Blackboard Student Support

BlackboardBasics

At Your Fingertips: Blackboard Student Support

By now, you’re probably at least familiar with the concept of “online courses.” However, you may be wondering “How do I access my online courses, and who’s going to help me if I have a problem?”

Blackboard is UALR’s online learning management system where students can access their course work, such as assignments, media, tests, and grades. You can also communicate with your classmates and instructors through the Blackboard interface via discussions, messaging, and video collaboration.

Blackboard’s technology accommodates a variety of learning environments. While students who take classes on campus may use Blackboard as a digital extension of their classroom, for fully online students, Blackboard is the classroom.

One example of how online students can have an engaging classroom experience without ever stepping foot on campus is through Blackboard Collaborate. Collaborate allows you to engage in real-time discussions with your classmates and instructors using a chat-room format with webcams, microphones, and screen-sharing, creating a face-to-face experience as if you were in a physical classroom together.

Because the technology is potentially new to many students, UALR offers Blackboard Student Support to assist those who may struggle with accessing or navigating their online courses. Some of the resources offered through UALR’s Blackboard Student Support include:

Blackboard Orientation

New students are encouraged to attend a Blackboard orientation workshop at the beginning of their first semester. Thirty-minute sessions are offered on campus in Dickinson Hall, Room 101, during the first week of the fall and spring semesters. If you’re unable to make it to campus or need a quick refresher, check out the online orientation on the Blackboard Student Support website at ualr.edu/blackboard/orientation or the optional “Blackboard Student Orientation” course your “Courses” module in Blackboard.

Blackboard Student Support Website

You can find answers to most of your Blackboard-related questions on the Blackboard Student Support website. Here you’ll find the online Blackboard orientation with video tutorials, written step-by-step “how-to” guides, support articles, and more. Make sure to visit and bookmark ualr.edu/blackboard so you’ll have quick access to these resources throughout the semester.

Blackboard Student Support Staff

If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, the website also features a support request form and phone number to contact our support team directly. Located on UALR’s main campus in Dickinson Hall, Room 105, our Blackboard Student Support team is dedicated to helping you troubleshoot your online courses, either in person or at a distance. You can stop by the office or call between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, or email anytime throughout the week. Please note: Support staff will try to respond to your support request within 24 hours, excluding weekends and U.S. holidays.
Visit ualr.edu/blackboard/contact to contact our support staff.

Professors: A Student’s Greatest Resource for Success

male professorA variety of free resources are available at UALR to help students succeed in their courses, such as the Ottenheimer Library and Online Writing Lab. However, one of the most significant resources students have is often overlooked and underutilized—professors.

Developing professional relationships with your professors can be beneficial in more ways than just academic. Aside from gaining valuable academic advice related to your coursework, most professors regularly interact with other individuals in their field or industry. Having an amicable relationship with your professors can lead to opportunities both inside and outside the academic realm.

Professors are people too.

Many students are intimidated or put off by their professors. The truth is, professors are people who happen to be knowledgeable and passionate about a particular field of study. If you take the time to talk to them about their field, you’ll find they are often very enthusiastic about sharing their experiences with you.

Take advantage of their posted office hours.

Typically, professors have a designated time during the week in which they are available on campus or online to speak with students individually. This is the perfect opportunity to seek additional guidance within a course, ask questions about a topic you don’t understand, or discuss papers and projects. Some students also use this time to build rapport with professors by asking about upcoming events, industry functions, or campus lectures which provide an opportunity for students to network with industry professionals in their field of study.

It is okay to ask for help, but be prepared to do the work.

Most professors are happy to offer academic assistance to students, especially those willing to make the effort. That being said, know what it is you do not understand. If the professor asks you what it is you don’t understand, be prepared to tell them specifically or you may come off as not willing to try.

Forget excuses.

Chances are your professor has heard them all before. Not only that, but making excuses makes you look irresponsible. Just be honest—without going into too much detail—if you missed an exam or assignment. Let them know you would like to make up the work, but be prepared for some brutal honesty. Some professors don’t allow make-up exams or late assignments, so you might just have to accept your grade and work harder on the remaining assignments.

