This Month on the OpenLab: November 2023 Release

Cardinal sitting on a railing.
Autumn Antics by  likeaduck is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND.

On November 15 we released version 1.7.72 of the OpenLab. It included one feature improvement, minor theme and plugin updates, accessibility improvements, and a bug fix.

Adding social media to your profile

In the August release, we introduced a new way to add social media links to your profile. In this release, we improved the mobile interface so the experience is cleaner and easier to use.


We made a number of small accessibility fixes around the site, to improve the experience for people using screen readers. 

We also fixed a bug in portfolio creation causing the template chooser containing available site templates to disappear when a template category was chosen from the dropdown menu.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: Student Research Project Template

Choices” by Derek Bruff via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0 Deed

You may have noticed in the August edition of This Month on the OpenLab that one of the new features from the summer updates is a template chooser. When you create a new Course, Project, Club, or Portfolio, the site created uses a template that is appropriate for each type of site. For example, new Course sites come with pre-created pages for Syllabus, Assignments, etc. The template chooser makes it possible to have more than one template for each type of site. In the spotlight on Fall 2023 Welcome, for example, we highlighted the two templates for Course sites: Interactive, intended for use with active student posting and commenting, and Informational, for sites containing course materials, with instructor posts.

So what does that have to do with student research projects?

When student researchers create a Project, they can now choose the template designed for student research projects! This template was designed with City Tech’s Undergraduate Research programs in mind–and was launched at the Undergraduate Research Workshop on Using OpenLab for Your Research Project.

The site features spaces for students to write about themselves and their research project, include an abstract, and feature any achievements like the poster session, conference presentations, or awards. Additionally, the blog page has been turned into a research log, where students can chronicle their work, track the sources they read, and reflect on their experience.

Screenshot of Sample Research Project created using the Student Research template

As you can see, the site is very streamlined with a clean look. Students can customize it, but they can also get started with their work right away, without needing to first decide about how to design and organize the site.

We can’t wait to spotlight some great student research projects using this template!

In the Spotlight: PLAN Week Fall 2023

2017 Total Solar Eclipse
2017 Total Solar Eclipse” by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr CC BY 2.0 Deed

It’s PLAN week! That means that from October 30 to November 3, you can take part in Plan Week activities to prepare for advisement and registration (which starts November 9-17th) for winter and/or spring courses, to ensure you are taking the right courses and asking the right questions to stay on the path to graduation and achieving your future goals.

The PLAN Week website 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 City Tech swag!

Each day this week has events and will focus on information to help students plan for their next steps at City Tech:

As you develop your PLAN, remember that you can use the OpenLab to get a preview of the courses you’re interested in registering for, and to develop a better sense of what students are doing as they progress in your major and move toward graduation and their careers.

Take full advantage of in these events, and happy PLANning!

In the Spotlight: International Open Access Week

Posted with the text:
International Open Access Week.
Open Access Week 2023.
#OAWeek October 23-29

October 23-29 is International Open Access Week! #OAWeek

To celebrate Open Access Week, Prof. Monica Berger shared some thoughts about open access in a post on the library’s OpenLab site, LIBRARY BUZZ. Entitled “Open Access and knowledge as a public good,” and adapted from her forthcoming book (Winter/Spring 2024) from the Association of College and Research Libraries, Prof. Berger explains the value of openly available shared knowledge. In that post, she shares:

Open access is at its essence a philosophical notion with the guiding principle that scholarly content should be available to all readers without restriction because knowledge itself is a public good and cannot be bought and sold.  The idea of knowledge as a public good derives from the work of Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom’s conception of knowledge-as-commons.  

Monica Berger, “Open Access and knowledge as a public good,” LIBRARY BUZZ, October 24, 2023

Prof. Berger ends her post encouraging all of us to use platforms like CUNY Academic Works to share our work freely. In the spirit of Open Access Week, the library is offering a workshop on CUNY Academic Works, “Academic Works Demystified,” to demonstrate the value of sharing work openly. An additional workshop designed for students conducting research projects this semester, “Academic Works for Student Posters,” encourages students to add their posters to CUNY Academic Works so they can openly share their research with the CUNY community and beyond. This workshop will take place on November 20th–you can read more about this workshop in the Fall 2023 workshops schedule on the Undergraduate Research OpenLab site.

logo for Open Access with open orange combination lock between Open and Access.

This Month on the OpenLab: October 2023 Release

On October 11 we released version 1.7.70 of the OpenLab. It included improvements to new features, minor theme and plugin updates, some retired plugins, and a few bug fixes.


When embedding an image in a comment, we added a space to include an alt text description of the image.

We also made some improvements to the way links are added to make it a smoother experience.

OpenLab Connections

We made a few improvements to OpenLab Connections

  • Added a notification to show when a change to the content you’re sharing with other groups has been made
  • Clarified when invitations are pending or there’s an outstanding invitation to accept
  • Improved the accuracy when searching for groups to send a connection invite

Retired plugins

We retired a number of plugins that are no longer being supported or had other issues: 

  • WP Broken Link Status Checker (Broken Link Checker is a replacement for this)
  • Edge Suite 
  • Papercite 
  • Watu Quiz 
  • Quiz Maker 

Bug fixes

We made some small accessibility fixes around the site, mainly to improve the structure of headings on a few pages.

The Reckoning assessment plugin added in the August release was not visible in the site Dashboard. It now appears, and can be activated in Dashboard > Plugins. 

We fixed an issue causing the timestamps in email notifications to be 4 hours ahead of the actual time of site activity.

During Course, Project, Club, creation there was an incorrect error message that could appear when choosing the URL for a site. If there were invalid characters entered, the message would say “Sorry, that URL is already taken.” This has been fixed, and we’ve also made a change so that if spaces are included in a URL, instead of generating an error message they will be automatically converted to dashes. 

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: Accessibility on the OpenLab

Just Three Colours
Just Three Colors” by Rosmarie Voegtli via Flickr CC BY 2.0 Deed

The OpenLab has some useful resources to help you consider accessibility when you create or add content to a site. Learn more about accessibility on the OpenLab, and take advantage of the new Editoria11y plugin, a “spellcheck for accessibility” created by the web team at Princeton.

Editoria11y (pronounced “editorially”) checks your site and displays any existing issues with a thorough description of what they are and how you can address them. 

Once activated, the plugin will automatically perform accessibility checks. The results will appear for all admins, editors, and authors of the site. Professors and students alike will be able to see any accessibility issues in the posts they author on a site.

Editoria11y does not make changes on your site, but it provides instructions for how to make changes to anything that is flagged as an accessibility issue and provides useful context to understand why the changes are necessary.

To get started, activate Editoria11y Accessibility Checker in Dashboard > Plugins. For more information, read the Help materials on how to add plugins to your site.

We’ve found Editoria11y extremely useful and hope you do too!

If you’re curious about the a11y part of the name Editoria11y, check out this A11Y Project blog post about the numeronym a11y as a helpful resource to understand that a11y=accessibility.

In the Spotlight: OpenLab Updates

Hubble Goes to the eXtreme to Assemble Farthest-Ever View of the Universe
“Hubble Goes to the eXtreme to Assemble Farthest-Ever View of the Universe” by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Now that the semester is well underway, you might be open to looking at what’s new on the OpenLab. The most recent set of updates to the OpenLab included some great new features and opportunities. If you haven’t already, you might want to read the This Month in the OpenLab post from the end of August to learn about what’s new, different, or otherwise helpful. You can always find This Month in the OpenLab posts in the category OpenLab News.

OpenLab updates address community needs. They include keeping up to date on software updates, making fixes and adjustments to things that need to work better, and new ideas–big and small–that can make new things possible.

The August installment of This Month in the OpenLab announced features and functionality including new templates for sites, options to give members greater ability to customize sites and profiles, improvements to discussion forums and site commenting, and of course new plugins– which are tools that add functionality to your site. Look for the spotlight to shine on some of these important updates soon!

As always, if you have ideas for improvements, you’re welcome to share either by emailing or by using the contact form.

In the Spotlight: Connect Day

Clear circular connectors on dark cables against a blue sky background
Connectors” by Michael Coghlan via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Connect Day, the departmental new student orientation, will take place this Thursday, August 31st during Club Hours from 12:45-2:00pm. During this welcome event, students will meet faculty members from their department and student leaders who will share important information and strategies for success with participating new students beginning their educational journey at City Tech. There are also some fun activities and prizes planned for the event!

All first-time, first year, re-entry and transfer students are welcome to attend. Students who have not chosen a major yet can attend the session for Undeclared majors.

A comprehensive listing of all Connect Day locations and information can be found on the Connect Day Student Resource Center on the OpenLab. This site organizes the departments’ information according to which of the three schools they are in: Arts and Sciences, Professional Studies, and Technology and Design. Not sure which department is in which of the three schools at City Tech? You can browse through each list to learn more. There is information about the Connect Day session for Undeclared majors in the list for each of the three schools. The site also includes other information to help orient students to City Tech and college work.

We hope new students find their way to their Connect Day on Thursday, and that faculty and staff members and returning students share this information to help new students find their way to the right place for Connect Day.

Happy connecting!

Start of Semester Support

close-up of purple allium flower with a bee
Allium Sphaerocephalon” by Clint Budd via Flickr CC BY 2.0

As the semester begins, the OpenLab team is here to support your work on the OpenLab!

Join a Workshop

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

Tuesday, 8/29/23

  • Getting Started on the OpenLab (express): 1:30-2:00pm
  • Creating a Course Site: 2:00-3:00pm
  • OpenLab Q&A: 3:00-3:30pm

Friday, 9/1

  • Getting Started on the OpenLab for All: 12:00-1:00pm

Want more? Request a workshop for your group, ask a question, or let us know what else we can do to support you!

Get 1-on-1 help

Sign up for Open Hours for a 30-minute Zoom session to work directly with a member of the OpenLab Community Team.

Co-work with us

Last semester, the OpenLab team piloted co-working session for quiet working time with others, with the option to move to a breakout room for conversation or questions. Join OpenLab team members on Friday, 9/8/23 at 12:30-1:30pm to work on anything OpenLab-related or not, and share your positive force for anyone else joining who needs that energy!

Help is here

Use Help materials and screencasts to guide your work. Search for your specific topic in the OpenLab’s Help section or navigate through the different sections. You can also reach out for email support by sending a message to us at or via our contact form.

Happy new semester to us all!

In the Spotlight: Fall 2023 Welcome!

Yellow and pink clouds against a blue sky.
Brooklyn, NY” by Steven Pisano on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Welcome to a new academic year! City Tech is welcoming even more new students and faculty members–so welcome to everyone new, and welcome back to everyone returning!

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

This summer, there were some exciting new features added to the OpenLab, and some updates in response to members’ needs. You can read about them in the August 2023 edition of This Month on the OpenLab. The option to have different course templates is a great innovation that will make it easier for instructors to build a course site tailored to the course’s needs.

As the Fall 2023 semester begins, check out the OpenLab’s 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. 
  • Workshops: All are welcome for our calendar of workshops, plus any group can request a workshop on a topic or technique! 
  • Co-working sessions: for quiet working time with others, with the option to move to a breakout room for conversation or questions.

There are also great asynchronous options for support:

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