This Month on the OpenLab: September 2021 Release

Vole sitting on a branch eating apples.
Apples Galore” by Sue Cro is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

On September 15, 2021 we released version 1.7.54 of the OpenLab. It was a small release that included a few bug fixes and some minor plugin updates.

We fixed a bug causing acknowledgements to appear on portfolio profiles, when they should only appear for Courses, Projects, and Clubs. We also updated the acknowledgements widget that is added to cloned sites. The widget will now include changes we made to the format of acknowledgments on group profiles, added in the August release. It will show any additional group creators added, as well as any additional text. In a future release, we’ll make the widget available on sites for non-cloned groups that include acknowledgments.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: August 2021 Release

Seal covering itself with sand to cool off.
Cooling Down” by Judith is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

On August 12, 2021 we released version 1.7.53 of the OpenLab. It was a large release, and included multiple new features, new plugins, a few bug fixes, and updates to all existing themes and plugins, and updates to WordPress and BuddyPress, the software that powers the OpenLab.

New Features

Favorites

We added a new feature called “My Favorites,” which allows OpenLab members to save Courses, Projects, Clubs, or Portfolios to a list of “Favorites.” This list appears in a dropdown menu in the My OpenLab toolbar, making it easily accessible from anywhere on the OpenLab.

Acknowledgements for Courses, Projects, and Clubs

We added additional flexibility and options to the acknowledgements that appear on the profile of Courses, Projects, and Clubs. Now you’ll be able to add additional ‘creators’ to a Course, Project, or Club. These may include creators who are not members of the OpenLab so that they can also be credited for their work.

In addition, there’s now a section where you can add custom text that will appear in an acknowledgements section on the profile. This could credit another person, work, or funding source that contributed to the creation of your site.

New ‘Creator(s)’ section in Course Settings

My OpenLab: Ability to Sort My Courses, Projects, and Clubs

We added a dropdown to the My Courses, My Projects, and My Clubs sections in My OpenLab, which will allow you to sort by last active, alphabetical, and newest, making it easier to find particular groups in My OpenLab. 

Non-joinable Groups

This feature allows admins to define a Course, Project, or Club as non-joinable, meaning that the ‘Join Now’ or ‘Request Membership’ buttons will not appear on the profile. We imagine that this would be useful mainly for groups such as model courses, which are open but not intended for membership, or projects that are used as working groups that are only intended for use by a small number of people.

OpenLab Export / Import plugin

We’re releasing a plugin that will allow members to export a site on the OpenLab to be used on any other WordPress installation, such as the CUNY Academic Commons or a CBOX OpenLab installation. Since cloning can’t be done across different installations, this is a way to provide easier sharing of materials. The plugin has more features than the regular WordPress exporter, and packages up all the site contents, together with a readme file to provide context for the person importing the site contents into their own.

New Plugins

We added two new plugins:

  • Quiz Maker Pro replaces WP Pro Quiz, which was retired in June, and removed in this release. It provides an easy way to add quizzes, with many different options for customizing. 
  • Posts by Tag adds a widget that allows you to display posts from different tags of your choosing.

Retired Plugins

We retired a number of plugins that are no longer being updated. These plugins will still be active on sites where they’re currently activated but won’t be available for activation on new sites. They include:

  • Accordion Shortcodes
  • ARI Fancy Lightbox
  • CubePoints
  • DK PDF
  • Download Media Library
  • Google for WP
  • Link Manager
  • WP Twitter
  • WP2Static
  • Tako Movable Comments

WP Pro Quiz, which was retired in June has now been removed entirely, to avoid any potential security risks. Unlike a retired plugin, it will no longer be available, even on sites where it was activated. 

Bug Fixes

We fixed a bug in the OpenLab Attributions plugin, which caused the ‘Add Attribution’ window to close when using the down arrow on a keyboard to choose a license from the dropdown.

We discovered a conflict between two plugins: WP Lightbox2 and Gravity Forms. If both of these plugins are activated together, the panel for adding fields in Gravity Forms does not display correctly. We’re not able to fix the conflict, but want to make people aware of the issue.

Documentation in Help is coming soon for all new features. And as always, please contact us with any questions!

Summer 2021 Virtual Support

The OpenLab is a great community-run platform for anyone at City Tech to expand their web presence. But we realize that you may need support in setting up your OpenLab site, or managing it as the semester continues. The OpenLab team is here to help!

We have scheduled virtual open hours this summer (see full schedule below), with two kinds: one-on-one appointments, and open drop-in hours.  Both kinds offer the opportunity to meet with a member of the OpenLab Community Team. All are held via Zoom and are open to faculty, staff, and students.

