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: 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: 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: Mat1275 Algebra and Trigonometry Template

Mat1275 course profile page, including a brief description of the course.

This week, we spotlight the Mat1275 template course, which the Math department created to facilitate resource-sharing and cloning of the course among instructors. Such resource-sharing is a key way the OpenLab can help support open teaching and learning. Below, we focus on how the template site is built. We provide an overview that may be helpful to other departments wanting to create cloneable templates for their own introductory courses.

From the main menu, we see that the course’s homepage is set to the blogroll. This means that instructor and student posts will be featured on the home page in reverse chronological order. The Math department course uses a “template blogroll” in an innovative way. They create a first post, pinned prominently to the top of the page, which is a “Welcome post” directed not at students in potential Mat1275 courses but at instructors copying the template. The post gives instructions on how to clone the course. To make clear that these should be deleted once the course has been cloned, they are written in red. 

Another template post is also featured on the site. It outlines a potential first assignment for Mat1275, which is simply to have students introduce themselves on the course site. Here too, the post has clear instructions which are worth citing at length: 

 “Write a comment in reply to this post (scroll to the bottom to find the “Leave a Reply” box).  Your comment should be at least 2 paragraphs in length. In the first paragraph, introduce yourself in whatever way you wish (what do you want your classmates to know about you?).  In the second paragraph, choose ONE of the following two topics and write a response. Don’t forget to tell us which topic you chose. Topics (choose ONE).

  1. Was math ever your favorite subject? If so, when was it? What about math made it your favorite? If math has never been your favorite subject, what about it do you not like?
  2. Sometimes people can recognize a time when their opinion of math dramatically changed either for the better or the worse. Tell us about it.”

The main menu links to a page in which instructors can write a brief description “About the Course.” This is a top-level page that, in a drop-down menu, links to other pages for the course syllabus, the course calendar, and course assignments. To make things easier for instructors cloning the template, a sample syllabus has already been drafted. Parts that will need to be customized (e.g. the grading guidelines) are, again, written in red. Another noteworthy detail here is that the course assignments page is in fact not a static page, but a category archive called “assignments.” Using a dynamic blogroll for assignments is useful if your coursework is interactive and will involve students commenting on instructor posts, or creating new posts themselves.

Finally, the template includes a top-level page for resources. A range of items appear in this drop-down menu from instructions on how to use WebWork to video resources to links to different City Tech offices that offer tutoring. Such resources are invaluable; using an OpenLab site to link out to them is a great strategy to make sure that students know that there are various tools to support them in their learning.

This template then, provides a rich starting point for Mat 1275 instructors. Those who clone the course will have a basic site architecture to work with. They will also have foundational content, from a model syllabus to sample assignments to key resources with which to provide students. The site is a great example of how to use the OpenLab to facilitate remixing and copying of course sites. A template like this, which can be customized throughout the semesters, gives departments a durable, open, and highly usable resource to support instructors. Thinking about creating a template site for another core course? Check out the Mat1275 template course for inspiration.

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 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 (9/19) we’re hosting our first Open Pedagogy event of the semester, Access Beyond the ADA. 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 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!

Summer Greetings from the OpenLab

Photo Credit: Ricardo Resende

Greetings from the OpenLab and congratulations to all on the closing of another successful academic year! And a most-important special shout-out to the graduating class of 2019!

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 year and encourage you to check them out if you haven’t already done so.

Spring 2019 Spotlight Posts

We also launched a retrospective series, looking back at the OpenLab’s evolution over the past (quasi) decade…

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

In addition to reviewing these posts from this past spring, 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 the summer – please contact us with questions or concerns.

We will also soon announce our fall programming. August workshops for Faculty/Staff have been posted – RSVP & mark your calendars! We will be in touch as we get more events and workshops on our calendar.

Wishing you all a very happy summer!

The OpenLab Community Team

In the Spotlight: The Open Road and Summer Programming

On the Open Road you can find:

Summer Programming
Note that we have a full slate of workshops and open, drop-in hours lined up for late August to help you get set up on the OpenLab for the fall. Learn more about these workshops below and mark your calendars now!

