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: The OpenLab for Students

The OpenLab for Students is a short tutorial to “help students learn, work and share their ideas using the OpenLab!” It covers topics from creating a student account to finding and joining courses to participating in those courses. It also includes tips for success in online learning and a quiz to help you assess your knowledge of the platform. If you are a student, we recommend the tutorial for any stage of your City Tech career: it’s a great project to join and refer back as you start your semester, which most likely involves quite a bit of remote learning! You can read through the entire project in about an hour, and front and back buttons at the bottom of each page make it easy to navigate and skip ahead to information that is most useful to you. We also recommend that faculty refer students to the tutorial to orient them to the OpenLab. Below are some highlights you’ll definitely want to check out:

  • A short video tutorial (45 seconds!) on posting on the OpenLab. If some of your instructors are teaching on the OpenLab this semester, you will almost certainly be asked to post on your course site. The process isn’t too complicated, but it does involve a few steps: watch this video and pause it as needed as you create your first few posts.

  • Tips and and links to help documentation for using the Block Editor. As the module notes: “There are two ways to create a post: you can use the Block Editor or the Classic Editor…WordPress will be retiring the Classic Editor in 2021, so it’s best to use the Block Editor.” To that end, the tutorial links to step-by-step by help on using the Block editor, including an entry on writing a post and another on working with blocks.

  • The tips for success in online learning are a great beginning of semester read! No one–and I mean no one–has found the transition to remote learning easy. You are not alone if you are struggling in this regard. As the tutorial notes, “it can be hard to focus during online classes,” especially if you don’t have an adequate space to work or functioning technology to get your work done. The tutorial gives advice as to how to navigate these challenges, including how to communicate with your professor about the difficulties you may be experiencing in this period. It also provides links and contact information for many more college-widge resources that are available online and can help support you.

Make sure to join this tutorial and refer back to it often!

In the Spotlight: NYCCT Prism Alliance

header image for prism alliance site: the letters PRISM are spelled out across a rainbow-colored banner.

This week, we spotlight NYCCT’s Prism Alliance. The Prism Alliance at City Tech is an inclusive safe space for all LGBTQIA++ students and allies. The club meets once a week, during club hour on Thursdays from 1-2 pm. The meetings are usually held in the library projection room, but the location can vary. Join the club site to get regular updates about meetings! And learn more about the Prism Alliance here!

 

In the Spotlight: Add to My Portfolio

On the OpenLab, you can build your online portfolio, creating a personal site on which you display digital representations of your academic work, interests, and achievements. If you are a City Tech student, you may already have done this as part of your coursework. 

Over the summer, we created an ‘Add to My Portfolio’ button, which makes it easier to add work from courses, projects, or clubs to your portfolio. If you are a student, using this button will save you time as you populate your portfolio with content you have created on other sites. If you are faculty or staff, you can use this button as well, both to add content to your own portfolio and with your students who are developing their OpenLab ePortfolios.

How does the button work, you ask? Great question. Below, we walk you through the functionality, step-by-step.

Add to My Portfolio

If you have an OpenLab portfolio, you can turn on an ‘Add to My Portfolio’ button, which will appear on posts and comments you have created on other OpenLab sites.  This makes it easier to add work from courses, projects, or clubs to your portfolio.  

Enabling the ‘Add to Portfolio’ button

  1. Go to your Portfolio Profile > Settings, and then click Settings in the sub-menu at the top.
  1. Scroll down to the bottom where you’ll see the section, ‘Add to my Portfolio.’ Click the checkbox to enable this feature.

Adding a post or comment to your Portfolio

Once you have enabled the ‘Add to My Portfolio’ button, you will see it appear at the bottom of any post or comment you have created on any other OpenLab site.  

    1. Click the Add to My Portfolio button at the bottom of the post or comment you would like to add to your portfolio. 
    2. A window will pop up asking for a few details:
      1. Format: You can choose to add the content to your portfolio as a post or page. 
      2. Title: The title will automatically be the same as the title of the post you’re adding, but you can change this. If it’s a comment you’ll need to add a title.
      3. Citation: This cannot be edited.  It adds a citation at the top of the post with information about where the post was originally published.
      4. Annotation: You can add an annotation or leave this blank.  An annotation is a short description you can include to tell your reader about the content you’re adding to your portfolio.
          
