In the Spotlight: Savonne Andrews’ ePortfolio

A header image featuring a mountainous landscape, ablaze. Against this backdrop, we make out the silhouette of the top of the illustrator's head, short hair dyed in blonde.

This week, we spotlight Savonne Andrews’ OpenLab ePortfolio. As a reminder, if you are a student, an ePortfolio is a space for you to digitally showcase your work. The OpenLab provides you with a template, but you can (and should!) customize it to fit your needs. There are a few things worth noting about Savonne’s ePortfolio:

  • Savonne is an “illustrator, animator and designer” and tells us this through a customized tagline, pictured above. As a reminder, you too can customize your site’s tagline by going to Dashboard> Appearance> Customize. 
  • Fittingly for an illustrator, Savonne uploaded a customized header image of their own artwork, again pictured above. Notice how it pulls the site together aesthetically!
  • Savonne also used the text sidebar widget to provide readers with a brief bio. This is a great way to communicate who you are. Remember that text in the sidebar will appear on all pages of your site, making it less likely to get overlooked.
  • Finally, we highlight that Savonne uses the ePortfolio to maintain an internship blog. This is a very straightforward use of the site. Remember, you can have as many or as few items on your main menu as you would like. The space is yours to customize.

Check out Savonne Andrews’ ePortfolio here!

Welcome to Spring 2022!

Welcome Back! We have new support opportunities!

As you sink into your semesterly routine, we wanted to make you aware of support opportunities :

  • The Spring 2022 schedule for OpenLab support is now available:
    • Students, faculty, and staff can sign up for open hours and one-on-one appointments to ask specific questions or ask to learn more about topics such as getting started, using the OpenLab for courses, or how to use a tool  or pedagogical approach. 
    • We have workshops slated for this week, including on Getting Started on the OpenLab, and using the Block Editor on the OpenLab. 
    • Any group can request a workshop!
  •  Faculty members, have any questions about getting your course site ready for the semester? See helpful tips posted here: Teaching with the OpenLab.
  • Are you a student getting ready to use the OpenLab this semester? See the helpful OpenLab for Students module. If you are faculty you can refer your students to this module as well.
  • Get inspired by what City Tech has done on the OpenLab by looking through our past In the Spotlight posts.
  • The OpenLab released several new features this year, including an option to save Courses, Projects, Clubs and Portfolios to a list of “favorites,” and a new quiz-making plug-in. You can also now add students in bulk to your course by using a list of student emails: our help documentation will walk you through how to do this step-by-step.

The OpenLab, City Tech’s open digital platform for teaching, learning, and collaboration, offers virtual open hours, online support, and technical guidance throughout the year.

The OpenLab team also offers a selection of Help materials for Distance Education, plus Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios. Contact us with questions: openlab@citytech.cuny.edu!

In the Spotlight: Winter 2022 Support

Hello, OpenLab Community!

We are happy to announce our Winter 2022 Support Schedule, for everyone working the winter session and/or preparing for Spring 2022. We offer two types of synchronous support: workshops and Open Hours.

Winter Workshops:

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

Getting Started on the OpenLab (1/24, 1/27, 2/2)

Using the Course Template for Course Design (1/24, 1/27)

Using the Block Editor (2/2)

Winter Open Hours:

Click here for instructions on how to sign up for a one-on-one appointment with a Digital Pedagogy Fellow during our Open Hours.

Thursday, 1/13, 10:00am-12:00pm

Tuesday, 1/18, 2:00pm-4:00pm

Thursday, 1/27, 10:00am-12:00pm

In The Spotlight: City Tech Library Buzz Blog

This week, we spotlight the City Tech Library Buzz Blog OpenLab site. The site is “the news blog for the Ursula C. Schwerin Library.” On the home page, you will find announcements about upcoming library workshops, college-wide events (e.g., movie screenings), and the library’s very own Spotlight posts, which highlight useful resources for instructors and students!

The main menu for the blog links out to the library’s exhibit archive, which is hosted not on the OpenLab but on the City Tech LibGuides. This is a great reminder that, if your course/ portfolio/ club/ or project already has a web presence elsewhere, you can link out to your other site in your main menu. To do this, go to Dashboard> Appearance> Menus> Edit Menus. On the left-hand side, beneath the heading Add menu items, you will see an option to add Custom Links. You can copy the link to your other site there and it to your menu.

Similarly, the Library Buzz links out the library’s City Tech Stories podcast! Episodes are uploaded to Sound Cloud but linked out to from the library’s OpenLab sites. Have a listen! The stories feature City faculty, tales of adaptation to pandemic life, and even an audio tour of the library and its resources.

