In the Spotlight: The OpenLab for Students

The OpenLab for Students is a short tutorial to “help students learn, work and share their ideas using the OpenLab!” It covers topics from creating a student account to finding and joining courses to participating in those courses. It also includes tips for success in online learning and a quiz to help you assess your knowledge of the platform. If you are a student, we recommend the tutorial for any stage of your City Tech career: it’s a great project to join and refer back as you start your semester, which most likely involves quite a bit of remote learning! You can read through the entire project in about an hour, and front and back buttons at the bottom of each page make it easy to navigate and skip ahead to information that is most useful to you. We also recommend that faculty refer students to the tutorial to orient them to the OpenLab. Below are some highlights you’ll definitely want to check out:

  • A short video tutorial (45 seconds!) on posting on the OpenLab. If some of your instructors are teaching on the OpenLab this semester, you will almost certainly be asked to post on your course site. The process isn’t too complicated, but it does involve a few steps: watch this video and pause it as needed as you create your first few posts.

  • Tips and and links to help documentation for using the Block Editor. As the module notes: “There are two ways to create a post: you can use the Block Editor or the Classic Editor…WordPress will be retiring the Classic Editor in 2021, so it’s best to use the Block Editor.” To that end, the tutorial links to step-by-step by help on using the Block editor, including an entry on writing a post and another on working with blocks.

  • The tips for success in online learning are a great beginning of semester read! No one–and I mean no one–has found the transition to remote learning easy. You are not alone if you are struggling in this regard. As the tutorial notes, “it can be hard to focus during online classes,” especially if you don’t have an adequate space to work or functioning technology to get your work done. The tutorial gives advice as to how to navigate these challenges, including how to communicate with your professor about the difficulties you may be experiencing in this period. It also provides links and contact information for many more college-widge resources that are available online and can help support you.

Make sure to join this tutorial and refer back to it often!

In the Spotlight: Connect Days Career and Technology Teacher Education

Header image for CTTE Connect Days Site, three students looking at a computer in a City Tech Classroom.

The transition to distance learning has challenged the City Tech community to create new digital resources for incoming students and faculty. Professor Sue Brandt and others developed an innovative Connect Days template, which different departments can customize to provide an online orientation to the degrees and certificates offered at the college. This week we spotlight the Career and Technology Teacher Education’s Connect Days site:

An Easy-to-Digest Home Page

The Career and Technology Teacher Education’s  (CTTE) Connect Days Home page is informative and easy to read. It begins with a warm welcome message from the chair, who includes a headshot of himself to help students associate “a face with the name”–something that can be nice in this era of remote learning! The page also makes good use of infographics, presenting flow charts that explain the different pathways students can take to Bachelor of Science in Education degrees. Finally, CTTE makes sure that practical and timely information is highly visible on the site’s landing page by including their remote advisement schedule.

Pages for Faculty, Staff and Student Leaders

Following the Connects Days template, CTTE has included pages not only for faculty and staff profiles, but for profiles of student leaders. This gives new students a sense not only of who will be teaching them, but of what veteran students are doing with their major, in other words what they can look forward to accomplishing! Notice that these pages include headshots of and contact information for each person profiled, another important practice to follow in this era of remote learning.

Multimedia Virtual Tours

Few of us may be setting foot into the campus this semester, but we think it’s safe to say that almost everyone is looking forward to a future when we can make full use of our facilities again. It’s important to let students know what these facilities look like and what resources are available there. To that end, CTTE has included multiple virtual tours of City Tech buildings and CTTE labs/ classrooms. We like that these include written directions to the campus, complemented by a well-labeled street map and pictures of the school buildings. We love that these tours include a promotional video created by existing CTTE students for prospective learners! Note that this video was uploaded to YouTube and embedded into the site: this is a great way to make use of the OpenLab’s multimedia functions, and an advantage of YouTube is that it provides automatic closed captioning, a best practice in terms of accessibility.

Please make sure to visit the CTTE Connect Days site to learn more about the program!

In the Spotlight: Welcome Back & Fall 2020 Programming

Welcome back to all City Tech faculty, students, and staff! We hope your semester is beginning smoothly and that you are settling into a new routine of remote work. Last spring marked an abrupt and challenging transition to distance education. This fall, many of us are going in more psychologically prepared, though we recognize that these continue to be difficult times for many. We hope the resources and tools on the OpenLab can make your semester just a bit easier. There a number of different ways we’re here to support your work:

Fall 2020 Drop-in Office Hours

Meet (virtually) with a member of the OpenLab Community Team for support. These office hours are first-come, first served and are open to students, faculty, and staff.

