In the Spotlight: OERs on the OpenLab

Since the inception of City Tech’s OER Fellowship in 2015, and CUNY Central’s investment in OERs CUNY-wide, the number of Open Educational Resources that are public and freely available on the OpenLab have been growing. Each year the program has grown, with more new fellows each year than the last (3 in 2015, 7 in 2016, 14 in 2017, and 19 in 2018) and more OERs for a greater range of courses, from Culinary Tourism, to Biology, to Introduction to Mechanics.

Now you may be wondering:

How can I find these resources and use them to support my own course work?

Good news! The OpenLab now has created “OER Badges” that indicate when a course or project is an OER.

green circle with "OER" written in middle
Look for these OER Badges on course and project profiles!

These badges are also searchable. From the homepage, click on the magnifying glass in the upper right, and select EITHER courses or projects (OERs are built on either of these types of sites). If you don’t see what you’re looking for in one, try the other type.

shows search function on OpenLab site with dropdown menu to choose type of site.

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 “Open Educational Resources”. This will pull up any and all OERs that match the other filters you set.

shows search page with dropdown menu for type of site showing option to select OERs

In some cases, you can clone an entire course, and remix, add to, or delete some of the content to meet your needs, and use it to support your courses.

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to OERs, and open digital pedagogy in general – where educators are putting resources and course materials online in free and publicly accessible ways – is to give credit where credit is do. Acknowledge whose materials you are pulling from and how you used them. Did you clone the work of another professor and use their work directly? Did you “adapt their material or part of their material, or remix it with some of your own course materials? This information should be visible somewhere on your own site.

Looking for more tips on OERs and sharing and remixing content on the OpenLab? Check out:

You can also join us in-person for an office hour or workshop!

In the Spotlight: Peer Advisement

This week we’re spotlighting Peer Advisement, a project site on the OpenLab. The main focus of this group is to increase the retention of female students in engineering technology programs.

Despite their focus, the group proudly offers services and resources that may be of interest to all students at City Tech. For example, on the homepage of the site, the group shares various professional development opportunities – including an invitation to attend an HBO networking event where students will meet with employees from the Engineering, Digital Products, Information Services and Recruiting teams, SHPE NYC STEM Career Summit where students can meet representatives from Accenture, AKF, AT&T, Capital One, Dell, HBO, HueCore, Merck, Microsoft, P&G, Turner Construction, Vimeo, and the Graduate School Fair hosted by City Tech’s Honors Scholars Program. While many of these opportunities are geared towards students in engineering technology programs, they have broader appeal.

In fulfilling the main goal of their mission – to promote female student retention in engineering technology programs – the group has identified peer advisors in a number of departments (see below). These peer advisors are available to support fellow students with department-specific tutoring and/or help students navigate the college to find resources and support. Each participating department has their own group on the OpenLab that is linked from the main Peer Advisement site. By going to their group profile you can learn more about who the peer advisors are, when you can meet with them, and what services they can help you with.

Are you a student in one of the departments who has been looking for support? Navigate to and join their group and get involved!

Are you a student or faculty in a engineering department not represented here? Get in touch with the Peer Advisement group to see how you may become a peer advisor in your department!

Are you a student or faculty member in another program of study interested in replicating this or a similar peer-support model in your department? Reach out to the Peer Advisement group to learn more about how they got started!

In the Spotlight: Undergraduate Research

This week we’re spotlighting Undergraduate Research, a project site that houses resources for students who want to get involved in doing research while at City Tech and for faculty who want to support and mentor those students. For students, undergraduate research is an opportunity to work on campus between classes, learn more about a subject of interest, improve your resume, earn credit or a stipend, and work closely with a faculty member. Interested? There are a number of different opportunities and programs to peruse that might suit your interests and objectives. For faculty, this is an opportunity for you to pass on your knowledge and skills, engage in shared and mutual discovery with students, to support your professional discipline and apply for grants targeting undergraduate institutions.