Finally, we also like that the blog gives readers an option to subscribe and receive new posts. If you’d like to add this option to your site, you can do so by activating the Subscribe2 plugin.

Take a second to sign up for the Library Newsletter! The site is replete with resources for faculty, staff, and students, and is a great example of how to use the OpenLab to complement a pre-existing web presence.

In the Spotlight: Finding Inspiration on the OpenLab

Welcome back from the holiday break! We’ve reached that time of year where things are busy, but the days are short. Speaking at least for myself, I know I tend to have to fight a bit of inertia. In this edition of the Spotlight, we’re spotlighting one way to get inspiration and learn cool things you can do on the OpenLab without feeling overwhelmed. What is it? The Spotlight itself!

What is the Spotlight?

Every Monday, we feature a different site, project, or activity that someone is doing on the OpenLab that we’ve specially selected for you to check out. For example, last semester, we Spotlighted:

The OpenLab Tutorial for Students page (recommended for students and anyone interested in building online tutorials)
The Student Technology Survey (recommended for all faculty teaching online)
The Fifth Annual Science Fiction Symposium (recommended for anyone who might want to host an event using the OpenLab)
The Experiential Art and Design Club (recommended for students running student organizations)

However, we also suggest checking out Spotlighted sites that don’t directly relate to what you want to do on the OpenLab. For example, in my spotlight of the Connect Days template, I explain some design choices the creators made that help make the site work so well as an admissions tool, such as an easy-to-digest home page, profiles to help prospective students get a sense for who is in each academic department, and multimedia tours.

How Else Can You Use the Spotlight?

Whether you’re faculty, staff, or a student, you can also check out our Spotlight archive to look for other sites on the OpenLab specifically tailored to your interests.

Students:
Our Student Archive contains featured course sites so that you can preview classes you might want to take in the future, tips for professional development and presenting yourself online, learning resources, and sites created by other students.

Faculty and Staff:
Our Faculty and Staff Archive is arranged to make it easy to find inspiration for online pedagogy and class sites across disciplines, tips for how to guide students in making e-portfolios for your classes, community opportunities at City Tech, and tips for publicizing and coordinating your scholarship!

What Else is on the Open Road?

Aside from the Spotlight, this OpenLab site also contains OpenLab News, so you can learn about new features and our upcoming events, information on how to attend our OpenLab Open Hours, and screencasts for audiovisual guidance on the nuts and bolts of editing your OpenLab site.

You can always see our Spotlighted content for the week on the home page of the OpenLab, or you can join our project profile to get updates sent directly to your email. We hope you’ll come back each week to see all of the cool stuff your colleagues and classmates are doing on the OpenLab!

In the Spotlight: Plan Week 2021

PLAN Week Site Header Image

PLAN week is upon us! From November 1-5, students can meet with advisors to plan their next steps at City Tech. The PLAN week OpenLab site has all the information you need, “from choosing classes and learning how to register to finding out where to get support and make connections within the college.” 

You can make also learn more by going to academic advising website. The PLAN week committee recommends you spend 20-30 minutes a day this week planning your academic trajectory. You can start today by watching this short video introduction to advising.

Make sure to check the site out, and happy planning!

In the Spotlight: CMCE Career Site

Header Image for CMCE Career Site: features college graduates and construction and engineering workers against the backdrop of an urban landscape.
Header Image for CMCE Career Site

This week, we spotlight the excellent CMCE Career OpenLab site, which offers “career information and opportunities for construction management and civil engineering students and graduates.” Overall, the site offers a fantastic model of a job resource for City Tech students, both showcasing the work of City Tech alumni and directing current students to job postings and additional resources. I highlight some of what makes the site so effective below:

An engaging, media-rich home page: Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have gotten all of us used to a long, vertical scroll. That said, the best way to keep a reader’s attention with this format is to break up chunks of texts with images or other forms of multimedia. The CMCE Career home page does this very well. For example:

  • Below the header image, the site includes an important note to students that is bolded and in a bigger font to catch their attention. The note reads: “Whether you are just getting started, are currently working, want to switch from field to office work or office to field work, or are switching industries entirely, there are people like you in our department and among our alumni.” It foreshadows what students will find on this site, which is alumni stories, job and internships postings, and information about CMCE.
  • A second menu below this introductory text allows the reader to jump to the section of the site/ home page they would like to visit: Jobs & Internships; Where CMCES Work; Alumni Stories; Alumni News.
  • Spotlight boxes with CMCE “talking heads” give students a compelling visual and brief descriptions of possible job options and alumni success stories. 
  • A search functionality at the top of the page allows readers to easily find what they are looking for once they’ve skimmed the home page.
  • Pie-charts and graphs provide visual breakdowns of CMCE career paths, helping break-up long chunks of texts.

