This Month on the OpenLab: February Release

Image Credit: jolier

February 2019

On February 19, version 1.7.29 of the OpenLab was released. It included a few minor updates for plugins and, as well as a number of new features and some bug fixes.

New Features and Updates

We added a Pronouns field to member profiles, so OpenLab members can now include their preferred pronouns (e.g. she/her/hers) on their profile page.

We also made a change to Portfolio functionality, allowing Discussion, Docs, and Files to be activated on Portfolio Profiles.  To activate any of these tools, navigate to your Portfolio Profile > Settings (in the right-hand menu) > Settings (in the sub-menu at the top of the Settings page).  You can click the checkboxes for any of these tools you would like to activate.

OpenLab members may notice a new theme and new plugin available for activation on OpenLab sites.  The theme is called OpenLab Twenty Thirteen, which is a child theme of Twenty Thirteen.  For now the only difference between the two is that activating the theme also automatically activates the plugin, Breadcrumb NavXT, which adds breadcrumb links to pages, making it easier to navigate sites that might have a large number of pages. The plugin may be deactivated if you don’t want to use breadcrumbs, but it is only compatible with the OpenLab Twenty Thirteen and OpenLab Twenty Sixteen themes.

The plugin is Mammoth .docx converter, which allows you to more easily copy and paste from Microsoft Word without losing formatting.  Something to keep in mind with this plugin is that the more semantic your Word docs are (e.g. use of Heading and paragraph styles), the better the formatting will translate in your posts and pages.

Finally, we made a few accessibility improvements to the settings page for the Breadcrumb NavXT plugin.  These were incorporated by the plugin developer, so they are included for anyone who uses the latest version of the plugin in the broader WordPress community.

Bug Fixes

We fixed three bugs in this release.  One was preventing admins from sending messages to all members of a course, project, or club.  Another was causing the accessibility link in the footer to break, and a third fixed a problem where department and major were no longer required fields when editing a member profile.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

 

In the Spotlight: Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab

This week, as we prepare for our first Open Pedagogy Event of the semester,

Image Credit: Red Bull Curates by Laine Pub Company

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 (2/21) we’re hosting our first Open Pedagogy event of the semester, Curating Student Work in ePortfolios. The event will be held in the Faculty Commons (N227) from 4:30-6:00pm. Refreshments will be served (thanks to the Provost’s Office for its generous support of this event!). Visit the event posting for more information and to RSVP! We hope to see you there! We also have a follow-up workshop that will look more closely at how to integrate curation into your use of the OpenLab (RSVP here!). Part-time faculty are eligible to receive a stipend for participation in the event and/or workshop.

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

In the Spotlight: First Year Learning Community Badges

When enrolling at City Tech, freshmen and transfer students can choose to participate in learning communities. As noted in the First Year Learning Communities (FYLC) OpenLab Site, FYLCs are “two or more courses with the same students enrolled, linked with an interdisciplinary theme, providing an innovative way for students to learn and form bonds with the college.In these courses, students receive support from peer mentors and faculty in navigating college life and approaching academic work. FYLC faculty have used the OpenLab to bolster the FYLC experience, creating course sites to support interdisciplinary learning/ teaching.  However, settling on site architecture that fruitfully connects multiple courses is not always easy. It is quite a different task from creating a discipline-specific,  individual course or project site. A good starting point in designing a FYLC site might be to look at and draw inspiration from previous FYLCs.

Now you might ask:

How can I find past FYLC sites to use as models in my own work?

Good question! As part of a growing “badging” effort to identify different types of courses on the OpenLab, the OpenLab has now has created “FYLC Badges” that indicate when a course  is a FYLC.

Look for these badges to identify FYLC!

These badges are also searchable. From the homepage, click on the magnifying glass in the upper right, and select courses.

On the Search page, all of the filters may be set to your interests, except “Select Type”; for that field you’ll want to select “First Year Learning Community”. This will pull up any and all FYLC that match the other filters you set.