Download (PDF, 95KB)

We hope these resources will help you continue using the OpenLab to support your teaching, learning and community building here at City Tech!

Wishing you all a happy end of semester!

A Commons for Open Learning: Voices from City Tech’s OpenLab

*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 first two posts in the series here and here).

For this year’s CUNY CUE (Conference on Undergraduate Research), hosted at our home City Tech, the OpenLab team is hosting a roundtable featuring a number of stakeholders and initiatives around the college. The OpenLab team is excited to share with you how various initiatives have integrated the OpenLab–City Tech’s homegrown open-source digital platform for teaching, learning, and collaborating–into their work, and how the OpenLab has transformed the work they do with students, colleagues, and the world beyond, and in keeping with this year’s conference theme, is central to “transforming teaching into learning.”

We’re excited to tackle the six big questions of the conference, through showcasing successful examples of City Tech stakeholders adopting the OpenLab and integrating it into the work they do:

  • What Transforms Teaching into Learning? Learning as Reflective Practice
  • Who is at the Table? Learning for all
  • Where is the Public Discourse? Learning in the Open
  • Why This Place? Learning Beyond the Classroom Walls
  • How Do Leaders Emerge? Learning to Achieve
  • When Do Transitions Matter? Learning as Power

OpenLab CUE 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. Stakeholder groups have had a significant impact both in modeling effective critical pedagogy and creative usage, and in shaping OpenLab innovations in design and functionality; these include First-Year Programs, First-Year Learning Communities, STEM Success, and their peer mentors; Living Lab General Education Seminar, WeBWorK math homework integration, Digital Pathways (BMCC-City Tech transfer in digital programs); and the Faculty Commons and Provost’s Office. In 2018, the OpenLab team, in partnership with the Graduate Center’s Commons in a Box (CBOX) project, released CBOX OpenLab, which offers institutions the ability to create an OpenLab in their local context.

This session includes lightning-talk presentations from OpenLab stakeholders whose work transforms teaching into learning and underscores that teaching and learning aren’t one-directional but instead networked, and at their best, happening when teachers and students are critical co-collaborators. Presenters will reflect on the conference’s thematic questions, considering what it means to learn and work in the open, and how that is a democratizing and empowering opportunity. Attendees can also join the conversation, ask questions of the presenters, and consider how CBOX OpenLab can share with other schools these opportunities for open learning.

We hope that the presentation (slides below) and the accompanying material helps to provide a sense of the how deeply and meaningfully the OpenLab has been embedded into many aspects of life at City Tech. In addition to the presenters listed below, today’s roundtable presenters also include a number of members of the OpenLab team: OpenLab Co-Directors, Jill Belli (Associate Professor of English), M. Genevieve Hitchings (Associate Professor of Communication Design), Jody R. Rosen (Associate Professor of English), and Jenna Spevack (Professor of Communication Design), as well as the OpenLab Digital Pedagogy Fellows Claire Cahen and Jesse Rice Evans.

*If you’re at the conference (or on campus), please do come join us in person, 12:00 PM – 12:50 PM in the Theater in the New Academic Complex.

Download (PDF, 3.84MB)

Living Lab Seminar

Karen Goodlad, Assistant Professor of Hospitality Management and (former) Seminar Leader for the Living Lab, shares these thoughts about the Living Lab:

“The Living Lab is a seminar which equips faculty to develop their teaching methodology through innovative techniques and reflection, incorporating general education in an interdisciplinary manner that may not otherwise exist. Encompassing high impact educational practices, place-based learning, open pedagogy on the OpenLab and enhanced assessment of student learning outcomes, the Living Lab supports faculty as they develop pedagogy designed to engage students in the general education curricula. Tailored to and integrated into degree-specific coursework, this approach breaks down institutional barriers to faculty interaction and collaboration, encouraging professional growth as both educators and scholars.”

L4: Living Lab Learning Library

Anna Matthews, Associate Professor of Dental Hygiene (stay tuned … coming soon!)

