In the Spotlight: PLAN Week 2023

phases of a solar eclipse over a beach
Sunset Beach Eclipse May 20th 2012” by jimnista via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Let’s shine some light on PLAN week, which is now! From March 9 to March 15, students can take advantage of resources and meet with advisors and peer mentors to plan their next steps at City Tech. The PLAN Week page on the OpenLab has all the information you need to take part and take advantage of all that the week has to offer. There’s also information about how students can enter to win prizes like gift cards and Beats headphones!

For more information on each day, there’s more information on both the OpenLab site as well as on the City Tech website–having this info in both places is a great way to find the information whether you’re on the OpenLab or the City Tech website!

Make sure to check out the site, and happy PLANning!

In the Spotlight: Undergraduate Research

Sparks” by tom_bullock via Flickr CC BY 2.0

This week, student researchers will begin participating in a series of 14 workshops that will last throughout the semester. These workshops, developed and led by members of City Tech’s Undergraduate Research Committee (plus a few other helpful members of the City Tech community), run each semester for students participating in the Emerging Scholars program or the CUNY Research Scholars Program (CRSP), and are open to any students interested in the subjects covered.

Not only are the workshops listed on the Undergraduate Research site on City Tech’s website, but they are also shared on the Undergraduate Research site on the OpenLab. In addition to the post announcing the full slate of workshops for the semester, there is also a list of the workshops with dates and times that you can see no matter where you are on the site (in the right sidebar on a computer, or at the bottom of the page if you’re looking on a mobile device). You can add a widget to your site if you want to do something similar on your site, too.

If you join the project, you’ll get reminders for each of the 14 workshops this semester. You’ll also get notifications for other information that gets posted on the site–including internship opportunities, news, and events that are relevant for student researchers and their faculty mentors.

This Month on the OpenLab: February 2023 Release

Kitten smelling a bouquet of red flowers.

On February 15 we released version 1.7.67 of the OpenLab. It included a few new themes and some bug fixes.

New features

We added two new themes: Neve and Miniva. Miniva is a simple minimalist theme, good for beginners or someone who doesn’t want to do a lot of theme customization. Neve is a more complex theme, which requires some setup, but it can look great even with just a small amount of customization.

We changed the sender name for site-related emails from WordPress to City Tech OpenLab, making it easier to understand where emails are coming from.

Bug fixes

There were a few bugs caused by the improvements to email notifications made in the January release:

  • Line breaks were missing for a number of different site-related emails.
  • The OpenLab footer that appears in some email notifications was not displaying correctly in certain email clients. 

We also fixed an issue causing incorrect characters (e.g. ’) to appear on certain posts and pages when the OpenLab Attribution plugin was activated.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: Welcome to Spring 2023!

Yellow flower in full bloom
Mid-winter Optimism I” by Carl Campbell via Flickr, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

It might not look like spring outside, but welcome back for the Spring 2023 semester!

The OpenLab team is excited to work with you as you do great things on the OpenLab–and to help you learn more about using the OpenLab and working in an open community.

The OpenLab team has been busy adding new features and functionality. For example, you may have noticed some changes to the tools that are on by default in the profile of your course, project, or club. One addition is an Announcements feature, which allows admins of a Course, Project, or Club to post announcements that appear just beneath the avatar on a group’s profile. These provide an easy and prominent way to share announcements with members, such as an upcoming class, event, meeting. In addition to appearing on the profile, these announcements will also be sent via email notification to help ensure that everyone who needs to see them does. Announcements are activated by default, but admins can deactivate them in Profile > Settings, if you don’t plan to use them.

There are other helpful improvements that we described in the January 2023 Release Notes–we’ll be spotlighting some of them soon!

Be sure to check out the Spring 2023 OpenLab support options and join us for synchronous support:

  • Open Hours: students, faculty, and staff can sign up for open hours, one-on-one appointments to ask specific questions or ask to learn more about topics ranging from getting started to using a tool to implementing pedagogical approach. We’ve added a new tool for registering for open hours, which allows site admins to embed Calendly–many of you use this tool already, and now you can feature your Calendly directly in a page or post on your site–activate the Embed Calendly plugin via Dashboard>Plugins>Embed Calendly.
  • Workshops: If you missed the OpenLab workshops during intersession, you can request a workshop on any topic or technique! Bring a few colleagues, fellow students, or officemates to learn about how to build something, do something, or use something on the OpenLab!

