prism Alliance

header image for prism alliance site: the letters PRISM are spelled out across a rainbow-colored banner.

This week, we spotlight NYCCT’s Prism Alliance. The Prism Alliance at City Tech is an inclusive safe space for all LGBTQIA++ students and allies. The club meets once a week, during club hour on Thursdays from 1-2 pm. The meetings are usually held in the library projection room, but the location can vary. Join the club site to get regular updates about meetings! And learn more about the Prism Alliance here!

 

In the Spotlight: Law 1101- Intro to Paralegal Studies

Header image from Professor Coughlin's Law 1101 site. An picture of two hands holding up a newly sprouting plant.

This week, we spotlight Professor Coughlin’s Law 1101 course, Intro to Paralegal Studies. The course is a great example of how instructors can use their OpenLab site as a dynamic syllabus, by which we mean a one-way communication tool with students. Here, Professor Coughlin provides students with all the information they need to complete their coursework, including a syllabus, class notes and materials, assignments, and answer keys for exams. This is a simple way to use the OpenLab that has a lot of benefits. Course materials live online at a URL students can bookmark and check regularly, and critical information is broken up into small, readable chunks. Site content is clearly labeled and organized in the main navigation menu: a student visiting the site will know at first glance where to retrieve what they need. A few other highlights from the course include:

  • Linking to important documents in multiple places. An advantage of using the OpenLab–and, really, any web platform–is that you do not have to think linearly. A course site is not like a book: information can be included and repeated in multiple places. In fact, repeating yourself–or, in Professor Coughlin’s case, linking to course documents in multiple places–is good practice: it helps ensure that key materials are prominent. We like that,on her Assignments page, Professor Coughlin links back to readings and notes found on the Class notes & materials page.
  • A dynamic home page. Professor Coughlin’s homepage is set to the course blogroll. Since she is using her course as a dynamic syllabus and is the only one posting to the site, her home page exclusively contains her announcements to students. This is a great way to make sure students know, on any given week, what’s on their plate for the course.
  • Using the Google Doc Embedder plugin to upload course documents. While it is best practice to create site content directly from your page/ post editor, it is also smart  for instructors to upload some key documents–such as their syllabus–to their site. This way, students or other site visitors can download and print the docs for themselves.

Thinking about using the OpenLab to teach? Check out Professor Coughlin’s Law 1101 course for a model for how to use a site effectively as a dynamic syllabus.

In the Spotlight: Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab

This week, as we prepare for our second Open Pedagogy Event of the semester, we’d like to draw your attention once again to our in-house site, Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab. This site operates as a forum where OpenLab community members can ask questions and stimulate discussion related to teaching and learning on the OpenLab and in open digital environments more generally. The site is replete with carefully cullied resources you can draw on in your teaching, from examples of digital pedagogy assignments to provocative readings on the value of multimedia pedagogy and public writing to information on best practices and tips for open digital pedagogy.  The site’s blogroll is a great place for online discussion on building a curriculum that integrates the OpenLab; each month, our Pedagogy Profiles blog series highlights a different City Tech faculty member who is using the OpenLab in creative ways. 

In conjunction with this site, our OpenLab team hosts Open Pedagogy Events, organized around particular themes and concerns related to teaching in open digital environments and more specifically with teaching on the OpenLab. This Thursday (11/7) we’re hosting our second Open Pedagogy event of the semester, Access Pedagogy. The event will be held in the Faculty Commons (N227) from 4:30-6:00pm. Refreshments will be served (thanks to the Faculty Commons for its generous support of this event!). Visit the event posting for more information and to RSVP! We hope to see you there! We will also consider the theme of “access” throughout this year, focusing in particular on how can a commitment to access can augment and alter digital pedagogies. Part-time faculty are eligible to receive a stipend for participation in the event.

As always, we encourage you to join the site, follow along and participate in the conversation!

In the Spotlight: NYC Men Teach

The NYC men Teach logo.

This week, we spotlight the club site for the CUNY NYC  Men Teach program. At City Tech, the program “provides academic and financial support to… NYC Men Teach fellows” in the teacher degree programs in Math Education and Career and Technical Education. The program’s OpenLab site is well-organized and straightforward, and features all of the key information interested students need to get started. Below are some highlights:

Including Contact Information in Multiple Places

On an OpenLab club or project site, there can be no such thing as featuring contact information too many times. Visitors to the site may not navigate through all of its content, and including contact information in multiple places is a good way to ensure that interested parties know how to follow up. On the NYC  Men Teach site, we like that a “Club Contact” is linked to from the profile page, then again in the form of an email address on the home page, and a third time on the application page.  

Clear Titles for Pages

The NYC Mean teach site is intuitively organized and the pages are clearly labeled in the main navigation menu. From left to right, these pages include a home page that overviews the program, a page on Eligibility which lays out the criteria applicants musts meet, a page for prospective students to Apply, and a final page that offers guidelines on Teacher Certification Exam Prep. At first glance, a visitor to the site can read this navigation menu and know where to go for relevant content.

