BAS Degree Promotes Skills for Career Advancement

Designed with the working adult in mind, the Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.S.) is an online completion program designed for students hoping to transition from their technical fields to a bachelor’s degree. According to the B.A.S. website, “This interdisciplinary program is for students who desire to enhance their knowledge, analytical abilities and critical thinking skills for upward mobility in their field.” Students in the B.A.S. degree program will complete 18 hours of required organizational leadership courses and 18 hours of professional course electives. Required courses include Principles of Management, Writing for the Workplace, and Professional Communication. Options for the professional course electives include Data Analysis/Visualization, Organizational Psychology, and Persuasive Presentations.

To qualify for admission, prospective students must have an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree from a regionally-accredited college or university, or at least 40 hours of technical military credits. These credits will be applied to the 120 credit hours required for the B.A.S. degree.

 

Louis Scivally, B.A.S. Advisor


Freshmen

The College of Social Sciences and Communication B.A.S. and Transfer Advisor Louis Scivally works with current and prospective  students to make sure their path to a degree is as straightforward as possible.

“My process is this – make an appointment with me, and then you’ve got me for an hour. I will answer questions and talk for an hour…. I’m going to clarify, and make sure you understand,” Louis said.

For students who express an interest in the B.A.S., Louis first makes certain that they know what a degree of applied science consists of. “This degree is Bachelor of Applied Science. It’s not a bachelor of business. It’s not a bachelor of computer science. It’s an interdisciplinary degree. We are working with business, social science, [and] communication …” Louis said.


Transfers

Students who have completed their A.A.S. from a regionally-accredited school or who have at least 40 hours of technical military credit* can schedule an appointment with Louis to work out the details of applying that credit to a B.A.S. Before the appointment however, students can always better prepare themselves by checking with their previous school to see if they are accredited by one of the six regionally accredited bodies.

The regional accrediting bodies are:

  1. Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  2. Higher Learning Commission (HLC) (UA Little Rock’s accrediting body)
  3. Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  4. New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (NEASC-CIHE)
  5. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  6. WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

[List provided by Jennifer Moody, Director of the Office of Transfer Student Services]

*Military students who don’t know how many technical credit hours they have completed may contact the Military Student Success Center for help with determining hours.

UA Little Rock also provides students with a Transfer Equivalency Guide so students can see how their courses may transfer.


Advice

Louis is realistic about the obstacles students must overcome for their education. Because of the specialized nature of a B.A.S., he works closely with students to navigate the transition and make information more accessible.

“Talk to me. I can help you. We’re here to help you … We’ll talk through it together,” Louis said.

For many people working full time, and for those with children, finishing a bachelor’s degree may seem unthinkable. However, even if it’s one class at a time, it is attainable. As with any degree, compromises must be made, but Louis sees the potential in his students.

“You can do it. Let’s do this together. People don’t believe in themselves enough. You’ve got this … It’s the beginning of a change. One day at a time,” Louis said.


For more information on the B.A.S. check out ualr.edu/online/programs/bas.

To make an appointment with Louis, call him at 501.537.1930, email him at lfscivally@ualr.edu or go to calendly.com/thelinkadvising.

Course Spotlight: Information Visualization


“Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. To put that into perspective, 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the past two years alone…”

– via study published by International Business Machines Corp.


 

Dr. Dirk Reiners has been an associate professor at UA Little Rock since 2014. Information Visualization is one of four courses that he teaches with the Department of Information Science in the College of Engineering and Information Technology.

 

What does the Information Visualization course cover?

D: How do I turn data into a picture that helps people to better understand the data? How do people see? What are the things that they actually see? How does our brain interpret the images that we see? People might think that the eyes are cameras, but they’re not — totally not. They work very differently, so a lot of things that our brains and eyes do automatically change how images are perceived; we talk about that and what influence that has on how you visualize data.

We also talk about how to lie with visualization, because if you make your pictures wrong, you can give people impressions about data that are just wrong. Once you go through the class, you will see that being used effectively on a daily basis, mostly by politicians, because they really like to present things that are not quite right, but that look good.

