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

New OpenLab Screencast: Pages and Posts

We are pleased to offer a new set of support materials for OpenLab users: screencasts! With video, audio, and captions, these screencasts provide step-by-step instructions for how to use different OpenLab features in a multimodal format.

Today, we’re introducing a new video in our series on the basic building blocks of OpenLab sites. In this one, we’ll focus on how to create pages and posts. This series could be particularly useful for students creating eportfolios in the second half of the semester, for staff beginning new projects, or for faculty designing course sites for the winter term.

To see our other screencasts, click here or visit our YouTube channel.

In the Spotlight: OpenLab Mobile Shortcuts

This week, we spotlight a feature built into most smartphones that can facilitate mobile work on the OpenLab! 

At our workshops, people sometimes ask if we can develop an OpenLab app, similar to the Blackboard app. They say they are pleased with the OpenLab’s mobile functionality, but it’s a pain to have to pull up your phone browser, then navigate to the OpenLab, then navigate to where you want to go. An app on the home screen would provide a handy shortcut. Luckily, you can do that already! 

While app development is not currently in the works, there’s a very easy way to create your own shortcut to the OpenLab on your phone’s home screen. In this post, we will outline how to do it on both iOS and Android. 

Creating an OpenLab Mobile Shortcut on iPhones

  1. Navigate in your phone browser (usually Safari, unless you use another browser) to the OpenLab page you want to create the shortcut to. This might be the OpenLab home page, or your own profile, or the profile or site of a particular course.
  2. Scroll up so that the bottom menu appears, revealing the forward/back buttons, the bookmark button, the share button, and the “view all tabs” button. (See Screenshot 1) 

    Illustration of Steps 1 and 2
    Screenshot 1: OpenLab on mobile with Safari navigation menu visible
  3. Click on the “Share” button. It looks like a square with an arrow pointing upwards out of it. (See Screenshot 2)

    Illustration of where the Share button is on iOS Safari
    Screenshot 2: Share Button circled in yellow.
  4. Scroll down until you see the option “Add to Home Screen.” Click on it! (See Screenshot 3)

    Screenshot of menu that appears when the Share button is clicked, with "Add to Home Screen" circled
    Screenshot 3: “Add to Home Screen” option in Sharing menu
  5. Adjust the name of the shortcut if you wish.
  6. Click “Add.” Now the shortcut to the page will appear as an icon along with your apps! You can delete it or move it around like you can with any of your apps. (See Screenshot 4) 

    iPhone app screen with shortcut to the OpenLab circled in orange
    Screenshot 4: Your new shortcut to the OpenLab

    Creating an OpenLab Mobile Shortcut on Android

    1. Navigate in your phone browser to the OpenLab page you want to create the shortcut to. This might be the OpenLab home page, or your own profile, or the profile or site of a particular course.
    2. Tap the “menu” button on your phone. (The Square button of the three white shapes pictured in Screenshot 1)

      Image of navigation buttons on an Android phone
      Screenshot 1: Android navigation buttons
    3. Then click “Add to homescreen.”

      Image of the menu that appears after Step 2 is completed
      Screenshot 2: Menu for webpage with “Add to Home screen” option
    4. Change the name of the shortcut if you wish, and then click “Add.”
       

      Screenshot of dialog box that allows user to change the name of the shortcut
      Screenshot 3: Name change dialog box

      5. Now you will see a shortcut to your OpenLab page!

Screenshot of Android home screen with OpenLab shortcut visible

We hope this helps you use the OpenLab even more easily on mobile platforms. Many CUNY students, as well as faculty and staff, use their phones for academic work, and creating a shortcut (or more than one!) to the OpenLab can make that work even more streamlined.

In the Spotlight: Inviting Students to your Course!

Happy second week of school to all City Tech faculty, students, and staff! At the start of every semester, faculty ask us how they can get their students set up on the OpenLab for the very first time.  The process can feel intimidating! But below, I spotlight three easy ways that you, as an instructor, can invite your students to join your course.

Have your students join your course in class!

If your course and profile are public, then students should be able to search for your course on the OpenLab. Once they’ve found it, they can join simply by clicking “Join Now.”

A screenshot of an OpenLab course profile page, which includes a course avatar and a button that reads "Join Now." Students can join the course by clicking this button.

 

You can walk your students through these steps in class, using a classroom computer to demonstrate. I recommend having students join on the spot in the classroom from their phones, tablets or laptops. Note that you can have them search for the course from the top toolbar or go into the Courses tab and use the right-hand search function with filters. 

 

 It helps here to give your course an intuitive name that includes the course number and semester!  

 

 

 

Invite your students to your course via e-mail!

This method, too, works only if you keep your course site and profile public. (Note that you can always change your privacy settings later, if you’d like). An easy way to have students join your course is to e-mail them the URL to your course profile. The link will take them to your profile page where, once again, they can simply click “Join Now.” 

A screenshot of an OpenLab course profile page, which includes a course avatar and a button that reads "Join Now." Students can join the course by clicking this button.

 

Invite your students to your course via the OpenLab!

You can invite your students to your course from your course profile page.  Click Membership in the right-hand menu, and then click Invite New Members on the following screen. If your course is on the smaller side, you can search individually for each of your students and invite them to your site in this way. Note that you can search for new members to invite either by typing in their e-mails or Display Names.

 

Screenshot of an OpenLab Site's Membership Setting Page. On this page, users can search form members to invite.

 

Your students will receive an automated confirmation e-mail.  Once the e-mail address is confirmed by the user, they will be added to your site.

I hope this helps explain how you can invite students to your course. Please visit our Help documentation on managing users on the OpenLab for a fuller overview. 

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.