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Friday, June 9 • 1:30pm - 2:30pm
Towards a Commons for Open Learning: Commons In A Box OpenLab

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Commons In A Box OpenLab (https://cboxopenlab.org/) is free and open source software that anyone can use to launch a commons for open learning. Our remote roundtable session will introduce the platform and its goals, going beyond features and functionality to engage attendees in a nuanced discussion of the complexities of making open infrastructure for open education and the public good.
In Fall 2011, a team of scholar-practitioners at New York City College of Technology, CUNY, a public institution in downtown Brooklyn, launched the OpenLab (https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/), an open platform for teaching, learning, and collaboration that everyone at the college can use (Edwards et al.). Combining the open source publishing platform WordPress with BuddyPress for social networking, the OpenLab is a community-driven space where members can create and customize their own learning environments, work together across institutional boundaries, and share their work with one another and the world.
The OpenLab quickly became a vibrant hub of activity for the City Tech community and since then has served over 41,000 members – students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Inspired by this enthusiastic response, the OpenLab team partnered with the Commons In A Box (CBOX) project at The Graduate Center, CUNY to create Commons In A Box OpenLab, a commons for open learning modeled on the OpenLab at City Tech. Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC, CUNY) was an early adopter (https://openlab.bmcc.cuny.edu/), and other institutions at CUNY and beyond have established OpenLabs of their own and are actively contributing to the project.
In building CBOX OpenLab, we seek to offer a powerful and beautiful open alternative to “black-boxed technologies that amass and commercialize data on students, often without their knowledge” (Noble and Roberts 2017). Unlike closed, proprietary systems designed by external vendors and driven by market concerns, CBOX OpenLab is created by and with the communities it serves, and guided by the needs and values of open education. Instead of monetizing members’ work, it is designed to support open pedagogies and open educational resources, fostering interdisciplinary approaches and sharing of best practices. Communities can make their work more visible and accessible, and students can actively participate in the construction of their knowledge (Rosen and Smale 2015).
Our session will begin by introducing the platform and sharing example uses from the City Tech and BMCC OpenLabs. However, we recognize that even when platforms are designed for openness, in Stommel’s words, “pedagogical work in and around these new systems must continually poke and prod at their intentions, the assumptions we've baked into them” (2017); indeed, as Costanza-Chock reminds us, “design justice is not about intentionality; it is about process and outcomes” (2020). So we will ask attendees to join us in poking and prodding the OpenLab model, engaging with both the benefits and challenges of building, using, and supporting a commons for open education. Finally, we will discuss lessons learned and recommendations for those who are interested in adopting the platform or pursuing similar initiatives, and connect participants with a growing community of practitioners.

Costanza-Chock, S. (2020). Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need. The MIT Press. Available at: https://designjustice.mitpress.mit.edu/ (Accessed: 15 November 2022)
Edwards et al. (May 27, 2014). “Building a Place for Community: City Tech’s OpenLab.” Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy. Available at: https://jitp.commons.gc.cuny.edu/building-a-place-for-community/ (Accessed: 15 November 2022)
Noble, S. and Roberts, S. (March 13, 2017). “Out of the Black Box.” EDUCAUSE Review. Available at: https://er.educause.edu/articles/2017/3/out-of-the-black-box (Accessed: 15 November 2022)
Rosen, Jody R., and Maura A. Smale. (January 6, 2015). “Open Digital Pedagogy = Critical Pedagogy.” Hybrid Pedagogy. Available at: https://hybridpedagogy.org/open-digital-pedagogy-critical-pedagogy/ (Accessed: 15 November 2022)
Stommel, Jesse. (June 5, 2017). “If bell hooks Made an LMS: Grades, Radical Openness, and Domain of One’s Own.” Available at: https://www.jessestommel.com/if-bell-hooks-made-an-lms-grades-radical-openness-and-domain-of-ones-own/ (Accessed: 15 November 2022)

avatar for jean amaral

jean amaral

open knowledge librarian, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY, United States of America

Christopher Stein

Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY, United States of America

Friday June 9, 2023 1:30pm - 2:30pm EDT