In the Spotlight: Welcome Back & Fall 2020 Programming

Welcome back to all City Tech faculty, students, and staff! We hope your semester is beginning smoothly and that you are settling into a new routine of remote work. Last spring marked an abrupt and challenging transition to distance education. This fall, many of us are going in more psychologically prepared, though we recognize that these continue to be difficult times for many. We hope the resources and tools on the OpenLab can make your semester just a bit easier. There a number of different ways we’re here to support your work:

Fall 2020 Drop-in Office Hours

Meet (virtually) with a member of the OpenLab Community Team for support. These office hours are first-come, first served and are open to students, faculty, and staff.

September

9/3 (Thursday), 4:00-5:00

9/11 (Friday), 10:00-11:00

9/15 (Tuesday), 1:30-2:30

9/20 (Sunday), 4:00-5:00

9/29 (Tuesday), 1:30-2:30

October

10/9 (Friday), 10:00-11:00

10/16 (Friday), 10:00-11:00

10/20 (Tuesday), 1:30-2:30

10/30 (Friday), 10:00-11:00

November

11/5 (Thursday), 4:00-5:00

11/10 (Tuesday), 1:30-2:30

11/15 (Sunday), 4:00-5:00

11/25 (Real Life Wednesday, CUNY Friday), 10:00-11:00

December

12/3 (Thursday), 4:00-5:00

12/6 (Sunday),  4:00-5:00

Office hours are held via Google Hangouts. Click here for further instructions on how to sign-up and join us in our Google Hangout.

Fall 2020 One-on-One Consultations

Meet (virtually) one-on-one with a member of the OpenLab Community Team for support. These office hours require an RSVP, and are open to students, faculty, and staff.

September

9/3 (Thursday), 3:00-4:00

9/11 (Friday), 11:00-12:00

9/15 (Tuesday), 2:30-3:30

9/20 (Sunday), 3:00-4:00

9/29 (Tuesday), 2:30-3:30

October

10/9 (Friday), 11:00-12:00

10/16 (Friday), 11:00-12:00

10/20 (Tuesday), 2:30-3:30

10/30 (Friday), 11:00-12:00

November

11/5 (Thursday), 3:00-4:00

11/10 (Tuesday), 2:30-3:30

11/15 (Sunday), 3:00-4:00

11/25 (Real Life Wednesday, CUNY Friday), 11:00-12:00

December

12/3 (Thursday), 3:00-4:00

12/6 (Sunday),  3:00-4:00

One-on-one consultations are held via Google Hangouts. Click here for further instructions on how to sign-up and join us in our Google Hangout.

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.

Teaching with the OpenLab

We have a new online self-paced training module for faculty: Teaching with the OpenLab. Read more about it or ask questions at our virtual office hours. The module walks you through creating a course and teaching a course with our new course template. It also provides step-by-step guidance for faculty cloning model courses.

Learning with the OpenLab

Check out The OpenLab for Students, a brand new online tutorial designed to help students use the OpenLab. Learn how to get started, participate in your OpenLab courses, and more!

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)

In the Spotlight: Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab

This week, as we prepare for our first 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 curated 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 (2/27) we’re hosting our first Open Pedagogy event of the semester, Access in Service. 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 semester, focusing on how faculty and staff can leverage technology to increase our students’ access to learning and other academic opportunities  at CUNY. 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: Arch 2331, Building Technology 2

Header image for the architecture course; it is a rendering of an urban waterfront landscape that includes a bike path by aa river and large, triangular red building siting along the path.

This week, we spotlight Professor Aptekar’s Arch 2331, Building Technology 2. The course features many of the elements of a well-designed and compelling site. These include:

  •  A customized header image. The image here is a rendering of an urban waterfront landscape–so highly relevant for an Architecture course on building technology! Note also that it is a horizontal image and so works well in the header space.
  • A customized tag line that reads simply “Building Technology Support.” By tag line, I’m referring to the short bit of text featured (usually in italics) next to the site title. The default tag line reads: “An OpenLab course site.” Many OpenLab users forget to customize it, but note here that you can actually adapt it to your needs and use it, as Professor Aptekar does, to inform the visitor of the purpose of the site.
  • A search functionality at the top of the page in the widget area. The search widget here is very well-placed in that it is impossible to miss! It sits at the top right-hand corner of the site, such that anyone will know at first glance that they can simply type what they are looking for in the search box, rather than sift through the content of the entire site.
  • Rich and diverse course content, from lecture notes to assignments to additional resources. This content is cleanly-organized in various pages and posts, clearly labeled and accessible from the main navigation menu and its associated drop-downs menus. Lecture notes are featured in chronological order, with first lectures appearing first and last lectures appearing last.
  • An innovative question and answer set up on the home page. Here, Professor Aptekar posts questions that students ask about the course. These questions are updated weekly and range from inquiries regarding due dates for homework to questions about architecture and the course material. Professor Aptekar posts the student questions in green and his answers in black. These colors serve as neat visual cues. This is also a smart and original way to use the blogroll, such that students don’t miss key, up-to-date information and know that they can engage their professor in open dialogue through the OpenLab. Note how much more efficient this is to communicate information than a private, one-on-one e-mail exchange!

Curious about the course? Check it out for yourself here!

In the Spotlight: Law 1101- Intro to Paralegal Studies

Header image from Professor Coughlin's Law 1101 site. An picture of two hands holding up a newly sprouting plant.