Drop-In Open Hours

Support in drop-in office hours is first-come, first-served. Come with specific questions, or ask us to review topics ranging from getting started, using the OpenLab for courses, facilitating communication within your class or group, to using a specific tool or pedagogical approach. If possible, please reach out to the OpenLab team in advance to let us know what questions you have or topics you want to hear about. Our drop-in open hours will take place during the following days and times:

June

6/9 (Wednesday), 10:00am-11:00am

6/23 (Wednesday), 12:00pm-1:00pm

July

7/6 (Tuesday), 12:00pm-1:00pm

7/22 (Thursday), 10:00am-11:00am

August

8/6 (Friday), 12:00pm-1:00pm

8/19 (Thursday), 2:00pm-3:00pm

8/23 (Monday), 10:00am-11:00am

8/24 (Tuesday), 2:00pm-3:00pm

To RSVP for drop-in open hours, use the scheduler here

When it is time for your open hours session,  click here to join us in our Zoom room.

One-On-One Appointments

We are also happy to offer one-on-one/private appointments. All of these appointments will take place on the same days listed above, but either immediately before or immediately after the drop-in hours. These one-on-one appointments will be limited to 30 minutes each. If you want additional support, please also attend the open hours.

June

6/9 (Wednesday), 11:00am-11:30 am OR 11:30am-12:00 pm

6/23 (Wednesday), 1:00pm-1:30 pm OR 1:30pm-2:00 pm

July

7/6 (Tuesday), 1:00pm-1:30 pm OR 1:30pm-2:00pm

7/22 (Thursday), 11:00am-11:30am OR 11:30am-12:00pm

August

8/6 (Friday), 1:00pm-1:30pm OR 1:30pm-2:00pm

8/19 (Thursday), 3:00pm-3:30pm OR 3:30pm-4:00pm

8/23 (Monday), 11:00am-11:30am OR 11:30am-12:00pm

8/24 (Tuesday), 3:00pm-3:30pm OR 3:30pm-4:00pm

To book a one-on-one appointment, please use the scheduler here.

We look forward to working with you!

This Month on the OpenLab: June 2021 Release

On June 3, 2021 we released version 1.7.52 of the OpenLab. It included the introduction of a new plugin for portfolios called OpenLab Private Comments, updates to the WP Grade Comments plugin, a change to the site options available during cloning, a few minor plugin and theme updates, and a bug fix for the OpenLab Attributions plugin.

New features and updates

OpenLab Private Comments plugin

This new plugin, based on WP Grade Comments, was designed with student portfolios in mind. It allows private comments to be added to posts and pages on the site where it’s activated. Only the site admin and the commenter can see the private comments.

WP Grade Comments plugin

We made a change to protect against accidental breaches of privacy if the plugin is deactivated. If this plugin was used on a site to provide grades and/or private comments, they will remain hidden even if the plugin is deactivated. This functionality is also included in the new OpenLab Private Comments plugin.

Cloning 

We removed two options in the “Site Details” section while cloning a course, project, or club that were confusing and not relevant to the cloning process. There are now two options available: 

  • Choose your cloned site: this will be the choice for the majority of cases, and will copy the contents of the site being cloned to the new site.
  • Use an external site: this option may be used when only the profile is being cloned, which will be attached to an external site.

Bug Fix

We fixed a bug in the OpenLab Attributions plugin, which caused the superscript number that links to an attribution to remain in the text even when the attribution was deleted.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: March and April 2021 Releases

On March 15 and April 15, 2021 we released versions 1.7.49 and 1.7.50 of the OpenLab. They were both small releases, which included some changes to the OpenLab Attributions plugin, a few minor plugin and theme updates, and a small bug fix. 

OpenLab Attribution Plugin

We changed a few of the labels to make them more clear. In addition, we changed “Derivative Work” to “Adapted From” and under “Adapted From” added three additional items: Item Title, Author Name, and License. 

Bug Fix

In My Profile > My Settings > Email Notifications there was a duplicate section for “Individual Group Email Settings,” which we removed.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

Early March News

... plan
“… plan” by wallsdontlie via Flickr

With Spring 2021 well underway–dare we say approaching midsemester!–the OpenLab team has some helpful information to share:

  1. Learn more about the support the OpenLab provides, both synchronous and asynchronous. The Spring 2021 support schedule includes open hours, one-on-one appointments, helpful OpenLab screencasts, and as always, email. Your group can also request a workshop.
  1. Everyone can share their ideas about the semester with the community on Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab. Anyone can comment–but also consider joining the project so you get updates whenever there are new posts about teaching and learning in the open!
  1. You can learn more about the latest OpenLab News, including the most recent updates to the OpenLab. For example, if you’re using the block editor to write posts and pages, you’ll be glad to know that the tool bar is now much easier to use! 
  1. PLAN Week is underway! You can learn more about the opportunities for students on the PLAN Week page of the City Tech Guide on the OpenLab.

The OpenLab, City Tech’s open digital platform for teaching, learning, and collaboration, offers virtual open hours, online support, and technical and pedagogical guidance throughout the year.

The OpenLab team also offers a selection of Help materials for Distance Education, plus Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios

Contact us with questions: openlab@citytech.cuny.edu!

The OpenLab Team

This Month on the OpenLab: February 2021 Release

On February 18, 2021 we released version 1.7.49 of the OpenLab. It was a very small release, which included one new plugin and a few small bug fixes. 

