This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.17

Aster d'automne...!!!

On January 22, we released version 1.7.17 of the OpenLab. It included updates for WordPress and BuddyPress, the software that powers the OpenLab, and all themes and plugins. The release also included a few bug fixes, and the introduction of three significant new features.

New Features

We’re very excited to introduce project cloning in this release, which was previously only available for courses.  Any project admin can now clone a project, which will an exact copy, keeping all content created or uploaded by the admin, while no content created by non-admins will be copied over. The project avatar, settings, and site settings will all remain the same, although admins can adjust anything as necessary.

Another major change to functionality is the loosening of the relationship between member roles on a Course, Project, or Club Profile and the Site. Previously, changing a member’s role on the Site Dashboard would always be overridden by the member role in the Profile settings. This is no longer the case. You can now change member roles by going to your Site Dashboard > Users, and change anyone’s role. This allows for usage of the wider range of roles available on the Site, such as Editor or Subscriber. Roles will only resync to match the Profile if that member is either promoted or demoted on the Profile, or if they leave the Course, Project, or Club.

As many of our members have probably noticed, we introduced HTML email. You can now read email notifications in a more attractive format. Please be aware, however, that as with previous plain text emails, you still can’t reply by email. So, as before, please log into the OpenLab to respond to messages, update Discussion Forum threads, and reply to Site comments.

We made a small change to the functionality of the “Email all members” feature, where admins can send a message to all members of a Course, Project, or Club. We improved this functionality so that instead of the sender appearing as “City Tech OpenLab,” it appears instead as the sender’s name.

New Themes and Plugins

We added two new themes – Twenty Seventeen and Gillian. These are both responsive (meaning they display well on mobile) and accessible. We also retired a number of themes that are not responsive or accessible, including Coraline, Filtered, Hero, Pilcrow, Sliding Door, Twenty Ten, Twenty Eleven, and Twenty Fourteen.  If you have any of these themes activated on an existing site, the theme will remain active.  However, they’ll no longer be listed in the themes available for activation on new sites.  Or, if you deactivate one of these themes on an existing site, you won’t be able to reactivate the theme.

We also added one new plugin, WP Accessibility. This plugin makes a number of improvements to the accessibility of all OpenLab sites. You can read more about it on our WP Accessibility page in Help, or on the WP Accessibility plugin page. On the OpenLab, the main function will be ensuring that everyone remembers to add alt text to images. It will also remove the target attribute from links, which makes them open in a new tab, and is not a good practice for both accessibility and usability. In addition, it will remove title attributes for images and tag clouds, which will improve accessibility for people using screen readers.

For more information about accessibility on the OpenLab, please read our Help posts on Making your Work Accessible and Summary of Accessibility on the OpenLab.

Bug Fixes

We fixed an issue with the WP Grade Comments plugin causing the show/hide link to disappear for private comments. This didn’t affect privacy — private comments have always only been visible to the site admin(s) and the student receiving the grade — but the show/hide (“spoiler”) link was missing. It now appears as it should.

There was a small bug which caused help documents to print out with some blank pages for Firefox users. This has now been fixed.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

Image Source: Denis Colette

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.15

Overlooking Georgian Bay

We released version 1.7.15 of the OpenLab on November 14. This was a very small release that included a few minor plugin updates and two small bug fixes. One corrected an issue preventing members from sending invitations to people who are not already members of the OpenLab. The second fixed an issue causing the subtopics in the Help section to display in the wrong order.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

[Image Source: Jeff S.]

The Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.14

Carved pumpkins on a bench.

Image Source: Macwagen

We released version 1.7.14 of the OpenLab on September 17, which included a few new features and a few bug fixes.

We expanded the ability for members to upload CSV files, so that they can be uploaded in the Files section of a Course, Project, or Club Profile, in addition to the Site.

We also made two small changes to Course creation and cloning. (1) We changed the way that faculty members identify additional faculty who they want to list on their Course Profile. The functionality remains similar, but the Additional Faculty settings section now looks slightly different. (2) We added a few additional instructions to the first step of the Course cloning process.

We added one plugin, Accordion Shortcodes, which allows users to add sections of text or other elements to their site that can be expanded or collapsed.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.13

The Brooklyn Bridge

We released version 1.7.13 of the OpenLab on September 18, which included a few new features and a few bug fixes.

We made CSV files one of the allowable file types that users can upload to their sites. We also added four new plugins. Cite allows users to easily add a box at the bottom of any post or page with citation information that readers can easily copy and paste. Gravity Forms Media Library allows users to automatically import files uploaded via Gravity Forms to the Media Library on their site. Simple Pull Quote allows users to easily insert pull quotes into posts and pages. Simple Drop Cap allows users to change the first letter of a word into a drop cap.

We fixed a bug in the Tiny MCE Comment Field plugin, which was generating an error message when users commented on a site with the plugin activated. We also fixed a bug in the plugin that prevented users from annotating pdfs in their browser without an additional Chrome extension.