September

9/3 (Thursday), 4:00-5:00

9/11 (Friday), 10:00-11:00

9/15 (Tuesday), 1:30-2:30

9/20 (Sunday), 4:00-5:00

9/29 (Tuesday), 1:30-2:30

October

10/9 (Friday), 10:00-11:00

10/16 (Friday), 10:00-11:00

10/20 (Tuesday), 1:30-2:30

10/30 (Friday), 10:00-11:00

November

11/5 (Thursday), 4:00-5:00

11/10 (Tuesday), 1:30-2:30

11/15 (Sunday), 4:00-5:00

11/25 (Real Life Wednesday, CUNY Friday), 10:00-11:00

December

12/3 (Thursday), 4:00-5:00

12/6 (Sunday),  4:00-5:00

Office hours are held via Google Hangouts. Click here for further instructions on how to sign-up and join us in our Google Hangout.

Fall 2020 One-on-One Consultations

Meet (virtually) one-on-one with a member of the OpenLab Community Team for support. These office hours require an RSVP, and are open to students, faculty, and staff.

September

9/3 (Thursday), 3:00-4:00

9/11 (Friday), 11:00-12:00

9/15 (Tuesday), 2:30-3:30

9/20 (Sunday), 3:00-4:00

9/29 (Tuesday), 2:30-3:30

October

10/9 (Friday), 11:00-12:00

10/16 (Friday), 11:00-12:00

10/20 (Tuesday), 2:30-3:30

10/30 (Friday), 11:00-12:00

November

11/5 (Thursday), 3:00-4:00

11/10 (Tuesday), 2:30-3:30

11/15 (Sunday), 3:00-4:00

11/25 (Real Life Wednesday, CUNY Friday), 11:00-12:00

December

12/3 (Thursday), 3:00-4:00

12/6 (Sunday),  3:00-4:00

One-on-one consultations are held via Google Hangouts. Click here for further instructions on how to sign-up and join us in our Google Hangout.

Support Documentation

We have help(ful) documentation on the OpenLab that offers step-by-step guides for everything from getting started, to thinking about specific plugins that build out the functionality of your sites and portfolios.

Teaching with the OpenLab

We have a new online self-paced training module for faculty: Teaching with the OpenLab. Read more about it or ask questions at our virtual office hours. The module walks you through creating a course and teaching a course with our new course template. It also provides step-by-step guidance for faculty cloning model courses.

Learning with the OpenLab

Check out The OpenLab for Students, a brand new online tutorial designed to help students use the OpenLab. Learn how to get started, participate in your OpenLab courses, and more!

Email

We are available to support you via email: openlab@citytech.cuny.edu.

Join Our In-House Sites

We encourage you to become members of our in-house sites (you can do so by visiting the profiles of each site). These sites will keep you up-to-date with all things ‘OpenLab’ and offer opportunities for deeper investment with City Tech’s community.

  • Learn more about the OpenLab, including workshops, events, community, and support opportunities on The Open Road. (Profile)
  • Share and discuss resources about open digital pedagogy with other City Tech and CUNY-wide staff and faculty on Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab. (Profile)

In the Spotlight: Virtual Office Hours, Summer 2020

A deer peeking out over a field of yellow flowers.
Deer in a Canola Field by Jim Choate on Flickr.

Greetings City Tech Community!

We wanted to extend our congratulations to all of you on completing an especially trying spring semester. A special shout-out to the class of 2020!

We know many of you will be spending a chunk of your summer developing online academic resources. Some of you will be preparing your fall courses, which may well need to be fully online; some of you will be developing online student orientation materials; others will be continuing the transition to virtual student club life. The OpenLab is a great community-run platform from which to expand your web presence. But we realize that you may need support in setting up your OpenLab site. The OpenLab team is here to help!

We have scheduled virtual office hours for the rest of the summer (see full schedule below).  These offer the opportunity to meet with a member of the OpenLab Community Team. All office hours are held via Google Hangouts and are open to faculty, staff, and students. 

Support in office hours is first-come, first-served. If possible, please reach out to the OpenLab team in advance to let us know what questions you have so we can be prepared.

Click here to sign up for virtual office hours.

Click here to join us in our Google Hangout during the office hours listed below.

Click here for instructions for joining via Google Hangouts.