The new plugin is called Block Navigation, and adds a sidebar panel to the Block editor that shows an outline of all the blocks on the page or post. It provides an easy way to view the order and reorganize blocks.

We added a missing “required” label for the “account type” dropdown on the sign up page. We also eliminated the “Brute Force Protection” section in the Jetpack plugin’s settings because it was causing an error. 

As always, please contact us with any questions!

Welcome back!

Welcome back for Spring 2021! The OpenLab Team has some helpful information to share:

  •  The  Spring 2021 schedule  for OpenLab support is now available. Students, faculty, and staff can sign up for open hours and one-on-one appointments to ask specific questions or ask to learn more about topics such as getting started, using the OpenLab for courses, or how to use a tool  or pedagogical approach. Or any group can request  a workshop. Open hours and one-on-one appointments start today, 1/29, with additional options this Sunday and next Friday.
  •  Faculty members, have any questions about getting your course site ready for the semester? See helpful tips posted here: Teaching with the OpenLab.
  •  Students, want to help students get ready to use the OpenLab this semester? See the helpful OpenLab for Students module.  
  •  Get inspired by what City Tech has done on the OpenLab by looking through our past In the Spotlight posts. This week’s spotlight is shining on them!

The OpenLab, City Tech’s open digital platform for teaching, learning, and collaboration, offers virtual open hours, online support, and technical guidance throughout the year.

The OpenLab team also offers a selection of Help materials for Distance Education, plus Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios

Contact us with questions: openlab@citytech.cuny.edu!

The OpenLab Team

Artist credit: Adam J. Koon

This Month on the OpenLab: January 2021 Release

Three dogs bounding through the snow.
IMGP0908” by Vladimir is licensed under CC-BY-NC 2.0.
[Post author’s note: If I were to title this image, I’d call it “bounding, with hope, into 2021.”]

On January 21, 2021 we released version 1.7.48 of the OpenLab. It included a few new features and updates to all existing themes and plugins, including BuddyPress, the main plugin that together with WordPress, powers the OpenLab. We are postponing a WordPress update until the summer 2021 release because of some significant changes that could impact many of the themes and plugins on the OpenLab. We’re also holding off on updating the Gutenberg plugin that powers the WordPress block editor because it introduces block editing for widgets, which is a significant change to the interface and we wanted to provide additional time to introduce this change to OpenLab members.

New Features and Functionality

  1. We made a change to the default settings in the block editor, so that the block settings toolbar now appears in the “top toolbar” location rather than hovering at the top of the active block, where it can sometimes obscure what’s in the block.
Block editor with the block settings toolbar in the top toolbar location.

You can always change this by toggling the “top toolbar” location setting off or in the Block Editor Options menu. Click the icon with 3 vertical dots to access this menu.

Top toolbar location setting in the Block Editor Options menu.

2. We made a number of changes to the sign up page to help make the process easier for new members. We moved account type (student, faculty, staff, alumni) before email address, so that once you choose account type and then begin to type in your email address, there is an auto-complete suggestion that appears.

3. We made some improvements to the School and Office filters on the Projects directory page so that “All Schools” and “All Offices” are now selectable in the filters.

4. We also finished most of the work on a plugin we’re developing called OpenLab Private Comments, which is based on WP Grade Comments, but is designed for use with Portfolios. When activated by a site admin (e.g.  students as admins of their portfolio sites) it allows commenters (e.g. professors) to leave private comments as feedback on their portfolios. We’re planning to release this in February.

Bug Fixes

We fixed one bug. The modal window that appears when you click the Add to Portfolio button to add the contents of a post, comment, or page you’ve authored to your portfolio site from another site was not mobile friendly. We’ve fixed this so it can be used on mobile devices.  

As always, please contact us with any questions!

January Workshops

A close-up photograph of thin red-brown branches speckled with snow
Snow balls by blmiers2

Hi City Tech community!

We’re offering support throughout January for folks teaching and learning through the winter session, or even for folks who want to jump-start the spring semester!

Instead of synchronous workshops, which we have offered in-person in past semesters, we’re providing other options for support: screencasts, open hours, and 1-on-1 sessions.

We’re developing a growing playlist of short screencasts that focus on some of the most common support questions we receive; we recommend our Intro to Block Editor video for folks working with the new WordPress editor. Check out these screencast videos HERE!

We’ll be offering Open Hours and 1-on-1 sessions for staff, students, and faculty several times this month. 

Support Schedule – January 2021

Thursday Jan. 7, 2021: 3-5pm
Friday Jan. 15, 2021: 10am-12pm
Thursday Jan. 21, 2021: 3-5pm
Friday Jan. 29, 2021: 10am-12pm
Sunday Jan. 31, 2021: 3-5pm

To see the full schedule and to sign up for open hours and 1-on-1 sessions, visit The Open Road.

We’re also available 7 days a week for asynchronous support via email at openlab@citytech.cuny.edu