In the Spotlight: Recent Nucleus Issue ‘Spotlights’ OpenLab

This week we’re spotlighting the recent issue of the Nucleus (Winter, 2017), our Faculty Commons Quarterly. This season’s issue features pieces from faculty about the creative ways they’ve used the OpenLab in the context of their courses and/or research. Specifically, faculty discuss engaging students through creative and interactive assignments that incorporate multiple forms of media and dialogue, how the open and archival aspects of the OpenLab enable past students to share tips and strategies with newer students despite never meeting in person, how course sites can act as nodes in larger networks of resources that may benefit students academically, professionally, or otherwise, how to carry out collaborative student-faculty research projects, and how other innovative learning resources such as OERs and WeBWorks enrich students learning AND can help keep educational costs down for students. We hope you enjoy!

A hearty thank you to the Faculty Commons for their enthusiasm and support with this issue and always.

In the Spotlight: City Tech Women Engineers Club

This week we’re spotlighting the City Tech Women’s Engineer Club. This club provides an exciting opportunity for City Tech students to connect and collaborate with their peers as well as faculty members on projects and events around campus and the larger metro area. Moreover it allows students to the opportunity to join important professional organizations for engineering majors including the Institute of electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and specifically their Women in Engineering chapter (WIE). Thus, in joining this club, students enter into an extensive, multi-scalar community of professionals and future professionals who can support them in successfully pursuing a career in an engineering field. The group’s OpenLab site plays does a lot towards maintaining this community, but also plays a critical role in speaking to a larger public community about the work of the group. I’d like to highlight how two of the features on the site fulfills both roles simultaneously.

First, the site defines the contours to the group – who the group is, how they are organized, what the group is working on, how to get involved, and how getting involved may be beneficial to students. This information may be helpful to potential new members who are intrigued that the group is student-run while faculty and alumni serve as mentors and advisors. It may also be helpful to broader public audiences interested in contacting the group.

Second, the group highlights a number of events, activities and projects that members can attend or get involved with through joining this group, as well as shares resources that might be of interest. This kind of information is obviously useful to members who are committed to a career in engineering, but it may also be of interest to potential members who may be interested in joining an event or better understanding the work of the group before officially joining. The resources provided (including information about events and other activities) may also be of interest to a broader public audience – maybe a professor at another CUNY school who’d like to collaborate, or an engineering firm looking for promising students to hire, or high school students or others not currently in school who are thinking carefully about what career path to choose before returning to school.

Considering both of these functions when creating your site – be it for a project, club, course or ePortfolio – can help you give a larger life to the content and effort you are putting into building out the site.

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.9

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!

In the Spotlight: ENG1121-D433 – English Composition 2

This week we’re spotlighting Professor Iddings’ English Composition 2 course (ENG 1121-D433). After a quick tour around Professor Iddings’ course site, it is easy to see how this site functions as an important hub for her students and aims to support them in being successful in the course. With this in mind there are a number of features I’d like to highlight:

At 15 points of their overall grade, Blogging is an important component of this english course. For Professor Iddings, blogging is a part of the larger motto of the class: “Writing—and writing frequently, with intention, and with significant feedback—is a great way to improve your understanding of the texts we will read.” With this in mind, Professor Iddings gives extensive details on how to approach the assignment including the requirements and deadlines, notes on how to post and what should be included, and a grading rubric. In addition, she gives an overview of what blogging is and how its style and etiquette compare and contrast with other forms of class writing. This last component seems particularly important given the likelihood that many students haven’t had the opportunity to blog before.

A second feature I’d like to highlight is her main menu item entitled ‘Classwork’. As her page description states, “This is where all kind of handouts, slide shows, and student-generated work will land.” While the page contains only slide shows at the moment, I think it’s worthwhile to note the facility of having a place where any loose-leaf handouts can be stored digitally. Undoubtedly, there will be a student or two (or 10!) who will lose track of handouts that will prove useful to them throughout the course. By uploading them here, Professor Iddings never has to worry about students in her losing access to these documents.

The last feature I will highlight here – though there are many more and I encourage you to check out the site! – is the “Helpful Links” section and RSS Feed for the NYTimes which she has in her widget area (the menu on the right side of the course site). While each of these offers different content – the first providing students with easy access to educational resources around City Tech and beyond, and the second linking to the latest articles from the Times – both work to connect the student’s classroom experience to the outside world. This is an important capability of the OpenLab platform that we encourage instructors to take advantage of!

The Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.8

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!

In the Spotlight: HGMT 4989 – Culinary Tourism


This week we’re shining the spotlight on Professor Krondl’s Culinary Tourism course (HGMT 4989). This course facilitates students exploration of the concept of culinary tourism, and highlights its impact on the tourism industry. The first thing you notice about this course site is that it is easily navigable. In the top menu, students and site visitors can quickly find information on assignments and field trips, as well as download a copy of the syllabus. Organization is essential during the first few weeks of class, particularly because it sets up student’s expectations of the class and helps them prepare for successful completion of the course.

 

From the course site, it becomes quickly obvious that Professor Krondl’s course is organized around a series of experiential assignments that get students out exploring the city around them. These assignments are organized around four field trips that take students to different locations across the boroughs of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. These trips are accompanied by brief prompts that ask students to examine the culinary tourism of a particular neighborhood in relation to its historical and contemporary contexts. In the context of these assignments, the course site primarily serves as a place for sharing analytic reflections of their experiences with the class and beyond.

This is a great example of how to use your course site to support your assignments while not limiting them. Here at OpenLab, the objective is not necessarily about what you can do with the technology we’re offering, but how can this technology support you in your pedagogical goals.

For more information and/or to meet with us one on one, attend a workshop or come visit us during an office hour! We also have two upcoming Open Pedagogy events – we hope to see you there!

Image Souce: Marco Derkson

The Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.7

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!

In the Spotlight: The Open Road

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!

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.6

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Image Source: Ingvild Hunsrød

We released version 1.7.6 of the OpenLab on December 14, which included a few behind-the-scenes updates, a few bug fixes, and some web accessibility improvements.

There were a few plugin issues, including one with Gravity Forms causing it to prompt users for a license key when activated for the first time. We also fixed a bug in the plugin WP Post to PDF, which displayed an error when uploading images to posts, and put in another fix for Screencast video embedding.

We also addressed a bug causing a blank screen to display at the end of group creation, and a very obscure issue causing an error when a project profile used a file uploaded to the Files section of the project as an external site.

We made a subtle change to the teal color on the site in a few places, to a teal with a contrast ratio that is accessible. For more information about color contrast, see our help post on accessibility.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: Science Fiction at City Tech

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-1-55-54-pmThis week we’re spotlighting the faculty-run site, “Science Fiction at City Tech”. This site strives to “connect individual and collective efforts that study Science Fiction directly or leverage it to enrich City Tech’s students’ experiences, deepen classroom learning with archival research, and connect City Tech to the networks of science fiction research around the world”. In this way, the site operates as a hub connecting interested parties at City Tech with each other, with other resources at the college, and beyond. This ambition is embedded in the infrastructure of site, which includes information on City Tech courses and faculty members, a growing list of resources, and an active blog that shares updates about science-fiction-related events at City Tech such as the recently held Symposium on Amazing Stories: Inspiration, Learning and Adventure in Science Fiction.  

An important service of the site is to provide a digital presence for The City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which is held in the Archives and Special Collections of the Ursula C. Schwerin Library at City Tech. Gifted to the college by an anonymous science fiction scholar, this collection spans approximately 600 linear feet and contains monographs, anthologies, over 4000 magazines (including nearly full runs of every professional science fiction magazine from 1950 to 2010), scholarly journals and novels. Though the collection is still being processed, the site provides two way for students to see just what the collection contains: a searchable PDF that catalogs the magazine portion of the collection and a shelf-by-shelf photographic inventory. In addition, updates about the progress of the collection – such as a visit from CUNY Graduate Center Digital Initiatives – can be found on the blog. Learn more about the collection from the video below!