There are also great asynchronous options for support:

  • Faculty members with any questions about getting your course site ready for the semester can refer to the helpful tips posted in the Teaching with the OpenLab module.
  • Students getting ready to use the OpenLab this semester can use the helpful OpenLab for Students module.
  • Everyone can get inspired by what this community has done on the OpenLab by looking through our past In the Spotlight posts.
  • The Help materials on the OpenLab are extensive, guiding members through creating and working in Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios. For example, our help documentation will walk instructors through step-by-step how to add students in bulk to your course by using a list of student emails, a feature we added a few semesters ago. Being able to add students to courses this way is so convenient, we even spotlighted it! Students, this means you might find yourself *automagically* added into a course without having to request membership or join it yourself.
  • As always, reach out to us if you need additional help:

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and inspiring start to the semester. See you on the OpenLab!

This Month on the OpenLab: January 2023 Release

Penguin jumping out of the water with a group of penguins standing in the background.
Fly! by Christopher Michel is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

On January 18, 2023, we released version 1.7.66 of the OpenLab. It included multiple new features, as well as updates to all existing themes and plugins, including BuddyPress and WordPress, the two primary plugins that power the OpenLab. 

New Features and Functionality

Activity Sections for Courses, Projects, Clubs, and My OpenLab

We added a new Activity section to Course, Project, and Club profiles, to provide an easy way to catch up on what is happening in the group. In this section you can view all the activity, including posts and comments on the site, as well as new content or updates in the profile tools – Discussion, Docs, File Library, and Calendar. You can “star” activity, which marks it with a star, and allows you to filter the view to list only starred activity. You can also view only your own activity, or only activity that includes @Mentions. In addition, you can filter by all different activity types (e.g. Posts, Comments, Discussion posts, new Docs, new Files, etc).

There’s a similar Activity section in My OpenLab, called My Activity. It works in the same way as group activity, except that instead of including activity for a specific group, it includes activity for all your Courses, Projects, and Clubs.

Announcements for Courses, Projects, and Clubs

The Announcements feature allows admins of a Course, Project, or Club to post announcements that appear just beneath the avatar on a group’s profile. These provide an easy and prominent way to notify members about something, whether an upcoming class, event, meeting, or anything else, and will also be sent via email notification in addition to appearing on the profile. Announcements are activated by default, but you can deactivate them in Profile > Settings, if you don’t want to use them.

File Library

We changed the name of ‘Files’ to ‘File Library’, where you can now add links to external files, in addition to uploading files. The links can be to anywhere – a Google Doc or Spreadsheet, a OneDrive or Dropbox file, or anything else.

Search added to Discussion

We added search to Discussion, making it easier to find topics in Discussion forums with a lot of activity, especially those with activity over a long period of time.

Improvements to appearance of Discussion, Docs, and File Library

We also made a number of visual improvements to Discussion, Docs, and File Library, to improve the consistency of the navigation and layout of the different tools, making them easier to use.

Profile of the Open Road project with an Announcement posted.
Changes and new features on a Course, Project, or Club profile

Changes to Acknowledgements

We made some changes to streamline and simplify the way that acknowledgements appear on a Course, Project, or Club Profile. When you create a new group, the profile will include a line stating who created the group. If the group is cloned, a link will be added to show all the clones. On any cloned group, there will be a link back to the group it was cloned from. 

Course profile with new Acknowledgements format.
Course profile with Acknowledgements

Email Notifications

We made several changes to email notifications, including a new design and layout, and changes to the subject and sender of almost all notifications. The sender should now always appear as “City Tech OpenLab,” and the subject lines have been edited to make the purpose of each notification more clear. 

Missing Alt Text Notice

WordPress has made an accessibility improvement to the Block Editor, reminding you to add alt text whenever you add an image to a page or post. Add alt text for an image in the Block Settings sidebar panel. You can learn more about alt text in the OpenLab Help document, Making Your Work Accessible.

Notice that alt text is missing

Bug Fixes

We fixed an issue with the OpenLab Attributions plugin, where attribution numbers didn’t link properly to the attributions in the list at the bottom of the post or page.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: Winter 2023 Support

On the Brooklyn Bridge with light snow accumulation
Jan09 056” by Paul Williams via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

Hello, OpenLab Community!

We hope you’ll continue to join us for Winter 2023 Support. For everyone preparing for Spring 2023, we offer two types of synchronous support: workshops and open hours, in addition to our asynchronous support.

Winter Workshops

Click here to view the full schedule and register to receive the Zoom link for the workshops.

