In the Spotlight: Writing in the Workplace (ENG 2570)

This week, we’re spotlighting Professor Blain’s ENG 2570 Writing in the Workplace course, “an advanced composition course emphasizing writing used in business and industry.” The course introduces students to the principles of workplace ethnography, and scaffolds assignments so that students gain a range of technical and analytical writing skills directly applicable to many industries. Visiting this course site might of interest to students thinking about taking the course, as well as faculty/ staff whose courses/ projects are writing-intensive

Public Writing

Professor Blain’s course is public. For students, this means that key assignments involve public writing. Students are asked to post a range of written work, from reflective posts, to workplace memos, to collaborative reports on workplace outcomes. This kind of public writing is a great way to raise the stakes of coursework by widening the potential audience. Students are not just writing for a grade or for their instructor, but for the other students in the course who will read their posts, as well as for anyone in the broader City Tech community who might pop into the site. While this can be intimidating at first, Professor Blain uses many of tools and tricks of Open Digital Pedagogy to ease students into the task. First, using the PDF Embedder Premium plugin, she embeds PDFs spelling out clear guidelines for assignments into her site (see for example here). Students can download, print, or view the assignments guidelines directly from the course site. Second, she scaffolds assignments: the first post students write is a short paragraph in which they reflect on writing and can air their doubts, as well as practice including an image in their posts. Later work, like this virtual workplace ethnography, is more involved. About that virtual workplace ethnography—we particularly like that, to practice writing workplace memos, students first write about a workplace featured in a popular TV show or movie. This playfully grounds the assignment in a (more or less) shared popular culture, allowing students to relate to each other’s work when they read each other’s posts.

Organizing Menus

Organizing a site for a course that is this writing-intensive can be a challenge. The default OpenLab course template features only one “Blog” page where ALL posts are collated and rendered in reverse chronological order. When students post every week, this can get messy. It usually makes more sense, as Professor Blain has done, to separate out student written work by category and course unit. This can be done through “category archives”. Category archives collate all POSTS (not pages) which have been given a specific category (announcements, assignment #1, assignment #2, and final assignment for example) and displays them in reverse chronological order on the screen. This means that the most recent posts (ex. announcements made today) are at the top, while older posts (ex. announcements made last week) are pushed further down the feed. As Professor Blain has done, category archives can be inserted into the main menu so they are easily accessible to visitors of the course site. The “require category” plugin, which requires authors to select a category before publishing their post, is a great way to ensure that students use the categories the instructor has created and post their work to the correct place.

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. Professor Blain achieves this first by keeping her main navigation menu brief: each menu item represents one of three course units. However, because of the many writing assignments required for a class like hers, she uses second-level drop down menus as well to list each of the category archives contained within a course unit. Drop down menus have some drawbacks, including that they are difficult to use on mobile phones—which are the devices most students use for OpenLab coursework. To provide an easy-to-navigate alternative, Professor Blain uses the “Navigation Menu” widget. This widget displays and links out to all category archives and pages as a vertical list in the course’s sidebar. This gives the user an overview of the content of the site and makes it easy to navigate to different parts of the site thereafter.

Check out the site and think through how you might a organize a writing-intensive course!

In the Spotlight: the City Tech Library’s Copyright Module


This week we’re spotlighting the City Tech Library’s Open Educational Resources (OER) Copyright Module. The module “covers copyright basics, gives an overview of creative commons licenses, and offers some best practices for using copyrighted and library licensed materials.” This site is an invaluable resource for faculty teaching OERs specifically and working in open digital spaces more broadly. Bookmark this site or make sure you to keep the link around! You’ll probably want (ummm, need) to consult the material on here more than once. The legal world of copyright is, well, complicated and instructors who teach online, in the open, have to learn to embrace its idiosyncrasies. Thankfully, this Copyright Module makes information easy to take in.

The clean structure of the site is helpful in knowing what you can expect of the module and where different information is located. A static homepage outlines and links out to the different module sections- which, conveniently, are each separate pages that be can navigated to from the main menu. This kind of repetition makes site content less easy to miss.

In order, the module sections are: copyright & fair use; creative commons licenses; library materials; and best practices. The first section on copyright & fair use keeps what could be very dense information concise and bulleted. It also demonstrates multimodal pedagogy by giving readers an alternative of watching a YouTube video on fair use rather than reading the written content. The creative commons licenses section links out to and describes resources for generating creative commons licenses, as well as searching these licenses to find one appropriate to the work at hand.

More generally, the module repeatedly illustrates how to effectively link out to external resources- that is, by annotating them! Consider how the following information is presented on the site: “Here are some FAQs about Creative Commons and the licenses that they offer.” Anyone reading this sentence will understand where they’ll be taken to when they click the link! These kinds of annotations equip the reader with what they need to know to pick and choose which of the links they should click, and what external resources they should take the time to look at. The module is rich with resources- and with links out to additional, external resources-but everything is presented in such a way that makes it easy to digest.

Finally, the module ends with… an interactive quiz! The Library makes good use of the WP-Pro-Quiz plugin, which allows you to create and embed quizzes directly into OpenLab sites.

The quiz is posted on the last page of the menu and is set up so that each of the eight quiz questions appear successively, one-at-a-time, only after the preceding question has been answered. Curious about the WP-Pro-Quiz plugin? Want to take the quiz yourself and put your knowledge of fair use and copyright to the test? Visit the site and thank the City Tech librarians!

In the Spotlight: Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab

This week, as we prepare for our first Open Pedagogy Event of the semester,

Image Credit: Red Bull Curates by Laine Pub Company

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 (2/21) we’re hosting our first Open Pedagogy event of the semester, Curating Student Work in ePortfolios. The event will be held in the Faculty Commons (N227) from 4:30-6:00pm. Refreshments will be served (thanks to the Provost’s Office for its generous support of this event!). Visit the event posting for more information and to RSVP! We hope to see you there! We also have a follow-up workshop that will look more closely at how to integrate curation into your use of the OpenLab (RSVP here!). Part-time faculty are eligible to receive a stipend for participation in the event and/or workshop.

As always, we encourage you to join the site, follow along and participate in the conversation!

In the Spotlight: Black Theatre (AFR 1321)

This week we’re spotlighting Professor Foster-McKelvia’s AFR 1321 Black Theatre course, an introduction to African American dramatic literature that “explores the complex ways in which the black experience is constructed and presented by playwrights”, and offers one entry point for understanding the African American experience more broadly. Exploring this course site would be of interest to faculty looking for examples of how to organize course sites, as well as for students who may be interested in taking this course in the future.

For students, the clean structure of the site is helpful in knowing what you can expect of the course, and what the expectations, requirements, and opportunities of the course are. For starters, read through the course overview and prerequisites, download a pdf of the syllabus, and review the response papers.

For faculty, the organization of the content on the site offers useful insights for thinking about how to use the OpenLab to support your coursework. Professor Foster-McKelvia strategically uses a mix of static pages and categorized posts to organize content in an easy-to-navigate way.

Static pages like the Course Overview and Prerequisites, Syllabus, Theatre Termonology and Student Resources are pages specifically created by Professor Foster-McKelvia and contain content that she wants to communicate to students that for the most part will not change over the course of the semester.

In contrast, Announcements, Assignments, and Response Papers rely on “category archives”. Category archives collate all POSTS (not pages) which have been given a specific category (announcements, assignments and response papers, for example) and renders them in reverse chronological order on the screen. This means that the most recent posts (ex. announcements made today) are at the top, while older posts (ex. announcements made last week) are pushed down further in the feed. As Professor Foster-McKelvia has done, category archives can be inserted into the main menu so they are easily accessible to visitors of the course site. Posts, whether categorized or not, are great for dynamic content, or content that changes or may be updated over the course of the semester. Furthermore, posts can be created and published by students so, like Professor Foster-McKelvia, they can be used to submit assignments, engage in course discussions or ask questions.

Curious about how you can use these techniques in creating your course site? Join us for our Open Hour next THURSDAY (12/6) and ask our Community Team members! Sign up here!

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!

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: