In the Spotlight: Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab

This week, as we prepare for our first Open Pedagogy Event of the semester, we’d like to draw your attention once again to our in-house site, Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab. This site operates as a forum where OpenLab community members can ask questions and stimulate discussion related to teaching and learning on the OpenLab and in open digital environments more generally. The site is replete with carefully cullied resources you can draw on in your teaching, from examples of digital pedagogy assignments to provocative readings on the value of multimedia pedagogy and public writing to information on best practices and tips for open digital pedagogy.  The site’s blogroll is a great place for online discussion on building a curriculum that integrates the OpenLab; each month, our Pedagogy Profiles blog series highlights a different City Tech faculty member who is using the OpenLab in creative ways. 

In conjunction with this site, our OpenLab team hosts Open Pedagogy Events, organized around particular themes and concerns related to teaching in open digital environments and more specifically with teaching on the OpenLab. This Thursday (9/19) we’re hosting our first Open Pedagogy event of the semester, Access Beyond the ADA. The event will be held in the Faculty Commons (N227) from 4:30-6:00pm. Refreshments will be served (thanks to the Faculty Commons for its generous support of this event!). Visit the event posting for more information and to RSVP! We hope to see you there! We will also consider the theme of “access” throughout this semester, focusing in particular on how can a commitment to access can augment and alter digital pedagogies. Part-time faculty are eligible to receive a stipend for participation in the event.

As always, we encourage you to join the site, follow along and participate in the conversation!

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!

In the Spotlight: Privacy in Open Learning

Happy second week of school to all City Tech faculty, students, and staff! At the start of every semester, hundreds of members of the City Tech community join the OpenLab for the very first time. If that’s your case, welcome! We want to take the start of the semester to go over the ins-and-outs of privacy in open learning. After all, the OpenLab is a public-facing platform. While this public-ness is part of what makes the OpenLab a rich environment for teaching and learning, some of you may have concerns about what working in the open means for your privacy. Here are a few things you should know:

The OpenLab is open

The OpenLab is open by default. The site is indexable through search engines, and can be accessed by anyone inside and outside of the City Tech community.

Privacy while working in the open

The OpenLab is open, so can anyone can find your personal information by looking you up on the OpenLab?

The answer is a resounding no! This is because members of the OpenLab can identify themselves using a pseudonym for their user name or display name instead of their real name. Their avatar can represent them without including a real photo or identifying image. Plenty of OpenLab members, for example, use pictures of their cats, their guitars, their cars, abstract sketches of themselves, etc. Check out our detailed overview of the OpenLab’s privacy policy, and best practices for protecting your confidentiality here.

If you are an instructor teaching a course on the OpenLab, or a staff/ faculty member leading a club/ project on the OpenLab, it is essential for you to know that members–particularly students–cannot be required to use their proper name or likeness when creating an OpenLab account.

Participating in courses on the OpenLab

If you are an instructor teaching on the OpenLab, you might wonder how you can identify your students if they are using pseudonyms on the platform.

The answer is that site administrators can identify group members in the site dashboard by full name and email address (as shown below). Therefore, they do not need to rely on usernames to identify members. In other words, members should not be asked to change their username or display name for identification purposes. Remember though: people’s full names are only visible for site administrators in the dashboard. They are not visible anywhere else on the OpenLab.

A screenshot of a site administrator's view of the dashboard. When the site administrator clicks "Users" in the dashboard, they will see the site's users avatars, full names, and email addresses.

We hope this helps explain how your privacy is protected when you work in the open.  Again, please visit our Help documentation on privacy on the OpenLab for a fuller overview of your rights and best practices for protecting your confidentiality.  As always, feel free to comment on this post if you have questions! 

Welcome Back & Fall 2019 Programming

Welcome back to all City Tech faculty, students, and staff! As you all sink into your semesterly routines, we want to take a moment to highlight the different ways we’re here to support your work on the OpenLab this semester.

Fall 2019 Drop-in Office Hours

Meet with a member of the OpenLab Community Team for face-to- face support. No RSVP necessary.

Tuesdays 12:00-2:00pm: 9/3, 9/24, 10/15, 11/12

Wednesdays 1:30-3:30pm: 9/18, 10/2, 10/23, 12/11

Thursdays 11:00-1:00: 9/12, 10/17, 10/31, 11/21

Office hours are held in the conference room of the Faculty Commons, N227.

Fall 2019 Student Workshops

More information regarding our Fall 2019 programming is now posted on the Open Road- you can learn more about Spring events and view their full  schedule on our calendar.

Below is a list of workshops we are offering this spring for students. Note that our first workshops begin this week! This semester we’ve created an option for students to RSVP to workshops. This can also be done by clicking the links below.

GETTING STARTED ON THE OPENLAB

  • Thursday August 29, 2019, 1:00pm-2:00pm, G604

GROWING YOUR CLUB

  • Thursday October 24, 2019, 1:00pm-2:00pm, L540

PRESENTING YOURSELF ONLINE

Thursday November 7, 2019, 1:00pm-2:00pm, L540

Fall 2019 Faculty Workshops

Below is a list of faculty workshops we are offering this spring. RSVP for any and all of these workshops here or by clicking the links below!

GETTING STARTED

  • Thursday August 29, 2019, 1:00pm-2:00pm, G604

OPEN HOUR ON THE OPENLAB

    • Thursday, August 29, 2:30-4:00pm, G604
    • Wednesday, December 4, 1:30-3:30pm, G604

Support Documentation

We have help(ful) documentation on the OpenLab that offers step-by-step guides for everything from getting started, to thinking about specific plugins that build out the functionality of your sites and portfolios.

Email

We are available to support you via email: openlab@citytech.cuny.edu.

Join Our In-House Sites

We encourage you to become members of our in-house sites (you can do so by visiting the profiles of each site). These sites will keep you up-to-date with all things ‘OpenLab’ and offer opportunities for deeper investment with City Tech’s community.

  • Learn more about the OpenLab, including workshops, events, community, and support opportunities on The Open Road. (Profile)
  • Share and discuss resources about open digital pedagogy with other City Tech and CUNY-wide staff and faculty on Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab. (Profile)

Fall 2019 Open Pedagogy Events – Faculty and Staff

As in semesters past, we will have two Open Pedagogy events in Fall 2019. The dates are set for Thursday September 19 and Thursday November 7 – from 4:30pm to 6:00pm in the Faculty Commons (N227). Learn more here.

We hope to see you around soon! Wishing you all a happy semester!

This Month on the OpenLab: August 2019 Release

On August 14, we released version 1.7.34 of the OpenLab. It included new features, new themes, updates to all themes and plugins, and updates to WordPress and BuddyPress, the software that powers the OpenLab.

looking up from the bottom of a skyscraper
This untitled image is licensed under Creative Commons CC0.

New Features and Themes

There were a number of new features and themes included this release:

A new portfolio features allows any OpenLab member with a portfolio to turn on an “Add to My Portfolio” button, which appears on any post or comment they have created on an OpenLab site.  This makes it easier to add work from courses, projects, or clubs to a portfolio.  You can see step-by-step instructions for this new feature in OpenLab Help.

Another new feature created for portfolios is the ability to export the contents of a portfolio site, which can be imported into another site. This makes portfolios much more portable, and means they can be moved from one OpenLab community to another (for example, from BMCC’s OpenLab to City Tech’s OpenLab).

We added two new portfolio themes, which work especially well for the display of a visual portfolio.

    • Hamilton is described as “a clean WordPress portfolio theme for creatives. It displays posts in a beautiful image grid that can be set to either two or three columns, which makes it a perfect fit for photographers, illustrators or graphic designers looking for a theme for their portfolio.”
    • Koji is “a clean and lightweight theme for bloggers. It features a masonry grid on the archive pages, a beautiful and minimal design,” and more.

We also added a theme designed for Open Educational Resource (OER) sites on the OpenLab, although it can be used for any type of site. Built using the theme Education Pro, we’ve customized it to improve the design, to ensure accessibility, and to include styles that would be useful for an OER.

Improvements to existing features

We made an improvement to the WP Grade Comments plugin, which allows instructors to assign grades without comments. Previously, grades had to be accompanied by a comment.

A number of enhancements were made to the OpenLab Gradebook plugin, including:

    • Instructors can now add assignments and/or grades to their gradebooks using a pre-formatted CSV file that can be edited and uploaded to import new data.
    • The text on the About page has been improved to include more helpful information about the OpenLab Gradebook plugin with a link to the plugin’s help page.
    • A bug was fixed that prevented instructors from accurately pasting numeric grades.
    • The display of tables on mobile devices was improved.

We made a few improvements and additions to the Print this Page functionality that was introduced in the June release. We changed its appearance on pages and posts from a text link to a button.  The button is now turned off by default.  In addition to the ability to turn it on within each individual page and post, there is now a site-wide control, which will enable or disable it for the whole site.

We also improved the print formatting for two additional themes. Twenty Nineteen and Hemingway are now better formatted for printing.

One of the potential privacy settings available to OpenLab members is to have a hidden group with an open site. While this is not a common setting, if someone was viewing the site but was not a member of the group, they would get a “Page not Found” error if they clicked on the group profile link in the site’s navigation menu.  Now, this link won’t appear, except for members of the group who are logged into the OpenLab.

We made a few improvements to the layout and design of the Related Links List settings in a group’s profile settings, making them easier to understand and manage.

We improved the accessibility of the create/edit screen for a group’s Docs, including fixing some missing form labels and improving the color contrast for some of the links and other text.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

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.