The Commons Course Directory surfaces only classes taught on the Commons. For a complete list of courses, go to CUNY First.

On the Commons, a course may be composed of a group or a site or both. Courses can be searched via campus, disciplinary cluster, tags, and keyword.

Filters narrow search results – they have an implicit “and” condition. However, both the Campus and Disciplinary Cluster filters allow you to pick more than one option. So within these filters there is an “or” condition.  So if you check “BMCC” and “Baruch” in the Campus filter and “Stem” and “Social Science” in the Disciplinary Cluster filter, the directory will display all courses taught at BMCC OR Baruch AND within Stem OR Social Science disciplinary cluster.

Many courses on the Commons are private or semi-private (e.g. private group/public site or private site/public group). You can use the “Show public courses only” checkbox to display courses that have a public site or group.

Search results can be sorted by semester, newest, or alphabetically.

To remove all filters, simply click on the “Reset” button.

If no filters are entered, you will see four “Featured” courses, followed by the newest courses on the Commons. Once a filter is applied, the Featured courses will not display.

Course metadata is set up at group or site creation. It can also be edited if you are an admin of the group or site. If the course has both a group and a site, the group’s metadata trumps the site metadata in this directory search.

To edit a group’s metadata, admins should go to the Group homepage, click on the “Manage” option.

To edit a site’s metadata, admins should go to Appearance>>Customize>>General in the WordPress dashboard.

Many courses are private, and you if you want to access course details click on the “View public courses only” checkbox. Remember that a course can have private groups and public sites (or the inverse).

The OER Tag allows Commons users to identify sites and groups that “use, compile, or function as” open educational resources. This tag can be used for:

  • A site or group that compiles and/or links to openly-licensed OER materials on the web
  • A site or group that offers (self-created, professor- or student-created) openly-licensed content that can be used and remixed by others
A site or group with the OER tag may contain a mixture of open and closed materials. Look for Creative Commons licenses to determine which materials are OER. Learn more below.

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources are not just any materials that are free! OER are free and openly licensed materials that you can use in your course. A defining feature of Open Educational resources is that they have an “open license”, typically a Creative Commons license, which indicates that the author/creator of the material has made the work available for others to use, share, and adapt (depending on the license type).

Image of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

When determining if you are using OER ask:

  • Are these materials openly licensed?
  • Did the author/creator provide legal permission to use these materials and share them publicly? (check for type of Creative Commons License)
  • Did the author/creator provide legal permission to adapt the materials? (check for type of Creative Commons License)

OER might include openly licensed textbooks, content in the public domain, open course content including remixable assignments, disciplinary resources or guides, open access journal articles, audio-visual materials, info-graphics….the list goes on!

You can also use free materials available on the web to teach , such as YouTube videos and mainstream news articles. And while you can link to them, you cannot re-produce them or change (remix) their form or content. This is because while they are free, they are not open.

That PDF book chapter you scanned, or the article you’re linking to in the library database might be free to your students but they are probably not open(ly licensed). You can teach with those materials but — you should not make content available to the public if you do not have the rights to share it (e.g. providing public access to journal articles or book chapters).

You can share these materials with your students, but not the general public. There are ways to set up various levels of access on the Commons (e.g. a private page on a public site) – just ask us how!

You can also create and share your own OER on the CUNY Academic Commons. Everything on the Commons is shared under an open license of your choosing. Check out some of these examples:

Is all this OER stuff confusing? That’s okay! Many things are possible on the Commons – just get in touch with us!

Be aware: not all content on sites and groups tagged as OER is openly licensed. Please look for open licenses to determine which content can be shared, reused, and remixed.

Searching for OER on the Commons

Commons users can now search site, group, and course directories using this tag to discover a site/group that uses, compiles or is an OER.


Be aware: not all content on sites and groups tagged as OER is openly licensed. Please look for open licenses to determine which content can be shared, reused, and remixed.

Adding the OER Tag Site or Group as OER

The OER tag can be added to groups or sites that “use, compile, or function as” an OER. Adding this tag means that your group or site


…To an already-existing Site

Go to “Settings > General” in the site dashboard. At the bottom of the General Settings page, there is a section for “Additional Site Information”. Click the checkbox to indicate if the site uses, compiles, or functions as an OER.

…To an already-existing Group

Visit the “Manage” area of the group menu to view the Group “Details”. At the bottom of the Details page, you will see the “Additional Information” section to indicate that the group uses, compiles or functions as an OER.

…During Site or Group Creation

During the creation phase of a group or site, under “Additional Information” use the check box to indicate that the group or site uses, compiles or is (will be) an OER.

For more information about editing group/site information see the HELP pages below.

For more about OER on the Commons see here:

The Commons aims to support various grading methods and therefore does not offer a native grade book. However, the Commons does offer several tools for formative assessment to provide private feedback and low-stakes “grades” to students. Data about student work and instructor feedback can be exported and entered into an excel sheet or external grade book.