The site also contains materials that may be of interest to students and faculty beyond those who specifically want to enter into a mentoring/menteeing research relationship. For example, the Library Research Techniques page – offering advice on how to search, locate and cite other research – could be useful for students and faculty in any class. Additionally, the Mentoring Handbook – including insight on benefits, phases, roles, strategies, tools and more related to mentoring or being a mentee – might be of interest to anyone looking for guidance and suggestions on entering into a mentor/mentee relationship.

Be sure to also check out their blog roll on the homepage – which includes additional resources – such as how you might preserve your work on CUNY Academic Works – and opportunities – like the BMI Conference, SUBMERGE’s marine science festival in Hudson River Park, and opportunities to participate in NSF-funded research like Warm-water Aquatic Ecology.

Check out the site today to learn more and get involved!

In the Spotlight: Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab

This week we’re spotlighting Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab, an in-house site managed by the OpenLab Community Team that’s dedicated to sparking and cultivating discussion, and facilitating the sharing of ideas, materials and practices related to open digital pedagogy (ODP) amongst City Tech faculty and staff.

Not sure what ODP is? In their piece Open Digital Pedagogy = Critical Pedagogy, Jody Rosen, OpenLab Co-Director and English Professor at City Tech, and Maura Smale, City Tech Librarian describe it as follows:

Open digital pedagogy is the use of cost-free, publicly available online tools and platforms by instructors and students for teaching, learning, and communicating in support of educational goals, can, as Kris Shaffer has argued, “facilitate student access to existing knowledge, and empower them to critique it, dismantle it, and create new knowledge.”

OpenLab is one of these these “cost-free, publicly available online tools and platforms” that faculty (as well as staff, students, and alumni) at City Tech can use to support their teaching, learning and community-building efforts; and the Open Pedagogy site aims to support their endeavors.d

With this in mind, the site houses a number of different resources aimed to support your work on the OpenLab (and other open digital spaces):

On the Resources page you can find writings penned by City Tech faculty and beyond on topics related ODP such as writing, multimedia pedagogy, annotation, open educational resources, specific assignment ideas, and copyright and attribution. As you’ll notice, not all of these topics are specific to open digital pedagogy, but the resources we provide offer insight into how these practices (around writing or annotation, for example) morph, expand or change in open digital learning contexts. Have something to contribute? Have a question you’d like to discuss with the community? After joining the site, you’re welcome to post and share – and we strongly encourage you to do so!

Pedagogy Profiles is an opportunity to hear more about other faculty’s experiences using and incorporating the OpenLab into their classrooms – how did they get started using the platform, what have they learned along the way, and how do they incorporate it now. Each month we highlight a different faculty member – this month, its Professor Jackie Blain in the English Department. Check out Prof. Blain’s Pedagogy Profile here!

We also host two Open Pedagogy events per semester that touch on various topics related to Open Digital Pedagogy. Our first of the Fall 2018 semester is coming up soon – Thursday Sept 27th @ 4:30p in the Faculty Commons (Namm 227) – and will focus on using open digital pedagogy in gateway courses (Learn more and RSVP). These events are a great opportunity to connect and have face-to-face conversations with other faculty and staff at City Tech about pedagogy and more. Light refreshments are served, and part-time faculty are eligible to receive a stipend for participation.

We hope your find these resources helpful in your (continued) use of the platform, and we hope to see you at our upcoming event on September 27th!

In the Spotlight: MTEC 3175, Experimental Game Design & Development

Site header image for MTEC 3175, Experimental Game Design & DevelopmentThis week we’re spotlighting Professor Boisvert’s fall entertainment technology course, MTEC 3175, Experimental Game Design & Development. This course is a “hands-on studio” where students explore various complexities of gameplay development and design through creating prototypes. In short, the course touches on technical game construction, to aesthetics and design (character development, level design), to user experience and more. This course provides a useful case study for thinking about how to use the OpenLab to support your course and student learning, as well as demonstrating the interesting coursework available at our College of Technology.

Integrating Environments

In the context of this course, the OpenLab is one among a suite of “environments” where students in the course will be creating, sharing and engaging course material, broadly speaking; in addition they’ll use GitHub, Slack, Steam and a personal Game Journal. Each of these environments offers a different set of possibilities – for example, GitHub is good for storing, sharing and co-editing files while Slack is good for centralizing communication; Steam is a platform that offers easy access to the latest video games and a community, while a personal journal allows space for personal reflection and the development of ideas. Integrating these separate environments is specific to each course, but could be a useful way of organizing course work and may also be useful in introducing students to platforms they may come to depend on later in their careers.

