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 UA Little Rock’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, UA Little Rock offers Blackboard Student Support to assist those who may struggle with accessing or navigating their online courses. Some of the resources offered through UA Little Rock’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 UA Little Rock’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.

Mindfulness Group Aims to Abate Student Stress

“In the past, as a child, we used to breathe better. We didn’t worry about the future. We stayed in the present—playing and enjoying life. So, maybe it’s time to go back.” – Cai Carvalhaes

We’re halfway through the semester, and this time of the year can often be stressful for students. Luckily, there’s a way to defuse some of that tension and anxiety through UALR’s “Mindfulness Group.”

Cai Carvalhaes with UALR Counseling Services demonstrates a mindfulness exercise.
Cai Carvalhaes with UALR Counseling Services demonstrates a mindfulness exercise.
You may be asking, “What is mindfulness?” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”

Cai Carvalhaes, a clinical social worker intern with UALR Counseling Services, leads the Mindfulness Group once a week. She says mindfulness is the ability to live in the present moment, and practicing mindfulness is useful for those who frequently experience stress and anxiety. In her group, she teaches exercises that focus on breathing and body movements. You are guided to concentrate on certain parts of your body—from head to feet— and become aware of what you’re feeling. When this awareness is achieved, she says, you’re able to release your emotions and feel more in control of the challenges that life presents you.

Carvalhaes, who is also a yoga instructor, began to feel anxious and experience panic attacks about eight years ago. Knowing she needed to do something about it, but not wanting to take medicine, she began to study mindfulness.

The idea of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School as a means to complement traditional treatments for a number of ailments ranging from anxiety to cancer.

Carvalhaes combines her experience with yoga and mindfulness in her teachings for the group.

Carvalhaes began the Mindfulness Group at UALR in January 2016, and says the student feedback has been positive so far. She uses psychometric scales to measure a student’s level of stress before and after the exercises. The results show that after the group meets, most students show a reduced level of stress and anxiety. Carvalhaes recognizes that students may develop symptoms of stress even after going through the mindfulness exercises, but regular practice can help reduce these symptoms over time.

“It’s necessary to practice,” she said. “If you don’t practice you won’t feel the effects. It takes a while sometimes, but anyone can do it.”

Carvalhaes said she tells her students to breathe in and out while they relax their minds, and the participants often feel better while in this state, even though they may not understand why.

“In the past, as a child, we used to breathe better. We didn’t worry about the future. We stayed in the present—playing and enjoying life. So, maybe it’s time to go back,” Carvalhaes said.

The UALR Mindfulness Group meets at noon every Wednesday in the Donaghey Student Center room 201T. It’s open to all UALR students, faculty, and staff.

Can’t make it to campus? Cai demonstrates one mindfulness exercise you can practice at home:

Mindfulness Exercise – UALR Online

Cai Carvalhaes, a clinical social worker intern with UALR Counseling Services, demonstrates a typical mindfulness exercise she might perform in her weekly Mindfulness Group.

Watch the video below for more from our interview with Cai:

Mindfulness – UALR Online

Cai Carvalhaes, a clinical social worker intern with UALR Counseling Services, talks about how practicing mindfulness can help students deal with every-day stress.

UALR Bookstore

At Your Fingertips: UALR Bookstore


At the beginning of every semester, there’s always one thing that students have to do – buy books. Luckily, the UALR Bookstore has everything students need, from books and supplies to university apparel.

The UALR Bookstore is owned and operated by Barnes & Noble and has been active on campus for 20 years. Bookstore manager Brenda Thomas has been working at the campus bookstore for 15 of those years, and she said that the UALR Bookstore’s purpose is to take care of a student’s book-related needs—whether that student be on or off campus.

Textbook search toolAs more online degree programs and courses become available, more students are ordering their textbooks online as well. UALR students can easily find and order their books through the user-friendly search tool at ualr.bncollege.com by selecting “Textbooks> Find Textbooks” and searching for books based on department and class.

“We have quite a few students who take online classes,” Thomas said. “They place their orders, and then we get their orders shipped to them.”

Thomas said the ability to ship books to students at a fixed shipping rate of $7.50 – no matter how many books are purchased – is a plus for students taking classes online and even for those who aren’t. In fact, the bookstore does more shipping than it does pick-up orders, according to Thomas, and orders within the state of Arkansas are shipped within 24 hours.

“I think it’s growing more because you have a lot of students that just place an order online, even if they live on University [Avenue], because it’s a convenience.”

In addition to being able to purchase books online, students may also rent their books online through the UALR Bookstore. The store will ship the rented book to the student, and when student is done with the book, they can return the book in store or simply print out a shipping label and ship it back through the mail for no additional charge.

Thomas said she tries to keep the bookstore content fresh—whether that’s through participating in events like Grad Fest or having giveaways.

“Every semester, we like to bring in something that we didn’t have before,” Thomas said. “That way, when they come in here they always see something new.”

You can browse the UALR Bookstore’s offerings and promotions at ualr.bncollege.com.

Veteran Student Success

At Your Fingertips: Veteran Student Success


The Office of Veterans Affairs has made it its mission to help military veterans and their eligible dependents achieve academic success at UALR. Accredited by the Veterans Administration, the UALR Veterans Affairs office assists military students and dependents with the enrollment process and files the necessary paperwork to ensure that they receive their educational benefits.

Kathy Oliverio, the director of Veteran Student Success at UALR, said that the UALR Veterans Affairs office essentially works with the student veteran to make sure their tuition is paid.

“Our Veterans Affairs office is the go-to place for anyone who is on the VA educational benefits. Any veteran will go there, and it will be the starting point for them to get their educational benefits to start, and then to continue, and to be certified,” Oliverio said. “In essence, they’re the money folks. They’re the people who allow our veterans to actually have their education paid for.”

