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Learning in the Open with Commons In A Box OpenLab

Learning in the Open with Commons In A Box OpenLab


Charlie Edwards, OpenLab Co-Director, Commons In A Box OpenLab Co-Project Director, OpenLab, New York City College of Technology
Gina Cherry, Director, Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning & Scholarship, Borough of Manhattan Community College.
Tom Harbison, Acting Director, E-Learning Center, Borough of Manhattan Community College
Jody Rosen, OpenLab Co-Director & Associate Professor of English, New York City College of Technology
Ryan Seslow, CBOX OpenLab Open Educational Technology & Pedagogy Fellow, Borough of Manhattan Community College
Chris Stein, Chairperson, Media Arts & Technology, Borough of Manhattan Community College


Commons In A Box OpenLab is free, open source software that enables anyone to launch a commons for open learning. It was created here at CUNY through a partnership between two successful projects: the Graduate Center’s Commons In A Box (CBOX) community-building software (, and City Tech’s OpenLab (, an open platform for teaching, learning, and collaboration that has served more than 36,000 members to date. The result is a teaching-focused version of CBOX modeled on the OpenLab’s features and functionality that is being adopted at CUNY and beyond. BMCC is one of the first institutions to implement CBOX OpenLab, with a fully-functional site at Unlike closed, proprietary systems, CBOX OpenLab is designed to help students, faculty, and staff work together beyond the classroom and across institutional boundaries, sharing ideas with one another and the world. Built on the widely-used open source software WordPress and BuddyPress, it places a rich set of flexible tools for publishing and collaboration in the hands of everyone at the college, enabling members to shape their own learning environments using proven and sustainable technologies. Our session will showcase CBOX OpenLab, with examples from the City Tech and BMCC OpenLabs that demonstrate how it can be used for asynchronous community-building and learning activities, and how these improve the student experience in what has become a new normal, with asynchronous digital communication pervasive even in courses with set meeting times. We will highlight innovative features funded by the CUNY OER program that promote wide sharing of best practices and open educational resources. We will also address the people, processes, and technology infrastructure needed to power an OpenLab installation, including lessons learned from BMCC’s experiences of working with the platform. Throughout, we will engage participants in active discussion of the benefits and challenges of learning in the open.

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