In the Spotlight: Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab

This week, as we prepare for our second 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 (11/7) we’re hosting our second Open Pedagogy event of the semester, Access Pedagogy. 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 year, 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!

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: City Tech Guide

This week we spotlight the City Tech Guide, an OpenLab site designed as a resource for new City Tech students. For those of you who are just starting at City Tech this semester, this site is full of great information to help you navigate the sometimes-dizzying world of CUNY. Below are just a few highlights:

  • Under the Academics menu tab, you will find various resources to support your learning. These include guides for working with your academic adviser, a video resource for transfer students, and a video overview of CUNY curriculum requirements.
  • The Calendars menu tab links to several calendars that are useful to refer back to, including City Tech’s calendar and the Student Life calendar of activities. Checking these calendars often is a good way to stay on top of your City Tech schedule–and CUNY holidays!
  • A menu tab for Campus Resources links to information about key areas of City Tech life. A page on clubs can help you find student organizations in which you may want to participate. A Campus Map can guide you through the often-confusing City Tech buildings. And another page for Important College Websites provides links to sites you may want to bookmark, from the Library website to the website for the Financial Aid Office.

All-in-all, the City Tech Guide is a great resource for incoming students. Join the site and refer back to it often–it will make your first semester here at City Tech just a bit easier!

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: Introduction to Accessibility

Header image from the Intro to Accessibility Module. The image is a welcome sign, spelled out with large letters in contrasting colors.

This semester, we are focusing on the theme of access. How can open, digital pedagogies improve student access to learning? How can we ensure course materials and pedagogical resources are accessible to all students? The library’s module, Introduction to Accessibility, provides useful guidelines.

The module is neatly organized. From the main menu,  it contains pages covering: What is Accessibility; Building Blocks; Organization & Layout; Media; Resources and Tools. In this post, we focus crucial content from each page.

What is Accessibility?

This page features a clear definition of accessibility, stating “accessibility means that no one is prevented from engaging with the materials you create because of a disability of any kind. No one will need to request a special accommodation to use your materials because they will already be accessible to anyone.”

Building Blocks

This page walks the reader through different OpenLab site building blocks: Themes, Plugins, and Widgets. It explains how each of these can be made accessible. Note here that the OpenLab only offers accessible themes: “users can press ‘tab’ to skip to the main content on any page. Buttons are labeled to make sense when read aloud by a screen reader.” And, “default colors adhere to accessible contrast ratios.” 

With plugins, however, you will have to be more careful. There are many plugins available on the OpenLab and these have varying levels of accessibility. The module recommends checking a plugin’s accessibility before deciding to use it.

Organization & Layout

This page walks the reader through how to organize information on a site so that it remains accessible. The questions answered include: how to chunk out text and media? How to improve readability and legibility? What is plain language and why use it? 

There is much useful information on this page, and we really recommend you read through all of it. Using the OpenLab to teach is a wonderful way to make course content and resources available to students outside of the classroom. But organizing a content-rich OpenLab site is not always easy. Many of us end up with pages with slightly too much text. Or we end up uploading PDFs and Word Docs containing crucial course content. These kinds of practices can violate accessibility standards, and the information in this module can help ensure you are meeting all of your students’ accessibility rights.

Media

This page provides useful guidelines on making media accessible. It covers things like alt-text, captioning, and autoplay. It also includes recommendations of media platforms to use for embedding videos and audio content into your site.

Resources & Tools

Finally, the module ends with a page that features additional resources and tools. These include CUNY-specific resources, OpenLab resources, and tools to test web accessibility on your site.

All-in-all, this Accessibility module contains invaluable information. We recommend you bookmark it and come back to it whenever you create a new OpenLab site. Best practices to augment student access to learning are always evolving: this module is great resource to make sure you stay up to date!

In the Spotlight: Technical Writing (ENG 2575- E270)

 

This week, we’re spotlighting Professor Ellis’ ENG 2575  Technical Writing course. In the class, students will have “opportunities to learn the theory, skills, and heuristics of technical writing through projects relevant” to their degree program. The course encourages students to write often, and with intention. Assignments are scaffolded, moving from introductory to more advanced, so that students gain a range of skills to apply to many industries. The course’s focus is also on helping students develop a set of documents to include in their professional portfolio. Visiting this course site might be of interest to students thinking about taking the course, as well as faculty/ staff who are thinking through how to organize their course site this semester.

Dynamic Home Page

Professor Ellis has set the course’s home page to the course’s blogroll. This means that all posts to the site will appear on this page in reverse chronological order. This set up works well in a course like this, since the instructor makes frequent announcements. Indeed, announcements made through the class blog will be featured visibly on the course’s landing page. The most recent announcements will be at the top, and older posts will be pushed further down the feed.

However, there can be drawbacks to using a dynamic home page–i.e. a blogroll–instead of a static homepage. With a static homepage, you can display very specific, critical information such as a course description, an overview of the course site, and course office hours. This is harder to do with a dynamic homepage, which will feature all course blog posts–including those made by students.

Professor Ellis, however, finds a way to merge the best of both worlds. His blogroll allows recent content to be featured prominently. But he has also set the featured post to a welcome post that walks students through the course site and reminds them of his email and office hours. Don’t forget: you can always create a featured post by making a post “sticky” in your post editor in the dashboard. This will make your post “stick” to the very top of your blogroll.