The bulk of the class is about methods on how to visualize data. What are the different ways that we can present data in a visual form that helps people analyze and understand it better, and hopefully remember it better? And there’s different targets for visualization – and typical problems are that you have too much data, and not enough screen space … and how can we visually present data in a small space? There’s many different methods that go beyond the simple bar charts and line charts. We talk about those too. They have their place, but there’s a lot beyond that on how to visualize networks – how to visualize trees – sort of hierarchical structures, like an organization diagram – like directors, CEO’s, CTO’s, and down to all the little people. There’s a lot of different ways on how to present those hierarchical structures that are much more effective than others.

We also talk about different visual elements – what kind of visual elements makes sense – does it make sense to use colors for values between 1-100? The answer is no, because our eyes don’t work like that. It makes sense to use brightness. It makes sense to use color intensity, but the sort of typical red, green, blue rainbows are very bad for that… we’re gonna talk about that and many other things – on how to really turn information into visual elements that make sense – that people can actually understand.

What sort of data do students work with?

D: My goal whenever I do these classes that are project based – like the main work, besides some minor homework, is a project. So the goal is for the students at the end of the semester to have a project where they present some data that they are interested in, that they identified themselves. I give them sources. Fortunately there’s a lot of data publicly available now. The US government, the city of Little Rock, the state of Arkansas, and the United Nations – they all have data portals. Everybody. It’s a big trend in public administration in the last couple years is a data portal, so you can download all kinds of data – crime data, traffic violation data. You can find a lot of data online.

I really encourage people to pick their own data so that they do something that they are interested in. In many cases, if we work with graduate students, they already have a research project that generates data that motivates them to be in the course in the first place, and they can use that. I’m perfectly fine with them using whatever data makes sense – as long as in the end, they have a coherent visual presentation that shows something interesting about the data, and usually people realize that it’s very easy to get a lot of data, and most of it is pretty important, but there are always some surprises – and that’s what we’re looking for.

Any memorable or fun projects?

D: I don’t know if I would call it fun. The project that I remember – For some reason, the last time I taught the course, there were a lot of people interested in jail data. There was some discussion about jails, and some fairly interesting analysis on the distribution of jail times, and one of the students was very interested in the death penalty – so some good information, and some good visualization about which states have it, which states don’t have it, and how long are people on death row … not quite fun – a little more morbid.

There was a fun one. One of the students did a fairly interesting analysis about game data – how popular certain games are, how long the popularity lasts for the different systems, and the different kinds of games – different genres of games, so that was pretty interesting.

What sorts of students take the course?

D: We have a pretty wild mix. Because of the required course in information science, that’s the bulk, but we do have business information people – a little bit of everything. There’s usually a few computer science people, but all of the disciplines are welcome – so we have geologists, nursing, and some other faculties that I wouldn’t expect, but nowadays everybody has data, and pretty much every graduate student has some kind of data that they need to think about, and the course is fairly open to pretty much anybody who wants to know how to turn data into pictures.

What are some obstacles a student might encounter?

D: There is a lot of data sources, but typically the data is not always clean, so you need to spend a little bit of time trying to figure out how to clean it up, or how to turn it into something that the visualization tools can handle. Most of the students end up using a visualization tool called Tableau. That’s sort of the 800lb gorilla in the information visualization world. A lot of companies use it because for universities it’s free. It’s online, and it can handle a large amount of data.

The trick is trying to figure out how to make Tableau look interesting, because everybody has seen 100,000 line charts with blue, green, and yellow lines – so trying to find visual ways that are interesting, and really show what’s interesting. People are surprised that it takes a little longer than expected, and more tries. It’s a very iterative process. You try something and see if you get some interesting results, and if not, you try another way to look at the data. Typically it’s not a ‘I load the data, I press a button, and then I’m done’ thing. It’s really an explorative process, which is the goal of the class – to explore and to find new ways to visualize your information.

Favorite part about teaching the course?

D: It’s always interesting to see what kind of projects people come up with. As I said, I don’t really give any limits. Some of them are challenging, but most of them have turned out pretty well. My favorite lecture that I do is the one where we talk about perception and optical illusion. Those are really fun.

Advice for students interested in taking the class?

