In the Spotlight: Welcome to Spring 2023!

Yellow flower in full bloom
Mid-winter Optimism I” by Carl Campbell via Flickr, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

It might not look like spring outside, but welcome back for the Spring 2023 semester!

The OpenLab team is excited to work with you as you do great things on the OpenLab–and to help you learn more about using the OpenLab and working in an open community.

The OpenLab team has been busy adding new features and functionality. For example, you may have noticed some changes to the tools that are on by default in the profile of your course, project, or club. One addition is an Announcements feature, which allows admins of a Course, Project, or Club to post announcements that appear just beneath the avatar on a group’s profile. These provide an easy and prominent way to share announcements with members, such as an upcoming class, event, meeting. In addition to appearing on the profile, these announcements will also be sent via email notification to help ensure that everyone who needs to see them does. Announcements are activated by default, but admins can deactivate them in Profile > Settings, if you don’t plan to use them.

There are other helpful improvements that we described in the January 2023 Release Notes–we’ll be spotlighting some of them soon!

Be sure to check out the Spring 2023 OpenLab support options and join us for synchronous support:

  • Open Hours: students, faculty, and staff can sign up for open hours, one-on-one appointments to ask specific questions or ask to learn more about topics ranging from getting started to using a tool to implementing pedagogical approach. We’ve added a new tool for registering for open hours, which allows site admins to embed Calendly–many of you use this tool already, and now you can feature your Calendly directly in a page or post on your site–activate the Embed Calendly plugin via Dashboard>Plugins>Embed Calendly.
  • Workshops: If you missed the OpenLab workshops during intersession, you can request a workshop on any topic or technique! Bring a few colleagues, fellow students, or officemates to learn about how to build something, do something, or use something on the OpenLab!

There are also great asynchronous options for support:

  • Faculty members with any questions about getting your course site ready for the semester can refer to the helpful tips posted in the Teaching with the OpenLab module.
  • Students getting ready to use the OpenLab this semester can use the helpful OpenLab for Students module.
  • Everyone can get inspired by what this community has done on the OpenLab by looking through our past In the Spotlight posts.
  • The Help materials on the OpenLab are extensive, guiding members through creating and working in Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios. For example, our help documentation will walk instructors through step-by-step how to add students in bulk to your course by using a list of student emails, a feature we added a few semesters ago. Being able to add students to courses this way is so convenient, we even spotlighted it! Students, this means you might find yourself *automagically* added into a course without having to request membership or join it yourself.
  • As always, reach out to us if you need additional help:

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and inspiring start to the semester. See you on the OpenLab!

In the Spotlight: The Seventh Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium

The Spotlight is on the Science Fiction at City Tech website leading up to the Seventh Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on December 6th, from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. E.ST. The theme for this year is “Science Fiction and the Archive.” The discussions will be on various questions like What role do digital technologies and social networks play in creating the Science Fiction Archive? How can the SF Archive be inclusive and representative? For the second time, the winner of the Analog Award for Emerging Black Voices will be announced by Analog Science Fiction and Fact.  

Co-organizers Jill Belli, Wanett Clyde, Jason W. Ellis, Kel Karpinski, and Lucas Kwong invite everyone to join for the day-long event or stopping by as schedules permit. The event will happen online, free and open to everyone, and will also be livestreamed on YouTube. Links for registration and the livestream on YouTube, along with the symposium program, are available on the Science Fiction at City Tech OpenLab site–that’s also where you can register, RSVP, and learn more about the program.

The event is sponsored by the School of Arts and Sciences at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.

In the Spotlight: Fall 2022 Welcome!

Welcome” by Stuart Caie on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Welcome to a new academic year! We’ve heard that this semester, City Tech is welcoming even more new students and faculty members–so welcome to everyone new, and welcome back to everyone returning!

The OpenLab team is excited to work with you this semester as you do great things on the OpenLab–and to help you learn more about using the OpenLab and working in an open community. Check out the Fall 2022 OpenLab support options and join us for synchronous support:

  • Open Hours: students, faculty, and staff can sign up for open hours, one-on-one appointments to ask specific questions or ask to learn more about topics ranging from getting started to using a tool to implementing pedagogical approach. 
  • Workshops: We have workshops slated for the next two weeks, on Getting Started and on Working on the OpenLab. All are welcome.
  • Requested Workshops: Any group can request a workshop on a topic or technique! 

There are also great asynchronous options for support:

Remember, returning OpenLab members will need to reset their password. If you need help, these password reset instructions will guide you through the process. Reach out to us if you need additional help!

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and inspiring start to the semester. See you on the OpenLab!

