In the Spotlight: Undergraduate Research

Sparks” by tom_bullock via Flickr CC BY 2.0

This week, student researchers will begin participating in a series of 14 workshops that will last throughout the semester. These workshops, developed and led by members of City Tech’s Undergraduate Research Committee (plus a few other helpful members of the City Tech community), run each semester for students participating in the Emerging Scholars program or the CUNY Research Scholars Program (CRSP), and are open to any students interested in the subjects covered.

Not only are the workshops listed on the Undergraduate Research site on City Tech’s website, but they are also shared on the Undergraduate Research site on the OpenLab. In addition to the post announcing the full slate of workshops for the semester, there is also a list of the workshops with dates and times that you can see no matter where you are on the site (in the right sidebar on a computer, or at the bottom of the page if you’re looking on a mobile device). You can add a widget to your site if you want to do something similar on your site, too.

If you join the project, you’ll get reminders for each of the 14 workshops this semester. You’ll also get notifications for other information that gets posted on the site–including internship opportunities, news, and events that are relevant for student researchers and their faculty mentors.

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: Winter 2023 Support

On the Brooklyn Bridge with light snow accumulation
Jan09 056” by Paul Williams via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

Hello, OpenLab Community!

We hope you’ll continue to join us for Winter 2023 Support. For everyone preparing for Spring 2023, we offer two types of synchronous support: workshops and open hours, in addition to our asynchronous support.

Winter Workshops

Click here to view the full schedule and register to receive the Zoom link for the workshops.

Thursday, January 19, 2023:

10:00am-10:30am Getting Started on the OpenLab

10:30am-12:00pm Working on the OpenLab

Monday, January 23,2023:

12:00pm-12:30pm Getting Started on the OpenLab

12:30pm-2:00pm Working on the OpenLab

Winter Open Hours:

View the schedule for open hours, one-on-one 30-minute Zoom appointments with a Digital Pedagogy Fellow to ask your OpenLab questions try new things.

Tuesday, 1/24/23: 11:30am, 12:00pm

Wednesday, 1/25/23: 10:30am, 11:00am

Monday, 1/30/23: 1:30pm, 2:00pm

Tuesday, 1/31/23: 11:30am, 12:00pm

Asynchronous support

We look forward to working with you, and to seeing your great work on the OpenLab!

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: Arch 1101– Intro to Architecture

Header image for Arch 1101

This week, we spotlight Robert Christo’s Arch 1101, Intro to Architecture, which “provides a foundation for students entering the BArch / BTech program to develop a ‘visual literacy’ of the built environment.” We really like how the site adapts the OpenLab course template:

  • Note that in the right-hand widget space, Professor Christo links out to Micro board, an online whiteboard where students will submit their work. This is a smart way to use the OpenLab in conjunction with another platform. Remember that many faculty chose to use the OpenLab alongside Dropbox, Google Drive, or even Blackboard. Each of these other platforms may complement your OpenLab course, typically offering additional storage space for multimedia files and readings, or, as is the case with Microboard, another space to create multimedia assignments. This is not to say that the OpenLab isn’t well suited to multi-modal work: it very much is, but, if you are more comfortable with students submitting assignments to another platform, or want more storage, linking out to other spaces in this way is a smart and easy strategy.

  • The site uses the default set-up in the OpenLab course template, where the Home page is dynamic and works as a blog, with class agendas posted in reverse chronological order. This is a great way to communicate with your students: as soon as they get to your course, they will see what they need to do before class, the topics to be covered that week, as well as any homework to complete after class.

  • Note that under the main menu item for Course Info, there is a sub-page with Professor Christo’s contact information. It is a good idea to separate this content from the rest of the syllabus. Arguably, it is the most valuable piece of information that students need. Placing contact info on its own page and rendering it accessible from the main menu makes it easier to find.

This site provides a great example of how you can work with the OpenLab course template to teach your course! Check it out for inspiration!