Be respectful.

When you talk with your professors, do so in a professional way. Use their title when you address them in conversation if they have one. Even if you are upset with a particular professor, always be respectful and calm. Yelling, whining, and making threats just make you look immature and build barriers to productive communication. Remember, respect is a two-way street—you have to give respect to get respect.

Talk to them about common interests.

You can try starting with topics discussed in the course. Professors often share their personal experiences in a particular field of study or with research they have conducted. Ask instructors for more information about topics you find interesting, and don’t be afraid to share your related experiences or knowledge with them. Not only will you learn something fascinating, but it could lead to internships and other opportunities.

If you can, attend any special lectures or events they are hosting.

UALR sponsors several events throughout the academic year that are often sponsored by particular departments and hosted by professors. Not only will it give you a chance to interact with your professors in a casual environment outside of the classroom, but it may also allow you to make contacts within your field or industry of interest. Online students may especially benefit from attending these events, since very few face-to-face interactions—if any—occur in the online classroom. You’re more likely to establish a deeper connection with your professors if they can put a face to a name.

Keep in touch.

When the semester is over, don’t let your new professional relationships fall by the wayside. You can take more courses with your professors, continue to attend their events, email or call them during office hours, and maybe even connect with them on social media. Many UALR departments, programs and clubs also have Facebook groups or pages that you can follow for further discussions and networking opportunities.

Time-Management Tips for Student Success

Cartoon about time management with kidsBetween school, work, family and social obligations, finding time to get everything done can be a challenge. This is especially true for students taking online courses that have a lot of work-at-your-own-pace assignments. However, with a time-management plan this doesn’t have to be an obstacle. The following tips can help you develop a basic strategy for completing your online courses (and other tasks!), reduce stress and work more efficiently.

Get a planner or calendar.

Calendars are a great way to keep track of tests and assignment due dates. iStudiez Pro is one of many great digital options (you can also try the lite version for free), or you can order a traditional planner online through the UALR Bookstore when you order your textbooks.
Blackboard also has a built-in calendar feature that allows you to create date reminders. Read our Calendar tutorial for more information about the Blackboard Calendar.

Write things down.

You may want to get a dedicated notebook or a planner with a “notes” section for assignments. Whenever a new task or assignment comes up—like studying for a test or picking a paper topic—write it down. Not only will you have a physical reminder of the things that need to be done, but each new task will also encourage you to look over the other tasks that need to be completed.

Schedule your day.

Writing in her diaryThis is where you make the most use of the calendar and notebook mentioned above. Whenever you have a free moment, schedule a set time to complete each task. Be realistic about the amount of time needed to complete each task and schedule additional days if needed.

Some things to consider when scheduling your day to reduce information overload:

• Work in short, concentrated bursts spread out over the day or week rather than one long marathon session. Try to limit working on coursework to three hours or less as retention rapidly deteriorates after more than three hours of intense focus.

• Plan to start major projects the same week they are assigned and assignments the same day if possible and avoid the stress of getting things done at the last minute.

• Schedule breaks as well as study sessions. For every hour of intense focus, plan to take at least a one ten-minute break. This will reduce study fatigue.

• Plan your focused study around the time you feel most alert instead of most convenient. We are more alert in the mornings and afternoons and less so at night.
Block times for regular assignments.

• For assignments and tasks that occur daily or weekly, schedule a set block of time that you will complete these tasks every week. For example, you might decide to read your weekly journal article at 10 a.m. every Monday.

Break projects into manageable portions.

For big assignments and projects, think about the steps to complete the project and make those individual tasks. So instead of facing one insurmountable project, you can deal with several smaller tasks over a period of time.

Leave some wiggle room.

Plan to finish assignments at least a couple of days before the due date. This will give you some wiggle room should unforeseen circumstances arise.
wiggle

10 Tips for Success in Online Courses

Have regular, reliable access to a computer and Internet service.

laptopdrop You should have at least one back-up computer—either personal or borrowed—in the event your primary computer goes down.
Additionally, you need to have a reliable way to access the Internet. It is strongly recommended that you use a wired broadband connection to access Blackboard, especially when taking exams or submitting assignments.

The Blackboard Student Support staff strongly advises against using wireless Internet cards that plug into your USB port. Every semester, there are students whose grades suffer because their wireless Internet cards lost connection during a crucial moment (e.g. during an exam or while they were uploading an assignment). With that said,…

Back-up your work.

Anything can happen. To avoid losing important assignments, projects, and portfolios, you should make it a habit to frequently back-up your work on something other than your computer’s hard drive. Keep a flash drive or external hard drive handy, and plug it in while you work on your assignments. You can save your latest versions there when you reach stopping points. If you want access to your work wherever you go, working in Google Drive is a reliable solution.

Start early; don’t wait until the last minute.

Liz Lemon gets the rainbow wheelGet an early start on your course work. It can be tempting to put off course work, especially if it is not due for a week or more. Just keep in mind that this work will need to be done eventually and the longer you wait to start, the greater the chance you’ll get overwhelmed with other assignments. If you start each assignment as soon as it become available, you’ll be less stressed and have more free time in the long run.

Even if you don’t start immediately, certainly don’t wait until the last minute to get things done. Time and time again, students run into problems at the last minute when submitting work, taking tests, or posting responses. You never know what’s going to happen in the future and waiting until the last minute is an invitation for trouble. Don’t be that student that missed an assignment because your computer crashed right before your assignment was due.

Develop a schedule.

The best way to stay on top of tasks is to develop a plan. Treat your online courses the same as a face-to-face course by scheduling a set time everyday to doing your online course work (e.g. reading lecture notes, watching course videos, working on assignments). Having a routine will help you stay focused and help avoid procrastinating.

Check your online course at least once a day.

Phone likeJust like you wouldn’t attend a traditionally class only one-third of the time, you should check your online courses at least one time everyday. This will help you stay current on class discussions and announcements posted by the instructor. Also, checking the course regularly will help you stay on task.

Test the course tools.

Becoming comfortable with the course tools and layout will save you a lot of headaches in the long run. Testing the course tools in advance is advantageous because it helps familiarize you with how those tools work before you will need to use them for class. This also allows plenty of time to troubleshoot problems without the added pressure of having an assignment due.

Participate.

Being an active member of your class is crucial to succeeding in your online courses. Participating helps you retain information relevant to the course while exposing you to different perspectives that you may not have considered before. Participating in class is also a good way to get to know your fellow students, which can be harder to do in an online environment.

Something else to consider is instructors remember the students who actively participate in class discussions and ask thought-provoking questions. Being on an instructor’s radar can be a good thing, especially if you are looking to expand your professional and academic relationships.

Take advantage of online office hours.

April Ludgate asks for helpInstructors typically have a designated time during the week in which they are available on campus or online to speak with students individually and in small groups. During an instructor’s office hours, you have the unique opportunity to seek individual guidance within a course, ask questions about a topic you don’t understand, or discuss papers and projects. Most professors are happy to offer academic assistance to students, especially those willing to make the effort. That being said, if the professor asks you what it is you don’t understand, be prepared to tell them specifically or you may come off as not willing to try.

Ask for help.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you are having trouble in your online classes. Talk with your instructor and fellow students for help understanding the course content. Forming a study group is not only a great way to get help but also an avenue for connecting with your peers. As mentioned above, take advantage of your instructor’s office hours.

For general computer and campus systems (accessing the campus wireless network, email, and BOSS), you can contact the IT Services Help Desk. Be ready to supply them with your NetID or T-Number. The Blackboard Student Support office can provide you with assistance with UALR’s Blackboard system in the form of tutorials, email and telephone support services.

Be honest.

Test-takerPlagiarism and academic dishonesty are serious offenses with severe consequences including failing the assignment and even expulsion from the course or the university. And while it might be tempting to plagiarize or cheat in an online course, just keep in mind that you will probably get caught. Instructors have an uncanny sense when it comes to student writing and can usually tell if the work is original. In addition, UALR’s Blackboard system comes with a variety of tools to detect academic dishonesty.

Instead of resorting to cheating or plagiarism, follow some of the tips mentioned above. Don’t wait until the last minute, develop a schedule, and talk with your instructor or peers if you are struggling in a course. Just remember, you can bring up a grade or retake a course, but the consequences of academic dishonesty can have lasting effects on your chances at future employment.

Helpful Resources
  • 88 Surefire Tips for Succeeding in College — A really great article about enjoying your college years while taking advantage of the opportunities and resources that college has to offer.
  • Procrastination — Some tips on helping you understand why you procrastinate and offer some strategies on combating this bad habit.
  • A Survival Guide for Accelerated Online Courses — This is a great article especially if you are taking a summer course, but the tips can be used for any online course regardless of the term length.
  • What Makes a Successful Online Student — If you are serious about doing well in your online course, take a look at Illinois Online Network’s tips on what makes a successful online student.
  • Academic Integrity — Read UALR’s policies on academic integrity and dishonesty.

5 Myths About Online Classes

You don’t need to have any experience with computers to take an online course.

While you don’t have to be a computer expert to take an online course, you will need to have a basic knowledge of computers. If you are considering taking a course online, first ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you comfortable using a computer on a daily basis?
  • Do you have regular, reliable access to a computer? How about to an alternate computer should something happen to your primary?
  • Do you have good written communication skills?
  • Do you know how to open your UALR email? Can you compose an email message and upload/download attachments?
  • How are your word processing skills? Do you know how to format a document including font sizing, line spacing, and adding footnotes, headers and footers? Do you know how to cut, copy and paste text within a single file and from one document to another?
  • How much do you know about file formats and saving files in different formats?
  • Do you know how to install and uninstall software on your computer?
  • Do you know how to find out which operating system you are using? Which Internet browser?
  • Do you know how to use the Internet? Do you know how to find online resources appropriate for research purposes?
  • Are you comfortable troubleshooting your computer when errors arise?

The good news is most of these skills can easily be learned online or on campus through the IT Services Student Computer Lab located on the first floor of the Ottenheimer Library in room LIB 104. Also see the additional resources section at the end of this article for a list of helpful websites.

Online courses are easier (or harder) than traditional courses.

The truth is online courses are really no different than courses held on campus. The only difference is the environment in which the course material is delivered. Once you understand how to navigate the Blackboard environment, the rest is just a matter of time management. If you are considering taking an online course for the first time, it might be helpful to talk with someone that has already taken an online class.

For more information about navigating UALR’s Blackboard system, please visit the tutorials section.

It’s less time intensive than a traditional course.

A lot of students have the misconception that because a course is online, they can complete their online assignments whenever they have some free time. Unfortunately, this approach leaves a lot of students struggling at the last minute to get assignments completed. Online courses are the same as traditional courses in that they require time spent “outside of class” to get everything done.

The best way to approach on online course is to schedule time like you would a face-to-face course. If you schedule several hours throughout the week dedicated to completing assignments for your online courses, you’ll find that the work is done in a timely manner without becoming overwhelming.

Online courses are just online textbooks.

Online courses are more than just text. There are a variety of tools in Blackboard that encourage peer-to-peer and student/teacher interactions including discussion boards, journals, blogs and wikis. Also, a lot of instructors use audio, video and web conferencing tools to engage and communicate with students.

It’s okay to be casual or informal in an online course.

Whether you are attending a class on campus or online, you must remember that you are communicating in an academic setting and should conduct yourself in a professional manner. This applies to all online correspondences related to your course from papers to emails and discussion postings.

It is inappropriate to communicate in your online course the same way you may communicate other places online. Avoid the use of text speak, poor grammar and/or spelling, and foul language.

Helpful Resources