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.

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.