In the Spotlight: Eng1141-Creative Writing

Eng1141 Header Image

This week, we spotlight Professor Jessica Penner’s OpenLab course on Creative Writing, which focuses “on understanding how form and meaning work together and on understanding the types and complexities of each genre…so that each student can…develop their unique, individual voice.”  Writing-intensive courses such as this one require some careful planning around site design. We especially like that:

  • Professor Penner inserts category archives into their main menu to distinguish student assignments from one another.  Under the menu item Student Work, you will find sub-categories for Discussions, Assignment Posts, Journals, Memoirs and more. This keeps the content in each category relatively short. It thus makes it easier for students to identify where they need to post their work, as well as to read through the work of their classmates.
  • The course makes optimal use of the right-hand side widget space. Professor Penner adds some very nice touches here, including featuring a picture of themselves below their contact information, putting key information (such as how to find their Zoom link for office hours) in bold, and linking out to OpenLab Help pages that students frequently use such as our Getting Started page and the OpenLab for Students module. These are all best practices to make your course welcoming and easy to use.
  • The course assignments are clearly broken down in the syllabus. Two things are noteworthy here. First, each assignment is more or less weighted equally. This is a great way to avoid the pitfalls of high-stakes grading: we are living through extraordinary times and both faculty and students are likely to have hectic days/ weeks where it is simply difficult to keep up with school obligations. When all assignments in a course are weighted equally, students have a much better chance of completing most of the work and doing well than, for example, if they have one high-stakes final exam or project. Second, Professor Penner clearly enunciates assignments at the start of the semester and features them prominently in the syllabus. This is very important: it helps students plan and figure out what the workload will entail as they juggle school with myriad other responsibilities and unknowns. 

All in all, this is a wonderful site. Check out Professor Jessica Penner’s Creative Writing course for inspiration!

In the Spotlight: Mat1275 Co – College Algebra and Trigonometry

Header Image for Mat1275 Co

This week, we spotlight Professor Kan’s Mat1275CO, an OpenLab course on College Algebra and Trigonometry. The course shows how you can loosely adapt the OpenLab course template for your teaching:

  • Notice how clean the site design is. The main menu is sparse and fits on one line, with only four main items. The home page is dynamic, such that Professor Kan’s newest announcements are posted on there in reverse chronological order. This is a great way to communicate quickly and regularly with your students. It is also the default set-up of the OpenLab course template.
  • Professor Kan makes great use of the sidebar widget space. As a reminder, widgets appear on all pages on your site and they are a great space to communicate information you really don’t want your readers/ students to miss. For example, Professor Kan includes information about office hours, class meetings, how to access student email, and a link to the Dropbox where students will be submitting their work. Note that Professor Kan has made a video to show students how to use Dropbox from a smartphone. These kinds of help materials are always appreciated and featuring them in the widget space is a great idea!
  • Finally, we really like that Professor Kan has left an option for students to get points back on their exam. At our last Open Pedagogy event, we discussed how to lower the stakes of grading and make the process transparent, fair, and compassionate. Some students excel at exams. Others find them extremely anxiety-producing. Others might have an off-day (week, month) on the day the exam is given. There is much conversation circulating at CUNY on how to ground our pedagogy in care for students and ourselves, in compassion for the extraordinary circumstances through which we are living. Offering students an opportunity to redo incorrect problems on an exam is one point of entry into this type of pedagogy. This practice lowers the stakes of what would otherwise be a one-time test: it gives students multiple ways to do well in course.

In both its substantive content and its site design, MAT1275CO leaves much to be admired! Check it out for inspiration!

In the Spotlight: Soc 1102-Urban Sociology

Header image for Urban Sociology. Features the silhouettes of two people walking alongside the East River waterfront at dusk.

This week, we spotlight Professor Kim’s OpenLab course on Urban Sociology. The course offers wonderful examples of how to use the OpenLab to support multimodal learning.

First, notice how Professor Kim breaks up the information on the course site into manageable chunks. The home page features a picture that Professor Kim has taken (all the pictures on the site are taken by Professor Kim!) and a brief course description. The syllabus is broken up into five smaller pages for course objectives, course requirements, course policies, a weekly schedule and FAQs. The FAQs are a very nice touch: they explain how students will be using both the OpenLab and Blackboard for their coursework, with screenshots of how to use the latter. Note that Professor Kim also includes main menu items for Readings, Study Guides, and Assignments.  This lay-out is straightforward and keeps the content of each page brief.

Second, Professor Kim puts place-based-learning into action on this course site. This course in Urban Sociology grounds itself in assignments focused on Downtown Brooklyn, where City Tech is located. This is an excellent way to illustrate course themes in real time, with a real and relatable place.  Course topics such as gentrification, the new economy, and the development of urban universities (sometimes called “studentification”) are all observable from the windows of City Tech buildings. But Professor Kim also invites students to examine images of downtown development posted to the OpenLab, read accounts from local papers, reflect on how they have seen the neighborhood change over the course of the past few years, and simply walk down the street for “field trips.” These are all wonderful ways of leveraging the OpenLab to foster multimodal teaching and learning.