First Year Learning Communities (FYLC)

Jennifer Sears, Assistant Professor of English and Faculty Leader for FYLC, discusses the significant ways that FYLC has made use of the OpenLab:

First Year Learning Communities at City Tech: Extending Community on the OpenLab

I am one of three faculty leaders for First Year Learning Communities (FYLC) at City Tech with fellow leaders Karen Goodlad and Aswhin Satyanarayana. The other leaders are Karen Goodlad and Ashwin Satyanarayana. This program partners 2-3 instructors in different disciplines to work with a shared student cohort. We currently have 13 teaching cohorts. Though each course is taught separately, the paired teachers share a theme and one course activity.   Since a revamping of the FYLC program in Fall 2015 by Office of First Year Program Director Lauri Aguirre and Faculty Commons Director Julia Jordan, the OpenLab has become an integral part of how we organize our First Year Learning Communities program at City Tech.

For Our FYLC Faculty: Using the OpenLab for Faculty Trainings and Assessment

“On the OpenLab, we have an FYLC faculty site where instructors receive spring training materials, meeting reminders, and share meeting reflections. Instructors upload materials they create.” – Jennifer Sears, FYLC
On the OpenLab, we have an FYLC faculty site where instructors receive spring training materials, meeting reminders, and share meeting reflections. Instructors upload materials they create, such as their Learning Community description and plans for their shared activity.At the end of the teaching semester, instructors also upload their assessment and student learning outcomes of their collaboration and propose changes they might make to deepen or improve implementation of their theme.

For Our FYLC Students: The Our Stories Project on the OpenLab

For students, the First Year Learning Communities also conducts an Our Stories project on the OpenLab. In the Our Stories project, students from FYLC classes are given a prompt to share their experiences as first semester students. They are also encouraged to read and comment on the experiences of their peers in other Learning Communities. FYLC Peer Mentors contribute to this project (which Sarah Paruolo will present).  As more experienced students, they comment on the first semester students’ stories, which prompts others in the class to comment as well.

“The OpenLab has provided us with a means to organize faculty activity …. and has offered our students a place to openly reflect on their experience as first semester college students. It’s difficult to imagine our FYLC program without this shared public platform.” – Jennifer Sears, FYLC
The Our Stories Project is a learning experience for students, who can see what others are posting and a learning experience for instructors and administrators. Student concerns are visible and we have looked into patterns that appear in their responses. We have already have written one article and are currently writing a book chapter, based on stories and posts our students have contributed on this site. Other City Tech programs, such as the Student-Ready College committee, have also implemented these narratives into their discussion materials.


To sum up, the OpenLab has provided us with a means to organize faculty activity, has provided a way for faculty to share their experiences and activities, and has offered our students a place to openly reflect on their experience as first semester college students. It’s difficult to imagine our FYLC program without this shared public platform.”

First Year Programs Peer Mentors

Sarah Paruolo, adjunct faculty in the English Department and Peer Mentor Coordinator for First Year Programs, shares more about this important program:

“First Year Programs: Peer Mentors                                                

The mission of First Year Programs is to provide new City Tech Students with guided academic pathways, easing their college transition while supporting academic success. In support of these goals, we offer several programs including: First Year Summer Programs, Immersion Programs, First Year Learning Communities, Peer Mentoring, and Preparatory and Testing Workshops in Math and Reading.

Today, we will focus on the Peer Mentoring Program. Peer Mentors are upper level students who serve as role models to incoming First Years. The mentors are eager to share their knowledge and expertise to help new students adjust to college life. Because they are successful students themselves—both academically and socially—Peer Mentors are able to provide personalized, judgment-free guidance to students who otherwise may be hesitant to seek help from faculty and staff. They are trained to guide new City Tech students in recognizing their academic strengths, as well as in identifying and addressing personal challenges. Peer

Mentors also strive to promote strong connections to the college community, encouraging student achievement and success.