D: If you have a class that’s project based, start working on day one, and don’t wait until the last three weeks of the semester. I see that too often, and the results are always bad – that’s the nice thing about a project class – you can start at the beginning of the semester. Your first attempt is probably going to be pretty bad. That’s the point. You need to learn and see how you can make it better.


Examples of Data Visualization

Maps

Map visualization of multigenerational households in the United States
U.S. Census Bureau – Table R1106 Multigenerational Households
Map visualization of net job creation rates by state in the United States
U.S. Census Bureau – Net Job Creation Rates by State
Map visualization of the percentage of veterans among the adult population in the United States
U.S. Census Bureau – Percentage of Veterans Among the Adult Population

Word Cloud

This visualization was created using data from this article on a word cloud generator via jasondavies.com/wordcloud/.

word cloud of information from article

Industry-backed programs prepare future leaders in data quality

Dr. John Talburt
Dr. John Talburt | IQ Graduate Coordinator, Professor and Advisor

The Information Quality (IQ) graduate programs at UA Little Rock are designed to prepare students for the rapidly growing field of information quality by providing a comprehensive education of theory alongside industry-standard training. Students may choose from a graduate certificate in IQ, Master of Science in IQ, or a Doctor of Philosophy in computer and information sciences. 

According to the IQ program page, the programs are “designed to prepare students to pursue a variety of IQ careers such as Chief Data Officer, Information Quality Manager, Director of Data Governance, Data Steward, Information Quality Analyst, and Data Scientist, or to pursue doctoral-level graduate studies in preparation for information quality research and instructional roles.”

Dr. John Talburt, coordinator and advisor for the IQ graduate programs, is a leading researcher in his field and an award-winning faculty member. He is known for helping students not only on their academic paths, but also with establishing thriving careers.


Talburt relates the information quality field to the manufacturing industry. In manufacturing, total quality management was a revolution, propelling Toyota to be the world’s leader in automobile production. “[In a manufacturing process] you take in the raw material, you manufacture a product, and you try to embed quality in all the processes that produce that product,” Talburt explained.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) IQ program was based around thinking of information systems like factories. “So your raw materials coming in are data coming in. Instead of machinery you have programs. Then the key element is to think about what comes out of your information system as a product … If you think of it that way, you can apply all the principles of manufacturing quality to information quality production,” Talburt said.

By following the paradigms developed in total quality management, the program focuses on how to create high quality information products from a system. The program also has a business focus, considering implementation of quality programs in information technology are management issues. “There is a lot of project management associated with carrying out these improvement projects … and there is a lot of change management, and here I mean organizational change – getting people to think about data as an asset, getting them to think about their responsibility, and what we call data stewardship – taking care of data that’s in their possession; so, it touches on a  lot of management issues as well as technology issues.”


History

The information quality graduate program began at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock as a joint venture with MIT and Acxiom. In 1998, while Talburt was working with Acxiom, the company became interested in data quality and asked him to guide them on how it worked. So Talburt did the exact thing that many of us do when we are trying to learn something new – he looked it up online.

“The first thing that comes up is MIT and a guy named Richard Wang, who is the director of the MIT data quality program. So we reached out to him,” Talbert said. Soon after Wang came to Arkansas to talk about MIT’s program, a total data quality management program was implemented at Acxiom. While MIT had an information quality program, it was an executive-outreach training program. Wang wanted a real degree program.

Dr. Mary Goode, founding dean of the College of Engineering and Information Technology, was on the Acxiom board. Between Goode, Charles Morgan (leader of Acxiom at the time), and Wang, the idea of starting an information quality graduate program at UA Little Rock began. Talburt had been at UA Little Rock before as the chair of computer science and was recruited back in 2005, when he immediately began developing the curriculum. Training material contributed by MIT was converted to courses, and the program was approved by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education in April 2006. By Fall 2006, they had their first cohort of students. By 2007, all of the courses offered in the MSIQ went online. Today, all IQ graduate programs are offered completely online through UA Little Rock Online. 


Future

In a rapidly growing world of data, Talburt embraces change within the field.

“This is an evolving thing,” he said. “It changes all the time. The program is much different now than it was [at the beginning]. Most of the courses have the same title, but their content [and tools] has changed dramatically…. We are now using the big data tools. Data quality in the era of big data is more important than ever. There’s been a big emphasis now on data governance. [Dr. Elizabeth Pierce] teaches a course on that called data information quality policy and strategy, and that’s been huge.