6/26 Friday 2:00 PM-3:00 PM

7/1  Wednesday 2:00 PM-3:00 PM

7/9 Thursday 12:00 PM-1:00PM

7/17 Friday 2:00 PM-3:00 PM

7/22 Wednesday 2:00 PM-3:00 PM

7/30  Thursday 12:00 PM-1:00 PM

8/7  Friday 2:00 PM-3:00PM 

8/12 Wednesday 2:00 PM-3:00 PM

8/20 Thursday  12:00 PM-1:00 PM

 

In the Spotlight: OpenLab Help and Distance Learning

A photograph of a pink and yellow flower in bloom.
Photo credit: Uplifting! by Andrea_44

Hi City Tech faculty, students, and staff!  As all of us continue to adjust to telecommuting and working from home, we want to take a moment to highlight the different ways the OpenLab can support your transition to distance education.

New Help Documentation

This semester, the OpenLab added new help documentation titled Distance Education.  It includes resources for:

 TEACHING ON THE OPENLAB

 FINDING EXAMPLE COURSES

ORGANIZING STUDENT POSTS

DESIGNING ASSIGNMENTS AND GRADING

…and much more. Please check out this help(ful) documentation on the OpenLab. It offers step-by-step guides for much of what you might need to do at the different points of the semester.

Spring 2020 Virtual Office Hours

As CUNY transitioned to distance learning for the Spring 2020 semester, the OpenLab shifted our events and support online. All workshops for the remainder of the semester have been converted to virtual office hours. We have them scheduled through mid-May: please see our calendar here and sign up for an office hour here.

Email

We are available to support you via email: openlab@citytech.cuny.edu.

Join Our In-House Sites

We encourage you to become members of our in-house sites (you can do so by visiting the profiles of each site). These sites will keep you up-to-date with all things ‘OpenLab’ and offer opportunities for deeper investment with City Tech’s community.

  • Learn more about the OpenLab, including workshops, events, community, and support opportunities on The Open Road. (Profile)
  • Share and discuss resources about open digital pedagogy with other City Tech and CUNY-wide staff and faculty on Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab. (Profile)

We hope you’ll take advantage of these different resources! Wishing you all good health and a smooth end-of-semester!

In the Spotlight: Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center

The banner image from the Brooklyn Waterfront Center site. It says the letters "B", "W", "R" and "C" in large letters.

This week, we spotlight the Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center, which is an “incubator for new waterfront-related research” and “a venue to bring students into the knowledge-creation process.” You’ll notice that the project has an OpenLab profile but that the site itself was built on our CUNY-wide, sister platform, the CUNY Academic Commons. As a reminder, if you have a site on the CUNY Academic Commons or–for that matter–any other platform, you too can create a profile and presence for this work on the OpenLab by setting up your site as an External Site.

We also wanted to spotlight the Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center site because they have a $2000 summer fellowship open to support full-time City Tech faculty wishing to conduct research on the Brooklyn Waterfront. Applications are now open, and applicants can be from any academic discipline. Interested? See below for more details and learn more about the Research Center here.

Download (PDF, 71KB)

In the Spotlight: Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab

This week, as we prepare for our first 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 curated 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 (2/27) we’re hosting our first Open Pedagogy event of the semester, Access in Service. 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 semester, focusing on how faculty and staff can leverage technology to increase our students’ access to learning and other academic opportunities  at CUNY. 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: OpenLab Mobile Shortcuts

This week, we spotlight a feature built into most smartphones that can facilitate mobile work on the OpenLab! 

At our workshops, people sometimes ask if we can develop an OpenLab app, similar to the Blackboard app. They say they are pleased with the OpenLab’s mobile functionality, but it’s a pain to have to pull up your phone browser, then navigate to the OpenLab, then navigate to where you want to go. An app on the home screen would provide a handy shortcut. Luckily, you can do that already! 

While app development is not currently in the works, there’s a very easy way to create your own shortcut to the OpenLab on your phone’s home screen. In this post, we will outline how to do it on both iOS and Android. 

Creating an OpenLab Mobile Shortcut on iPhones

  1. Navigate in your phone browser (usually Safari, unless you use another browser) to the OpenLab page you want to create the shortcut to. This might be the OpenLab home page, or your own profile, or the profile or site of a particular course.
  2. Scroll up so that the bottom menu appears, revealing the forward/back buttons, the bookmark button, the share button, and the “view all tabs” button. (See Screenshot 1) 
    Illustration of Steps 1 and 2
    Screenshot 1: OpenLab on mobile with Safari navigation menu visible
  3. Click on the “Share” button. It looks like a square with an arrow pointing upwards out of it. (See Screenshot 2)

