Welcome to teaching on the Commons! We are excited to have you here.

Organized in the menu on the left, you will find  custom help pages created for instructors teaching their course on the Commons. These help pages explain the difference between teaching with a group or a site, how to invite students to the Commons, privacy options on the Commons, and provide several course models and ideas for teaching with OER. At the bottom of this page you will find several downloadable “Commons Quick Guides” that might be helpful for you and your students.

You can use the search bar above to find answers to your Commons questions. If you’re still stumped, feel free to get in touch with the Common Community team by sending us a message through the HELP button in the black menu at the top the page.

When choosing technologies to use in your teaching, it is important to consider what types of interactions the tool can foster. While the CUNY-provided Blackboard platform offers a suite of digital tools to manage a course, Blackboard is a “closed,” or “siloed,” environment where course content and student work is only accessible to participants in the course. Hosting a course on the CUNY Academic Commons presents opportunities for instructors to increase the openness of their teaching, employ experiential learning strategies, and integrate open educational resources (OER) into their curricula.

Open Source

The CUNY Academic Commons is built on the open source framework called WordPress, a collaborative web project developed by millions of individuals contributing to shared source code. Because WordPress is open-source, CUNY faculty and staff created and maintain the Commons, our own CUNY-dedicated WordPress platform. The Commons is free to use and can be customized to meet the needs of instructors and students.

Open Education

By moving digital work off of closed systems onto more open platforms, instructors can use increasingly  open and digital pedagogical strategies in their courses.

Courses that use open teaching methods often incorporate some combination of student blog posts, open educational materials, public-facing writing or projects, experiential learning, and/or multi-modal composition.  But you don’t have to do this all at once (or at all). Open and digital approaches can be foundational to the course or only used for a single assignment. Making decisions about incorporating open digital pedagogy (ODP) allows professors to consciously interrogate their current teaching praxis.

Open Pedagogy

Many faculty choose to teach their courses on open platforms like the CUNY Academic Commons because of the freedom and control that they entrust to their users. This freedom and control are core elements open pedagogy, a set of methods, principles, and strategies though which faculty structure their teaching.

  • Open pedagogy is networked, and values the seamless integration of resources on the web.
  • Open pedagogy favors granular privacy controls that allow faculty and students to control who can see and interact with their work.
  • Open pedagogy is explicit about who can access student data and for what purposes, and argues that students should have the ultimate control over what they produce.
  • Open pedagogy acknowledges that online learning spaces are designed and have aesthetic qualities that impact the learning experiences in a course. These qualities should be considered by faculty when constructing online course spaces.
  • Open pedagogy challenges the boundaries erected by the course schedule, the semester, the institution, and the academic discipline, offering faculty and students the tools to circumvent these walls should they desire.

Commons Quick Guides

Below you will find quick guides for getting up and running on the Commons. These PDF guides will be helpful for instructors and students.



Where Can I Find Directions On How To Use The Commons?

Your professor should explain how s/he will use the Commons for your class. Approaches can vary dramatically. Once you understand if your are expected to use a group and/or a site, you can use our Help pages and Quick Guides.

How Do I Join My Course Group Or Site?

When you register for a class, your professor will have your CUNY email and will send you an invitation to join the course group and/or site. If you haven’t received the invitation, check your spam folder. Make sure you are accessing your CUNY email address.

If this does not solve the problem, ask your professor to send another invitation, and to track it.

If you are not already a member of the Commons, you will first need to join the Commons, and then join your course site and/or group.


Click here for a downloadable Quick Guide for Joining a Group or Site

How Do I Find My Course?

Go to the “Courses” tab and use the filters to search for your course.

How Do I Create A Post?

In order to post, you must have a Commons account and be an Author on the site where you will be posting. You must be logged in to post.

Log in to the Commons and go to site where you will be posting. You can find the site by clicking “Sites” in the Main Menu and then clicking “My Sites”.

Once you are on the site, you can create posts in one of  two ways.