“We’ve got great support from industry as well. SAS has donated the use of their data quality tool called data flux for us to use. We use that in our classes. Collibra, which is the leading data governing software company, allows access for all of our students to Collibra Academy for getting hands on experience with data governance tools ….”

The MIT information quality conference has been hosted at UA Little Rock three times, most recently in October 2017. Graduates of the IQ graduate program can be found at a variety of corporations including Bloomberg, USAA, Google, IBM, and VISA. “The graduates have very good employment. We’re kind of in the data science, data age. Matter of fact, we had a job fair just recently in association with an IQ conference, and one of the companies there, it was actually USAA insurance, told me later, they said ‘This is the only college where we go and recruit that students know data quality is, and what data governance programs are about.’ … These are things that are very important now in the new data driven economy, so it’s really boosting our program,” Talburt said. 


Advice

Although the IQ graduate programs accommodate students of diverse backgrounds, Talburt does have recommendations for those without related experience.

“Even though we’re very welcoming, [students] should also understand they do have to take these courses on systems analysis and database systems, and data visualization that require them to be able to do some level of minor programming or at least using tools,” Talburt said. “We recommend [that] if they are going to get into any languages to use either Java or now very popular Python. It’s very accessible to learn Python now as well … They really need to have some acquaintance with programming, database, and also statistics.” Talburt said students can find a number of resources online for training and understanding of these concepts.


Course Spotlight: Business Communications


“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right?
This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

― Jerry Seinfeld

 


In 2005, Sarah Clements graduated from UA Little Rock with a masters degree in interpersonal & organizational communication (now called applied communications) and started teaching within the College of Business. Her course, business communications, helps students with what many cite as a major fear: public speaking. 

What do you teach at UA Little Rock?

S: The course I teach right now is business communication. We cover business writing and business speaking – so it’s two of those things that are combined into a 16-week course …. We do correspondences, so we talk about all the different methods of writing. [The students] do short reports. They do presentations. They do an informal speech. They work on resumes [and] cover letters, and they have a mock interview at the end of the course.

How long have you been teaching online?

S: When I started I taught on campus. There might have been one or two courses offered online. Within a year or two of teaching, I was teaching both online and on campus. It was kind of 50/50, and it has always been 50/50 since then.

How does the online class differ from a physical classroom?

S: Online we use Collaborate (video-conferencing software through Blackboard), so students meet virtually to do their presentation that way. In class they do partner speeches. Online they do partner speeches … They still have to meet and figure out the best way to communicate for each pair, and they can either pick their own partner or if they don’t pick one, then I will assign them. But I will get them at least the chance to go through introductions and kind of see who is similar to them, so their schedules can align. They can meet face to face. I’ve had some say ‘Hey! You’re in my same town ….’

They can [still] do everything virtually online through Collaborate, because they can both go into a session together, record their presentations, and do it that way. They do a lot of Collaborate options, so they get used to being in front of a camera, because I think that’s probably sometimes more difficult than being in class.

Who would benefit from taking this class?

S: It’s professional communication, so anyone would benefit from it. I start with the formal tone, because I assume that students who understand the formal tone when they write a message can adapt it all the way down to being informal … We’re pretty good at being informal, but I want students to understand the formalness when you send an email to someone you don’t know.

How do you start it? You don’t just start it with ‘Hi, so and so’. You have that formal ‘Dear so and so’ with a colon, and start it out formal. Always adapt to the audience. How do they respond to you? And then adjust [from there].

It’s very interesting. The first assignment they have is to write a professional email to me. So it’s kind of funny to see who takes that lesson and continues to apply it and who takes that and never applies it. Start it with addressing the person by name at least and use proper capitalization and punctuation. It’s not a text message.

Why does how and what we write matter?

S: People read your post or your messages, and there’s a perception created by the words you’ve used or the words you didn’t use, and the lack punctuation, or the punctuation that is there … We’re creating a perception of ourselves, and there is a message communicated just by the way you’ve written something.

What are some of the biggest challenges you see students face?

