In the Spotlight: The Spring 2021 Semester, In Review

Photo by Federico Respini on Unsplash

Summer greetings from the OpenLab and congratulations to all on the closing of another semester! A special congratulations to the class of 2021!

While our weekly “Spotlight” blog series will go on hiatus for the summer, we wanted to remind you of the sites we featured this past semester, and encourage you to check them out if you haven’t already done so.

Spring 2021 Spotlight Posts

This past year, we released a series of OpenLab screencasts, providing audiovisual guidance to using different features of the OpenLab.

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 summer programming, including one-on-one office hours. 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: City Tech Astronomy Club

This week we spotlight the City Tech Astronomy Club, which allows students to come together to explore the universe, even in a remote semester. Students in the club can use “Slooh.com” to access “online remote controlled telescopes located around the world.” Members can “conduct and participate in live observation observation sessions through a web browser interface,” and “look at remote galaxies, dying and exploding stars, dark spots on the sun’s surface, rings around Saturn and craters and mountains on the Moon.” 


Interested in learning more about the club? You can visit the club site to find out more! The City Tech Astronomy Club leaders have made information readily available for you by featuring a video on the evolution of telescopes and their current use in slooh.com, as well as a slideshow to teach you more about slooh.

In the Spotlight: Literary Arts Festival

This year’s Literary Arts Festival–the 40th annual installation of this City Tech institution–will no doubt be different than the previous 39, but certainly exciting and enriching as always.

We’re spotlighting both the festival itself–now virtual via Zoom–and the revamped call for student submissions. The organizers of the Literary Arts Festival emphasize that “Your Voice Matters. Your Story Matters. You Matter and We Care.” Instead of a writing competition, the call asks students to share stories with the City Tech community. The focus is on “quarantine, hardship, loss, resilience, social activism, remote education, mental health, essential workers, health care workers, caregivers” and can include “personal essay, poem, song, photography, illustration, video/animation, dance, spoken word performance”–so any format of creative work. Submit your work by March 17th.

Details on the call for submissions are available on the Literary Arts Festival’s OpenLab site.

Then check out–and share!–this awesome poster for the event, designed by Or Szyflingier in COMD! It has information for you to save the date for the event: on Tuesday, April 13, at 5:00pm, the City Tech community will gather for a Literary Arts Festival featuring spoken word artist Staceyann Chin and City Tech students from among those submitting their work for the call for submissions.

Before the festival, get to know Staceyann Chin’s spoken-word work. Here are some samples of her work from the Poetry Foundation, and some videos and further reading.

Thanks to the Student Government Association President Ngozi Okonkwo and the SGA Team for hosting, and for their work with English Department faculty, led by Dr. Caroline Hellman, in organizing and supporting this year’s festival.

In the Spotlight: OpenLab Support

Up The Irons
“Up the Irons” by Florin C via Flickr

The OpenLab Team is here for you, but where exactly is here?

Synchronous support

Open Hours

Throughout the semester, the OpenLab Team hosts weekly open hours for students, faculty, and staff to get acquainted with the OpenLab, ask questions, explore new tools, and learn more about what’s possible when working in an open digital environment. These are open for multiple people to participate in at the same time.

One-on-one Appointments

If anyone wants any or all of the above but without other participants present, there are also one-on-one appointments available. Both these and the Open Hours are now conducted via Zoom.

Workshops by Request

The team is also available for workshops by request for a group (department, course coordination group, club, research group, etc) to learn together about any aspect of the OpenLab specifically or about open digital teaching and learning practices more broadly. All of the links provided here take you to the Support section on The Open Road, which is a site that the OpenLab Team uses to broadcast news, updates, and spotlights.

Asynchronous Support

Help

If there’s a question you have, we’ve probably thought about it, written about it, and made screenshots about it. Visit the Help as a starting point for OpenLab support to find answers to your questions (and to questions you didn’t even know you had).

Email

Use the contact form on the Help page, or email the OpenLab Team directly (OpenLab@CityTech.cuny.edu) to ask questions, report a problem, request a new feature, etc. If you’re having a problem with your account (signing up, logging in, etc), it’s best to email from your City Tech email account.

Screencasts

The OpenLab Team has been busy making screencasts to provide asychronous support in new ways. You can find a link to the screencasts in the Support section of The Open Road. That link will take you to a YouTube channel with all of the OpenLab screencasts.

