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!

Part 5 of 5: Get to Know the OpenLab

Greetings,

This summer we have spent time introducing you to the OpenLab. You have explored the OpenLab, joined others’ sites, and begun creating a site of your own.

 This week, learn what opportunities exist to learn more about the OpenLab and get assistance when you have questions in the future.

 This concludes this 5-part series. Thank you for following along!

If you want to review this or previous week’s tasks, visit the archive on The Open Road.

Cheers,

The OpenLab Community Team

Part 4 of 5: Get to Know the OpenLab

Greetings,

This week, create on the OpenLab! In this case, ‘create’ can refer to creating sites, but also to creating communities, collaborations, and dialogue by joining other sites, connecting with friends, participating in discussion forums and more.

  • Task 1: Create Connections. 
    • Join our 3 in-house sites to stay connected and updated about what’s happening on the OpenLab:

      • The Open Road: Our one-stop-shop for all things OpenLab: news, workshops, events, community, and support!
      • The Buzz: Our student blogging team’s site; they post about life at City Tech and beyond!
      • Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab: A site for sharing and discussing resources about open digital pedagogy!

  • Connect with your friends and join other groups related to your interests:

      • You can search through people, courses, projects, clubs and portfolios using the menu at the top and the magnifying glass in the top-right
      • You can also search courses, projects, clubs and portfolios using the links titled by type of site (courses, projects, clubs, portfolios) under the slider. From the search page, use the filters (top-right) to tailor your search
      • more here.
  • Task 2: Create Sites of Your Own by referring to the section of our help content titled Sites on the OpenLab.

We’ll be in touch next week to help you answer: How can I get help and support with using the OpenLab?

Cheers,

The OpenLab Community Team

See the full 5-part series, on The Open Road.

Part 3 of 5 of: Get to Know the OpenLab

Greetings,

This week, join the OpenLab community by creating an account and setting up your profile. By becoming a member of the OpenLab community you’ll be able to create sites to support and share your scholarly and pedagogical work. Additionally, you can participate in the collaborative communities that use the OpenLab to support their work by joining their sites.

  • Task 1: Sign up for an OpenLab Account. To signup you’ll also need access to your City Tech email account. See the OpenLab’s help documentation on ‘ if you run into problems.

  • Task 2: Practice logging in to your account. Sign out of your account and close your browser. Then open a new browser window, navigate back to the OpenLab, and login to your account.

  • Task 3: Learn more about how to manage your account and profile, including updating your information, settings and avatar.
     

We’ll be in touch next week to help you answer: How can I use the OpenLab? Step 2, Create!

Cheers,

The OpenLab Community Team

See 5-Part Series online on The Open Road.

Part 2 of 5 of: Get to Know the OpenLab

Greetings,

This week, we continue our 5-part self-guided series and ask: How do others use the OpenLab? The tasks below will help you explore how members of the City Tech community use the OpenLab to support their learning, teaching, community-building, and other scholarly and pedagogical pursuits. 

  • Task 1: Check out In the Spotlight, our blog series that features a different site each week. You can review these blog entries by:
    • Scrolling through the blog – this will give you a reverse chronological view
    • Visiting the Spotlight Archive – this will give you a topical/categorical view
  • Task 2: Peruse the OpenLab’s new monthly blog series, Pedagogy Profiles, to learn more about how City Tech’s educators began and continue to use the platform to support their work.
  • Task 3: Read the Winter 2017 Nucleus Issue, which featured pieces from faculty about the creative ways they’ve used the OpenLab in the context of their courses and/or research. See our spotlight post on this issue for more!
  • Task 4: Explore the community using various search and filter options:
    • You can search through people, courses, projects, clubs and portfolios using the menu at the top and the magnifying glass in the top-right.
    • You can also search courses, projects, clubs and portfolios using the links titled by type of site (courses, projects, clubs, portfolios) under the slider. From the search page, use the filters (top-right) to tailor your search.

We’ll be in touch next week to help you join the OpenLab and figure out how you might use the platform.

Cheers,

The OpenLab Community Team

See 5-Part Series online on The Open Road.

Part 1 of 5 of: Get to Know the OpenLab

Greetings,

This summer, we are rebooting our 5-part self-guided series that provides short tasks to help you get to know the OpenLab. Tasks are oriented around different questions, and will help answer the question by introducing you to various aspects of the platform and opportunities for participating in the growing OpenLab community.