As always, please contact us with any questions

(Image: Jon K. Bernhardsen)

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.12

We released version 1.7.12 of the OpenLab on August 9. The bulk of the release included updates to WordPress and BuddyPress, the software that powers the OpenLab. These updates will largely be invisible, but there will be a few updates our members may notice.

The release included two new plugins. Admin Commenters Count should be very helpful for faculty who use the OpenLab for student work. It adds the number of comments for each member of the site to the Comments page as well as the Users page on the Dashboard. The other plugin is a survey add-on for Gravity Forms, which provides more powerful options for creating Gravity Forms surveys, such as the ability to add Likert Scale and other types of questions.

We also added a paragraph to the first step of course creation with information about the OpenLab’s Creative Commons license, which is part of an ongoing effort to clarify this for users, as well as create an ongoing conversation around fair use and citation. This is also the subject of an upcoming Open Pedagogy event on September 28.

We made a few changes to the new member sign up page, which should improve the user experience. We moved the first and last name questions to the first section, and we made it more clear that phone numbers are optional, and if included will appear on members’ public profiles. We also changed the appearance of error messages so they are more consistent with those on the rest of the site.

We added links to the three sites run by the OpenLab team to the About page—Open Pedagogy, The Open Road, and The Buzz—to make them easier to find. They’re coming soon to the homepage as well!

Finally, a small but important detail for those who use OpenLab messages: we added the ability to delete messages from members’ profile inbox.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.11

We released version 1.7.11 of the OpenLab on May 16.

This was a very small release, which did nonetheless include two plugins. The PDF Embedder plugin will allow OpenLab members to embed pdfs on their sites without using a third party service and to embed PDFs on private sites. Both capabilities differ from our current document embedder, Google Docs Embedder. The Download Monitor plugin will allow users to manage downloadable files on their site, including tracking downloads.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.10

sprouting leaves with water droplets

Image Source: Seyed Mostafa Zamani

We released version 1.7.10 of the OpenLab on April 17.

This release included a few improvements that will be noticeable to OpenLab members. We have added a new feature to Project and Club Profiles, which is the ability to add a contact person (or persons) for the Project or Club. This can be found in the Settings on a Project or Club’s Profile page, or during the creation process for new groups.

In addition, we added an email notification letting admins of a public Course, Project, or Club site know when someone joins your group.

We also added the OpenLab’s Creative Commons license in the site footer. Any content that an OpenLab member creates or posts on the OpenLab is automatically protected under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial Share-Alike 3.0 license. However, any OpenLab member is free to choose other copyright conditions for any content that they create or post on the OpenLab by specifying the particulars on their own site.

Finally, we added the plugin Folders to the OpenLab. We think it may be useful for anyone who wishes to be able to categorize and organize posts, pages, and/or media library files on their site.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.9

abstracted image of grassy field

Image Source: Brian Wolfe

We released version 1.7.9 of the OpenLab on March 15.

This release included improvements for two themes. In the Pilcrow theme, child pages didn’t appear in a dropdown menu in a site’s top menu navigation, as is standard with most themes. We made a change to Pilcrow so that they do. The Sliding Door theme requires the Page Links To plugin to make the sliding images link to pages on the site. Now when users activate Sliding Door, the plugin will automatically be activated.

We also fixed a bug in the first page of Portfolio creation causing department checkboxes to not display properly.

Finally, we added two plugins. Cardboard allows users to display 360 degree video and photos. Another plugin, which is automatically activated on the entire OpenLab, meaning that our members don’t need to activate on their own sites, allows users to upload .tex files to their sites.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

The Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.8

a series of 10 abstract images of flowers

Image Source: Torbakhopper

We released version 1.7.8 of the OpenLab on February 15, which included mostly behind-the-scenes updates.

The only change that will be noticeable to members of our community was another improvement to the WP Grade Comments plugin. Last month we updated the plugin to hide grades by default when viewing a graded post, in case a faculty member is logged into the course site in class or another public setting so as not to accidentally reveal a student grade. The same functionality now applies to comments as well. To view a comment or grade, click the link that says “Show” and the comment or grade will appear.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

The Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.7

a cartoon animal wearing a ski hat and scarf waving

Image source: Alexas Fotos

We released version 1.7.7 of the OpenLab on January 17. The bulk of the release included major updates to WordPress and BuddyPress, the software that powers the OpenLab. These updates will largely be transparent to users, but we did also include a few noticeable changes in the release.

We added CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP) to our list of departments, so that CLIP courses can be correctly categorized, and CLIP students and faculty can add this designation to their profile. You can find it under School: Other > Department: CLIP.

We made two important changes to the WP Grade Comments plugin. One was to hide grades by default when viewing a graded post. This helps avoid accidentally revealing a student’s grade in cases where a faculty member is logged into the course site in class or another public setting. To view the grade, users will now just click a link that says “Show” and the grade will appear. The second was to ensure that faculty receive email notifications if students make a private reply to a private comment or grade.

We also hid a number of plugins that are no longer being updated, including TaskFreak and Featured Content Gallery. We also decided to retire AN Gradebook and continue to look for a better Gradebook plugin.

As always, please contact us with any questions!