Modules

There’s a lot of help in Help. For a more focused experience getting ready for teaching and learning on the OpenLab, visit these modules:

  • Faculty members can learn more about getting course sites ready throughout the semester, using the Teaching with the OpenLab module as a guide.
  • Students can get ready to use the OpenLab throughout the semester using the helpful OpenLab for Students module.

Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab

Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab is another site the OpenLab Team runs. It provides resources, support, and community space for anyone exploring teaching with open digital pedagogy. Until we can meet again in person, the OpenLab team will continue to use this site to pose questions and solicit community conversation in lieu of the popular Open Pedagogy events. Anyone can comment, even if they’re not part of the City Tech community–but if you’re an OpenLab member also consider joining the project so you get updates whenever there are new posts about teaching and learning in the open.

Comforting Content for COVID Coping

Finally, if what you need is something comforting, cute, or just generally different from what you’ve been looking at all day on your screen, visit Comforting Content for COVID Coping. Feel free to add or suggest if you have and idea for comfort or cuteness to offer!


Looking for additional support? Have an idea for additional ways the OpenLab Team can provide support? Feel free to reach out via email to OpenLab@CityTech.cuny.edu.

New Screencast: Editing Menus on Your Site

In our latest screencast, Digital Pedagogy Fellow Olivia will show you how to edit your site’s menu to add (or delete, or re-order) pages, posts, and categories.

For a written version of these same instructions with screenshots, you can also visit our Help documentation here.

 

In the Spotlight: Finding Inspiration on the OpenLab

Welcome to spring semester! Getting started on the OpenLab, even if you’ve used it before, can sometimes be overwhelming- there are so many different options for what you can do! On 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 her spotlight of the Connect Days template, Claire explains 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: 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: Pharmacology (DEN 2315)

Header image for Pharmacology (DEN 2315), rainbow-colored lined up in a row.

This week, I spotlight Dr. Bowers’ Pharmacology OpenLab course, which implements some innovative practices well-suited to distance education. These include:

  • Indicating virtual meeting locations (i.e. OpenLab and Zoom links) right at the top of the syllabus. This is information you want students to access easily and placing it at the top of the page increases your chances of making sure no one misses it.
  • Separate pages and menu tabs for lecture slides, lecture video, and lecture audio. Students who are members of the class can download and print the slides, and stream the videos or just the audio for the class lectures. This gives different media through which to learn course material and is a great way to meet the needs of students with different learning styles. I’ll also note that providing a “just audio” alternative to video streams of lectures is a smart way to reach learners who may get distracted by video but do well with an audio recording. It also does a favor to the many of us who have issues with slow internet at home, and for whom audio is more easily streamed uninterrupted than video, which takes more bandwidth.
Students can access course content from the main navigation menu, but have 3 options: one for downloading slides, another for streaming video, and another for streaming audio.
  • A contact form inserted directly into the main navigation menu. As screenshotted below, this contact form invites students to write a message to their instructor and is a wonderful way to promote student-instructor communication. You can read more about using the plugin Contact Form 7 to create these kinds of forms and add them to your site here.
This contact form has four fields: one for the student’s name, a second for the student’s email, a third for the subject of the message, and a forth for the body of the message.

Do you have other tips for making your lectures more accessible online? For encouraging your students to contact you? Join the conversation by replying to this post!

In the Spotlight: ComD Internship Coordination Site

Last week, I spotlighted ComD Advisement Information site, which digitally guides students through the advisement process, and is replete with  information they need to stay on track and complete their majors. This week, I spotlight the ComD Internship Coordination site, which “is designed to help” students “find fieldwork/ situations of approximately eight hours per week at an internship site approved by the Department Internship instructor such as an advertising agency, graphic design firm, corporate design office, publications art department, photography or illustration studio, TV or multimedia production company.”

On the site’s blog, students will find timely announcements about (now virtual) events to attend to find jobs and internships. But the site also includes pages that outline Requirements and Documents for the ComD Internship, tips on Where to Find an Internship, Networking, and Writing Resources. Students will also find resources for Portfolio and Resume creation.

If you are a ComD student and thinking about how to gain professional experience in your field, make sure to check out the site