Third, I draw attention to Professor Kim’s Writing: Dos & Don’ts page. If you are grading students on writing, it is important to give clear and comprehensive guidance for what you expect of a good paper. Different faculty have different expectations, and students have no reason to know what kind of citation style you require, whether you prefer paraphrasing or direct quotations of primary sources, or what kind of tone you expect in scholarly writing. Professor Kim has laid out expectations and linked to writing guides and videos. These are all good practices. With so much variation among classes, it is helpful to offer students technical and not just substantive support in writing their papers.

All in all, Professor Kim’s OpenLab course on Urban Sociology illustrates several best practices in place-based and online learning. Check it out for inspiration!

In the Spotlight: Olivia Wood’s Teaching Portfolio

A purple header image with white text that reads "Olivia Wood's Teaching Porftolio."
Header Image for Olivia Wood’s Teaching Portfolio

This week, we spotlight the OpenLab Community Team’s very own Olivia Wood. Specifically, we take a look at Olivia Wood’s OpenLab Teaching Portfolio, which offers an example of a compelling and clean site design that allows her to communicate her identity as  an instructor clearly and succinctly.

To begin, we note that the OpenLab offers all faculty and staff the possibility of creating a digital portfolio. Portfolios can be used to showcase any type of work, whether it be research, teaching or service accomplishments. 

Olivia has used the portfolio space to highlight her teaching, painting a robust picture of herself as an instructor without overwhelming her reader with too much detail. For example, her Home page features her statement of teaching philosophy, introducing readers to her general values as an educator. 

Her perspectives on teaching are then demonstrated concretely through separate pages that feature (in order on her main menu): courses taught, annotated assignments, examples of student work and observations and evaluations. There are two things to note here. The first is that while Olivia could have featured multiple pages of work on each of these subjects, she smartly chooses to give excerpts to make the content more digestible. So, she links out to a full syllabus of course, giving just a paragraph overview in the actual courses taught page. And she gives summary statistics of her teaching evaluations rather than featuring the full multi-page evaluation documents.

Second, she protects the privacy of her students by making her student work page password-protected. This is a good reminder that 1) student consent is needed to post student work; 2) privacy settings can be set at the page or post level and just for the site as a whole. Instructions for altering privacy settings are here.

All in all, Olivia’ teaching portfolio offers a straightforward and compelling narrative of who she is and what she has done as an instructor. Check it out for inspiration!

In the Spotlight: the Faculty Publication Support Workshop Series

Faculty Publication Workshop Series logo: a book with a blue cover and paper cranes flying out of it.
Workshop Series logo by Savonne Andrews

This week, we spotlight the Faculty Publication Support Workshop Series OpenLab site. This is “a joint initiative of the Faculty Commons and the Library’s Scholarly Communications Committee” which “supports City Tech faculty in their scholarship and publishing.” Note how sleek the logo is– kudos to Faculty Commons Graphic Designer Savonne Andrews for the design!

The site uses the 2015 theme, which works very well here as the site functions primarily as a blog, with regular announcements posted to the Home page. If you are also using your site primarily as a one-way communication tool to other OpenLab members, this is a smart design. You can use posts to remind members of upcoming meetings and use a pinned post at the top of your feed to give an overview of your project’s goals. The Faculty Publication Support site’s pinned post, for example, notes that workshops are monthly, include guest speakers, and group discussions. 

We also like how the Workshop series links out to other pre-existing resources on publishing, such as the Library’s Resources for Academic Publishing. While it might seem counterintuitive, it is better to break up information into smaller chunks in this way. Here, the Publication Workshop Series site is reserved for information about the workshops themselves. Broader resources on publication are kept separate, which helps avoid confusion about where to go for what information.

We also like that the Workshop Series makes materials for the actual meetings available on their OpenLab site. They link out to the page with a Meeting Schedule in their main menu. On this page, an overview for each meeting is given and materials used (for example, slide decks, recordings of the session, etc.) are posted. This is a best practice to carry over to your OpenLab courses as well, even if you post your materials elsewhere, or email them to participants. It is good to have these things in multiple places. How many of us have gone back to an organization or class’ website after a meeting only to find that the recording we needed isn’t there! Making your site a living repository of workshop/ course materials makes everyone’s life so much easier!

Please take a look at the Faculty Publication Support Workshop Series OpenLab site. It is a great model for projects, clubs, and courses!