An Opportunities Page

Professor Ellis includes a page on his course site in which he posts professional and academic opportunities  students might enjoy. This is an innovative way to use an OpenLab course site to support student development beyond the specific course curriculum. Professor Ellis does this by creating a category called “Opportunities” and inserting this category into the main menu. The “Opportunities” page, then, is visible and easily accessible from anywhere in the site.  For now, the opportunities include CUNY writing contests, and invitations to join professional organizations. More will be added as the semester moves along. 

An Examples Page

In the same vein, Professor Ellis also includes a page with examples of technical writing. These examples model the kinds of writing students will do in the course. The page features full-length documents for students to download, as well as images of more visual forms of technical writing, like posters and infographics. Creating a page like this is a great way of supporting students as they tackle new assignments. Research frequently shows that people learn best through case studies. Professor Ellis provides cases for students to study, and gives them a starting point from which to launch their own technical writing endeavors.

What kinds of opportunities and resources do you want your students to access? Can you include them in your course site? Check out Professor Ellis’ course for inspiration!

Welcome Back & Fall 2019 Programming

Welcome back to all City Tech faculty, students, and staff! As you all sink into your semesterly routines, we want to take a moment to highlight the different ways we’re here to support your work on the OpenLab this semester.

Fall 2019 Drop-in Office Hours

Meet with a member of the OpenLab Community Team for face-to- face support. No RSVP necessary.

Tuesdays 12:00-2:00pm: 9/3, 9/24, 10/15, 11/12

Wednesdays 1:30-3:30pm: 9/18, 10/2, 10/23, 12/11

Thursdays 11:00-1:00: 9/12, 10/17, 10/31, 11/21

Office hours are held in the conference room of the Faculty Commons, N227.

Fall 2019 Student Workshops

More information regarding our Fall 2019 programming is now posted on the Open Road- you can learn more about Spring events and view their full  schedule on our calendar.

Below is a list of workshops we are offering this spring for students. Note that our first workshops begin this week! This semester we’ve created an option for students to RSVP to workshops. This can also be done by clicking the links below.

GETTING STARTED ON THE OPENLAB

  • Thursday August 29, 2019, 1:00pm-2:00pm, G604

GROWING YOUR CLUB

  • Thursday October 24, 2019, 1:00pm-2:00pm, L540

PRESENTING YOURSELF ONLINE

Thursday November 7, 2019, 1:00pm-2:00pm, L540

Fall 2019 Faculty Workshops

Below is a list of faculty workshops we are offering this spring. RSVP for any and all of these workshops here or by clicking the links below!

GETTING STARTED

  • Thursday August 29, 2019, 1:00pm-2:00pm, G604

OPEN HOUR ON THE OPENLAB

    • Thursday, August 29, 2:30-4:00pm, G604
    • Wednesday, December 4, 1:30-3:30pm, G604

Support Documentation

We have help(ful) documentation on the OpenLab that offers step-by-step guides for everything from getting started, to thinking about specific plugins that build out the functionality of your sites and portfolios.

Email

We are available to support you via email: openlab@citytech.cuny.edu.

Join Our In-House Sites

We encourage you to become members of our in-house sites (you can do so by visiting the profiles of each site). These sites will keep you up-to-date with all things ‘OpenLab’ and offer opportunities for deeper investment with City Tech’s community.

  • Learn more about the OpenLab, including workshops, events, community, and support opportunities on The Open Road. (Profile)
  • Share and discuss resources about open digital pedagogy with other City Tech and CUNY-wide staff and faculty on Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab. (Profile)

Fall 2019 Open Pedagogy Events – Faculty and Staff

As in semesters past, we will have two Open Pedagogy events in Fall 2019. The dates are set for Thursday September 19 and Thursday November 7 – from 4:30pm to 6:00pm in the Faculty Commons (N227). Learn more here.

We hope to see you around soon! Wishing you all a happy semester!

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!

In the Spotlight: First Year Learning Community Badges

When enrolling at City Tech, freshmen and transfer students can choose to participate in learning communities. As noted in the First Year Learning Communities (FYLC) OpenLab Site, FYLCs are “two or more courses with the same students enrolled, linked with an interdisciplinary theme, providing an innovative way for students to learn and form bonds with the college.In these courses, students receive support from peer mentors and faculty in navigating college life and approaching academic work. FYLC faculty have used the OpenLab to bolster the FYLC experience, creating course sites to support interdisciplinary learning/ teaching.  However, settling on site architecture that fruitfully connects multiple courses is not always easy. It is quite a different task from creating a discipline-specific,  individual course or project site. A good starting point in designing a FYLC site might be to look at and draw inspiration from previous FYLCs.

Now you might ask:

How can I find past FYLC sites to use as models in my own work?

Good question! As part of a growing “badging” effort to identify different types of courses on the OpenLab, the OpenLab has now has created “FYLC Badges” that indicate when a course  is a FYLC.

Look for these badges to identify FYLC!

These badges are also searchable. From the homepage, click on the magnifying glass in the upper right, and select courses.

On the Search page, all of the filters may be set to your interests, except “Select Type”; for that field you’ll want to select “First Year Learning Community”. This will pull up any and all FYLC that match the other filters you set.

 

Happy exploration!