 

Happy exploration!

 

 

 

In the Spotlight: 28,000 Members and Counting!

Image Credit: Bill Smith

Last semester, the OpenLab hit an impressing milestone, welcoming its 25,000th member at the start of the fall.  This term, the OpenLab reached an even more impressive 28,000 members: we continue our retrospective series here, looking back at how the OpenLab has grown and evolved since its inception in 2011. This growth was made possible by the many City Tech partners and stakeholders who participate in the platform, and push the site in new and exciting directions. A few shout-outs to some of our partners:

  • The OpenLab was created as part of the Title V grant, “A Living Laboratory: Revitalizing General Education for a 21st Century College of Technology.” The Living Lab faculty fellows helped to shape the early days of the OpenLab, and one of its culminating grant projects, the L4 (Living Lab Learning Library) resource exchange site, continues to grow on the OpenLab.

  • Faculty and staff have been building OER course sites on the OpenLab and have an OER Fellowship project site to coordinate their efforts. OER courses are identifiable through an OER badge, which appears on the avatar of the course or project. Courses and projects with an OER badge can also be searched for in course and project directories. You can read more about OER badges in our help section.

  • Students and faculty have been working together on math problems from the open source math homework site, WeBWorK, on the OpenLab WeBWorK site, developed as a part of the Title V grant, “Opening Gateways to Completion: Open Digital Pedagogies for Student Success in STEM.”  The site will be released publicly as a WordPress plugin at the end of the project.

  • The OpenLab has partnered with Commons in a Box, to produce an open platform for teaching and learning that anyone can use. Commons in a Box OpenLab recently launched, and greatly extends the public reach of the work we do here at City Tech.

  • As part of the HSI-STEM Digital Pathways grant, led by the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), in partnership with City Tech and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and to support students enrolled in STEM courses- especially computer science and digital media arts and technology -BMCC will be one of the first institutions to use Commons in a Box OpenLab beginning in Spring 2019.

  • Open Pedagogy events and Office Hours have been generously hosted by the Faculty Commons and the Office of the Provost.
  • The OpenLab has been collaborating with Student Life & Development, on its programming and shared goals of student engagement and the student experience. We’ve run workshops in partnership with them (such as for Presenting Yourself Online and Clubs) Finally, the OpenLab has collaborated with FYLC and STEM Success to support student advancement.

Each new OpenLab initiative and partner has expanded the possibilities of what work can be curated, showcased, collaborated on and discussed on the platform. We’re excited to see much more of this work unfold in the future. There are, of course, many more OpenLab collaborators than could be named in this brief post.  Let’s keep the conversation going-reply to this post in a comment, and briefly describe OpenLab your site/ project (don’t forget to give us the link!). You are building the OpenLab, and we’d love to highlight your work!

This Month on the OpenLab: January Release

 

Image Credit: Marko Verch

January 2019

On January 17, version 1.7.28 of the OpenLab was released. It included updates for all themes and plugins, as well as for WordPress and BuddyPress, the software that powers the OpenLab. The release also included a number of new features and plugins, as well as some bug fixes.

Block Editor / Gutenberg

Gutenberg, or the block editor, is the new editor for WordPress posts and pages, which marks a significant change from the editor we’ve been using on the OpenLab. To ease the transition, we kept the usual “classic editor” as the default, but site admins have the option to choose which editor to enable on their sites, and site members can also choose which editor to use on the level of individual posts.

Starting at the end of this summer (2019), we will enable the block editor as the default, while still allowing members to use the classic editor if they prefer.

You can learn more about the block editor on WordPress.org’s Gutenberg site, where you can also try it out, and find links to more advanced resources. If you’d prefer to watch a video, WP Tavern has posted a quick introductory video.

New Features

1. More options for member roles

One of the new features included in this release is the ability for admins to choose the default roles for members on the profile and site when they join a course, project, or club. For example, if you want members to receive email notifications and have your site included in their “My OpenLab” page, but not allow most members to post on the site, you can now set such combinations of profile and site roles when you first create the site, or edit the roles in Settings for existing groups.

2. First Year Learning Community badge

Another new addition in this release is a badge for First Year Learning Communities (FYLC), similar to the Open Education Resources (OER) badge. Courses with an FYLC badge can also be searched for in the courses directory. You can read more about FYLC badges in our help section.

3. Anthologize improvements

As part of our improvements to the Anthologize plugin, the latest update adds “author” as an option when searching for posts to add to an Anthologize project.

4. Improved formatting on Settings pages

We cleaned up a few small formatting inconsistencies in the Settings > Settings section of course, project, club, and portfolio profiles. These changes are likely not noticeable to most of our members, but nonetheless improve the appearance of these pages.

New Plugins

We added two new plugins in this release.

1. Shortcodes Ultimate provides more than 50 shortcodes that can be used in the post or page editor to add different kinds of functionality and visual elements, such as dropcaps, accordions, tabs, sliders, and more, to posts and pages. You can preview the available shortcodes on the plugin site.

2. Search and Filter allows you to add advanced options for searching and filtering posts on your site, such as the ability to allow people to filter posts by tags within particular categories, and more.

Bug Fixes

There were a number of bug fixes included in this release.

1. There was a problem with email notifications causing daily notifications to not be sent out properly in some groups with more than 300 members. This has been fixed.

2. There was another email notifications bug fixed that was preventing weekly and daily digest notifications from being sent.

3. We fixed an issue in the OpenLab Twenty Sixteen theme, that was causing the bottom horizontal borders of dropdown menus to extend a little farther to the left than they should.

4. We fixed a bug causing faculty and staff offices to appear as options along with departments, for students creating ePortfolios. The offices no longer appear.

5. There was a bug causing the required fields of “major” for students and “department/office” for faculty and staff to no longer be required when creating an account. This has been fixed.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: Welcome back & OpenLab Support Opportunities

Happy New Year and welcome back! As you all are sinking back into your semesterly routines, we want to take a moment to highlight the different ways we’re here to support and engage you this semester.

Spring 2019 Office Hours

Meet with a member of the OpenLab Community Team for face-to- face support.

Mondays 2:00-4:00pm: 2/4, 3/4, 4/1, 5/6
Tuesdays 12:00-2:00pm: 2/19, 3/12, 4/16, 5/14
Fridays 1:00-3:00: 2/1, 3/22, 4/12, 5/3

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

Spring 2019 Student Workshops 

More information regarding our Spring 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, for the first time, we’ve created an option for students to RSVP to workshops. This can also be done by clicking the links below. Expect an email reminder from us a few days before the event.

GETTING STARTED ON THE OPENLAB

  • Thursday January 31, 2019, 1:00pm-2:00pm, L540
  • Wednesday February 6, 2019, 3:30pm-4:30pm, G604

OPENLAB TOOLS, TIPS, AND TRICKS

  • Wednesday March 6, 2019, 1:30pm-2:30pm, G604

GROWING YOUR CLUB

  • Thursday April 11, 2019, 1:00pm-2:00pm, L441A

PRESENTING YOURSELF ONLINE

  • Wednesday May 1, 2019, 1:30pm-2:30pm, G604

Spring 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 January 31, 2019, 11:00am-12:30pm, L540

DESIGNING AND ASSESSING STUDENT WORK ON THE OPENLAB

  • Wednesday February 6, 2019, 1:30pm-3:00pm, G604

CURATING STUDENT WORK IN EPORTFOLIOS

  • Friday March 1, 2019, 12:00pm-1:30pm, G606

CURATING FACULTY AND STAFF PORTFOLIOS

  •  Thursday April 11, 2019, 2:30pm-4:00pm, L441A

OPEN HOUR ON THE OPENLAB

  • Wednesday, May 8, 1:30pm -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)

Spring 2019 Open Pedagogy Events – Faculty and Staff

As in semesters past, we will have two Open Pedagogy events in Spring 2019. The dates are set for Thursday February 21 and Thursday April 4 – 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: December Release

Image Credit: Kev Wheeler

December 2018

Version 1.7.76 of the OpenLab was released on December 17. This release was small, but did include some important new features and a bug fix.

Features

We added the ability to disable and enable Discussion, Docs, and Files on the profile page of any Course, Project, or Club. If you don’t use any of these tools you can now disable them, and they can always be enabled again if you decide to use them. By default these tools are enabled for new Courses, Projects, and Clubs, but they can be disabled in Profile > Settings > Settings, in the Discussion, Docs, and Files Settings section.

Two additional improvements to the Anthologize plugin were also included in this release. When editing a project, you are now able to view more details about each page and post, including categories, tags, and author, as you’re choosing them to add to a project. In addition, when exporting a project to save as a pdf or other file type, the author is now generated automatically from all post and page authors included in that project.

Bug Fix

We fixed a printing-related issue causing the OpenLab footer to overlap with content on a page or post when printing from an OpenLab site.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

Holiday Greetings from the OpenLab!

Image Source: geralt

Greetings from the OpenLab and congratulations to all on the closing of another successful semester!

While our weekly “Spotlight” blog series will go on hiatus until the Spring semester, we wanted to remind you of the sites we featured this past semester and encourage you to check them out if you haven’t already done so.

Courses

Projects

Clubs

Portfolios

We also had a few special posts to make you aware of new developments:

In addition to reviewing these posts from this past semester, you can find a full curated list of all sites that have been spotlighted in our Spotlight Archive. This archive offers visitors 3 curated lists to help them sort through the posts:

  1. For everyone (By type of site – course, project, club, portfolio)
  2. For faculty/staff
  3. For students

As always, we also encourage you to check out our in-house sites:

The OpenLab Community Team will continue to offer email support over the winter session – please contact us with questions or concerns.

We are also beginning to post our spring programming.

January workshops for Faculty/Staff have been posted – view the schedule and RSVP on the Open Road! We will be in touch as we get more events and workshops on our calendar.

Wishing you all a very happy holiday season!

The OpenLab Community Team

In the Spotlight: Girls Who Code

This week we’re spotlighting the Girls Who Code club. Girls Who Code is a FREE after-school program for 6-12 grade girls and female college freshman. The aims of the club are to empower women by building technical skills, knowledge, and confidence, while also growing community among those with interest in tech. In supporting young women in this way, the club aims to counter stereotypes about who is and can be a programmer, and to help close the gender gap in tech. City Tech’s Girls Who Code club brings this initiative to the City Tech community – bringing together young females who want to explore coding in a fun, friendly, and community-based way. Through joining the club, members are supported in their learning of different coding platforms but also, though the community-building aspect, club leaders help members become confident in everything they do!

Curious to learn more? You can view the curriculum you would work through when you join Girls Who Code. As you’ll notice, the club meets members where they are – beginner, intermediate, and advanced – meaning your curiosity and interest in tech is enough to join this growing group!

Also, one of the faculty facilitators, Professor Ayesha Javed, has begun a “Blog of the Day” blog series that would be of interest to anyone with an interest in tech, and/or an interest in joining the club. Professor Javed covers various topics related to coding and programming, including “5 Reasons Why Learning Coding in Important”, “Why Choose Python as your Programming Language?”, “10 Famous Websites Built with Python” and “The Advantages of using Scratch as your language!”. Moreover, her posts include spotlights on women in tech, including Tarah Wheeler, Ada LoveLace (one of the first computer programmers in the mid 1800s!), and Bissan Al-Lazikani.

Curious still? On their website, you can find a list of their student and faculty leaders, and contact information. Reach out to learn more and get involved!

In the Spotlight: Clubs on the OpenLab

Black and white image of intersecting metal staircases.
Image Source: bogitw

There are many ways the OpenLab can support the diversity of work carried out by the City Tech Community. Hosting a club site on the OpenLab is one way. This year 13 new clubs joined the OpenLab and nearly half of those joined this semester – so this week let’s take a moment to consider how hosting your club site on the OpenLab can support your club’s activities and membership.