This week, we ask the most basic question – What is the OpenLab? The tasks below will help you get to know the OpenLab by reading about its origins and ethos, taking a quick tour, and visiting our in-house sites.

  • Task 1: Read the OpenLab’s brief About page to learn more about ethos and values driving the OpenLab.
  • Task 2: Take the OpenLab Tour!
  • Task 3: Check out our in-house sites!
    • The Open Road: Our one-stop-shop for all things OpenLab: news, workshops, events, community, and support!
    • The Buzz: Our student blogging team’s site; they post about life at City Tech and beyond!
    • Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab: A site for sharing and discussing resources about open digital pedagogy!

We’ll be in touch next week to help you answer: How do others use the OpenLab

Cheers,

The OpenLab Community Team

See the whole 5-Part Series online on The Open Road.

In the Spotlight: Mammoth.docx Converter

This week, we spotlight a new plugin that we believe will make your life easier: the Mammoth .docx converter!  This plugin allows you to more easily transfer content from Microsoft Word without losing formatting.

As a general rule, it is good practice to save copies of your pages, posts, (and homework assignments!) off the OpenLab, perhaps in Google docs, Microsoft Word, or some other text editor. It also best practice to paste content directly into pages and posts, rather than uploading bulky PDFs and Word Documents onto a site. However, the actual process of copying and pasting content into the WordPress post editor sometimes results in a frustrating loss of formatting. Headers, tables, bold, italics and lists have been known to vanish.

The new Mammoth.docx converter presents a solution! Content created in Microsoft Word can now be uploaded to the OpenLab through the plugin, and will automatically be converted into HTML and pasted into your post editor for you to publish online.

Using the plugin is easy. After you’ve activated it, you will see an option to use the Mammoth.docx converter at the bottom of the page in your post  editor. Click “choose file” to upload a Word document.

Once the upload is complete, you will see the content of the document appear in your post editor.

That’s it!  Keep in mind that the more formatting you include in your original Word document (e.g. headings, paragraph styles, links, lists, and text boxes), the better the formatting will translate in your posts and pages. This means minimal- if any- editing once you’ve uploaded your content. We hope this plugin will be useful to you and encourage you to try it with Word documents that have quite a bit of formatting, for example syllabi.

In the Spotlight: Clubs on the OpenLab

Black and white image of intersecting metal staircases.
Image Source: bogitw

There are many ways the OpenLab can support the diversity of work carried out by the City Tech Community. Hosting a club site on the OpenLab is one way. This year 13 new clubs joined the OpenLab and nearly half of those joined this semester – so this week let’s take a moment to consider how hosting your club site on the OpenLab can support your club’s activities and membership.

Through a workshop with the Club Council in Fall 2017, we learned that many clubs already have an established digital presence. Whether sharing information on Facebook or Twitter, or videos and pictures on Instagram, Club leaders at City Tech have experimented with using different digital platforms to reach out to members and promote the work of the club more broadly. GREAT! Depending on your goals for using these platforms, using mainstream social media accounts may perfectly meet the needs of your club. However, because there are important differences between social media platforms and the OpenLab, and because contrasts better highlight their unique and complementary features, the first three points for discussion compare the OpenLab with social media platforms.

City Tech’s Digital Community

When you publish content on a social media platform, the content is shared with the world, but generally speaking, those who follow your platform receive the content. To the extent that this content is then shared by your followers, it then reaches a broader but indeterminate audience. When you publish content on the OpenLab, it can also be shared with the world (if your privacy settings are set to “public”), but it is also shared with a determinate audience – the 27,000+ members of City Tech’s community who are also members of the OpenLab. When groups like clubs make new posts or comments on their sites, it shows up at the top of the “Clubs” section on the homepage and in the activity feed. We also may choose to “Spotlight” it in our weekly blog series. Each of these mechanisms gives your club greater exposure within the City Tech community – or within the community of people eligible to become members of your club and support, carry-out and grow the already amazing work you are doing.

Content Control

When you post on social media sites, your (club’s) content is copyrighted, but legal rights to use and repurpose your content are also extended to the platforms on which you are posting. This means that Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter can reuse and sub-license your content out, and profit off of it, without you being aware or compensated. When you share content on the OpenLab, you retain all rights to that content, and none of your content can be repurposed for someone else’s profit, and all content must be attributed to the original author. You  may also change the licensure on the content you post to meet your specific needs. More information here.

Static vs. Dynamic Content

When representing the work of your club on a digital platform, there is likely static and dynamic content you want to share. Static content is content that doesn’t change too often – maybe its updated each semester or each year. Static content might include the mission of your club, any recurring events you may host or participate in, when and where your meetings are held, who your club leaders are, resources that may be of interest to your members or future members, contact information and more. Dynamic content is content that is timely and current – maybe you have an upcoming event that you want to remind people about or opportunity that you are recruiting participation in. This is content that becomes outdated and no longer relevant to the work of the club.

Social media accounts are great for pushing out new and dynamic content, but often times there is limited space for housing static content, and groups link out to a stand-alone website that houses their static content. This is an approach you may want to consider, especially if your dynamic content is work your club has produced that you want to share with the world. The OpenLab has technical options for housing static and dynamic content. For static content, use pages and add them to your main- or side- menu. For dynamic content, create posts that will auto-populate your blogroll in reverse chronological order (the latest news at the top).

Ultimately which platform(s) your use, and how you may or may not integrate them (using a Facebook page and an OpenLab site, for example) depends on what content you want to share, and who your audience is. It may be that you use the static and dynamic content features of the OpenLab, AND a social media site – which would let you share certain content with the City Tech community specifically, and released more freely out into the world.

A One-Stop-Shop

Beyond housing public-facing static and dynamic content, the OpenLab allows for file sharing, collaborative drafting, discussion, and hosting a shared calendar on its group profile pages. These can be useful for a group’s internal organization, and is moreover useful because the site is easily accessible from this same digital space. This makes your club’s OpenLab account a one-stop-shop for all internal documents and public-facing content. Keeping things centralized and in one location makes it easier to find things, and can make onboarding new group members easier and efficient.

Recertify with Ease

Each year clubs at City Tech need to submit documentation to recertify their clubs, which allows them receive funding and more. As of Fall 2017, clubs are allowed to use their OpenLab sites in this process, making this process simple and easy!

Looking for Examples

If you want to see how other clubs have used the OpenLab to support their activities you can:

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: Diana Reyes’ Portfolio

personal logo by Diana Reyes - white background, black lettering. This week we’re spotlighting Diana Reyes’ Portfolio. Diana is a student in the Communication Design department. She currently uses her portfolio to reflect on her first internship at Bookstr and to share a digital portfolio of her work.

When you navigate to Diana’s Portfolio site, the first thing you notice is Diana’s name, in the upper-left-hand-corner. The simple-yet-elegant design of her personal logo mirrors the design of the rest of the site, which is visually sleek, and easy to navigate.

On her homepage is a blogroll sharing critical reflections on her internship. Each post reflects on a different aspects of her work or opportunities she’s been introduced to through the internship. For example, her posts describe the open, collaborative workspace that differs from the cubicle setting many of us might expect, a new digital technology (Slack) that she’ll need to rely on to communicate with team members, and her experience collaborating with a colleague on a project. These reflections could be of interest or use to other students who are interning for the first time, or thinking about interning, maybe even at Bookstr. They also demonstrate a great deal of personal and professional growth on the part of Diana – something that future employers may be interested in, or that may help her when applying for jobs in the future.

In addition to reflections on her internship, Diana has included a digital portfolio showcasing her design work. Here, the modest design of the site overall focuses the visitors attention on the designs themselves, and makes them pop.

Overall, I think Diana’s Portfolio site is a good example of how others might approach beginning to built out their sites. For me, there were three key takeaways:

The first takeaway is that a simple and straightforward design works well. We want the attention to be on the work we are trying to share, whether its our designs or internship reflections or something else, and we want visitors to be able to find it easily. That you know how to use WordPress (one of the softwares underpinning the OpenLab) is a bonus, but not really the point.

A second takeaway is to start with where you are. Maybe you’re not ready to add a resume to your site. That’s ok. Share the work you’ve done in your classes that you’re proud of. Blog about opportunities related to a career path you’re interested in or about a passion or hobby of yours. These sites will and should evolve over time, as you have other experiences, and your interests – career or otherwise – evolve and become more specific.

A third takeaway, is that there may be some learning value in using a Portfolio site to reflect on your experiences. As mentioned, these short but insightful posts by Diana seem like they will really help in a few years, to remind her of her own professional and personal growth over time.


Students – want more insight and support getting started? Join the OpenLab Thursday December 6th from 1:00 – 2:00 pm in Room AG-21 for a workshop titled “Presenting Yourself Online”. This workshop focuses on building a professional online profile using the OpenLab.

Learn about other student or faculty workshops here.