S: They definitely don’t like speaking. And that’s not across the board, but that’s one of the things that most students do not look forward to. And their speeches are recorded for them to self evaluate. They are loaded in their Blackboard shell, and they can go in and self-evaluate, and kind of process what they need to work on, and … find the things they did really well and highlight those, and then also identify one or two things to continue to work on. But, speaking is not something that people enjoy a lot.

Actually, I have them on the first day get up and introduce themselves, because it gets it over with. You’ve done it now. You’ve spoken to your classmates. I continually try to make sure they know each other, because sometimes people are more comfortable speaking to people they know versus people they don’t know. Yeah, I would say speaking is one of the biggest challenges for them. Writing is a struggle for some of them, too.

What’s a “do not” for email communication?

S: Joking.

Joking doesn’t always come off in text messages or emails in the way you think they might, and so just being very careful with that. If your audience doesn’t know you and you’re sarcastic, but you’re joking about it, it may not translate, which can create more of a problem with communication. The miscommunication can happen, and there are troubles that can be caused by something that was not intended, so just be very careful with that.

And a “do”?

S: Positive communication.

Even if you’re trying to deliver something negative, how can you say it in a positive way? So trying to really remove “no” and “not” from your language and you know, instead of saying “you can’t do this,” instead tell them what they can do.

The one I always talk about in class is “Do not walk on the grass.” Well, if you don’t want me to walk on the grass, what do you want me to do? Walk on the sidewalk, right? So, “Please use sidewalk.” So it’s kind of shifting that negative thing and making people see the positive side of it.

Advice for students trying to communicate effectively?

S: Proofread. Really proofreading and making sure you’re sending the message you want to send and that.

Anytime you’re asked to speak, do it.

Even though you don’t want to do it, it’s going to make you better. So I try to even do that for myself. I teach speech, but it’s not something I want to do, right? And so anytime I’m asked to do a speech or presentation, I say “yes,” because I tell my students to do it [and] those things are what’s sharpening us and making us better at what it is that we want to do.

What’s our end goal? Well our end goal is to be the best at whatever it is we’ve set out to do, so even though my first reaction is “No, I don’t want to do that. No, you can find somebody else” … but because I tell my students, “Say yes, because it is gonna make you better,” I try to do the same thing.

20-30 minutes. That’s it. This does not define me. This will just refine me. But at the end of the day when I walk away from this, I will have learned from it … and for the most part, I’m sharing information with people, so they are interested in what I’m trying to share, so letting that be my focus instead of all my anxiety and nervousness.


For more info on Sarah’s business communication course, check out the course listing here.

Doors open for students with business management degrees

Dr. Susie Cox & the BBA in management online

The College of Business at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock offers the Bachelor of Business Administration in management in multiple formats, including completely online. Students can choose whether they want to focus on human resource management, general business management, or innovation and entrepreneurship.

Maybe you’re already in a career field you love, but you’re looking for a way to expand your options in the workplace. Perhaps you haven’t chosen a career just yet, and you’re interested in a degree that’s as open and versatile as you are.

If gaining transferable skills and advancing your career are at the top of your wants list, you may be interested in seeking a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in management.

Business administration covers a broad field of study, from marketing and information systems to management and human resources. Business students gain knowledge in all areas of modern business and across all industries. Students also reap the benefits of learning leadership skills that go beyond any specific field or workplace.

In addition to this, many courses emphasize communication skills, team-building abilities, and critical thinking skills, preparing students to be effective leaders. Students in a business degree program do not confine themselves to a particular field, leaving the door open for many possibilities. Business people at a meeting

The College of Business at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock offers the Bachelor of Business Administration in management in multiple formats, including completely online. Students can choose whether they want to focus on human resources management or general business management.

Dr. Susie Cox, professor and chair of the Department of Management, speaks to the variety of options for management degree holders, even for those who are unsure of where they are headed in their careers.

“When you get a management degree, you may not know exactly what you want to do, but you know you want to be in business, or you want to be in the management of a business,” Cox said. “So for many students the choice is, ‘What industry to I want to go into,’ rather than, ‘I want to be a manager.’ We see our students in a variety of industries, a variety of jobs, [and] levels within the organization. You determine your own destiny when you get a management degree.”

