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. 

In The Spotlight: The Hospitality Garden is Back

Lettuce and herbs grown by the Garden Club at City Tech’s Hospitality Garden.

This week, we spotlight The Hospitality Garden, “a project that teaches students and faculty about the excitement and nuance of growing flowers and vegetables for the Culinary and Pastry Labs at NYC College of Technology.” The Garden Club tends to the garden, which was on hiatus the past 1.5 years, but it is back in action this semester. Students who are interested in volunteering are invited to help set up the new Hydroponic system. Currently the club is working with the new technology to plant lettuce and herb seeds. 

Some other noteworthy aspect of the site:

  • The home page is the project’s blogroll, meaning that posts appear there in reverse chronological order. Prof. Mark Hellerman, who runs the project, uses regular blog posts to keep members abreast of garden news and, most importantly, club meeting times. The club currently meets during club hours, from 12:45 -2:30pm on Thursdays, in Namm 201. Note that these blog posts are a smart way to remind members about club or project meetings. Another strategy is to feature club meeting information in the sidebar in the widget, such that it will be displayed on every page of your site.
  • The tag line–or the text featured next to or below the site title–is customized. It reads “Growing flowers and vegetables for the dining room, and for fun.” This tells the readers precisely what the project is about and is exactly how a tag line should be used. Because it’s more of a detail than a prominent feature on OpenLab sites, members sometimes forget to customize their tag lines and end up with the default text that reads “A City Tech OpenLab site.” This isn’t nearly as descriptive as what the Hospitality Garden has drafted. As a reminder, if you would like to customize your tag line, you can do so by going to Dashboard > Appearance > Customize > Site Identity. You will see an option to type in free text for your tag line.
  • The site’s menu links to a photo gallery. The photos featured show students and faculty planting herbs, vegetables and fruit on the rooftop garden, with the Brooklyn waterfront in the background. It is, indeed, a very picturesque setting. It also features photographs of the finished products– pastries and appetizers the Hospitality Department has made from the Garden Club’s produce. Note that the reader gets a vivid sense of what the club does by scrolling through these pictures and is given the (visual) context needed to imagine themselves volunteering for the club. This is a fantastic way to draw people into your work and projects.

Are you interested in joining the Garden Club and Hospitality Garden Project? Visit the site to learn more!

In The Spotlight: The HSI Committee

A group picture of faculty and staff serving on the Hispanic Serving Institution Committee.

This week, we celebrate Hispanic heritage month by spotlighting the Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Committee’s new site! The site is clean and well-organized and can serve as a model for other academic committees. From left to right, its menu features: a static home page which describes the committee’s goals; a page that answers the question What is an HSI?; a page About the Committee; and a page with additional Resources. Note how intuitive this set-up is: it briefly gives the information needed to understand the committee’s purpose before offering in-depth descriptions of the context in which the committee is working, the faculty and staff serving on the team, and additional readings and support opportunities for those who are interested. Note also that the header image features a group picture of the faculty and staff serving on the committee: this is a lovely personal touch!

We’d also like to draw your attention to the events page, as there many coming up for HSI Week 2021. Today, September 13, there will be two HSI forums: one for faculty, staff and administrators and the other for students and families. You can sign up for these forums here.

Finally, we want to highlight the committee’s recommendations for City Tech, which include doubling the number of students who complete their associate degrees or transfer to baccalaureate programs in three years and achieving a six-year graduation rate of 50% for baccalaureate program students. To do this, the committee recommends City Tech recognize the importance of having a representative size of Hispanic faculty and offer mentorship that is tailored to the needs of Hispanic Students.

All-in-all, this is a richly informative and easy to navigate site. Check it out for inspiration and mark your calendars with any HSI Week events you’d like to attend.

In the Spotlight: Welcome Back!

End of Summer by It Is Elisa on Flickr, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Welcome to a new academic year! The OpenLab Team has some helpful information to share:

  • The  Fall 2021 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 the next two weeks, 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 summer, 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: openlab@citytech.cuny.edu!

The OpenLab Team

In the Spotlight: City Tech Astronomy Club

This week we spotlight the City Tech Astronomy Club, which allows students to come together to explore the universe, even in a remote semester. Students in the club can use “Slooh.com” to access “online remote controlled telescopes located around the world.” Members can “conduct and participate in live observation observation sessions through a web browser interface,” and “look at remote galaxies, dying and exploding stars, dark spots on the sun’s surface, rings around Saturn and craters and mountains on the Moon.” 


Interested in learning more about the club? You can visit the club site to find out more! The City Tech Astronomy Club leaders have made information readily available for you by featuring a video on the evolution of telescopes and their current use in slooh.com, as well as a slideshow to teach you more about slooh.

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: Architecture Club

The Architecture Club has existed for over 30 years at City Tech! This week, I spotlight their OpenLab site, which shows how clubs can use the OpenLab to keep members engaged during this period of distance education. Below are some noteworthy features of their site.

A dynamic homepage

In OpenLab workshops, we encourage members to think through whether they would like their homepage to be static or dynamic. Static homepages, we explain, work well to communicate information that is unlikely to change much throughout a semester. For example, a club’s homepage might include a welcome message and an overview of the site. The copy written at the start of the semester for this page will likely need very little updating.  A dynamic homepage, however, might be better if the club maintains an active blog with time-sensitive information to be communicated to members. 

The Architecture Club shows how well the latter format works in a remote semester. Their homepage takes the form of a regularly updated blog with announcements reminding visitors of upcoming club events. In separate posts, they recap those events for anyone who misses them. The club also posts resources that are helpful for architecture students, and uses short blog posts to invite conversation from club members and keep the spirit of the club alive. I especially like this recent post that shared pictures of last year’s Halloween, when the club had a pumpkin carving  contest wherein the winner ended up “having their pumpkin printed as an adorable keychain!” The flurry of regular activity on this blog tells the visitor that club life is going strong, even during the pandemic.

Updates to the Welcome Widget

The right-hand sidebar of the site features a text widget with a “Welcome to the Architecture Club!” message. In “normal” times, this message might feature a sentence or two about the club, as well as where it meets, and contact information for the club leader. In the context of distance education, however, the Architecture Club has smartly updated the text to tell the visitor “we are now online” and to provide the Zoom link to their club meetings so that newcomers can easily pop in.

An Events Widget

It’s always a good idea to include a club calendar of events on your site, which the Architecture Cub does. But just to make extra-sure that visitors know about the latest club happenings, they also use the Events List Widget to display upcoming events on the right-hand sidebar. Smart! 

It’s not easy to keep a club going during this period of distance education, but the Architecture Club shows that a well-maintained OpenLab site is both a tool for communicating information and keeping community together. I encourage all club leaders to visit the site for inspiration!

In the Spotlight: ComD Internship Coordination Site

Last week, I spotlighted ComD Advisement Information site, which digitally guides students through the advisement process, and is replete with  information they need to stay on track and complete their majors. This week, I spotlight the ComD Internship Coordination site, which “is designed to help” students “find fieldwork/ situations of approximately eight hours per week at an internship site approved by the Department Internship instructor such as an advertising agency, graphic design firm, corporate design office, publications art department, photography or illustration studio, TV or multimedia production company.”

On the site’s blog, students will find timely announcements about (now virtual) events to attend to find jobs and internships. But the site also includes pages that outline Requirements and Documents for the ComD Internship, tips on Where to Find an Internship, Networking, and Writing Resources. Students will also find resources for Portfolio and Resume creation.

If you are a ComD student and thinking about how to gain professional experience in your field, make sure to check out the site

In the Spotlight: ComD Advisement Information Site

Header image for ComD Advisement site is a text box against a solid backdrop. Text reads "COMD Advisement Information Site."

Student advisement, like much of college life, has moved online this semester. This week, I spotlight the ComD Advisement Information Site, which is replete with “online advisement tools” and shows how departments can use the OpenLab to provide guidance for students moving toward graduation, even during a largely virtual semester. Below, are some of the site’s innovative features:

  • The site’s menu links to a page for virtual advisement office hours, allowing students to navigate quickly and easily to the information they are most likely to need. A nice touch here is that the department has embedded a Google Calendar that visually displays each advisor’s office hours. Students can add this calendar to their own Google account if they so wish. 

    While, these days, most of us are getting used to working across multiple platforms, it can nonetheless be hard to keep track of which tools are being used when. A good practice is to link to the other platforms or applications you are using from your OpenLab site. ComD shows how this can be done by prominently featuring a “Blackboard Advisement Link: Click to Enter” button at the very top of their office hours page. The link takes the student directly to their advising meeting, which is held on another platform–Blackboard Collaborate–making the process of switching back-and-forth relatively painless. 

  • The site also includes a page on preparing for advisement. Here, students are presented with six steps to take before an advising meeting. Note that these tips are presented briefly, in bulleted form, with plenty of white space on the page. This is a great way of communicating key information. 
  • Does your department have an active Facebook page? If so, you might activate the Jetpack Facebook Page plugin on your department’s OpenLab  site. ComD has done this to great effect: as shown in the screenshot below, students can view information and events posted to Facebook directly from the widget in the right-hand sidebar of the advisement site.

All-in-all, the ComD Advisement Information site provides a great model of a clean, easy-to-navigate site that students can bookmark and return to again and again as they move through their college careers. 

In the Spotlight: Celebrating Julia Jordan

Last fall, long-time Professor of Hospitality and Director of the Faculty Commons Julia Jordan retired. Last week, faculty and staff gathered (over Zoom!) to celebrate her service to the college. 

Anyone who interacted with Julia over her years at City Tech knew her to be Former Faculty Commons Director Julia Jordan posing for camera in front of bookshelves.kind and generous, warm and welcoming, entirely dedicated to progressive and student-centered pedagogy. Her OpenLab bio reveals much about her ethos: “after 40 plus years in education,” she once wrote on her profile page, “what drives me is the evidence that learners who are successful take responsibility for their own education, they practice and question, and when they are supported and guided, they solve problems with their peers.”

Her position as Director of the Faculty Commons made Julia a lynchpin at the college. She turned the second-floor Namm space into a vital community hub where everyone could feel like a valued member of the City Tech community. As a leader, she exuded patience and care as she guided her colleagues and brought boundless energy to the events she organized. 

Over the years, her support for the OpenLab proved critical. She gave the OpenLab team a space from which to conduct our daily activities–our meetings, office hours, and our Digital Pedagogy events. She mentored new members of the team as they got to know the sometimes maddening intricacies of City Tech life. She encouraged faculty and staff to use the platform and cheered them on as they got familiar with new technology. She did this day-in and day-out, without complaint, and with characteristic hospitality.  OpenLab Digital Pedagogy Fellow Jesse Rice-Evans says of Julia, “it was such a joy to feel a kinship in our similar backgrounds (front-of-house food service). I noticed right away that Julia could anticipate needs of workshop attendees, facilitate comfort and community, and keep everyone fed and watered!” 

We wish her a very happy retirement and thank her for her tireless work and generosity in giving to the City Tech community.