This week, we spotlight Professor Coughlin’s Law 1101 course, Intro to Paralegal Studies. The course is a great example of how instructors can use their OpenLab site as a dynamic syllabus, by which we mean a one-way communication tool with students. Here, Professor Coughlin provides students with all the information they need to complete their coursework, including a syllabus, class notes and materials, assignments, and answer keys for exams. This is a simple way to use the OpenLab that has a lot of benefits. Course materials live online at a URL students can bookmark and check regularly, and critical information is broken up into small, readable chunks. Site content is clearly labeled and organized in the main navigation menu: a student visiting the site will know at first glance where to retrieve what they need. A few other highlights from the course include:

  • Linking to important documents in multiple places. An advantage of using the OpenLab–and, really, any web platform–is that you do not have to think linearly. A course site is not like a book: information can be included and repeated in multiple places. In fact, repeating yourself–or, in Professor Coughlin’s case, linking to course documents in multiple places–is good practice: it helps ensure that key materials are prominent. We like that,on her Assignments page, Professor Coughlin links back to readings and notes found on the Class notes & materials page.
  • A dynamic home page. Professor Coughlin’s homepage is set to the course blogroll. Since she is using her course as a dynamic syllabus and is the only one posting to the site, her home page exclusively contains her announcements to students. This is a great way to make sure students know, on any given week, what’s on their plate for the course.
  • Using the Google Doc Embedder plugin to upload course documents. While it is best practice to create site content directly from your page/ post editor, it is also smart  for instructors to upload some key documents–such as their syllabus–to their site. This way, students or other site visitors can download and print the docs for themselves.

Thinking about using the OpenLab to teach? Check out Professor Coughlin’s Law 1101 course for a model for how to use a site effectively as a dynamic syllabus.

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: Nursing Case Management- Role and Process (NUR4030)

This week, we’re spotlighting Professor Thomas’ NUR4030 OER,  Case Management: Role and Process. The course  “focuses on innovative, integrated nursing case and care management models within the context of assessment, planning, collaboration, negotiation, and evaluation.” The course site is clean, simple, and well-organized, and is a great example an OpenLab OER.   

A Static Home Page

Professor Thomas has set the course’s homepage to a welcome page. There, visitors to the site can find a course description and an overview of course objectives. Note that this content is static: it is unlikely to change much throughout the semester and is therefore published as a page, rather than in the dynamic format of blog posts. This is a great way of setting up an OER, which is likely to serve as a one-way conversation between the site administrator and visitors.

Readings, Broken Down By Unit

While the blogosphere and social media worlds of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have gotten most of us accustomed to long vertical scrolls, it’s still a good idea to break down content on course sites. After all, it is easier to  find information when it is featured in short pages and posts. Professor Thomas makes things intuitive for her students by creating a separate menu tab for course Readings. These are not simply listed on one page, but instead linked to in a drop-down menu in which each course unit represents a separate page. Each page contains links to and citations for the readings for that unit. This makes the coursework and flow for the OER completely unambiguous. 

Navigation Menu Widget

Finally, Professor Thomas makes great use of the Navigation Menu Widget in the site’s right-hand sidebar. This widget features links to all pages linked to from the site’s main navigation menu, including those linked to in the drop-down menu. This gives visitors to the site yet another quick overview of the OER’s content; it allows them to navigate to different parts of the site more easily and offers an alternative to the drop-down menu, which isn’t always easy to read on one’s phone!

Are you building an OER on the OpenLab? Need inspiration for your course or project site? Check out Professor Thomas’ course for inspiration!

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: 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!

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: Gothic Literature and Visual Culture (ENGL 3407-D613)

A few weeks ago, we spotlighted Prof. Blain’s Writing in the Workplace course site. This site offered great ideas for how to organize student writing assignments. This week, we spotlight another well-organized, creative and visually compelling writing-intensive course: Prof. Westengard’s Gothic Literature and Visual Culture (ENGL 3407-D613). Here are some highlights from the site:

Prof. Westengard makes great, common-sense use of the widget space on the right sidebar of her course site. She posts there the information students will most need throughout the semester. This includes a text widget that gives her contact information, office hours and mailbox location. She also uses the “Categories” widget to provide links to the different blogging assignments students have throughout the semester. This makes crucial information less easy to miss!

Second, Prof Westengard’s landing page (the site’s home page) exclusively features timely announcements. This is a great strategy for communicating with your students!

Note that these announcements aren’t set up as a category archive, which would look similar to the set up the site has now, except that announcements would also populate the site’s blogroll by default.  Prof. Westengard has chosen instead to use a static page for her announcements and to edit it regularly with new content. The advantage of this strategy is that her announcements don’t end up mixed in with the courses’ blogroll, which is reserved instead for student blogging. In this way, neither student blogging exercises nor instructor announcements get buried or lost.

Finally, the site does make use of category archives to organize the different blogging assignments. These are given intuitive names “Blog 1,” “Blog 2,” etc. They are also organized neatly in a dropdown menu. Remember that, by activating the “Require Category” plugin, you can ensure that all members of your site choose a category before publishing their post. The plugin prompts the user to select a category and won’t allow them to publish without doing so. Using “Require Category” is a good way of keeping your site and its blogging exercises organized!

In sum, this is a rich and well-organized course site to return to as you begin thinking of setting up your own site for the fall. Want to learn more? Check out the site here.