The UALR Veterans Affairs office also serves as an ambassador between the veteran student and UALR administration, offering support in special situations that may require individual adjustments.

Oliverio — a veteran herself, having served 20 years in the United States Air Force — said that she works closely with veteran students in her role as well.

“I look out for the veteran on the academic side of the house. I make sure that the veteran, once they get to UALR, and sometimes even prior to, that they graduate, that they stay in school, that they get any help that they need — whether it’s tutoring or guidance as far as what classes they take,” she said. “I advise veteran students. Sometimes, they just like to talk to another veteran.”

Oliverio noted that the needs of the online veteran student are no different than those who attend the physical campus in Little Rock, and the university is committed to helping its veteran students no matter where they complete their studies. “A lot of our online students are active-duty, Air Force military,” Oliverio said. The online classes benefit active-duty military, because there are occasions when a student will be unable to complete face-to-face classes due to military obligations.

In fact, UALR currently has active-duty military students in Korea, the United Kingdom, and scattered throughout the U.S., according to Oliverio.

“Online is perfect for them,” Oliverio said. “No matter where they go in the world, they can access everything they need to do.”

For more information about the services UALR offers its military students, please visit the Veteran Student Success site at ualr.edu/military.

Disability Resource Center

At Your Fingertips: Disability Resource Center

man using sign language in front of camera
Clint Brockway signs during a Spring 2014 commencement ceremony at UALR.

“The failing is not on the part of the student with the disability,” Reed Claiborne, an access consultant with the Disability Resource Center, said. “The failing would be on not providing accessibility.”

The Disability Resource Center (DRC) is one of the many resources available to UALR students both on campus and at a distance. The DRC works with faculty and students to make sure facilities and resources are accessible to students who need them.

Claiborne said that the focus of the DRC is not so much the student’s disability but the barriers that a student may face as a result. For example, a student on campus may have mobility issues, and the elevator isn’t working. The elevator is the barrier. Of course, the DRC’s work spans further than infrastructure. If a student has difficulty hearing and the course requires lectures, then the DRC coordinates with interpreters to provide that student the access they need.

The DRC also works with online students. Reed said interpreters are sometimes needed for online lectures as well. If a video doesn’t have subtitles, the DRC can transcribe the video for that purpose. There are also instances of students with visual disabilities needing materials that would typically be put into a picture or .pdf format typed out for them, so their devices can appropriately read the materials to them.

Students are getting involved too. UALR has a “Students Beyond Barriers” Facebook group where students communicate and share technological innovations regarding disabilities. Claiborne mentioned a time when a student in the Facebook group shared a link about a watch that reads braille, for example.

The DRC is working diligently to provide accessibility to students who need it. However, Claiborne made it clear that the ultimate goal is to create a classroom environment, online or otherwise, that accommodates all students. “If the class is already designed where (students) don’t have to jump through hoops,” he said, “everyone has done their job.”

If you need assistance or would like to learn more, visit the DRC website at ualr.edu/disability.

Ottenheimer Library

At Your Fingertips: Ottenheimer Library

UALR Ottenheimer LibraryThe Ottenheimer Library website is among many online resources available for UALR students. Not only can you search for materials from the Ottenheimer Library online, but you can also find articles and materials through a number of academic databases, research guides and journals organized by subject matter, and reserved course materials. Additionally, the Ottenheimer Library offers several services at a distance that many students may not know about.

Research Assistance

The library’s helpful staff makes life easier for distance learning students at UALR. If you need help with research, the staff is more than willing to help through the Internet. In addition to calling, texting, or emailing, you may also request assistance through the library’s chat service.
You can also request a consultation appointment with a librarian. Coming Spring 2016, the library staff will have Blackboard Collaborate services available, which will allow you to live chat with library staff while being able to share your computer screen. This will help you and the library staff communicate more effectively and allow them to render service more efficiently.

Resource Shipment

Do you live more than 50 miles away from the UALR campus? If so, you may be eligible to have resource materials shipped to your home. The library staff can even scan articles or chapters for you. This service is a major plus for those students who live too far away from campus—making driving to the library unfeasible. The library’s website lists counties that are generally ineligible for this service.

Interlibrary Loan Service (ILLiad)

Using this service, students can have articles and books shipped from other libraries, through the WorldCat database, to the Ottenheimer Library. It only takes the Ottenheimer staff 24 hours to process each order. Once the order arrives, you’ll be able to pick it up at the Ottenheimer Library, or if you live more than 50 miles from campus, the Ottenheimer staff can have the materials shipped to you. The delivery time varies, so plan accordingly. Order requests may be made through the library’s website.

ArkReach

The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) is another useful resource for UALR Online students. CALS has over 1 million resources available for check out—including books, magazines, movies, and games. With the ArkReach service, students can check out materials from CALS and have them delivered to the Ottenheimer Library for pickup. And as mentioned before, if a student lives more than 50 miles away from campus, the Ottenheimer Library can have CALS resources shipped to your home. All you need is a CALS card, which you can request at cals.org. The form only takes a few minutes to fill out, and it’s worth doing to have access to CALS resources.

Access To Other Libraries

This may come as a surprise to many, but as a UALR student, you have access to other libraries across the state. By using an ARKLink card, you can go to participating academic libraries and check out materials. A list of participating libraries is available at arklinklibraries.org.
Applying for a card is simple; just fill out a short form on the Ottenheimer Library’s website. It only takes the library staff 24 hours to create the card, and then they can mail it to your residence or you can pick it up at the library.

So whether you need help with a research paper or access to a multitude of academic media, UALR’s Ottenheimer Library is equipped to help both online and on-campus students succeed.

For more information, including the library’s operating hours, visit ualr.edu/library.

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.