    Illustration of where the Share button is on iOS Safari
    Screenshot 2: Share Button circled in yellow.
  4. Scroll down until you see the option “Add to Home Screen.” Click on it! (See Screenshot 3)

    Screenshot of menu that appears when the Share button is clicked, with "Add to Home Screen" circled
    Screenshot 3: “Add to Home Screen” option in Sharing menu
  5. Adjust the name of the shortcut if you wish.
  6. Click “Add.” Now the shortcut to the page will appear as an icon along with your apps! You can delete it or move it around like you can with any of your apps. (See Screenshot 4) 
    iPhone app screen with shortcut to the OpenLab circled in orange
    Screenshot 4: Your new shortcut to the OpenLab

    Creating an OpenLab Mobile Shortcut on Android

    1. Navigate in your phone browser to the OpenLab page you want to create the shortcut to. This might be the OpenLab home page, or your own profile, or the profile or site of a particular course.
    2. Tap the “menu” button on your phone. (The Square button of the three white shapes pictured in Screenshot 1)
      Image of navigation buttons on an Android phone
      Screenshot 1: Android navigation buttons
    3. Then click “Add to homescreen.”
      Image of the menu that appears after Step 2 is completed
      Screenshot 2: Menu for webpage with “Add to Home screen” option
    4. Change the name of the shortcut if you wish, and then click “Add.”
       

      Screenshot of dialog box that allows user to change the name of the shortcut
      Screenshot 3: Name change dialog box

      5. Now you will see a shortcut to your OpenLab page!

Screenshot of Android home screen with OpenLab shortcut visible

We hope this helps you use the OpenLab even more easily on mobile platforms. Many CUNY students, as well as faculty and staff, use their phones for academic work, and creating a shortcut (or more than one!) to the OpenLab can make that work even more streamlined.

In the Spotlight: Attribution Plugin

An image of a typed creative commons license.

This week, we spotlight a new plugin that allows anyone to add attributions for Creative Commons licensed content they’re using on an OpenLab site. The OpenLab Attributions plugin was built specifically for the OpenLab!

How does it work? 

Once you activate the plugin, you can go to your page or post editor and add an attribution to any open licensed material you have on your site. Each attribution will add a superscript number that links to a reference list at the bottom of a page or post (see, for example, how we’ve used the plugin to create an attribution for this post’s image. The attribution appears at the bottom of this post, in a reference list). We recommend using this plugin to attribute any Creative Commons images you’re using on your site and, if you are an instructor, teaching your students to use this plugin to cite open-licensed images and other media content they may be posting on the OpenLab.

In the Spotlight: Inviting Students to your Course!

Happy second week of school to all City Tech faculty, students, and staff! At the start of every semester, faculty ask us how they can get their students set up on the OpenLab for the very first time.  The process can feel intimidating! But below, I spotlight three easy ways that you, as an instructor, can invite your students to join your course.

Have your students join your course in class!

If your course and profile are public, then students should be able to search for your course on the OpenLab. Once they’ve found it, they can join simply by clicking “Join Now.”

A screenshot of an OpenLab course profile page, which includes a course avatar and a button that reads "Join Now." Students can join the course by clicking this button.

 

You can walk your students through these steps in class, using a classroom computer to demonstrate. I recommend having students join on the spot in the classroom from their phones, tablets or laptops. Note that you can have them search for the course from the top toolbar or go into the Courses tab and use the right-hand search function with filters. 

 

 It helps here to give your course an intuitive name that includes the course number and semester!  

 

 

 

Invite your students to your course via e-mail!

This method, too, works only if you keep your course site and profile public. (Note that you can always change your privacy settings later, if you’d like). An easy way to have students join your course is to e-mail them the URL to your course profile. The link will take them to your profile page where, once again, they can simply click “Join Now.” 

A screenshot of an OpenLab course profile page, which includes a course avatar and a button that reads "Join Now." Students can join the course by clicking this button.

 

Invite your students to your course via the OpenLab!

You can invite your students to your course from your course profile page.  Click Membership in the right-hand menu, and then click Invite New Members on the following screen. If your course is on the smaller side, you can search individually for each of your students and invite them to your site in this way. Note that you can search for new members to invite either by typing in their e-mails or Display Names.

 

Screenshot of an OpenLab Site's Membership Setting Page. On this page, users can search form members to invite.

 

Your students will receive an automated confirmation e-mail.  Once the e-mail address is confirmed by the user, they will be added to your site.

I hope this helps explain how you can invite students to your course. Please visit our Help documentation on managing users on the OpenLab for a fuller overview.