Blogging

In this context, the OpenLab is a centralizing and public environment where visitors can learn more about the course by accessing course materials provided by Professor Boisvert and by reading through students’ critical reflections via the blog on the homepage. As in other courses, Professor Boisvert uses the blog for low-stakes, reflective and critical thinking writing by students. This third blog post assignment, asks students to re-analyze a game they enjoyed as a child. Explained in another way, this assignment asks students to revisit and think (more) critically about something they know a lot about already. This is specific and useful pedagogical decision that aims get students writing and couch the anxiety that can accompany that practice by asking them to write about something that they explicitly already know a lot about. This is a useful trick many faculty use that not only gets students more comfortable with writing, but also, through sharing experiences, helps students get to know one another and build up a classroom and college community.

Menu Structure / Organizing Site Content

This course site is a good example of a clean, straightforward site design that allows visitors to the site, including students, to easily find the information they’re looking for. Building a site that is more-or-less intuitive and easy for visitors to navigate is one of the challenges of building a site on the OpenLab. Professor Boisvert’s site achieves this through one top-level, navigation menu. By ‘top-level’, I mean that Professor Boisvert doesn’t use any drop down menus. Instead, each menu item opens up to a page where students can find all of the readings or assignments for the course, can read through the syllabus, or find all resources provided by Professor Boisvert. Alternatively, drop-down menus may make a new page for each weekly batch of readings or each separate assignment. Drop-down menus seem appealing at first, but from a user standpoint, they can make the site more difficult to navigate. For one, this means students are going to a different place to find course materials each week, which could get confusing, and it can be easier to end up on the wrong page (reading next week’s readings, for example). Second, drop-down menus bury, hide, and/or conceal information in second- and third-level menu items – a visitor must notice there is a drop-down menu and navigate through it to find the information they are looking for, rather than clicking through to one page for everything. Third, though our sites are responsive (meaning they work on mobile devices) long drop-down menus, or ones with 3 or even 4 levels can run off the screen, rendering them invisible to the visitor trying to access course information and materials.

Follow along with the course this semester to see how student’s ideas develop, and what games they end up developing through this studio!

In the Spotlight: Welcome Back & The Open Road

Open Road header imageGreetings City Tech community, and welcome back to those of you who were away this summer! As you get back into the swing of things, be sure to join and check out the Open Road. This site houses a number of important resources that can help you get (re)acquainted with the OpenLab.

On the Open Road you can find:

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

Wishing you all a happy semester!

 

Summer Greetings from the OpenLab!

 

Street art found in NYC; NYC New York Brooklyn Street Art Urban Graffiti
Image Source: Nikon D3200

Greetings from the OpenLab and congratulations to all on the closing of another successful academic year!

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 2018 Spotlight Posts

Fall 2017 Spotlight Posts

We also spotlighted two new initiatives of the OpenLab this year…

…and improved our practices and built out our documentation around ongoing initiatives:

In addition to reviewing these posts from this past year, you can find a full curated list of all sites that have been spotlighted in our *new* 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 are also beginning to post 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: OER for Africana Folklore (Part 3 of 3)

Header image for Africana Folklore class.As the final post of our 3-part series on OERs, this week we’re spotlighting Professor Javiela Evangelista’s OER for Africana Folklore: Afr1130. As mentioned the last two weeks, the general description of OERs seems straightforward – open and freely accessible educational resources. However in practice OERs are more ambiguous. This series aims to highlight some key features of OERs by spotlighting a few OERs being built by City Tech Faculty.

While the last two weeks have focused on clarity and organization (Part 1), and flexibility (Part 2), what Professor Evangelista’s site highlights is that multimedia materials are often an important part of OERs.

In general, teaching and learning with multimedia has been shown to increase comprehension and retention (i.e. Aloraini, 2012). In Africana Folklore, Professor Evangelista pairs a video, or a few, with a set of readings each week. These are not only intended to supplement, but are an important part of the course material. They fill in gaps in understanding and bring new information to the fore, while also reinforcing other material assigned that week.