Option 1:  When you get to the site, locate the black admin bar at the top of the page. Click “+New”.


Option 2: In the dashboard of the site where you will be posting, visit the “Posts” area and click the “Add New” button on the top left.



There are two Editor layouts. To post in the Block Editor (below), add a title and post content (green boxes below). Make sure not to write in the “Simple CSS” area (red box) because this will not be visible to the post reader. Once your post is complete, click Publish (blue box). If you’d like to switch to the classic editor click the three dots (yellow box) and select classic editor.


In the Classic Editor, add a post title and content. If needed, select the post “category” from the Categories section of the right sidebar.


Once your have written your post, click “PUBLISH” on the right and the post will go live.

You’re done!

How Do I Make My Site Visible To My Professor?

To adjust the privacy settings on your individual or group site go, on your WordPress dashboard to Settings >> Reading.

Select one of the five visibility options.

To make your site open to everyone on the web, choose “Allow search engines to index this site.”

On the other end of privacy, especially if your site is in development, you might choose “I would like my site visible only to its Admins.”

See more about site privacy settings.



What is the difference between a page and a post?

A post is a chronological, journal style entry that has a date and time. A page is a more static type of entry and has the feel of a traditional website. If your site is a “blog” you probably will want your homepage to display your most recent posts. If your site is more of a traditional web site, you might want to assign one of your pages as your homepage.

How Do I Turn In An Assignment?

If your assignment is to create content on the Commons, the concept of “turning in” your work most probably means to make your comment or post visible to your professor and your peers. If you are commenting on a post, your comment will probably need to be approved by your professor first, and then it will be visible to everyone in your class.

Posts can be saved in Draft or Published right away. If you are done, make sure you hit “Publish.” Depending on your access level, the post will appear right away, or you will need your professor to approve it.

If your assignment is to create a site, make sure your professor can see it. See Site Privacy Settings.

I forgot my password, how can I reset it?

To reset your password, go to  https://commons.gc.cuny.edu/wp-login.php?action=lostpassword and enter username or email address. Click “get new password.”

You will receive an email with  a link to a page where you can reset your password.

How do I upload a photo of myself to appear on my profile and other areas?

After logging into the Commons, go to the top black navigation bar and hover over your existing (or default) photo.  Go to My Profile»Change Profile Photo.  Here you will find detailed instructions on how to upload an image. You can also create a gravatar, which will enable you to use that same image across many different types of websites.

How can I change my password?

After logging into the Commons, go to the top black navigation bar and hover over your avatar.  Go to: My Settings» General. Enter your current password and  your new password, then scroll down and select “Save Changes.”

How do I change my display profile name?

After logging into the Commons, go to the top black navigation bar and select: My Profile» Edit.  In the text box under “Full Name (required)” fill in your preferred name, then scroll down and select “Save Changes.”

Is there a limit on how many sites I can create?

No.  You can create as many Web sites on the Commons as you want.

How Do I Contact My Professor?

Ideally, your professor should have provided Contact Information, either on your Course Site or Course Group.

The teaching template is designed to quickly get a course site up and running. To use the Teaching Template, you will select the template during the site creation process. More information on the site creation process here.

The Teaching Template uses Twenty Twelve as the default theme. This can be changed at anytime in Appearance>Themes without losing any site content.

The template’s   Home page serves as an introduction to the course and provides class times and professor information.  The Syllabus, Course Schedule, and Resources  tabs provide easy to edit pages for your class.  The Posts tab is a place where professors can post an assignment and have students post their responses or reflections. Since the theme automatically activates the “Category Sticky Post” plugin, you can group your assignments by category, with the assignment at the top of the blogroll.

The “Reckoning” plugin is automatically activated on the teaching template. This plugin aggregates posts by student and category to simplify performance evaluation. This information can be viewed in Dashboard in Users > User Summary.

Below is an example of a site using the teaching template.  You can view this demo site online here.