In the Spotlight: Ten Years of OpenLab

The OpenLab at City Tech was officially launched ten years ago this semester! As we celebrate ten wonderful years working with all of you, here are ten things we love about the OpenLab:

  1. It’s open! You can share your work with others at City Tech and beyond and can see and learn from work shared by other members.  (And when you need to, you can work in private, too.)
  2. All are welcome: Everyone at City Tech can join the OpenLab–students, faculty, staff, and alumni. On the OpenLab, everyone can create, experiment, innovate, and share the results with the larger community.
  3. It’s built by and for City Tech: Because it’s created here at City Tech, everyone has a voice in how the OpenLab is built. Members come up with great ideas (like early on adding LaTeX to use mathematical language on the OpenLab!)–and those great ideas become new features for everyone to use!
  4. It’s designed for collaboration and community: Members can use the OpenLab to work together even if they’re in different classes or departments, within and across courses, in group projects, departmental projects, and cross-college committees,  and in student clubs. It’s a space where members can connect and share interests and ideas. The OpenLab team also offers asynchronous support, workshops, and community events to foster connection and support.
  5. Open Educational Resources live here: The OpenLab houses City Tech’s Open Educational Resources initiative. Open Educational Resources are zero-cost, available beyond the semester, and free for instructors to remix and adapt, fostering a collaborative style of teaching and learning.
  6. It nurtures open pedagogies: The OpenLab invites students and instructors to discuss what works in and out of the classroom. Through workshops, events, blog posts, and more, we also consider what deserves rethinking and, most importantly, what allows students and instructors to challenge each other in mutually rewarding and respectful ways. 
  7. You can learn new skills: The OpenLab is built on the WordPress publishing platform, which powers more than 43% of sites on the internet. Members can also build out and customize sites using plugins and even more advanced tools like CSS. So, when you’re using the OpenLab, you’re learning technical skills that can help you beyond City Tech.
  8. It’s open source: WordPress and the OpenLab are built using open source software that is free for anyone to use. This makes us part of a larger community of educators and technologists working on innovative, open source projects that pose an alternative to proprietary technologies and learning management systems. We’ve freely shared the OpenLab’s software, so other institutions can create their own OpenLabs just like the OpenLab at City Tech.
  9. Your work: Members are always finding exciting new ways to use the OpenLab. We get to highlight these in our weekly In the Spotlight series, and we keep them archived, for future reference. 
  10. You! The best and most important thing about the OpenLab is its members. Nearly 40,000 students, faculty, and staff members have joined the OpenLab in the past 10 years and have made it the awesome place it is today!

We would love to hear from you! Share what you love about the OpenLab in the comments below. You can also contact us via email. We’ll be showcasing your favorite OpenLab features in our weekly Spotlight series throughout the 2022-2023 Academic Year.

In the Spotlight: Open Pedagogy

In conjunction with our first Open Pedagogy Event of the semester, this week and the next we’re spotlighting 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. This site is a good place to find ideas for digital pedagogy assignments, access information on best practices and tips for open digital pedagogy, and engage other faculty about how teaching on the OpenLab changes their curriculum and classroom environments and relations.

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 (3/31) we’re hosting our first Open Pedagogy event of the semester, on Ungrading. Ungrading and its accompanying strategies offer one way to mitigate the harm and exhaustion of the pandemc. Ungrading is essentially student-centered and student-led, demanding that we engage critically with the power dynamics of the classroom. We began our discuss on its potential and its application to digital pedagogy last semester and will be continuing this spring. We will be joined by some wonderful guest speakers.

The event will be held via Zoom from 4:00-6:00pm. Visit the event posting for more information and to RSVP! We hope to see you there!

In conclusion, we encourage to join the site, and follow along and participate in the conversation!

Welcome to Spring 2022!

Welcome Back! We have new support opportunities!

As you sink into your semesterly routine, we wanted to make you aware of support opportunities :

  • The Spring 2022 schedule for OpenLab support is now available:
    • Students, faculty, and staff can sign up for open hours and one-on-one appointments to ask specific questions or ask to learn more about topics such as getting started, using the OpenLab for courses, or how to use a tool  or pedagogical approach. 
    • We have workshops slated for this week, including on Getting Started on the OpenLab, and using the Block Editor on the OpenLab. 
    • Any group can request a workshop!
  •  Faculty members, have any questions about getting your course site ready for the semester? See helpful tips posted here: Teaching with the OpenLab.
  • Are you a student getting ready to use the OpenLab this semester? See the helpful OpenLab for Students module. If you are faculty you can refer your students to this module as well.
  • Get inspired by what City Tech has done on the OpenLab by looking through our past In the Spotlight posts.
  • The OpenLab released several new features this year, including an option to save Courses, Projects, Clubs and Portfolios to a list of “favorites,” and a new quiz-making plug-in. You can also now add students in bulk to your course by using a list of student emails: our help documentation will walk you through how to do this step-by-step.

The OpenLab, City Tech’s open digital platform for teaching, learning, and collaboration, offers virtual open hours, online support, and technical guidance throughout the year.

The OpenLab team also offers a selection of Help materials for Distance Education, plus Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios. Contact us with questions:!