The consistent use of videos in her course is more pronounced in the context of the class field trip to Democracy Now!, and its related assignment. Democracy Now! is an independent media outlet that highlights social justice stories and news that are too often overlooked or misreported by mainstream media outlets. In the related assignment, Professor Evangelista asks students to compare independent and mainstream media outlets and to think about how and why they represent similar issues differently, and to what end.

This field trip and assignment draw a contemporary parallel to the ways in which Africana Folklore “highlights the survival of African descendant people (and their stories) by way of oral, material and customary traditions”. To what extent are independent media outlets deploying similar strategies toward similar goals?

Moreover, the field trip and assignment conveys lessons of media literacy without saying as much. This seems like an important opportunity for critical reflection on the use of videos as course material, as well as how students may use videos to supplement their independent learning at home. This drives home an important lesson inherent in multimedia pedagogy – for use in your OERs or otherwise – and of this time period in history: that it’s not just about the incorporation of multimedia text into our teaching and learning, but also the critical and responsible approach with which we do so.

For more on multimedia pedagogy from the OpenLab, check out our Spring 2017 Event on the topic (includes external readings), and read the recap, which includes additional examples of multimedia pedagogy on the OpenLab and around CUNY.

This concludes our 3-part series of OERs.

  • Did you miss our first two weeks? Learn more about how organization and clarity (Part 1), and flexibility (Part 2) factor in when building an OER. Part 1 also includes and overview of OERs in general and at City Tech.
  • To browse more OERs on the OpenLab, or learn more to create your own, check out City Tech’s OER Fellowship project site. This site includes external readings, information about the fellowship, and a link to each OER made through this fellowship.

In the Spotlight: In Conversation: An Eng 1101 OER Reader (Part 2 of 3)

Logo for In Conversation OER ReaderIn continuation of our focus on OERs, this week we’re spotlighting In Conversation: An OER Reader, a joint project of Professors Sarah Parulo and Johannah Rodgers. As mentioned last week, the general description of OERs seems straightforward – open and freely accessible educational resources. However in practice OERs are more ambiguous. This series aims to highlight some key features of OERs by spotlighting a few OERs being built by City Tech Faculty.

Similar to Professor Voza’s Biology II (1201) OER – spotlighted last week – In Conversation is well organized with content divided into three sections, and begins with clear “instructions” for how the site may be used and by whom. As Professor Parulo writes in her introduction:

“This reader is designed to lead you through the major elements that comprise any ENG 1101 course, but it is not meant to be taught starting from page one and straight through to the end. Rather, it is designed to allow you to pick and choose the readings and assignments that you think will work best in your classroom. “

These instructions reveal another important and useful aspect of OERs: flexibility.

When creating an OER, the hope is that it will be used by others; that other faculty at your university or beyond may use some or all of it in their classes, or use parts of it in their course development, and that students may refer to the resources you’ve assembled, at least to supplement their course work and understanding. So in contrast to the famous phrase by Aristotle, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, the parts of an OER are as important if not more important than the whole. This has consequences for how you design and organize the content of your OER.

With this in mind, you want to curate the information and resources housed on your OER in a way that allows users maximum flexibility with respect to choosing what pieces they use. Professors Parulo and Rodgers have achieved this by dividing content into three core topics, and then breaking that content down further into subsections that focus on a particular aspect of the larger section. For example, “Introduction to College Writing” is further broken down into three parts: understanding rhetoric, introduction to writing as a process, and elements of a college essay. Each subsection is broken down further into more specific topics that have a downloadable, student-facing PDF.

In Conversation also includes readings, reading questions and assignments for each major section. These aspects of the OER are also accessible from the main menu bar under the same headings (Readings & Questions, Sample Essay Assignments). This seems to reinforce the idea of flexibility; faculty visitors of the site for example can decide that they just want to look at the readings and questions or sample essay assignments, without venturing into the parts of the OER they are not interested in.

In this way, the flexibility built into the platform is with the visitor in mind – that the visitor can ‘flex’ the OERs content to best meet their needs.