The management faculty offer the added benefit of experience within the online environment, Cox adds. “Specifically for [the College of Business], we were teaching this in an online environment for over a decade now. So we have professors that are very comfortable managing online classrooms.” She points out that nearly half of the students within the online business programs are considered “non-traditional” in the sense that they are working adults who study part time.

woman on laptop outside The flexible format of the online management program also makes it an excellent option for traveling students. “We have several students that began their programs here at UA Little Rock, and they chose to move out of state. They are able to continue their degree,” Cox said. “We have people in Louisiana, in California, [and] in Washington DC that are in our program because they have an attachment to UA Little Rock. They want to finish their degree with UA Little Rock, and we are offering that now with the online campus.”

The BBA in management is a 120-hour degree program that “prepares students for professional leadership positions in small businesses, corporations, and government,” according to the Department of Management website. Management majors gain the knowledge and skills to prepare them for positions such as general manager, project manager/specialist, employee relations manager, and training specialist.

The human resources emphasis “focuses on the development of knowledge and applied skills in managing people and solving people-related problems.” Students are prepared for entry-level careers in human resource management and for management roles in organizations of all sizes. Students explore topics such as the legal environment of employee relations, employee training and development, employee productivity improvement, and union-management relations.

Cox expresses genuine pride in the management faculty and department. “It’s the strength and experience and concern that our faculty have for students,” she said. “The online experience will be very valuable. Our faculty are very engaged in our online classes. We get great feedback… Our faculty are accustomed to teaching online and know how to engage students. It’s different.”

To explore the business degree programs available through UA Little Rock Online, including the BBA in management, please visit our “Business Programs” page at ualr.edu/online/program-types/business.

The future of college textbooks is open

Stack of books and laptop on wooden tableFor many students and parents, the cost of college textbooks may come as a surprise. A study published by the General Accountability Office in 2013 revealed that textbook costs rose 82 percent between 2002 and 2012. The National Association of College Stores (NACS) says the average college student will spend $655 on textbooks each year. The frustration that comes with these rising costs has motivated educators to provide more affordable and accessible academic resources for their students.

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are defined by the Hewlett Foundation as “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”

Using OER in higher education varies greatly from class to class. Some teachers may use OER by showing a video, while others design their course around curated material. In many cases, OER are simply used to enhance personal knowledge and learn about topics related to academic research. For students, OER can complement a course they are taking. One example of OER is MERLOTx, a student portal of free online material including learning modules, online courses, and online textbooks. A student can find textbooks on art, business, science and technology, and even workforce development.

Historically, faculty members and students had limited options with course materials and textbooks, relying primarily on publisher content. However, OER initiatives at colleges and universities around the world are growing rapidly. The Instructional Technology Council, a national leader in distance education, started tracking open education impact in 2012. An annual survey showed that member institutions reported a 20 percent growth in OER adoption. Karen Gardner-Athey, a faculty member of the non-profit Online Learning Consortium, said that “OER textbooks will become the norm in higher education within the next 3-5 years.”
O.E.R. graphic

OER at UA Little Rock

With OER initiatives growing worldwide, it’s no surprise that UA Little Rock has developed its own in recent years. The university’s eLearning and Collections & Archives units in May 2017 cosponsored an OER Alternative Textbook Mini Grant competition, which encouraged faculty to adopt existing OER material, create their own content, or curate a blend of both, for their course instruction.

Dr. David Montague, Director of eLearning and Scholarly Technology & Resources, is also a professor of criminal justice and member of the UA Little Rock OER Task Force. Montague acknowledges the difficulties students may face with gaining access to course material at the beginning of the semester. In addition to time and financial constraints, there are moments when a textbook is not in stock or a student purchases the wrong edition. In these situations, OER can be a helpful tool. “OER doesn’t have to mean everything’s open education resource. For me it’s more important to have some material in [the course] at the beginning to get the student out of the gate, so the pressure is not on them as much, and the professor knows everyone had access to it …,” Montague said.

Montague said he believes the grant gives faculty a way to think in more innovative ways about student success. “With my graduate course that I have right now, it’s a policy course. I was using a book that’s almost $150 for the book,” he said. “It’s a really good book, but at the last minute I said, ‘You know what? I think I’m gonna take a tip from what we talked about [in the task force]. I’m going to use OER content for my own course.’ So that’s what I did.”