Linking out to Related Resources

Rather than cram too much detail into their club site, NYC Men Teach link out to other existing resources. For example, they link out to the Mathematics Education and the Career and Technical Teacher Education department sites, as well as the Office of the Mayor’s website about NYC Men Teach. They even include a link to the NYSTCE website registration page for the teacher certification exam. This is a great practice to follow. Linking out guides visitors toward the steps and tools they need to enter the program, but keeps the content on the site sparse enough to be easily digested. 

Overall, the NYC  Men Teach OpenLab site demonstrates how you can effectively build up your program’s web presence, providing your program participants and prospective applicants the information they need to get involved.

In the Spotlight: Nursing Case Management- Role and Process (NUR4030)

This week, we’re spotlighting Professor Thomas’ NUR4030 OER,  Case Management: Role and Process. The course  “focuses on innovative, integrated nursing case and care management models within the context of assessment, planning, collaboration, negotiation, and evaluation.” The course site is clean, simple, and well-organized, and is a great example an OpenLab OER.   

A Static Home Page

Professor Thomas has set the course’s homepage to a welcome page. There, visitors to the site can find a course description and an overview of course objectives. Note that this content is static: it is unlikely to change much throughout the semester and is therefore published as a page, rather than in the dynamic format of blog posts. This is a great way of setting up an OER, which is likely to serve as a one-way conversation between the site administrator and visitors.

Readings, Broken Down By Unit

While the blogosphere and social media worlds of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have gotten most of us accustomed to long vertical scrolls, it’s still a good idea to break down content on course sites. After all, it is easier to  find information when it is featured in short pages and posts. Professor Thomas makes things intuitive for her students by creating a separate menu tab for course Readings. These are not simply listed on one page, but instead linked to in a drop-down menu in which each course unit represents a separate page. Each page contains links to and citations for the readings for that unit. This makes the coursework and flow for the OER completely unambiguous. 

Navigation Menu Widget

Finally, Professor Thomas makes great use of the Navigation Menu Widget in the site’s right-hand sidebar. This widget features links to all pages linked to from the site’s main navigation menu, including those linked to in the drop-down menu. This gives visitors to the site yet another quick overview of the OER’s content; it allows them to navigate to different parts of the site more easily and offers an alternative to the drop-down menu, which isn’t always easy to read on one’s phone!

Are you building an OER on the OpenLab? Need inspiration for your course or project site? Check out Professor Thomas’ course for inspiration!

In the Spotlight: Add to My Portfolio

On the OpenLab, you can build your online portfolio, creating a personal site on which you display digital representations of your academic work, interests, and achievements. If you are a City Tech student, you may already have done this as part of your coursework. 

Over the summer, we created an ‘Add to My Portfolio’ button, which makes it easier to add work from courses, projects, or clubs to your portfolio. If you are a student, using this button will save you time as you populate your portfolio with content you have created on other sites. If you are faculty or staff, you can use this button as well, both to add content to your own portfolio and with your students who are developing their OpenLab ePortfolios.

How does the button work, you ask? Great question. Below, we walk you through the functionality, step-by-step.

Add to My Portfolio

If you have an OpenLab portfolio, you can turn on an ‘Add to My Portfolio’ button, which will appear on posts and comments you have created on other OpenLab sites.  This makes it easier to add work from courses, projects, or clubs to your portfolio.  

Enabling the ‘Add to Portfolio’ button

  1. Go to your Portfolio Profile > Settings, and then click Settings in the sub-menu at the top.
  1. Scroll down to the bottom where you’ll see the section, ‘Add to my Portfolio.’ Click the checkbox to enable this feature.

Adding a post or comment to your Portfolio

Once you have enabled the ‘Add to My Portfolio’ button, you will see it appear at the bottom of any post or comment you have created on any other OpenLab site.  

    1. Click the Add to My Portfolio button at the bottom of the post or comment you would like to add to your portfolio. 
    2. A window will pop up asking for a few details:
      1. Format: You can choose to add the content to your portfolio as a post or page. 
      2. Title: The title will automatically be the same as the title of the post you’re adding, but you can change this. If it’s a comment you’ll need to add a title.
      3. Citation: This cannot be edited.  It adds a citation at the top of the post with information about where the post was originally published.
      4. Annotation: You can add an annotation or leave this blank.  An annotation is a short description you can include to tell your reader about the content you’re adding to your portfolio.
          
    3. When you’re finished, click Add to Portfolio.
  1. After adding to your portfolio, you’ll see that the Add to Portfolio button can no longer be clicked, and will say “Added to my Portfolio.”
  2. The content will be saved in draft form on your portfolio as a post or page, depending on the format you chose.  

Publishing the new post or page on your Portfolio site

  1. To publish the content you just added to your portfolio, go to the Dashboard of your portfolio site, and then to Posts or Pages, depending on the format you chose.  You will see the new post or page listed as a draft.
  2. Click on the title of the post or page, where you can edit it or publish as it is.  You can find additional help on editing and publishing posts or pages in OpenLab Help.

Curious about the ‘Add to My Portfolio’ button? Enable it now and try it out on your own site!

Sources:

This page is a derivative of “OpenLab Help” used under CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0.