The value of flexibility gets at a larger ambition of OERs. OERs are curated repositories of information meant to open up previously closed spaces of the academy (i.e. curriculum and assignment development, the classroom, the learning process) and to foster community, collaboration and sharing across these formerly siloed spaces. By making your OER flexible, you are broadening the scope of people who may find your OER useful, and thus expanding the bounds of the resulting community of learners and teachers.

In the Spotlight: An OER for Biology II 1201, (Part 1 of 3)

header image and main menu of Biology II OER

This week we’re spotlighting an open educational resource (OER) created by Professor Tatiana Voza for Biology II (1201) using a project site on the OpenLab. You can learn more about OERs and OERs at City Tech below, but in general, OERs are online educational resources that are open, easily accessible, and freely available to the public. This description is both meaningful – given its contrast with dominant practices in the academy – and ambiguous. This spotlight on Professor Voza’s site is the beginning of a 3-part series spotlighting Open Educational Resources on the OpenLab. This series aims to introduce you to the variety of OERs available on the OpenLab – some of which may be of use to City Tech students – and to show you to how some faculty at City Tech are implementing OERs on the OpenLab. Each part will focus on a particular quality of the OER, why it matters, and how the spotlighted site achieves it.

Part 1 focuses on clarity and organization.

When you first visit to Professor Voza’s Biology II OER, you are greeted with a welcoming, easily navigable introduction tailored to the role of the visitor (are you a student or a faculty?). Each section helps the visitor get oriented to the site by breaking down how each user-type may use the site: Are you a professor preparing your class? Are you a student trying to use this site to study for an exam?

The clear, instructional and organized nature of the page is mimicked throughout the site. This is a very useful strategy when building an OER. In your class, when things are unclear, students can clarify instructions and tasks with professors in class and/or via follow-up communication. However, with OERs, the aim is for other faculty and students beyond your class to adopt and adapt your materials for their own purposes. In this scenario, the lack of familiarity and proximity between user and creator combined with a lack of understanding about how to use and navigate the site could discourage visitors from using the OER altogether.

Relatedly, being clear that your site is an OER and that to a greater or lesser degree the material can be used and remixed by others, is equally important. On this OER site, a reminder in the form a description of the Creative Commons license is visible in the sidebar on every page.

Another feature of Professor Voza’s OER that assists in presenting the content in a clear and easily digestible way is the use of the Table of Contents Plus plugin. Upon activating this plugin, introductory Table of Contents (TOC) boxes automatically appear on all pages across the site that include 3 or more ‘Headings’ (see image). Including a TOC, especially on pages with a lot of content assists users in quickly understanding what a page contains and navigating to content of interest. The Table of Contents Plug plugin is easy to use, great for organization on any site, and can easily be activated on your own sites by going to Dashboard > Plugins.

A screenshot of the Page editor indicating where users can create headings.
Not sure how to make a heading? When in the editor of a page or post, click the arrow next to ‘Paragraph’ for a dropdown menu that allows you to change text from ‘Paragraph’ to a sub-level heading.


What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources, or OERs, are just what they sound like – educational resources that are open, easily accessible, and freely available to the public. In the context of higher education at CUNY, OERs are discussed in relation to alleviating textbook costs for students.  This is significant given that these costs too often play a role in the direction of studies a student may pursue, and/or may prevent a student from completing their studies all together. In addition to making higher education more affordable, OERs create transparency around course curriculum, allowing faculty to easily share the details, content, and organization of their courses. In this way, OERs promote culture of sharing, remixing and collaboration.

OERs at City Tech

Since 2015, City Tech’s OER Fellowship program has supported 25 faculty create and curate Open Educational Resources for a course of theirs on the OpenLab. Fellows are full-time faculty members representing a diversity of departments including Construction Management and Civil Engineering Technology, Biological Sciences, Social Sciences, African American Studies, Computer Science Technology and Dental Hygiene – to name a few. A full list of fellows and their OERs can be found on the OER Fellowship site hosted on the OpenLab. OERs on the OpenLab, however, are not limited to this list; other faculty have taken it upon themselves to develop OERs for City Tech’s community.

Further reading to learn more about OERs: