This Month on the OpenLab: August 2020 Release

Bee on a yellow flower.
bee & planidium by André De Kesel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

On August 4, 2020 we released version 1.7.44 of the OpenLab. It was a large release, and included multiple new features, new plugins, updates to all existing themes and plugins, and updates to WordPress and BuddyPress, the software that powers the OpenLab.

New Features

  1. We redesigned and expanded the “badges” feature used to differentiate different types of Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios. Previously, we had badges for Open Educational Resources (OER) and First Year Learning Communities (FYLC), which could be used to filter courses on the directory page. We still have these two badges, but we’ve added the following:
    1. Cloneable: groups that can be cloned via shared cloning
    2. Open: groups that have open privacy settings
    3. Model: courses or projects that serve as cloneable models that have been peer reviewed to meet standards for best practices. Read more about model courses on our self-paced faculty training module, Teaching with the OpenLab.
    4. Department Resource: courses or projects that serve as resources for departments, such as model courses, course hubs, or department project sites.
    5. College Resource: sites that serve as college-wide resources, such as the City Tech Guide.
  2. Related to the new badges, we made a number of significant changes to search on the OpenLab to make it easier to find Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios:
    1. We revised the search box that appears at the top of the OpenLab site so that it searches across all types of groups—Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios. For example, if you search for “design” in the top search, you will now see all Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios with the keyword “design” in the title or description of the group.
    2. On the results page for this site-wide search, you can further refine the results to search only in particular groups, as well as the usual filters of school, department, etc. You can also use the new group badges to narrow down search. These additional ways of searching were also added in each of the group directory pages: Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios.
  3. The WordPress Block Editor (also known as Gutenberg) is now the default editor for all new sites on the OpenLab, but the Classic Editor is still available for anyone who wishes to use it. Read more on the Open Road about the transition to the Block Editor.
  4. Discussion, Docs, and Files—some of the tools available on a group’s profile—are now deactivated by default when you create a new group with a site. However, they can be turned on in the group profile settings. We found that they are not used very often when the group also has a site and can sometimes be confusing, providing too many potential places to add content. However, they are activated by default for all new groups that don’t have a site.
  5. We made a change to site menus so that the Profile and Home links automatically included in the site menu can be edited or removed. The Profile link can now be found in a section called “OpenLab” so if it’s removed, it can be re-added. The Home link can be re-added as a custom link.
  6. We made a few improvements to the appearance of the Library widgets that can be added to the sidebar of a site.
  7. There were some improvements made behinds the scenes to cloning that will improve the process for groups with a lot of content on the site.

New Plugins

We added four new plugins in this release:

  1. Highlighter Pro: logged-in members of the OpenLab can highlight and comment on specific sections of text on a post or page, allowing for more fine-grained engagement on a site than usual commenting.
  2. Gravity Forms Image Choices allows you to add images to a Gravity Forms quiz or survey.
  3. Setmore Plus allows you to add an appointment scheduler to your site.
  4. Meks Smart Social Widget is a simple plugin allowing you to add icons with links to your social media sites to your site sidebar.

Improvements to existing features

  1. We made some improvements to the Easy Table of Contents plugin—in particular, the feature that allows you to add a TOC widget to your site’s sidebar and “stick” the widget to the side of the page as you scroll down. For sites with a lot of content, this can be useful as a secondary navigation menu.
  2. We made a few small changes to the sign up page to help clarify that members don’t need to use their real name as their username, and that it can’t be changed once signup is complete. We also moved the Display Name field up to appear closer to user name. Display name is what members use to identify themselves publicly and it can be anything they choose.
  3. A number of small display and color improvements were made to the Education Pro, Hemingway, and Hamilton themes.

Retired Plugins

We retired a number of plugins that are no longer being updated and/or are not used by OpenLab members. These plugins will still be active on sites where they’re currently activated but won’t be available for activation on new sites. They include:

  1. Achievements
  2. Awesome Flickr Gallery
  3. BadgeOS
  4. BadgeOS BadgeStack Add-On
  5. Captcha
  6. Cardboard
  7. Category Order & Taxonomy Terms Order
  8. Gravity Forms Directory & Add-ons
  9. HTML Import2
  10. Mihdan: Ajax Edit Comments (Editing comments is now part of default WordPress functionality so the plugin is unnecessary.)
  11. Page Links To
  12. pageMash
  13. Page Tagger
  14. Simple Drop Cap
  15. Simple Pull Quote
  16. Table of Contents Plus (We still have Easy Table of Contents.)
  17. WP Simple Anchor Links
  18. WP-Pro-Quiz
  19. WP-SWFObject
  20. WPBadgeDisplay
  21. WPBadger

Bug Fixes

We fixed one bug and identified another plugin conflict that can’t be fixed right now.

  1. There was an issue with gallery blocks in the Block editor, where when a new gallery block was added, and you tried to add images from the Media Library there would be a message that “No items were found”. Navigating to the “Edit Gallery” link shows that all media library items had already been added.
  2. There’s a conflict between the TinyMCE Advanced plugin and Block editor where when the plugin is activated, the shortcut for choosing a new block type by typing “/block name” doesn’t work. We’re not able to fix this conflict right now, so please be aware of it.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

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