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Open Education at CUNY

A group devoted to making education open, accessible, and public through the use of open-source tools and non-proprietary software platforms.

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Open Education Resources at CUNY

  • Open Education

    Open Education is a term to describe the use of freely transferable
    educational resources
    ([] and
    []). These materials and
    their use predate both invention (1968) and widespread consumer and
    commercial use of the internet (1994). However, with the adoption of
    the Internet and the increasing availability of valuable educational
    resources distributed in much the same way as FREE and Open Source
    Software (FOSS), the movement has gained significant institutional
    backing, materials and momentum.


    City University of New York

    Today’s City University of New York dates back to the 1847 founding of
    the Free Academy by Townsend Harris, an early champion of public
    education and a pioneering diplomat who was the United States’ first
    ambassador to Japan. With an inaugural class of 143 academically
    qualified young men, the Academy set upon a mission to, in Harris’
    words, “let the children of the rich and the poor take their seats
    together and know of no distinction save that of industry, good
    conduct, and intellect.” The Academy quickly grew in reputation and
    enrollment and, as a new century approached, plans were approved for
    an expansive neo-Gothic campus uptown for what became known as the
    College of the City of New York. Twenty years after the first young
    men entered the Academy, a separate school for the education of
    teachers, the Female Normal and High School, later renamed Hunter
    College in honor of its founder Thomas Hunter, offered the same higher
    education opportunities to
    women. ([])

    The University includes eleven senior colleges, seven community
    colleges, The Macaulay Honors College and five graduate and
    professional schools, located throughout the city’s five boroughs.

    CUNY GC was founded in 1961 to primarily concentrate on the awarding
    of doctoral degrees. The GC quickly expanded from 4 to 27 programs.
    It currently offers 42 different PhD degrees. The Earth and
    Environmental Sciences boasts a world renowned scholar on
    incarceration, Dr. Ruthie Gilmore
    ([]) and
    the LIS Center ([]) whose mission is
    to explicitly study inequality.

    Open Education at CUNY

    Clearly the institutional mission of CUNY and Open Education have much
    in common. There have been some pioneering efforts in FREE software
    and Open Education at CUNY and much more to come. Their are two
    flavors of CUNY’s contributions. First CUNY professors,
    administrators and students contribute to and maintain FOSS projects.
    Second CUNY professors and administrators make public Free Educational
    Resources which are not FREE software.

    Also there are projects that have their nexus at the Graduate Center
    and a wide variety of projects in the public interest which occur
    outside of the GC. I am writing about the ones I know. I am hoping
    that this group can correct my inevitable oversights and omissions.
    Most of the projects at the Graduate Center I describe are programs
    with whom I am lucky enough to have had some interaction. To find the
    programs at other colleges, I searched for the college name along with
    linux, FREE software and Open Source. Apologies for any omissions.

    Reproducible research

    Producing new knowledge compels us to include another emerging
    movement in education, that of Reproducible Research. To define yet
    another term, this is the ability to reproduce published results.
    There are some fairly shocking data on how much of current research
    are not reproducible. In 2012, a survey done for Nature found that 47
    out of 53 medical research papers on the subject of cancer were

    Researchers explained in a 2006 study that, of 249 data sets from
    American Psychology Association (APA) empirical articles, 73% of
    contacted authors did not respond with their data over a 6-month
    period. ([])

    Elements of reproducible research

    – using research code that can be inspected
    – publishing all code that manipulates data
    – giving access to data that is used produce any published figures
    – giving specifications for any library configuration
    – making available any sensor data that was used to create data

    Free Software

    ‘Free software’ means software that respects users’ freedom and
    community. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run,
    copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. Thus, “free
    software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the
    concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in
    “free beer”.


    The freedom to inspect and improve the source code is crucial to the
    educational and research mission of a world class university.

    Scheduled talk

    – I, Evan Misshula [] will be giving a
    public talk specifically covering a tool for reproducible research
    on November 5, 2014

    Free Software projects at the GC

    Commons in a box

    The CUNY Academic commons contributes to FREE Software by developing
    and maintaining the Commons in a box platform
    ([]) which creates a WordPress social network.
    Developers from the CUNY Academic commons have contributed features
    and bug fixes which have been incorporated upstream at both WordPress
    Plugins and BuddyPress.

    Open CUNY


    OpenCUNY, the student-governed, open source, academic medium for The
    Graduate Center, CUNY community, where you can build the website of
    your dreams through a WordPress interface

    Current initiative

    In order to help OpenCUNY assess the current usages of OpenCUNY and
    plan for its next five years, they have launched OpenCUNY’s First
    Participant Survey here. Whether or not you’re on OpenCUNY, we
    encourage you to take 10-15 minutes of your time and share about your
    experience on digital platforms.

    CUNY Institute for Software Development

    CISDD’s mission is to promote economic development in New York City
    and encourage the growth of the New York software industry. CISDD was
    created by the Board of Trustees, as part of CUNY’s economic
    development initiative, in January of 2000. CISDD provides the
    software industry, as well as CUNY faculty and students, with
    opportunities to learn about cutting-edge software products and

    CISDD is particularly interested in promoting work on core and new
    software technologies, including: operating system enhancements,
    server-side software, Linux, security issues with software,
    distributed computing, logic and visualization.

    Free research code

    The research labs of at least four professors of Computer Science make
    regular contribution to FOSS projects.

    The Discrete Imaging and Graphics Group

    Led by Professor Gabor T. Herman this group has developed SNARK09
    ([]) which is a
    programming system for the reconstruction of 2D images from 1D
    projections. It is designed to help researchers interested in
    developing and evaluating reconstruction algorithms. In the area of
    image reconstruction, researchers often desire to compare two or more
    reconstruction techniques and assess their relative merits. SNARK09
    provides a uniform framework in which to implement algorithms and
    evaluate their performance. SNARK09 has been designed to treat both
    parallel and divergent projection geometries and can create test data
    for use by reconstruction algorithms. A number of frequently used
    reconstruction algorithms are incorporated.

    Big Spatial Data

    Jiangting Zhang has a series of online demos and research codes in the
    exciting interactive spatial data visualization and parallel

    Pattern recognition

    Computer Science Executive Officer has numerous research publications
    and teaching materials available on []. Research
    code for his cutting edge linear and non-linear manifold clustering
    algorithm is available at [] and

    Data Visualization

    Recent faculty addition Lev Manovich has released two new important
    visualizations in 2014, /SelfieCity/ and /The Exceptional and the
    Everyday: 144 hours in Kiev/. Selfie City ([])
    investigates the style of self-portraits (selfies) in five cities
    across the world. In an important step toward reproducitbility, the
    interactive selfiexploratory allows you to navigate the whole set of
    3200 photos. In the The Exceptional and the Everyday: 144 hours in
    Kiev ([]) uses computational and data
    visualization techniques to explore 13,208 Instagram images shared by
    6,165 people in the central area of Kiev during 2014 Ukrainian
    revolution (February 17 – February 22, 2014). All photos and their
    metadata are available on the site.

    GC Digital Fellows workshops

    There are a free series of workshops open to the CUNY GC community
    many of which concentrate on building open educational resources. The
    schedule is available at
    []. These include
    workshops on WordPress, Python, command line tools, git and data

    Based in the GC Digital Scholarship Lab, the GC Digital Fellows
    Program operates as an in-house think-and-do tank for digital
    projects, connecting Fellows to digital initiatives throughout The
    Graduate Center. Digital Fellows utilize a team-based approach as they
    explore creative solutions for projects that can be implemented in a
    collaborative fashion. In the process, the Program helps build out
    “The Digital GC” — a vision of the Graduate Center that incorporates
    technology into its core research and teaching missions. Their
    reflections on this process can be found on their blog, Tagging the

    Institutionally supported student initiatives

    There were two student projects that came out of the Digital Praxis

    Social Paper

    The Social Paper won a Digital Humanities start up grant in 2013. The
    project aims to create a social network that allows graduate students
    to share seminar papers, enabling students to collaborate and
    facilitate conversations across the disciplines. – See more at:

    DH Box

    Ready-to-go configurations of Omeka, NLTK, IPython, R Studio, and
    Mallet live in DH Box. Through this praxis friendly environment,
    professors and students have instant classroom access to a cadre of
    gold-standard DH tools. Professors will be able to launch a DH
    computer lab in just a few minutes and guarantee their students an
    ideal environment for hands-on learning. ([])

    This is accomplished by making a linux computing environment available
    over the web. Behind the scenes DH Box uses Docker () to allow
    multiple users and non-overlapping directory structures.

    Free Software project not at the CUNY GC

    City College

    City College has become the host of the New York Linux Group. Their
    next meeting is August 21

    Hunter college

    Carson Farmer ([]) has contributed to
    a number of Graphical Information System programs including GeoPandas

    John Jay

    John Jay hosts NYC4Sec([]) which is a
    computer security and forensics meetup in NYC. A number of its
    members have made contributions to the Volatility

    Open educational resource

    Journal of Interactive Teaching and Pedagogy

    The CUNY Graduate Center is home to Journal of Interactive Teaching
    and Pedagogy. JiTP’s mission is to promote open scholarly discourse
    around critical and creative uses of digital technology in teaching,
    learning, and research. Educational institutions have often embraced
    instrumentalist conceptions and market-driven implementations of
    technology that overdetermine its uses in academic environments. Such
    approaches underestimate the need for critical engagement with the
    integration of technological tools into pedagogical practice. JITP
    endeavors to counter these trends by recentering questions of pedagogy
    in our discussions of technology in higher education. The journal will
    also work to change what counts as scholarship—and how it is
    presented, disseminated, and reviewed—by allowing contributors to
    develop their ideas, publish their work, and engage their readers
    using multiple
    formats. ([])

    Futures Initiative

    Another exciting new open educational resource is the Futures
    Initiative ([]). The Futures
    Initiative is dedicated to creating and inspiring new methods of
    interdisciplinary and collaborative learning and pedagogy in order to
    stimulate institutional changes in higher education. Drawing upon and
    catalyzing the energy of CUNY faculty and students, the Futures
    Initiative seeks to explore new models for empowering the next
    generation of college professors to teach and engage in research most
    effectively in our modern age. The Futures Initiative encourages
    peer-to-peer pedagogies that support open and connected forms of
    learning, experimentation, and multimedia publication. Housed at the
    Graduate Center and extending throughout the CUNY system, the Futures
    Initiative serves as a model for innovation and aims to inspire public
    reinvestment in higher education and in our collective future as a

    One of the many innovative projects is a new course on the Future of
    Higher Ed taught by Futures Initiative Director Dr. Cathy N. Davidson
    and former CUNY-GC President William Kelley. The course has a public
    collaborative syllabus
    Information about the course and open materials are available at

    Open educational projects not at the CUNY GC

    Baruch college

    There is a Free and Open Source blog that has started at Baruch
    ([]). Baruch also has a detailed
    guide to using Open Source mapping software

    Macaulay honors college

    The Macaulay Honors College has produced a series of videos and a
    ([]) which
    informs citizens on scientific issues. This was highlighted on this
    group just yesterday

    Brooklyn College

    Samir Chopra, a military historian wrote a relatively early treatment
    of the philosophical implications of FREE software. It is available at

    College of Staten Island

    Professor Roy Vanegas has made his course on Web Design, Graphics, &
    Theory available on the web as an Open Educational Resource

    Queens College

    Queens College of the City University of New York announced May 14,
    2014 that Douglas Rushkoff, the famed cyberculture expert who
    originated concepts such as “viral media” and “social currency,” will
    be joining its faculty. This marks the first full-time academic role
    for the prolific media theorist, award-winning author, and
    documentarian, who is considered one of the most influential thinkers
    of the digital age. Starting this August, he will help lead the
    development of a new Master of Arts in Media Studies program that will
    address the technological and market forces that dominate our daily

    His book titled Open Source Democracy is available here

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