By offering tools for formative assessment instead of a full grade book, the Commons hopes to support instructors who would like to use a grade book but also foster spaces for alternative grading and assessment possibilities. Some instructors use the Commons to teach their course and continue to maintain the grade book in Blackboard. Other instructors on the Commons provide students with ongoing, time-manageable feedback through the Commons (WP-Grade Comments) and offer grade updates at select points throughout the semester (via email, commons messages, longer written feedback, or office hours). Other instructors on the Commons use student-centered grading techniques like contract grading or project-based assessment to give students more control in determining their engagement in the course.

The Commons team hopes the tools provided (described below) will support instructors who use the Commons for their courses. If you have a question or suggestion for grading on the Commons, please reach out to the Commons Community Team through the HELP button above.


Forum Participation Tallying

In a group, the “forum” allows group members to engage in a threaded discussion. Instructors often use this space to host asynchronous conversations asking students to post reading responses or reflections to share with one another, or to collect resources or turn in assignments for peer review.

Previously, there was no easy way to see how many times a student posted or engaged in the forum. In the Fall of 2020, the Commons added a  button in the group forum page that allows group admins to download a CSV file of forum participation. The CSV download button will create and download a spreadsheet containing each topic and reply create in the Group forum. Data includes each post topic, reply content, username, topic/reply URL, and date/time.

By downloading this CSV document and opening it in excel, an instructor could easily see each student’s participant in the forum, and read each students’ forum posts in one place. Downloading this document to your local computer also makes grading or tallying possible offline.


Click here for more documentation on group forums.


Professors can use two plugins to provide feedback on Commons sites. Both plugins described below work with Posts on  sites. So, students will need to turn in their work via posts or comments on the course website in order to use the following feedback tools.

To install plugins on your course site, go to Dashboard > Plugins. You must be an admin on the site to install plugins.

Below you will find an overview and directions of two plugins that help with grading on the Commons. For examples and ideas for how you might use these plugins in practice, see this page: Providing Student Feedback using Commons Tools.

WP Grade Comments

Typically comments on site posts are public and visible to anyone who can see the site. For example, students may leave a comment on each other’s work to foster online discussion before a class meeting.

WP Grade Comments allows the professor to leave a private comment and written feedback on students’ posts. The plugin also allows the professor to assign a “grade” to the post. These grades are not aggregated into blackboard or CUNYfirst and  are best used for formative, low-stakes feedback. Private comments and grades are only visible to site administrators (professors)  and the post authors (student).

A sample reading response post is below. The post is on a Commons site with the WP Grade Comments plugin installed. You will see (in the green boxes), where the plugin adds the options for creating a private comment and adding a grade to the post to provide feedback.



Posts, grades and private and public comments are aggregated by user with the Reckoning plugin, described below.

Reckoning User Summary

You can track and tally students’ work on a Commons site using the Reckoning plugin. Reckoning provides a User Summary for each user on the site. If students are authors on the Commons site and create posts or comments for their work as part of the course, this information will tallied by the Reckoning plugin.

To install plugins on your course site, go to Dashboard > Plugins. Once Reckoning is installed on your site, a “User Summary” page will be added to the Users area of the dashboard. To visit the User Summary on the site go to Dashboard > Users > User Summary.

There are two views in the User Summary: the Overview and Individual User Content. The User Summary page will display a list of all site users (students) and their posts and comments on the site. If  click the “Student Name” you can view the full content of each post and all comments created by a individual user.

The Reckoning plugin creates the User Summary page seen below, and you will see that the User Summary incorporates information from  the WP Grade Comments plugin, as described above. So if the professor assigns a grade, it will be pulled into the user summary. Private comments are indicated as such in the comments section.

To change a grade on a post, go back to the original post and add a new grade. This newest grade will replace the current grade that is visible in the Reckoning User Summary.

Overview View: A list of all users’ posts and comments


Individual View: Single user’s posts and comments, with content


Exporting Reckoning User Summary and WP Grade Data

If you would like to export User Summary data from Reckoning to use in an excel sheet or other grading tool, click the export button at the top of the User Summary page.

This export includes all information in the Overview page (seen above) – author username, grade, post title, comment title, Private comment Y/N,  date, and category.

The data export file does not include post and comment content . Individual user post and comment content is visible on the site but is not exported in the CSV data. The export data is most useful for tallying purposes. Use the Excel Filter tool to sort by Username to view a specific student’s summary.


Groups Forum Participation Tallying   Sites  Install the Reckoning Plugin to add a “User Summary” to the Users area of the dashboard. The User Summary page will display all site users (students) and list the posts and comments they have… Read More

The quickest and easiest way to get a course up and running on the CUNY Academic Commons is to use a Commons group. Learn more about instructional continuity at CUNY here:

For more information and quick guides for teaching online, you can also visit GC Online.

Teaching with a group allows instructors to share course documents in the group library, host threaded discussions in the group forum, and send emails to all group members.

Group can be hidden, private to group members, or publicly visible and open to all members of the Commons. If the Group is “Private”, all documents, forum posts, and other group functions are not visible or accessible if users are not logged into the Commons.