As you may know, Peer Mentor programs can be incredibly effective in retaining students with high dropout probability in general, and first-generation college students in particular. The issue is, as most of us are well aware, how do we get these students to engage with and utilize the Peer Mentors?

One of the ways that we have found particularly effective is utilizing the OpenLab.  Students enrolled in First Year Learning Communities (FYLCs) are asked to participate in the “Our Stories” Project, which invites new students to share experiences of their first semester of college twice during the semester. They write short posts and share them on an OpenLab site that is used by all FYLCs at the college. The shared site demonstrates to first year students that many of their peers are going through the same things, thus normalizing difficulties instead of marking them as failures.  

Although the posts are visible to professors, the site is not intended to engage with or cater to faculty. Instead, the Peer Mentors read each of the posts and then respond to the students individually, as comments on the original post with short personalized suggestions and encouragement. Although it may not seem like a significant interaction to many of us, in the age of social media “likes” and “retweets,” this response is essential. Not only does it reinforce the idea that someone is actually looking at the content the students create (hopefully giving positive reinforcement for future assignments), but it demonstrates that someone cares about what they are going through. The mentee has been heard and acknowledged by their mentor, in a low-stakes environment, and through a medium preferred by most of the students (as compared to face-to-face interaction), thus setting a foundation for a fruitful mentor relationship. It is also worth noting that Peer Mentors are trained in how to respond to these posts, as well as how to identify at-risk students and behaviors.

As you can see with the interactions highlighted on the screen [note: see presentation, slide 11], these do not need to be long, in-depth responses to have a positive impact. What is important to note in each of these is: one, that the responses are specific, and two, that the responses highlight the similarities between the mentors and the mentees. The mentors utilize this not only because it is easy for them to draw on their own experiences when giving advice, but also because it lessens the perceived gap between mentor and mentee. By relating that they too once struggled, the mentors are able to show new students that just because they are having trouble now, doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of success in the future. This really helps to target at-risk students who have trouble envisioning themselves as legitimate members of the college community. And as we know, representation matters.

Although we hope that the interactions that occur between first year students and Peer Mentors on the OpenLab are only the beginning of a more robust relationship, the importance of this medium to facilitate this is immeasurable.”

Opening Gateways

Jonas Reitz, Professor of Mathematics at City Tech and Project Director of “Opening Gateways” offers insight into this exciting grant:

“Opening Gateways to Completion: Open Digital Pedagogies for Student Success in STEM” is a 5 year collaborative grant between the New York City College of Technology and the Borough of Manhattan Community College funded through the Department of Education’s Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (Title V) program.  The project supports student success in mathematics courses that serve as gateways to STEM disciplines, courses that often act as barriers to progress and completion in these disciplines. Our primary activities are faculty professional development and production of high-quality, custom Open Educational Resources carefully aligned with the curriculum.

Opening Gateways project site:

We have relied on the OpenLab in a variety of ways throughout the life of the project, integrating it into our work with faculty and students alike. Our annual faculty development seminar uses the OpenLab as a platform for collaboration and communication among participating faculty fellows. Our management team uses the OpenLab to coordinate activities and share information within and across two campuses. And finally, we are engaging students directly through the WeBWorK on the OpenLab site.

WeBWorK on the OpenLab
WeBWorK is an open-source platform for online homework supported by the Mathematics Association of America and the National Science Foundation. In a typical WeBWorK environment, students with questions are directed to email their instructors. At City Tech, however, we have bridged WeBWorK and the OpenLab: students seeking help on WeBWorK are directed to an OpenLab community space where they can ask questions, and view related questions by other students. For instructors, assistance provided to an individual student is preserved in a public setting that allows other students to benefit. For students, the wealth of existing questions and answers provides a resource that is available on-demand, at any hour of the day and night.

WeBWorK on the OpenLab:”

Office of the Provost

Kim Cardascia, Administrative Executive Officer for the Office of the Provost, spoke about the project the Office of the Provost recently designed for faculty and staff at the college (please note: by design, only City Tech staff and faculty logged into the OpenLab will be able to view the site).