Through a workshop with the Club Council in Fall 2017, we learned that many clubs already have an established digital presence. Whether sharing information on Facebook or Twitter, or videos and pictures on Instagram, Club leaders at City Tech have experimented with using different digital platforms to reach out to members and promote the work of the club more broadly. GREAT! Depending on your goals for using these platforms, using mainstream social media accounts may perfectly meet the needs of your club. However, because there are important differences between social media platforms and the OpenLab, and because contrasts better highlight their unique and complementary features, the first three points for discussion compare the OpenLab with social media platforms.

City Tech’s Digital Community

When you publish content on a social media platform, the content is shared with the world, but generally speaking, those who follow your platform receive the content. To the extent that this content is then shared by your followers, it then reaches a broader but indeterminate audience. When you publish content on the OpenLab, it can also be shared with the world (if your privacy settings are set to “public”), but it is also shared with a determinate audience – the 27,000+ members of City Tech’s community who are also members of the OpenLab. When groups like clubs make new posts or comments on their sites, it shows up at the top of the “Clubs” section on the homepage and in the activity feed. We also may choose to “Spotlight” it in our weekly blog series. Each of these mechanisms gives your club greater exposure within the City Tech community – or within the community of people eligible to become members of your club and support, carry-out and grow the already amazing work you are doing.

Content Control

When you post on social media sites, your (club’s) content is copyrighted, but legal rights to use and repurpose your content are also extended to the platforms on which you are posting. This means that Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter can reuse and sub-license your content out, and profit off of it, without you being aware or compensated. When you share content on the OpenLab, you retain all rights to that content, and none of your content can be repurposed for someone else’s profit, and all content must be attributed to the original author. You  may also change the licensure on the content you post to meet your specific needs. More information here.

Static vs. Dynamic Content

When representing the work of your club on a digital platform, there is likely static and dynamic content you want to share. Static content is content that doesn’t change too often – maybe its updated each semester or each year. Static content might include the mission of your club, any recurring events you may host or participate in, when and where your meetings are held, who your club leaders are, resources that may be of interest to your members or future members, contact information and more. Dynamic content is content that is timely and current – maybe you have an upcoming event that you want to remind people about or opportunity that you are recruiting participation in. This is content that becomes outdated and no longer relevant to the work of the club.

Social media accounts are great for pushing out new and dynamic content, but often times there is limited space for housing static content, and groups link out to a stand-alone website that houses their static content. This is an approach you may want to consider, especially if your dynamic content is work your club has produced that you want to share with the world. The OpenLab has technical options for housing static and dynamic content. For static content, use pages and add them to your main- or side- menu. For dynamic content, create posts that will auto-populate your blogroll in reverse chronological order (the latest news at the top).

Ultimately which platform(s) your use, and how you may or may not integrate them (using a Facebook page and an OpenLab site, for example) depends on what content you want to share, and who your audience is. It may be that you use the static and dynamic content features of the OpenLab, AND a social media site – which would let you share certain content with the City Tech community specifically, and released more freely out into the world.

A One-Stop-Shop

Beyond housing public-facing static and dynamic content, the OpenLab allows for file sharing, collaborative drafting, discussion, and hosting a shared calendar on its group profile pages. These can be useful for a group’s internal organization, and is moreover useful because the site is easily accessible from this same digital space. This makes your club’s OpenLab account a one-stop-shop for all internal documents and public-facing content. Keeping things centralized and in one location makes it easier to find things, and can make onboarding new group members easier and efficient.

Recertify with Ease

Each year clubs at City Tech need to submit documentation to recertify their clubs, which allows them receive funding and more. As of Fall 2017, clubs are allowed to use their OpenLab sites in this process, making this process simple and easy!

Looking for Examples

If you want to see how other clubs have used the OpenLab to support their activities you can: