This Week In The Openlab: June 26th Edition

(Image by Andrew Dunn via Creative Commons)

Happy Summer, officially!  Apparently Stonehendge is the place to be for the official end of this long, cold, brutal winter.  Or, to be more accurate, this short, unusually mild and often unseasonably warm winter.  Either way, we’re happy it’s here.


Featured Tutorial:  An Introduction to HTML for (and openlab!) Users

More than once here on the OpenLab we’ve mentioned using the HTML tab to make specific changes, embed certain media (like YouTube video), etc.  That’s the tab that turns this:

Into this:

We know that just thinking about HTML makes some users shake in their boots, and the beauty of wordpress is most users don’t have to use it if they don’t want to.  But it’s also very simple, as far as code goes, and having a bit of background knowledge about what it means specifically for a wordpress system like ours is a great idea, and will reduce the intimidation.  There’s a simple overview here that you might like to check out.  It was written for sites, but will be largely applicable to the OpenLab as well.


Featured Course:  Interactive Animation

This week we’re featuring Professor Garnier’s Interactive Animation course.  If you’re teaching graphics or animation, there’s a lot that’s great on this site, including a good number of tutorials.  And here’s a fine example.


A Tip:  Hiding Sites and Projects

(Image by ZeWrestler via Creative Commons)

We’ve noticed a number of faculty have started working on fall courses and summer session courses.  And that’s great, and very encouraged, and as always we’re happy to help with technical and pedagogical questions.   It occurred to us that some faculty (especially if you’ve never been to one of our glorious workshops) might not know that courses can remain hidden until needed.

If you don’t want to show sites that are still ‘under construction,’ it’s good to remember, and easy to forget, that the ‘profile’ and ‘site’ side of your course have separate privacy controls.  It’s important we keep it that way:  many groups and classes choose to make the profile private–available only to their members–and make the site their ‘public face.’   But in the meantime, when you’re working on your course or project and aren’t yet ready to make it public, you can keep everything private by changing the settings in two places.

The first one is on the profile side, under Admin>Settings>Privacy Options.  Here you want to be sure ‘This is a hidden group’ is clicked.

And the second is on the dashboard of your site.  Here you want to go to Settings>Privacy and be sure that ‘I would like (my site) to be visible only to admins.’

Once you have those set, no one will see your site or project/course profile but you.  And don’t forget to uncheck those when the day comes, or you’ll be sending people to a site they can’t find!

As always, contact us with any questions.

This Week in The Openlab: June 19th Edition

(Image via State Senator Eric Adams)

Congratulations to all our graduates!  It seems like just yesterday you started, and now you’re all grown up.  Please keep in touch, and best of luck!

Featured Tutorial:  Finding Print Quality Images

“Have you ever grabbed an image off the internet, then printed it, only to find it looks awful on paper or is the size of a postage stamp? The image looked great on your computer screen, so why does it print so badly? The reason is image resolution. Image resolution describes the detail an image holds. The higher the resolution, the more detail is in the image”…  Our own Professor Libby Clark has written up some nice very nice tutorials on the subject, and she explains more here at Part One, and here at Part Two.

In fact, there are so many great things on Libby’s class site–things that will be useful for anyone touching on design in their courses, but also generally useful for the OpenLab–that we recommend it as a general resource on elements of design, specific skills, and design principles.  Have a look around–to our mind it’s exactly the kind of site that has the kind of cross-discipline value that makes an open platform like ours so valuable.

Thanks for these, Libby!

Reminder:  Upcoming Workshops

There will be faculty workshops on August 16th and 22nd, covering many OpenLab aspects, from getting signed up to broader pedagogical issues of teaching with technology.  Keep an eye out here on The Open Road for more information, and as always, contact us anytime for more information.

This Week in the Openlab! June 11th Edition

(SlideGuy Image by Reverend)


Last weekend, your very own OpenLab was happy to be part of the 2012 WordCampNYC.  If you’ve never heard of WordCamp, it’s a national series of conferences dedicated to bringing together WordPress users, including individual users who run their own sites, and larger groups and communities like ours. (And if you’ve never heard of WordPress, it’s the platform on which we run the site portion of the OpenLab). This year, the OpenLab participated in two sessions, both of which brought together CUNY folk who maintain platforms similar to our own at other CUNY campuses.

The first of these sessions was Building and Supporting WordPress for Higher Education, done with three other CUNY projects: the CUNY Academic CommonsBlogs@Baruch, and Macaulay ePortfolios.  At these sessions each group gave overviews, discussed our development and support processes, and talked over key issues with the audience, like how to present help documentation that makes sense for users.
(image by the inestimable lwalzer)

The second session was called Developing and Extending WordPress for Higher Education.  (Ten points if you can spot the difference in the titles!)  In this session the CUNY teams were joined by Tim Owens from UMWBlogs.  Tim spoke about ds106, an “open, online course that you can join in whenever you like and leave whenever you need.” 

In addition to bragging a bit about our role, we also want to be sure our users check out the important work going on there, so PLEASE check out ds106, particularly if you’re one of our CityTech faculty.  One feature of DS106 is crowd-sourced assignments (here’s a bunch of great examples, and so is the ‘slideguy’ at the top of this page).  Users submit assignments for others to do, complete assignments, and write tutorials describing how to do the assignments.  And the result, sometimes, is this:

(image by Annie Grotophorst)

Tim also talked about the Inspire blog, which we just love as a solution to the problem of making sure people see good work done on our sites, even as those sites get larger and larger.  Because ds106 participants create hundreds of posts, it’s easy for things to fall by the wayside: Inspire was created to allow users to act as curators, and recommend their favorites.  Our own home page was designed with this kind of thing in mind as well. Here’s a great one.

Pretty inspiring!


This Week In the Openlab: June 4th Edition

(Image by Michael Baird via Creative Commons)

It’s June, and so maybe this image is a happy elephant seal father and his elephant seal child or maybe it’s a couple of happy elephant seal graduates.  Or maybe they aren’t happy.  In any case, they’re certainly letting off steam!

Just two quick things this week…


The Kahn Academy

We’re always looking for online resources to share, and realized the other day that we haven’t yet shared The Kahn Academy, an incredible project creating and collecting video lessons on a wide variety of topics, from math and science to economics to the humanities.     You’re free to use any of these for your educational purposes and, because the videos are all hosted on YouTube, they’re easily embedded on The Openlab.   Just click the “watch on YouTube” button near the lower right, circled here:

Once you’ve done that, just follow the embedding YouTube video instructions found here on The OpenLab.  And a lot of people are working very hard on these videos–please give credit where credit is due!


Featured Tutorial:   Embedding YouTube Videos

As we were typing the above, we realized that somehow we haven’t yet featured a YouTube embedding tutorial here on The Open Road.  We’ve dealt with it in other places on The OpenLab, but want to make sure it’s here.  It’s about the easiest thing besides typing on the OpenLab, but do note that if you’re used to other wordpress installations, including, there might be a very slight difference, so be sure to have a look.


Embedding YouTube Videos

Embedding YouTube Videos on the OpenLab is about as simple as it comes.  Just a couple steps, and you’re done.  The only thing to note is that this might be a little different than what you’re used to if you’ve used other wordpress systems, including  In fact they’ve made it a little easier.

First, click the “Share” button beneath the video, then click “embed.”  Then copy and paste the link (circled below) NOT the iframe embed code (and here’s the difference from what you might be used to.

Next copy that link into the html window of your post.  If you’ve never noticed, there are two tabs in the upper right of your post dialogue box.  Click the html tab, then enter the copied link.

You can then switch back to the visual tab to finish your post.  Then hit publish, and that’s it!  As always, contact us with any questions.

This Week In Openlab: May 29th Edition

(By Itai (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, got a break, had a picnic, enjoyed the weather!  In honor of the short week, this week’s This Week won’t tax your patience…

Reminder:  Upcoming Workshops and Student Opportunities

Last week we put up two very important posts, and we just want to be sure they don’t get lost in the end-of-the-fall-term-beginning-of-the-summer-term shuffle.  The first is this notice about upcoming workshops, the first couple of which are THIS Thursday, May 31st. Do note that if you saw this information a long time ago, or even signed up a few months back, that this notice includes a room change.  We’ll be in (the hopefully very cool) A540, the main library classroom.  Hope to see you there!

Also, don’t forget about the Student Opportunities that we posted a few days back–and please tell your friends or students if you think they might be qualified and interested.  As always, contact us with any questions!


Featured Work:  Class Projects Around CUNY

As the Fall term closed, student website projects from all over CUNY started to appear, and we thought this week we might highlight one.  The Macaulay Seminar 2 Encyclopedia, showcases work done by MHC scholars in their second honors seminar, a course called “The Peopling of New York City.”   There are a number of fine examples in here of what can be done for a large-scale, student-directed final web-project for courses.

Have a look through around here and let us know if anything strikes you as something you might like to try on your own site or in your class–because we use the same digital platform (wordpress), what you see here can usually be done on the OpenLab, and we’d love to help.


We’re on Twitter!

 (image by by ecastro via Creative Commons)

We’ve implied, but not specifically mentioned, that we have a twitter account, and you should follow it.   Its @citytechopenlab, and it’s spectacular.  Join us!

Student Employment Opportunities!

(photo by m_dougherty via Creative Commons)

Help build the OpenLab!  We are looking for student applicants for two very exciting positions!  Check out the details below…


Student Blogger

Students, share your experiences and ideas with the City Tech community! And get paid!

City Tech’s OpenLab, our new, open-source digital platform for students, faculty, and staff, is looking for enthusiastic City Tech students for an exciting student blogging project. Everyone here has a story to tell – are you willing to share yours?

Starting in Fall 2012, OpenLab Student Bloggers will write a short post every two weeks about whatever interests you and your fellow students. Your posts could be about you: maybe you’re from another country, a parent, coming back to school after years away, a veteran, etc. Or you could write about what interests you and your friends and classmates: music, sports, food, movies, the 2012 election…

As well as writing on the site, OpenLab Student Bloggers will work with the OpenLab team to create conversation on the OpenLab by commenting on the posts written by other student bloggers and members of the OpenLab community.

And there’s more: In addition to being great for your resume, student bloggers will receive a stipend of $300 per semester.

To Apply:
Contact us at In your email please explain the point of view you’ll be bringing to your posts and why you should be chosen as one of our student bloggers. Please attach your resume and a short writing sample (just two or three paragraphs). In your writing sample you should write in the style you think you’ll use on your blog; there’s no need to be formal—you’re not being graded on this!—but you’ll need to be clear and interesting.


Student Community Builder

A small group of OpenLab Student Community Builders will join our friendly Community Team to help support the student members of the OpenLab community. You will:

  • Be an active presence on the site, greeting new student members, and commenting on student work.
  • Provide online assistance to student members on an as-needed basis.
  • Work with the Community Team to provide training to student users who may be inexperienced with technology, teaching them about blogging and what it means to have an online presence.
  • Conduct outreach to student user groups such as clubs and research projects.
  • Write posts for the Open Road ( and other blogs.
  • Assist with writing student-focused Help content.
  • Assist with testing new features and fixes, and provide feedback on site functionality.

Ideal candidates will possess the following:

  • Strong in-person and written communication skills.
  • Ability to work in a team, be reliable, and meet deadlines.
  • Comfort and familiarity with common social media platforms and online tools such as Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, etc.

Familiarity with the OpenLab is required.

Hours and Pay:
Approx. 3 hours a week, $12.50 per hour, during the Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 semesters

Start Date:
The position will begin in mid-August 2012 (some training will be needed before the start of the Fall 2012 semester).

To Apply:
Contact us at Please send a resume, a few links to your online work, and a short note describing your interest in the position, how your experiences qualify you for it, and how you can help us make the OpenLab a better place for students. If you already work within the CUNY system or for the Research Foundation of CUNY, please note that, too.

This Week in OpenLab: May 21st Edition

(Image by Tony Fischer Photography via Creative Commons)

After such a terrifically beautiful weekend, it’s pouring outside my window right now.  But this guy seems to be making the most of it, so let’s all try to be more like him.


Help!  The Sequel

Last week we asked for your suggestions and comments on how to make the OpenLab a better place, but we forgot to mention one specific way we’d love for the community to help us out.  As you can see, WordPress has over 1500 themes for their users, and we’d like to make sure that the OpenLab has the very best options for our users.  If you come across themes that you think might be useful–either here in WordPress’ own library or elsewhere–please let us know.  Do note that specific compatibility issues with multi-site installations like ours mean that we won’t be able to use all themes.  But with your help, we’ll do our best to find themes that are reliable and work for the most users.


CUNY Math Blog

Shocking as it might seem, there are wonderful things happening in eduction outside our OpenLab!  Not long ago we were doing some snooping over in the the CUNY Academic Commons (to which many of you already belong), and came across the CUNY Math Blog, and in particular this post by Asya Shpiro of Medgar Evers, which discusses how math is being taught in elementary schools.  Not only was it interesting to some of us who have children that age, it’s also a great example of how platforms like the the Academic Commons and the OpenLab can be that critical bridge between inside academia and ‘the real world.’


In The Spotlight:  The Archive

Many of our users have come to rely on “In The Spotlight” on the OpenLab homepage.  It’s a great way for us to highlight current activity that might otherwise be missed.  But what if three months from now you want to look up that wonderful work Sandra Cheng’s class did on Tim Hetherington?  Well, we’ve added an archive here on The Open Road to keep track–not much there yet, but it’s growing.


Featured Tutorial:  Exporting Your Site

(image by by twicepix via creative commons)

If you’re a faculty member, you might be wondering what to do with your courses when we want to move them to the next term.  There’s admittedly a lot to think about when it comes to this issue, and depends on how you set up your course, whether you’re teaching the same course, how many sections of a course you teach.  Your Community Facilitation team  is always available to help you plan these things out.  But one simple solution to issues of how to best move course materials from one term to another is to create a new site for your upcoming courses, and export all the old material there.  We’ve created a tutorial for how to do that here.  As always, please contact us with any questions.

Importing and Exporting Sites

If you’re a faculty member, you might be wondering what to do with your courses when we want to move them to the next term.  There’s admittedly a lot to think about when it comes to this issue, and depends on how you set up your course, whether you’re teaching the same course, how many sections of a course you teach.  Your Community Facilitation team  is always available to help you plan these things out.  But one simple solution to issues of how to best move course materials from one term to another is to create a new site for your upcoming courses, and export all the old material there.

To do so simply follow these simple steps:

1) click “export” under “tools” in the left hand navigation bar

2) You’ll then see the Export dialogue: You can choose “All Content” or just pages and posts, you can even choose which authors to import.  Once you’ve made those decisions, click “Download Export File.”   That saves all your site’s information on your computer in an .xml format.

3)   Now once you’ve created a new course (if you need a refresher, you can find that here).

4) Once you’ve got your new, blank course, go to “Tools” on that new course dashboard and click “Import.”  On our system, you’ll be asked to choose a system.  We only have one, so click “WordPress.”

4) Choose your .xml file from wherever you saved it (on most, the default is your download folder).  Click upload file and import, and you’re done!

A few things to note:

  • not everything will look the same–images will move, formatting will change, widgets will be reset, and menus will reset to default.  But all of your pages and posts and content will move (look for them under pages and posts on the dashboard), and it won’t take long to readjust things the way you like.  This import/export process is really about content, not form.
  • exporting will not take documents from the course profile page, only the site.  Documents from the course profile page have to be moved or re-uploaded.
That’s it!  As always, please contact us with any questions.