The Jobs & Internships page takes advantage of the block format to direct students toward public agencies and private companies that have job opportunities. Each company has its own block on the page: its title is bolded, the full description of the company is prominently included, and a button links you out to the company’s site. Note that this lay-out makes it easy to digest information. It is also more effective than simply featuring a bulleted list of hyperlinks to various companies. We encourage OpenLab users to to follow this kind of model when linking out to other resources: it is always more engaging for readers to have the full description of what they are being linked out to than to just see a link on a page.

The footer gives more information about the site’s creator, A.M. Sowder, including a brief bio and professional headshot. But it also features recent news from the department, linking out to blog posts updating visitors on the activities of faculty, students and alumni. This is a great use of widget space: remember that footers appear on all site pages, which means they are unlikely to get overlooked.

These are just some of the many innovative features of the CMCE Career site. It is a great model of a jobs and internship site that is reader-friendly and replete with information. 

In the Spotlight: Embedding Images with the Block Editor

Many of you are probably getting used to the new(ish) Block Editor this semester. The Classic editor will be supported by WordPress through at least 2022, but we encourage you to gain some familiarity with the Block editor now before the alternative becomes obsolete. One of the advantages of the Block editor is that it makes it easier to integrate text with visual page elements, without any coding needed. It can be especially useful if you have an image-rich site, as it allows you to embed media hosted on external sites (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive, your own personal site) and therefore can help you save some of that precious OpenLab storage space! In the remainder of this post, I spotlight how to 1) upload and embed an image to your post; 2) embed externally-hosted image. 

Upload and Embed Images

To upload and embed an image to your page/ post follow these steps:

1. To upload images or other media (e.g. pdfs, Word docs, txt files) to a post or a page, go to your Dashboard > Posts > Add New or Pages > Add New.  Click the Add block button. A block library will appear: click Image to add an image to your page or post.

2. You can select files saved to your computer or flash drive by clicking Upload. Then, either drag-and-drop files from saved to your computer or select a file.  You also have the option to select an image or other files from your media library by clicking the Media Library tab, or inserting an image from a URL by clicking the Insert from URL tab.

3. Once you have uploaded or inserted your image, you can make adjustments to the file using the options in the block toolbar.  You can add a caption to appear underneath the image, change the “Alignment” of the image, and choose between the default rectangular style and a rounded image style. You can change the “Size” of the image by dragging its edges.

Embed Externally-Hosted Images

Please note that each site has a size limit and unnecessarily large images can take up more of your space than you’d like. If you are sharing many large images, we suggest hosting them with an external storage solution, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or Flickr, among others. Instructions for embedding externally hosted images are as follows:

  1. On the “Add New Post” or “Add New Page” screen, click the Add block button. A block library will appear: click Image to add an image to your page or post.

2. Click Insert from URL.  Paste or type the URL for the image.

3. Click enter or the black arrow to Insert into Post.

4. Once you have inserted your image, you can make adjustments to the file using the options in the block toolbar.  You can add a caption to appear underneath the image and change the “Alignment” of the image. 

Want to try your hand at the Block editor? Please visit our Help documentation to learn more!

Sources:

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

In The Spotlight: The Hospitality Garden is Back

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

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

Some other noteworthy aspect of the site:

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

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

In the Spotlight: Welcome Back!

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

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

  • The  Fall 2021 schedule for OpenLab support is now available:
    • Students, faculty, and staff can sign up for open hours and one-on-one appointments to ask specific questions or ask to learn more about topics such as getting started, using the OpenLab for courses, or how to use a tool  or pedagogical approach. 
    • We have workshops slated for the next two weeks, including on Getting Started on the OpenLab, and using the Block Editor on the OpenLab. 
    • Any group can request a workshop!
  •  Faculty members, have any questions about getting your course site ready for the semester? See helpful tips posted here: Teaching with the OpenLab.

  • Are you a student getting ready to use the OpenLab this semester? See the helpful OpenLab for Students module. If you are faculty you can refer your students to this module as well.

  • Get inspired by what City Tech has done on the OpenLab by looking through our past In the Spotlight posts.

  • The OpenLab released several new features this summer, including an option to save Courses, Projects, Clubs and Portfolios to a list of “favorites,” and a new quiz-making plug-in. You can also now add students in bulk to your course by using a list of student emails: our help documentation will walk you through how to do this step-by-step.

The OpenLab, City Tech’s open digital platform for teaching, learning, and collaboration, offers virtual open hours, online support, and technical guidance throughout the year.

The OpenLab team also offers a selection of Help materials for Distance Education, plus Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios

Contact us with questions: openlab@citytech.cuny.edu!

The OpenLab Team