Thursday, January 19, 2023:

10:00am-10:30am Getting Started on the OpenLab

10:30am-12:00pm Working on the OpenLab

Monday, January 23,2023:

12:00pm-12:30pm Getting Started on the OpenLab

12:30pm-2:00pm Working on the OpenLab

Winter Open Hours:

View the schedule for open hours, one-on-one 30-minute Zoom appointments with a Digital Pedagogy Fellow to ask your OpenLab questions try new things.

Tuesday, 1/24/23: 11:30am, 12:00pm

Wednesday, 1/25/23: 10:30am, 11:00am

Monday, 1/30/23: 1:30pm, 2:00pm

Tuesday, 1/31/23: 11:30am, 12:00pm

Asynchronous support

We look forward to working with you, and to seeing your great work on the OpenLab!

In the Spotlight: You, in 2022

bubbles” by Indigo Skies Photography via Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This week, we’re spotlighting you, OpenLab members, and all the great work you do on the OpenLab. It’s a hectic few weeks, but soon the Fall 2022 semester will be behind us. Until then, keep doing great work and sharing great ideas on the OpenLab!

Need some inspiration to finish your work? Look around the OpenLab at all the courses, projects, clubs, and portfolios that OpenLab members create, contributed to, and made thrive. You can also look back at previous In the Spotlight posts.

If you need any OpenLab support to finish, remember that you can always sign up or drop in for Open Hours, find helpful information in our Help section, or reach out via email to ask a question.

And when the semester is over, take a step back and look at all you have accomplished, and ask yourself what work of yours would you spotlight this semester? Share in the comments links to or descriptions of especially proud of some of your work!

Then get inspired for next semester, too–but not before catching up on some sleep, enjoying some hot cocoa, or spending time with friends and family, or however you mark the end of the semester and celebrate all of your accomplishments!

In the Spotlight: The Seventh Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium

The Spotlight is on the Science Fiction at City Tech website leading up to the Seventh Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on December 6th, from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. E.ST. The theme for this year is “Science Fiction and the Archive.” The discussions will be on various questions like What role do digital technologies and social networks play in creating the Science Fiction Archive? How can the SF Archive be inclusive and representative? For the second time, the winner of the Analog Award for Emerging Black Voices will be announced by Analog Science Fiction and Fact.  

Co-organizers Jill Belli, Wanett Clyde, Jason W. Ellis, Kel Karpinski, and Lucas Kwong invite everyone to join for the day-long event or stopping by as schedules permit. The event will happen online, free and open to everyone, and will also be livestreamed on YouTube. Links for registration and the livestream on YouTube, along with the symposium program, are available on the Science Fiction at City Tech OpenLab site–that’s also where you can register, RSVP, and learn more about the program.

The event is sponsored by the School of Arts and Sciences at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.

This Month on the OpenLab: November 2022 Release

On November 15 we released version 1.7.65 of the OpenLab. It included a few new themes, a plugin modification, and some bug fixes.

New features

We added two themes: GeneratePress and Twenty Twenty One.

We also modified an older plugin–Expire Sticky Posts–that had previously been retired because it didn’t work with the Block Editor. The plugin allows you to set a date at which sticky posts will automatically expire, and now works in the Block Editor. There are instructions for how to use the plugin in OpenLab Help.

Bug fixes

A bug causing the links to be removed from author and group name at the top of email notifications has been fixed.

We also fixed two bugs in the OpenLab Attributions plugin:

  • When adding an attribution to the very last sentence in a paragraph block, it wasn’t possible to move the cursor after the attribution superscript number and thus couldn’t add text after the attribution number – only before it.
  • When attempting to add an attribution to an image in the caption field, the ‘Add Attribution’ window would close.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: OpenLab Open Hours

Two blue birds” by Babak Fakhamzadeh via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

The OpenLab Team has a number of requests for open hours and questions about how to access them, so here the open hours are in the Spotlight!

Open hours are an opportunity for any member of the City Tech community–students, faculty, staff–to meet one-on-one with a member of the OpenLab team to ask your OpenLab questions and accomplish your OpenLab goals. Each session is 30 minutes, so they’re like mini workshops on the exact topics you’re interested in.

Not sure what you want to ask about, but know you need help? That’s fine, too! You can use the time to learn about how to use your site to meet your learning or teaching goals, what tools can help you meet those goals and how to implement and use them, how to find Help materials, how to browse through the OpenLab to find excellent examples of City Tech community members working together, how to build something new like a club or an assignment–even how to get used to the block editor if you’re still using the classic editor. So many possibilities!

Check out the schedule, register for a 30-minute open hour session, and when it’s time, join via Zoom. See you there soon!