Montague said he also hopes the grant encourages collaboration among UA Little Rock faculty.

The recipients of the mini grant, which were announced May 31, will present their OER content in an Open Educational Resources Workshop in Fall 2017 and participate in Open Education Week at UA Little Rock in Spring 2018.

For more information on how OER can support your education (and to see a handy list of OER) check out http://researchguides.ualr.edu/oer/oer-resources.

eLearning librarian tackles challenges facing online students

Authors Note: If you (like Cori) are an audio learner, please check out our short recording of the interview where Cori discusses ILL and OER, along with some advice she’s learned while on her path as an online student and librarian.

UA Little Rock eLibrarian Cori

UA Little Rock eLibrarian Cori takes some time to answer a few questions. What is an interlibrary loan? What does OER stand for? Last but not least, any advice for online students? Music: The Gold Lining by Broke For Free is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (aka Music Sharing) 3.0 International License.

Cori Schmidtbauer knows firsthand the difficulties that online students face. Born and raised in California, she earned her Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree online through San Jose State University. Since October 2016, she has been the eLearning Librarian in Ottenheimer Library at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where she is also earning her Master of Education in Learning Systems Technology degree online.

As the eLearning Librarian, Cori is interested in making the lives of online students easier. With collaboration from a colleague, she conducted a survey in Fall 2016 to assess online students’ awareness of library services and resources that are available to them. It turns out that many students were not aware of certain services, such as Interlibrary Loan (ILL).

What is an Interlibrary Loan (ILL)?

“An interlibrary loan is a service that we offer to our students… [it is] the borrowing and lending of materials between libraries, and so if we do not own something here at Ottenheimer then we can request it from somewhere else – a different library, and that library can be local, within the town, within the state, within the country, or internationally as well.  

But we do have other sources for those who do not live locally or maybe live next to another university and are taking classes here at UA Little Rock. It’s called ARKLink, and [students] can request to have a special card [mailed] to them, and that will allow them to physically visit a university or college library within that ARKLink consortium and check out the materials.”

Open Educational Resources

Cori is also involved in the Open Educational Resources (OER) Task Force at UA Little Rock. The task force consists of people from Ottenheimer Library, eLearning, Scholarly and Technology Resources, and Student Affairs. Their goal includes trying to find alternative materials and resources that are open and freely accessible.

“We’ve been trying to encourage our instructors here to use those materials in their classes, and especially if they are [teaching] online classes, because students in online classes are virtual – digital. Why do they need a physical book? So that has been one of the goals, and we recently did a little mini grant as an incentive for instructors to encourage them to use this. The grant was kind of modeled after UA Fayetteville and they had a great success with that.”

[For information on the 2017 UA Little Rock mini grant award winners, check out http://ualr.edu/library/2017/05/31/oer-mini-grant-award-winner/

Any advice for online students?

“You really have to know yourself first. What are you able to do, and what will your personal or work life allow you to do? You know you’re capable of going above and beyond, but does your personal and professional circumstance allow you to do that?

Number one – You have to be able to manage yourself and your time, because nobody’s going to do it for you. You’re going to have different types of instructors who have different teaching styles. Knowing ourselves – what learning styles do we have? I’m an audio/visual person … if there are no visuals then I prefer audio and listening. You know, in my experience though, many instructors in online classes will provide an audio recording of a lecture with a Power Point – so you still get that audio sensory learning there.

Second piece advice I would have is don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to communicate with your instructor or with your peers … because that communication is key. And if you have a question, and especially if there is an open discussion board that you can post that question to … you may not be the only person with that question. If you’re confused, other people may be confused. If you know the answer – to help somebody out – feel free to help your classmate out.”

Cori can be reached at 501.569.8811 or cmschmidtbau@ualr.edu. To see some of the videos that Cori has produced and curated, visit http://researchguides.ualr.edu/video_tutorials.

For more information on ILL, please visit us at http://researchguides.ualr.edu/ill and for more information on OER, please visit us at http://researchguides.ualr.edu/oer.