Equity-centric design and cloud technology take center stage in a bold plan to put America’s HBCUs at the forefront of online education
UNCF and Deloitte Digital, the experience consultancy, today announced plans for a new online platform for community learning, HBCUv. The platform is part of an ambitious strategic initiative to reinvent online education in partnership with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Together, UNCF and Deloitte Digital will design and build a shared online platform where students, educators, and staff can learn, grow, and build community together, wherever they are. HBCUv will provide top-notch distance education, community engagement, and career paths for students seeking an HBCU education.
“For too long, there has been a major innovation and investment gap between HBCUs in this country and other higher education institutions,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, President and CEO. of the UNCF. “HBCUv aims to not only bridge this gap, but also pave the way for online education and degree granting.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and related need for social distancing has created unprecedented challenges for higher education institutions of all persuasions, but it has had a particularly pronounced impact on HBCUs. These institutions, which educate black students from all walks of life, including significant numbers of first-generation and low-income students, have had to navigate it while dealing with the challenges of decades of underfunding and underfunding. investment. In response, UNCF trained more than 2,500 faculty to develop courseware for online courses, but quickly realized the limitations of current learning management systems (LMS).
“What we’ve learned from the pandemic is that better training isn’t enough,” said Dr. Shawna Acker-Ball, senior director of the UNCF Center for Teaching and Learning. “We need better tools and technologies to deliver rich education and the strong culture of America’s HBCUs and extend this transformative experience for online students.”
“The inclusion of HBCU students, faculty, staff and administrators as co-designers of the platform will be an attribute of its success,” said Dr. Valora Richardson, Director of Digital Solutions and innovation at UNCF. “They know what they need, and we have heard them.”
UNCF found that while current learning management systems do a good job of bringing education online, they do so in a way that is too cumbersome for instructors and students unfamiliar with learning. in line. He also found that HBCU instructors were frustrated with the inability to easily track student progress and assess when they needed additional coaching. Finally, UNCF found that the tools provided no way to replicate the culture and community that HBCUs are famous for, leaving the online learning experience feeling empty.
To address this, HBCUv will have defining features to ensure the experience is authentic and impactful. These include:
- Promoting Black Excellence: HBCUv will host the best black classes taught by the best black minds in America and serve as a beacon for young black talent from around the world.
- Creating Black Futures: HBCUv will provide tools and technologies that will help Black students discover and design their path to a better future, including career planning and matching degree programs.
- Connecting Black Talent: HBCUv will connect students and faculty from multiple HBCUs on an online social platform to encourage networking, collaboration, and closer community ties.
- Priority to flexibility: HBCUv will support both synchronous and asynchronous learning environments so students can choose the learning style that best suits their lifestyle.
- Generate results with data: HBCUv will leverage machine learning and big data to power predictive analysis of student performance and provide real-time feedback to instructors on coursework, assignments, and assessments.
- Activate Collective Genius: HBCUv will be a shared resource open to all HBCUs and will allow institutions to share knowledge, resources, and best practices in a cost-effective and forward-thinking way.
“It’s not just about having more online classes, it’s about providing a safe space for Black joy and expression, giving students the opportunity to find their ‘tribe’ of people and to inspire students of all ages by showing them black leaders who are part of the same HBCU heritage,” said Julian Thompson, director of strategy for the Institute for Capacity Building at UNCF. “HBCUv will do this by integrating the culture, community, and commitment to Black excellence embodied by HBCUs into a unique online experience that will form the foundation of the future of Black education.”
UNCF partnered with nine initial HBCUs – Benedict College, Claflin University, Clark Atlanta University, Dillard University, Jarvis Christian College, Johnson C. Smith University, Lane College, Shaw University, and Talladega College – to develop and pilot the platform HBCUv.
From 2023, more than 8,000 students enrolled at these partner institutions will have the opportunity to register and take credit courses online through the HBCUv platform. As the platform matures, UNCF plans to expand HBCUv to include more HBCU students and institutions.
This bold initiative is made possible by more than $10 million in funding from the Karsh Family Foundation, Lilly Endowment, Citi Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Bank of America Charitable Foundation, but UNCF emphasizes that there is still a need for funding and partnership from corporations, foundations and other leading funders.
“This is just the beginning,” said Edward Smith-Lewis, vice president, strategic partnerships and institutional programs at UNCF. “Addressing the historic inequities faced by HBCUs, their students, and their staff will require a sustained and concerted effort from a diverse coalition of nonprofit and for-profit partners.”
UNCF selected Deloitte Digital Ethos, a new offering dedicated to using innovation to advance the goals of equity, sustainability, and social well-being, to design and develop the platform in collaboration with UNCF and its partner institutions. While the platform is still in development, the team leveraged a proprietary approach to product design called “equity-centric design” to engage HBCU stakeholders and center the all-black experience. through thousands of hours of early discovery and research.
“The intent behind our approach to design really matters when it comes to projects like this,” said Nathan Young, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Chief Strategy Officer, Ethos at Deloitte Digital.
“We opened up our design process and worked alongside dozens of HBCU students, instructors and administrators to ensure that HBCUv is truly a solution designed by HBCUs for HBCUs,” said Young.
This intentionality manifests not only in the direct collaboration with the HBCUs, but also in the composition of the mission team. Deloitte Digital’s Ethos assembled a team that was 90% racially and ethnically diverse, 61% Black, and 28% HBCU alumni to meet the unique needs of the project.
“Our diversity has always been our strength,” said Betty Fleurimond, Managing Director, Deloitte Services LP and Deloitte National Higher Education Practice Leader. “The team we have assembled reflects our commitment to building a strong foundation that will serve HBCU students, faculty, and staff well into the future.”
“We are investing in the future of black excellence with this project,” said Kwasi Mitchell, director of goals at Deloitte Consulting LLP. “The work this team does here is inspiring, impactful and essential to the purpose of our business.”
The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) is the largest and most effective minority education organization in the country. To serve youth, the community, and the nation, UNCF supports student education and development through scholarships and other programs, supports and strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance minority education and college preparation. Institutions at UNCF and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20% of African American bachelor’s degrees. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarships, internships and fellowships, mentoring, summer enrichment, and faculty training and development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at more than 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo represents the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized brand, ‘A mind is a terrible thing to waste.® Learn more about UNCF.org or for ongoing updates and news, follow UNCF on Twitter at @UNCF.
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