    3. When you’re finished, click Add to Portfolio.
  1. After adding to your portfolio, you’ll see that the Add to Portfolio button can no longer be clicked, and will say “Added to my Portfolio.”
  2. The content will be saved in draft form on your portfolio as a post or page, depending on the format you chose.  

Publishing the new post or page on your Portfolio site

  1. To publish the content you just added to your portfolio, go to the Dashboard of your portfolio site, and then to Posts or Pages, depending on the format you chose.  You will see the new post or page listed as a draft.
  2. Click on the title of the post or page, where you can edit it or publish as it is.  You can find additional help on editing and publishing posts or pages in OpenLab Help.

Curious about the ‘Add to My Portfolio’ button? Enable it now and try it out on your own site!

Sources:

This page is a derivative of “OpenLab Help” used under CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0.

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: Privacy in Open Learning

Happy second week of school to all City Tech faculty, students, and staff! At the start of every semester, hundreds of members of the City Tech community join the OpenLab for the very first time. If that’s your case, welcome! We want to take the start of the semester to go over the ins-and-outs of privacy in open learning. After all, the OpenLab is a public-facing platform. While this public-ness is part of what makes the OpenLab a rich environment for teaching and learning, some of you may have concerns about what working in the open means for your privacy. Here are a few things you should know:

The OpenLab is open

The OpenLab is open by default. The site is indexable through search engines, and can be accessed by anyone inside and outside of the City Tech community.

Privacy while working in the open

The OpenLab is open, so can anyone can find your personal information by looking you up on the OpenLab?

The answer is a resounding no! This is because members of the OpenLab can identify themselves using a pseudonym for their user name or display name instead of their real name. Their avatar can represent them without including a real photo or identifying image. Plenty of OpenLab members, for example, use pictures of their cats, their guitars, their cars, abstract sketches of themselves, etc. Check out our detailed overview of the OpenLab’s privacy policy, and best practices for protecting your confidentiality here.

If you are an instructor teaching a course on the OpenLab, or a staff/ faculty member leading a club/ project on the OpenLab, it is essential for you to know that members–particularly students–cannot be required to use their proper name or likeness when creating an OpenLab account.

Participating in courses on the OpenLab

If you are an instructor teaching on the OpenLab, you might wonder how you can identify your students if they are using pseudonyms on the platform.

The answer is that site administrators can identify group members in the site dashboard by full name and email address (as shown below). Therefore, they do not need to rely on usernames to identify members. In other words, members should not be asked to change their username or display name for identification purposes. Remember though: people’s full names are only visible for site administrators in the dashboard. They are not visible anywhere else on the OpenLab.

A screenshot of a site administrator's view of the dashboard. When the site administrator clicks "Users" in the dashboard, they will see the site's users avatars, full names, and email addresses.

We hope this helps explain how your privacy is protected when you work in the open.  Again, please visit our Help documentation on privacy on the OpenLab for a fuller overview of your rights and best practices for protecting your confidentiality.  As always, feel free to comment on this post if you have questions! 

In the Spotlight: Kevelyn Vargas’s ePortfolio

 

A few weeks ago, we spotlighted an ePortfolio that blended humor, self-reflection and professionalism. This week, we spotlight another student site that does much of the same, but with its own flair for design and digital art. Kevelyn Vargas’ ePortfolio is a great example of how to use an OpenLab site to convey both personality and academic  work.

Kevelyn’s site is clean and well-organized, each detail clearly thought through. Her landing page- the Home page– is set to her blog, which she regularly updates with musings on her career plans and coursework. Then, from the top navigation menu, Kevelyn also features an About Me page, an essential component of any ePortfolio.  This page is beautifully and sparsely designed, offering a brief biography, plenty of blank space to the let the reader digest, and a black-and-white photograph (a self-portrait!) to match the overall site design and tone.  

The next two menu tabs allow the reader to navigate to some of Kevelyn’s sample coursework. She takes advantage of the OpenLab’s affordances to showcase multimedia work, from videos she has uploaded to logos she has designed to photographs she has taken. She is building a digital presence on the OpenLab and using more than just the usual blogging tools. She is communicating who she is in multiple ways.

Finally, Kevelyn’s ePortfolio is full of personal touches that suggest her talents as a designer. She tells her readers in the About Me page that she has long made “rose-filled illustrations.” The “rose” imagery sparks reader intrigue. It is carried out throughout the site. Her header images (the image featured at the top of the page in your OpenLab sites) are rotating and are all original illustrations. Most include roses. This gives the ePortfolio coherence, but also a distinctive aesthetic. Clearly, Kevelyn is interested in how to and present and re-present archetypal symbols of beauty- sometimes the roses are rendered mysterious, sometimes they are made  gorgeous, sometimes they are playful (as stand-ins for pepperoni on a pizza slice, for example), and sometimes they are made Gothic and dark.

In OpenLab workshops and events this semester, we have been focusing on curation- the process of selecting, organizing, and taking care of the work featured on your Portfolios/ ePortfolios. Curation really is an art- one that Kevelyn is quite proficient in! Check out the site for yourself and think through you might curate your work in your own ePortfolio!

In the Spotlight: City Tech Super HERO

This week we’re spotlighting the City Tech Super HERO’s OpenLab site. Who is our super hero? Well, she was “born in 1980 as Healthkit Educational Robot (HERO).” As the site goes on to note:

“For the next 15 years she helped countless number of students in colleges and universities across the country learn about Computer and Robotics Technology. Then she went into hibernation. Fast forward to 2017… City Tech Women Engineers Club members have taken the initiative to revive HERO, give her a new life and new features, with the help of modern computer hardware and software technology. Her capabilities will be enhanced with the implementation of Assistive Technology to enable her to help people with disabilities.”

Recently, three City Tech students from the CET department won an IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Region 1 Student Research Conference award for this very cool project. Congratulations all! 

The site is worth checking out, both to learn more about City Tech’s Super HERO and to see how OpenLab project sites can help you feature your work and research.  There are a few things about site design to note here:

First, the site makes use of custom header images to showcase the robot. This kind of image catches the reader’s attention: it invites exploration, piques curiosity, and, in its design, parallels well the tech-oriented site content.

Second, the top-level menu is also kept sparse and clear. Separate top-level pages are used for each of the project components: including hardware, software, sensors, devices and applications. This layout is intuitive and makes content easy to find.

Finally, it is worth noting that, as an engineering endeavor, the City Tech Super HERO nicely embodies the “open” and “accessible” spirit of the OpenLab. Not only is the work on the robot being driven by a desire to enhance the HERO’s capacities with Assistive Technology, the engineers reviving the robot have used their site to share their Python code for software testing. They are also building from existing documentation (see e.g. regarding devices), which they link out to every step of the way. The project is public-facing and collaborative and delightful to explore!

Curious about the City Tech Super HERO? Ready to be awed by its powers? Click here to visit the site!

In the Spotlight: Anthony Sewell’s ePortfolio

This week, we spotlight a student site that brings humor, self-reflection and a flair for design to the online world of ePortfolios! Anthony Sewell’s ePortfolio  is full of great examples of how you can use the OpenLab to present yourself professionally online, but also let your personality shine through. Here are some highlights:

Anthony’s Portfolio Description on his portfolio profile page takes the time to address the reader directly, thanking them for visiting the site. But it does much, much more, and without being too wordy, still offers a compelling introduction of Anthony’s professional and academic background, as well as an overview of the content of his ePortfolio, which “share[s] with you my work on multiple media platforms.”

Anthony’s sense of humor permeates the site. You see it from the beginning, when reading the tagline for Anthony’s ePortfolio, which notes that he is “1 of 7,374,743,165 [humans] and counting.” But it’s also evident in his blog posts reflecting on his internship, and in the memes and pictures he posts.

This humor conveys Anthony’s personality, without ever overshadowing the professional tone and nature of his ePortfolio, which, from the main navigation menu, cleanly organizes pages with curated Academic Samples of coursework, a bio that includes a video presentation of himself at work, and sample sketches done in his free time. 

A sample sketch Anthony made on the subway.

These are all possible components of a robust ePortfolio. Ultimately, you decide what to showcase and what you believe best reflects your talent and career/ academic achievements. This ePortfolio does a nice job of presenting a wide variety of multimedia content and showcasing skills in graphic design, video editing, and writing.

Ready to start building your own ePortfolio? Check out Anthony’s site for inspiration!