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:

In the Spotlight: Typography Design III COMD 2427, Brooklyn Historical Society

name of project site on background of mosaic of student-created posters,This week we’re spotlighting the Typography Design III COMD 2427: Brooklyn Historical Society site. This project site showcases posters created and designed by City Tech students as part of an assignment in Professor John De Santis’ typography design class. The assignment aims to simulate a professional scenario where the student is the designer and the Brooklyn Historical Society is the client. Similar to what this may look like in the real world, students are asked to complete a creative brief, conduct research about their client and their client’s needs, to brainstorm multiple ideas for their design concept before choosing one to refine, to give and receive design critique with peers, and finally to finalize their poster based on feedback before giving a final presentation to the class outlining their final concept as related to their research and design choices. In addition to helping students develop their typography skills, this assignment aims to equip students with professional skills like client research conceptualization.

In addition to showcasing high quality student work, the Brooklyn Historical Society project site demonstrates a unique use of the OpenLab. The project site houses posters created by students across 6 sections of the same course, and is used in conjunction with private, individual course sites. This structure offers students a private space and closed community with which to develop their posters, while also creating a public-facing site to share completed work. In the same vein as the structure of the assignment, this use of the OpenLab also seems to simulate the professional environment design students may be walking into upon graduation.

To learn more about how Professor De Santis uses the OpenLab and his philosophy and intentions behind doing so, check out Pedagogy Profiles, a new blog series created by the OpenLab Community Team that aims to highlight and provoke discussion around the pedagogy of educators here at City Tech. Our first post features Professor De Santis!

In the Spotlight: The Open Road

colored pencils arranged in a circle with 'back to school' in the middle

Image source: George Hodan

Hello all, happy new year, and welcome back (nearly)! It’s that time of the year again when professors are scrambling to finish composing their classes, finalize assignments and get their course sites up and running on the OpenLab. With this in mind, this week we’d like to, once again, bring your attention to the Open Road, your one-stop-shop for ‘all things OpenLab’. The site houses information about our monthly updates, office hours, detailed information about our upcoming workshops and our weekly blog series, ‘In the Spotlight’.

Here at the OpenLab we are committed to helping you start the semester off right. With this in mind, we are offering numerous workshops in the next couple of weeks. We have workshops for everyone from first- or second-time to more advanced users (our ‘Open Hours’ are most appropriate for the latter) and remember, newly-attending part-time faculty receive a stipend. RSVP today (January / Spring 2017) !

‘In the Spotlight’ is another resource on the Open Road that may be helpful in making sure you are prepared this Spring. ‘In the Spotlight’ is a weekly blog that highlights best practices in site-making and course design here on the OpenLab. Thus, the archive – being full of analytic course reviews – is an important resource for thinking about how your site or course might be structured or what kinds of assignments might be possible when hosted on the OpenLab. In case you didn’t know, ‘In the Spotlight’ also has a participatory feature, ‘People’s Choice’, wherein you have the opportunity to recommend sites to be featured in the weekly series. Check it out and make a recommendation!

We look forward to hearing from you and working with you more closely this semester!

In the Spotlight: Rogue Bayron’s ePortfolio

BookCW

City Tech students, have you wondered what to do with your ePortfolio? If so, head over to Rogue Bayron’s site for an excellent example of an ePortfolio that showcases talent. The site includes all the essential elements of a portfolio that positions Rogue for the job market: a bio, cover letter and resume, and examples of classwork. Rogue takes their portfolio a step further by also including a weekly blog about an internship experience and posts from a student club where they serve as vice president. Any prospective employer needs only visit Rogue’s ePortfolio to capture an immediate snapshot of who they are and what they are capable of. We encourage students of all industries — from graphic design to hospitality management — to take advantage of your free ePortfolio in order to showcase your best work!

 

In the Spotlight: ARCH 1130 – Building Technology I

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In ARCH 1130 – Building Technology I, Prof. Jason Montgomery teaches a wide breadth of design topics: from building assemblage to documentation. To do so, his students move from architectural theory to drawing practice to case studies, all in one semester. Prof. Montgomery manages to cover this much ground with the help of his OpenLab site. Students can find all the materials they need for each section of the course: from text books to drafting triangles, lecture notes to sketchbook images. Prof. Montgomery also uses his site to make sure that students have all the resources that they need for success in his course. He includes instructions for creating an ePortfolio, as well as reading strategies and learning rubrics. Check out the site to see all this, plus beautiful samples of his students’ work.