In the Spotlight: Welcome back!

OpenLab's The Open Road LogoGreetings City Tech community, and for those of you on break during the summer months, welcome back! We missed you over the summer! As you get back into the swing of things, make sure to join the Open Road and check out what we have planned for you all this semester. As you may know, the Open Road is our one-stop-shop for everything ‘OpenLab’. Here you can find out when/where our workshop for students and workshops for faculty* are (see Calendar also), when our office hours are, and any additional news and updates we have for you. For example, our latest news post informs you of all the updates we’ve made to the OpenLab over the summer.

Also, check out ‘People’s Choice’, a new-ish feature on the Open Road where OpenLab members can recommend sites to be featured on ‘In the Spotlight’. Recommend a site today!

We also encourage you to check out our student blogging team, The Buzz!

As always, the OpenLab Community Team is here for you. Contact us online or at OpenLab@citytech.cuny.edu. We look forward to hearing from you!

*This semester we have two new workshops for faculty – one focusing on copyright and attribution, and another focusing on annotation, both of which are tied to our Open Pedagogy events happening this semester. Join Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab for more on these events.

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.12

We released version 1.7.12 of the OpenLab on August 9. The bulk of the release included updates to WordPress and BuddyPress, the software that powers the OpenLab. These updates will largely be invisible, but there will be a few updates our members may notice.

The release included two new plugins. Admin Commenters Count should be very helpful for faculty who use the OpenLab for student work. It adds the number of comments for each member of the site to the Comments page as well as the Users page on the Dashboard. The other plugin is a survey add-on for Gravity Forms, which provides more powerful options for creating Gravity Forms surveys, such as the ability to add Likert Scale and other types of questions.

We also added a paragraph to the first step of course creation with information about the OpenLab’s Creative Commons license, which is part of an ongoing effort to clarify this for users, as well as create an ongoing conversation around fair use and citation. This is also the subject of an upcoming Open Pedagogy event on September 28.

We made a few changes to the new member sign up page, which should improve the user experience. We moved the first and last name questions to the first section, and we made it more clear that phone numbers are optional, and if included will appear on members’ public profiles. We also changed the appearance of error messages so they are more consistent with those on the rest of the site.

We added links to the three sites run by the OpenLab team to the About page—Open Pedagogy, The Open Road, and The Buzz—to make them easier to find. They’re coming soon to the homepage as well!

Finally, a small but important detail for those who use OpenLab messages: we added the ability to delete messages from members’ profile inbox.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: Student Mary Lewis’ ePortfolio

Headshot of Mary Lewis

“Anything is possible in life. With motivation and self discipline.”

This week we’re spotlighting the ePortfolio of Mary Lewis, a City Tech student pursuing a degree in dental hygiene. Mary’s ePortfolio tells an integrated story about her academic progress and achievements, her professional development and goals, and her personal history. On her ‘About Me’ page, Mary documents her journey from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Guinea, to Germany, and describes how her experiences led her to pursue a career as a dental hygienist. Under ‘Skills’, Mary has included a detailed list of skills learned through past professional and academic experiences – such as digital panoramic radiographs and extraoral and intraoral examination – as well as two case studies, all detailing the types of roles and tasks she has mastered and can fulfil or build upon through future employment opportunities. Along these same lines, Mary has included details about her timeline to certification and uploaded a copy of her resume. All in all, Mary’s ePortfolio serves as a great starting point for learning more about her, her skills and education, and her potential. In this way, not only does this site serve as an archive for Mary, it also serves as a great, public-facing resource where others, including potential employers, can learn about Mary, as a person and a future employee.

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.11

We released version 1.7.11 of the OpenLab on May 16.

This was a very small release, which did nonetheless include two plugins. The PDF Embedder plugin will allow OpenLab members to embed pdfs on their sites without using a third party service and to embed PDFs on private sites. Both capabilities differ from our current document embedder, Google Docs Embedder. The Download Monitor plugin will allow users to manage downloadable files on their site, including tracking downloads.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.10

sprouting leaves with water droplets

Image Source: Seyed Mostafa Zamani

We released version 1.7.10 of the OpenLab on April 17.

This release included a few improvements that will be noticeable to OpenLab members. We have added a new feature to Project and Club Profiles, which is the ability to add a contact person (or persons) for the Project or Club. This can be found in the Settings on a Project or Club’s Profile page, or during the creation process for new groups.

In addition, we added an email notification letting admins of a public Course, Project, or Club site know when someone joins your group.

We also added the OpenLab’s Creative Commons license in the site footer. Any content that an OpenLab member creates or posts on the OpenLab is automatically protected under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial Share-Alike 3.0 license. However, any OpenLab member is free to choose other copyright conditions for any content that they create or post on the OpenLab by specifying the particulars on their own site.

Finally, we added the plugin Folders to the OpenLab. We think it may be useful for anyone who wishes to be able to categorize and organize posts, pages, and/or media library files on their site.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: Recent Nucleus Issue ‘Spotlights’ OpenLab

cover of NucleusThis week we’re spotlighting the recent issue of the Nucleus (Winter, 2017), our Faculty Commons Quarterly. This season’s issue features pieces from faculty about the creative ways they’ve used the OpenLab in the context of their courses and/or research. Specifically, faculty discuss engaging students through creative and interactive assignments that incorporate multiple forms of media and dialogue, how the open and archival aspects of the OpenLab enable past students to share tips and strategies with newer students despite never meeting in person, how course sites can act as nodes in larger networks of resources that may benefit students academically, professionally, or otherwise, how to carry out collaborative student-faculty research projects, and how other innovative learning resources such as OERs and WeBWorks enrich students learning AND can help keep educational costs down for students. We hope you enjoy!

A hearty thank you to the Faculty Commons for their enthusiasm and support with this issue and always.

In the Spotlight: City Tech Women Engineers Club

logo for Women in Engineering clubThis week we’re spotlighting the City Tech Women’s Engineer Club. This club provides an exciting opportunity for City Tech students to connect and collaborate with their peers as well as faculty members on projects and events around campus and the larger metro area. Moreover it allows students to the opportunity to join important professional organizations for engineering majors including the Institute of electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and specifically their Women in Engineering chapter (WIE). Thus, in joining this club, students enter into an extensive, multi-scalar community of professionals and future professionals who can support them in successfully pursuing a career in an engineering field. The group’s OpenLab site plays does a lot towards maintaining this community, but also plays a critical role in speaking to a larger public community about the work of the group. I’d like to highlight how two of the features on the site fulfills both roles simultaneously.

First, the site defines the contours to the group – who the group is, how they are organized, what the group is working on, how to get involved, and how getting involved may be beneficial to students. This information may be helpful to potential new members who are intrigued that the group is student-run while faculty and alumni serve as mentors and advisors. It may also be helpful to broader public audiences interested in contacting the group.

Second, the group highlights a number of events, activities and projects that members can attend or get involved with through joining this group, as well as shares resources that might be of interest. This kind of information is obviously useful to members who are committed to a career in engineering, but it may also be of interest to potential members who may be interested in joining an event or better understanding the work of the group before officially joining. The resources provided (including information about events and other activities) may also be of interest to a broader public audience – maybe a professor at another CUNY school who’d like to collaborate, or an engineering firm looking for promising students to hire, or high school students or others not currently in school who are thinking carefully about what career path to choose before returning to school.

Considering both of these functions when creating your site – be it for a project, club, course or ePortfolio – can help you give a larger life to the content and effort you are putting into building out the site.

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.9

abstracted image of grassy field

Image Source: Brian Wolfe

We released version 1.7.9 of the OpenLab on March 15.

This release included improvements for two themes. In the Pilcrow theme, child pages didn’t appear in a dropdown menu in a site’s top menu navigation, as is standard with most themes. We made a change to Pilcrow so that they do. The Sliding Door theme requires the Page Links To plugin to make the sliding images link to pages on the site. Now when users activate Sliding Door, the plugin will automatically be activated.

We also fixed a bug in the first page of Portfolio creation causing department checkboxes to not display properly.

Finally, we added two plugins. Cardboard allows users to display 360 degree video and photos. Another plugin, which is automatically activated on the entire OpenLab, meaning that our members don’t need to activate on their own sites, allows users to upload .tex files to their sites.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: ENG1121-D433 – English Composition 2

header image of English Comp 2 classThis week we’re spotlighting Professor Iddings’ English Composition 2 course (ENG 1121-D433). After a quick tour around Professor Iddings’ course site, it is easy to see how this site functions as an important hub for her students and aims to support them in being successful in the course. With this in mind there are a number of features I’d like to highlight:

At 15 points of their overall grade, Blogging is an important component of this english course. For Professor Iddings, blogging is a part of the larger motto of the class: “Writing—and writing frequently, with intention, and with significant feedback—is a great way to improve your understanding of the texts we will read.” With this in mind, Professor Iddings gives extensive details on how to approach the assignment including the requirements and deadlines, notes on how to post and what should be included, and a grading rubric. In addition, she gives an overview of what blogging is and how its style and etiquette compare and contrast with other forms of class writing. This last component seems particularly important given the likelihood that many students haven’t had the opportunity to blog before.

A second feature I’d like to highlight is her main menu item entitled ‘Classwork’. As her page description states, “This is where all kind of handouts, slide shows, and student-generated work will land.” While the page contains only slide shows at the moment, I think it’s worthwhile to note the facility of having a place where any loose-leaf handouts can be stored digitally. Undoubtedly, there will be a student or two (or 10!) who will lose track of handouts that will prove useful to them throughout the course. By uploading them here, Professor Iddings never has to worry about students in her losing access to these documents.

The last feature I will highlight here – though there are many more and I encourage you to check out the site! – is the “Helpful Links” section and RSS Feed for the NYTimes which she has in her widget area (the menu on the right side of the course site). While each of these offers different content – the first providing students with easy access to educational resources around City Tech and beyond, and the second linking to the latest articles from the Times – both work to connect the student’s classroom experience to the outside world. This is an important capability of the OpenLab platform that we encourage instructors to take advantage of!

The Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.8

a series of 10 abstract images of flowers

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!