In the Spotlight: OpenLab Support

Up The Irons
“Up the Irons” by Florin C via Flickr

The OpenLab Team is here for you, but where exactly is here?

Synchronous support

Open Hours

Throughout the semester, the OpenLab Team hosts weekly open hours for students, faculty, and staff to get acquainted with the OpenLab, ask questions, explore new tools, and learn more about what’s possible when working in an open digital environment. These are open for multiple people to participate in at the same time.

One-on-one Appointments

If anyone wants any or all of the above but without other participants present, there are also one-on-one appointments available. Both these and the Open Hours are now conducted via Zoom.

Workshops by Request

The team is also available for workshops by request for a group (department, course coordination group, club, research group, etc) to learn together about any aspect of the OpenLab specifically or about open digital teaching and learning practices more broadly. All of the links provided here take you to the Support section on The Open Road, which is a site that the OpenLab Team uses to broadcast news, updates, and spotlights.

Asynchronous Support

Help

If there’s a question you have, we’ve probably thought about it, written about it, and made screenshots about it. Visit the Help as a starting point for OpenLab support to find answers to your questions (and to questions you didn’t even know you had).

Email

Use the contact form on the Help page, or email the OpenLab Team directly (OpenLab@CityTech.cuny.edu) to ask questions, report a problem, request a new feature, etc. If you’re having a problem with your account (signing up, logging in, etc), it’s best to email from your City Tech email account.

Screencasts

The OpenLab Team has been busy making screencasts to provide asychronous support in new ways. You can find a link to the screencasts in the Support section of The Open Road. That link will take you to a YouTube channel with all of the OpenLab screencasts.

Modules

There’s a lot of help in Help. For a more focused experience getting ready for teaching and learning on the OpenLab, visit these modules:

  • Faculty members can learn more about getting course sites ready throughout the semester, using the Teaching with the OpenLab module as a guide.
  • Students can get ready to use the OpenLab throughout the semester using the helpful OpenLab for Students module.

Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab

Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab is another site the OpenLab Team runs. It provides resources, support, and community space for anyone exploring teaching with open digital pedagogy. Until we can meet again in person, the OpenLab team will continue to use this site to pose questions and solicit community conversation in lieu of the popular Open Pedagogy events. Anyone can comment, even if they’re not part of the City Tech community–but if you’re an OpenLab member also consider joining the project so you get updates whenever there are new posts about teaching and learning in the open.

Comforting Content for COVID Coping

Finally, if what you need is something comforting, cute, or just generally different from what you’ve been looking at all day on your screen, visit Comforting Content for COVID Coping. Feel free to add or suggest if you have and idea for comfort or cuteness to offer!


Looking for additional support? Have an idea for additional ways the OpenLab Team can provide support? Feel free to reach out via email to OpenLab@CityTech.cuny.edu.

In the Spotlight: Finding Inspiration on the OpenLab

Welcome to spring semester! Getting started on the OpenLab, even if you’ve used it before, can sometimes be overwhelming- there are so many different options for what you can do! On this edition of the Spotlight, we’re spotlighting one way to get inspiration and learn cool things you can do on the OpenLab without feeling overwhelmed. What is it? The Spotlight itself!

What is the Spotlight?

Every Monday, we feature a different site, project, or activity that someone is doing on the OpenLab that we’ve specially selected for you to check out. For example, last semester, we Spotlighted:

The OpenLab Tutorial for Students page (recommended for students and anyone interested in building online tutorials)
The Student Technology Survey (recommended for all faculty teaching online)
The Fifth Annual Science Fiction Symposium (recommended for anyone who might want to host an event using the OpenLab)
The Experiential Art and Design Club (recommended for students running student organizations)

However, we also suggest checking out Spotlighted sites that don’t directly relate to what you want to do on the OpenLab. For example, in her spotlight of the Connect Days template, Claire explains some design choices the creators made that help make the site work so well as an admissions tool, such as an easy-to-digest home page, profiles to help prospective students get a sense for who is in each academic department, and multimedia tours.

How Else Can You Use the Spotlight?

Whether you’re faculty, staff, or a student, you can also check out our Spotlight archive to look for other sites on the OpenLab specifically tailored to your interests.

Students:
Our Student Archive contains featured course sites so that you can preview classes you might want to take in the future, tips for professional development and presenting yourself online, learning resources, and sites created by other students.

Faculty and Staff:
Our Faculty and Staff Archive is arranged to make it easy to find inspiration for online pedagogy and class sites across disciplines, tips for how to guide students in making e-portfolios for your classes, community opportunities at City Tech, and tips for publicizing and coordinating your scholarship!

What Else is on the Open Road?

Aside from the Spotlight, this OpenLab site also contains OpenLab News, so you can learn about new features and our upcoming events, information on how to attend our OpenLab Open Hours, and screencasts for audiovisual guidance on the nuts and bolts of editing your OpenLab site.

You can always see our Spotlighted content for the week on the home page of the OpenLab, or you can join our project profile to get updates sent directly to your email. We hope you’ll come back each week to see all of the cool stuff your colleagues and classmates are doing on the OpenLab!

January Workshops

A close-up photograph of thin red-brown branches speckled with snow
Snow balls by blmiers2

Hi City Tech community!

We’re offering support throughout January for folks teaching and learning through the winter session, or even for folks who want to jump-start the spring semester!

Instead of synchronous workshops, which we have offered in-person in past semesters, we’re providing other options for support: screencasts, open hours, and 1-on-1 sessions.

We’re developing a growing playlist of short screencasts that focus on some of the most common support questions we receive; we recommend our Intro to Block Editor video for folks working with the new WordPress editor. Check out these screencast videos HERE!

We’ll be offering Open Hours and 1-on-1 sessions for staff, students, and faculty several times this month. 

Support Schedule – January 2021

Thursday Jan. 7, 2021: 3-5pm
Friday Jan. 15, 2021: 10am-12pm
Thursday Jan. 21, 2021: 3-5pm
Friday Jan. 29, 2021: 10am-12pm
Sunday Jan. 31, 2021: 3-5pm

To see the full schedule and to sign up for open hours and 1-on-1 sessions, visit The Open Road.

We’re also available 7 days a week for asynchronous support via email at openlab@citytech.cuny.edu

 

New Screencast: Customizing Your Site’s Appearance

In this screencast, the latest in our Site Building Blocks series, digital pedagogy fellow Olivia will show you how to edit your site’s appearance using the “Appearance –> Customize” feature on the site’s Dashboard.

You can view our other screencasts by visiting us on YouTube.

In the Spotlight: Wrapping Up Fall 2020 on the OpenLab

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 2020 Spotlight Posts

We also began releasing a series of OpenLab screencasts, providing audiovisual guidance to using different features of the OpenLab.

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: 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: The Fifth Annual Science Fiction Symposium

This week, we spotlight the Fifth Annual Science Fiction Symposium on Race and Science Fiction, to be held on Thursday, Nov. 19 from 9:00am-5:00pm online via Zoom Webinar.

This year’s symposium is co-organized by Wanett Clyde, Jason W. Ellis, Lucas Kwong, and A. Lavelle Porter, and features a keynote address by Jonathan W. Gray on “Past Tense, Future Perfect: American Atrocities in HBO’s Watchmen and Lovecraft Country.”

To participate in this free event, attendees will need to (1) Signup for a free Zoom account here (if you don’t already have one), and (2) Register here to receive access instructions to the Zoom Webinar. Participants may register any time before or during the event!

For those who would like to watch the event without registering, you can join the YouTube Livestream here.

You can also click here to view the full conference program and learn more about the presenters.

Hope to see you there!

New OpenLab Screencast: Pages and Posts

We are pleased to offer a new set of support materials for OpenLab users: screencasts! With video, audio, and captions, these screencasts provide step-by-step instructions for how to use different OpenLab features in a multimodal format.

Today, we’re introducing a new video in our series on the basic building blocks of OpenLab sites. In this one, we’ll focus on how to create pages and posts. This series could be particularly useful for students creating eportfolios in the second half of the semester, for staff beginning new projects, or for faculty designing course sites for the winter term.

To see our other screencasts, click here or visit our YouTube channel.