When viewing a Commons Group, all group activity will appear on the main “Home” page.  This activity feed will aggregate group forum posts, doc editing stats, files uploaded, and member information. The gray menu on the left facilitates navigation to the various group areas.

This page offers a brief  overview of a group. Check out additional Commons help documentation for more information on teaching with a group and groups overview, and  comprehensive directions for managing a group.


Group Areas & Functions

  • Home: group landing page and activity feed
  • Forum: threaded discussions (entries sent to group members’ via email)
  • Events: calendar to display group events (can be added by any group member)
  • Files: upload Word docs, PDFs, etc to make available to group members
  • Docs: create a ‘doc’ to share with the group; docs can be edited by any group member but only one member can work in doc at a time (each doc update sent to members’ email)
  • Members: list of members in group
  • Send Invites: invite new Commons user to group via username
  • Email Options: each group member can customize email options
  • Manage: group settings area; change member roles, accept group join requests, edit privacy settings, connect to site, and more


Steps for Setting up a Group

  1. Register/log in to the Commons.
  2. Go to Groups tab and click “Create a Group”.
  3. In the creation portal select Group and fill in necessary information.
  4. Navigate to your new Group. Add syllabus and course readings to files area.
  5. Invite members (students) to join the Commons and the group.
    1. Inviting Students to the Commons PDF Quick Guide
    2. Joining a Group PDF Quick Guide
  6. Create a forum thread to welcome students, provide course information, or start an online discussion.


Steps for students to join your Commons Group

To join your group, students must sign-up and register for the Commons using a CUNY email. Then, they can join or request membership to your group.

For Students joining the Commons:

  1. Head to the CUNY Academic Commons:
  2. Click “Register” in the top right corner.
  3. Complete registration by checking your CUNY Email to activate your account.
  4. Log into the Commons.
  5. Go to the groups tab and use the Group search bar to find your group.
  6. Join or request membership.


Commons Quick Guides (PDFs)

Sites on the Commons can be licensed openly using Creative Commons License. The Site Admin can select a site-wide license in Settings > Writing, or licenses can be set page-by-page or post-by-post.

By default, the CC license will appear on every page unless the admin uses the CC License widget to insert the CC license in the sidebar or footer widget area. Go to Appearance > Widgets to set up the site-wide CC license.

To restrict the copyright and remove the Creative Commons license from your site altogether, use the CSS below:

.entry-meta.entry-meta-creative-commons {
display: none;

Information about Creative Commons

Creative Commons allows creators to openly license digital artifacts to be shared online. Various license options allow you to retain some rights while also allowing others to use and remix your work.

“Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a globally-accessible public commons of knowledge and culture. We make it easier for people to share their creative and academic work, as well as to access and build upon the work of others.”

License explanations are here and a short guide to terminology below:

  • Attribution (BY): Anyone who shares/uses/remixes your work must give you credit. This is an aspect of every license.
  • Share Alike (SA): Anyone who shares/uses/remixes your work must share the work under the same open license.
  • No Derivs (ND): Anyone who shares/uses your work cannot change your work (no remixing)
  • Non-Commercial (NC): Anyone who shares/uses/remixes your work cannot use or make a version for profit.

There are several license types. At the bottom of the linked page, click “Use this license” for license images you can put on your digital artifacts.

Below you will find a rotating assortment of exemplary courses that have been taught on the Commons.

In “Technologies of Reading”, Professor Silva (York College) introduced students to the field of Digital Humanities (DH). Students created weekly blog posts to evaluate the readings, tools, or websites assigned that week. Blogging functioned as a scaffolding mechanism to prepare students for larger course projects.

Over the course of the semester students completed three major digital projects using various tools: students used Google maps to plot locations in an Isabella Whitney poem, created a Voyant visualization of patterns in Renaissance literature, and worked in groups to develop a digital edition WordPress website that addressed and explored concepts presented in English poetry.

To read more about Professor Silva’s course, check out her post, “Teaching Technologies of Reading on the Commons”.

Screenshot of "Technologies of Reading" Course

In Professor Tilley’s course “Music Since 1945” (Lehman College), students contributed to a “collaborative blog” to report back on music events they attended throughout the city. Professor Tilley used the “Events Calendar” WordPress plugin to provide up-to-date information about musical events going on throughout the city as a way to suggest options for student contributions to the Collaborative Blog.

On the same course site, students composed “private” blog posts to maintain a personal Listening Journal that was visible only to the student author and the professor. Each week various musical pieces were assigned; before class, students reflected in their journal and Professor Tilley responded to each entry. By engaging students in both public and private writing activities, this course site provided students with multiple avenues to engage with, digest, and explore course content and beyond.

To learn more about this course, see Professor Tilley’s post, “A Music Blog on the Commons”.

Screenshot of "Music Since 1945" Course

These courses are just two examples of the possibilities for teaching with the CUNY Academic Commons. To explore other open courses on the CUNY Academic Commons, visit the “Courses” tab.