In The Spotlight: City Tech Library Buzz Blog

This week, we spotlight the City Tech Library Buzz Blog OpenLab site. The site is “the news blog for the Ursula C. Schwerin Library.” On the home page, you will find announcements about upcoming library workshops, college-wide events (e.g., movie screenings), and the library’s very own Spotlight posts, which highlight useful resources for instructors and students!

The main menu for the blog links out to the library’s exhibit archive, which is hosted not on the OpenLab but on the City Tech LibGuides. This is a great reminder that, if your course/ portfolio/ club/ or project already has a web presence elsewhere, you can link out to your other site in your main menu. To do this, go to Dashboard> Appearance> Menus> Edit Menus. On the left-hand side, beneath the heading Add menu items, you will see an option to add Custom Links. You can copy the link to your other site there and it to your menu.

Similarly, the Library Buzz links out the library’s City Tech Stories podcast! Episodes are uploaded to Sound Cloud but linked out to from the library’s OpenLab sites. Have a listen! The stories feature City faculty, tales of adaptation to pandemic life, and even an audio tour of the library and its resources.

Finally, we also like that the blog gives readers an option to subscribe and receive new posts. If you’d like to add this option to your site, you can do so by activating the Subscribe2 plugin.

Take a second to sign up for the Library Newsletter! The site is replete with resources for faculty, staff, and students, and is a great example of how to use the OpenLab to complement a pre-existing web presence.

In the Spotlight: The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium

This week, we spotlight the OpenLab site for Science Fiction at City Tech! The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium will take place on Thursday, December 9, 2021, 9:00AM-5:00PM. This year’s event is on “Access and SF.” In addition to paper presentation sessions and a research discussion panel, Analog Science Fiction and Fact Magazine is hosting a writer’s panel featuring Alec Nevala-Lee, Marie Vibbert, and Chelsea Obodoechina, and announcing the winner of the first Analog Award for Emerging Black Voices. The event will take place via a Zoom Webinar, and it is free and open to the public.

The program and registration information is available on the Science Fiction at City Tech OpenLab Site. This year’s symposium is co-organized by Jill Belli, Wanett Clyde, Jason W. Ellis, Lucas Kwong, and A. Lavelle Porter.

In the Spotlight: Finding Inspiration on the OpenLab

Welcome back from the holiday break! We’ve reached that time of year where things are busy, but the days are short. Speaking at least for myself, I know I tend to have to fight a bit of inertia. In 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 my spotlight of the Connect Days template, I explain 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.

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!

In the Spotlight: CMCE Career Site

Header Image for CMCE Career Site: features college graduates and construction and engineering workers against the backdrop of an urban landscape.
Header Image for CMCE Career Site

This week, we spotlight the excellent CMCE Career OpenLab site, which offers “career information and opportunities for construction management and civil engineering students and graduates.” Overall, the site offers a fantastic model of a job resource for City Tech students, both showcasing the work of City Tech alumni and directing current students to job postings and additional resources. I highlight some of what makes the site so effective below:

An engaging, media-rich home page: Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have gotten all of us used to a long, vertical scroll. That said, the best way to keep a reader’s attention with this format is to break up chunks of texts with images or other forms of multimedia. The CMCE Career home page does this very well. For example:

  • Below the header image, the site includes an important note to students that is bolded and in a bigger font to catch their attention. The note reads: “Whether you are just getting started, are currently working, want to switch from field to office work or office to field work, or are switching industries entirely, there are people like you in our department and among our alumni.” It foreshadows what students will find on this site, which is alumni stories, job and internships postings, and information about CMCE.
  • A second menu below this introductory text allows the reader to jump to the section of the site/ home page they would like to visit: Jobs & Internships; Where CMCES Work; Alumni Stories; Alumni News.
  • Spotlight boxes with CMCE “talking heads” give students a compelling visual and brief descriptions of possible job options and alumni success stories. 
  • A search functionality at the top of the page allows readers to easily find what they are looking for once they’ve skimmed the home page.
  • Pie-charts and graphs provide visual breakdowns of CMCE career paths, helping break-up long chunks of texts.

The Jobs & Internships page takes advantage of the block format to direct students toward public agencies and private companies that have job opportunities. Each company has its own block on the page: its title is bolded, the full description of the company is prominently included, and a button links you out to the company’s site. Note that this lay-out makes it easy to digest information. It is also more effective than simply featuring a bulleted list of hyperlinks to various companies. We encourage OpenLab users to to follow this kind of model when linking out to other resources: it is always more engaging for readers to have the full description of what they are being linked out to than to just see a link on a page.

The footer gives more information about the site’s creator, A.M. Sowder, including a brief bio and professional headshot. But it also features recent news from the department, linking out to blog posts updating visitors on the activities of faculty, students and alumni. This is a great use of widget space: remember that footers appear on all site pages, which means they are unlikely to get overlooked.

These are just some of the many innovative features of the CMCE Career site. It is a great model of a jobs and internship site that is reader-friendly and replete with information.