“Office of the Provost Open Lab Site

A way to share information from across Academic Affairs with City Tech faculty and staff. OpenLab offered us improvements in three key areas.

• Flexiblility
• Timeliness
• Usefulness


• Just-right degree of openness
· All faculty and staff auto-invited
· Only faculty and staff able to see, giving us comfort in discussing internal issues
• Defined and limited topics, cross-referenced by semester
• Structure is created over time by the content, saving us from the need to plan a rigid top-down structure that would doubtless need ad-hoc changes almost immediately


• Previously, to post or make any changes online, a ticket system and another office’s workflow
• Now, instant posting and editing
• Allows content responsive to and reflective of the cycles of academic life
• All subscribers are auto-enrolled for weekly summary emails
o Loops them in on current conversations
o Reminds them regularly of the existence of the site as a resource


• Gradually amasses an open and shared archive for reference, and will be able to see change over time
• Takes information out of siloed email distribution channels and allows it to flow across departments and divisions

Thanks to office collaborators and OpenLab team!”

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Cailean Cooney, Assistant Professor / OER Librarian, and coordinator of City Tech’s Open Educational Resources (OER) Initiative reflects on the synergy among the OpenLab and OERs, and her work on the two:

“My work intersects with the OpenLab in two important ways. As a faculty member involved with OERs and open pedagogy, the OpenLab is primarily where I conduct this work. Why? Because

“I think the OpenLab can reflect individual and collective contributions to teaching and learning at the college in a way that inspires” – Cailean Cooney, OER Librarian
I think the OpenLab can reflect individual and collective contributions to teaching and learning at the college in a way that inspires. Just browsing the OL homepage, I constantly spot groups, course, and project sites that make me want to learn more.

As coordinator of the NYS OER Grant, the OpenLab platform challenged us to put our principles into action by choosing an open, community driven platform to house OERs. The OpenLab is unique among learning platforms because it enables course materials to be shared openly in an unrestricted manner because the course materials don’t expire after a student finishes a course. This can have practical implications for the college community; for instance, by supporting knowledge transfer as students move through course sequences and their major course studies. I think the OpenLab brings us closer to embodying a commitment to lifelong learning at the college by disrupting formal learning sites of education and providing more visibility, and hopefully inviting more critical and generative conversations throughout the community about what it is to work and study at City Tech.”

*Note: learn more by reading the OpenLab team’s Spotlight post on City Tech OERs on the OpenLab.

Commons in a Box OpenLab

Charlie Edwards, OpenLab Co-Directors and Associate Director of the Commons in a Box OpenLab project, highlights the exciting next phase in the life of the OpenLab:

“Now anyone can launch an OpenLab!

Ever since the OpenLab launched at City Tech back in Fall 2011, the OpenLab team has been asked: “How can I get the OpenLab at my campus?” In response, we partnered with the Commons In A Box team at The Graduate Center, CUNY, with generous funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Office of Digital Humanities, to build a new teaching-focused version of their Commons In A Box community-building software. The result, Commons In A Box OpenLab, which was released in Fall 2018, is free open-source software that enables anyone to create a commons for open learning modeled on the OpenLab. We believe it represents a powerful and flexible alternative to expensive, closed, proprietary educational systems.

Because the software is freely available, faculty members, departments, and entire institutions anywhere in the world can now install and customize an OpenLab of their own. The OpenLab team is already working to help our colleagues at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), who are in the early stages of implementing an OpenLab site there. Interested in using Commons In A Box OpenLab at your institution? Check out the Commons In A Box site for documentation, demo sites, support forums, and more.”

*Note: learn more by reading the OpenLab team’s post on the Commons in a Box OpenLab launch and its Spotlight post on the project.


This post will be updated to include more presenters/initiatives, so stay tuned! A heartfelt thanks to all of our collaborators today, our audience members, and of course, our many many OpenLab members, who make this community so wonderful!

Please stay in touch, by contacting the OpenLab team at, and keep up with all the OpenLab things on the team’s two in-house sites, The Open Road and Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab.