UNCF and Deloitte create online learning program for HBCUs

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The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and Deloitte Digital have partnered to create a distance learning platform for historically black colleges and universities.

According to a press release, the two industry titans came together to design HBCUv. This online learning program will allow HBCU students to take courses for college credit and connect with peers and scholars at historically black institutions across the country. Students will have access to this exciting resource from 2023.

“One of the greatest benefits of online education is the sheer volume of data generated,” Edward Smith-Lewis, vice president of strategic partnerships and institutional programs at UNC, told Inside Hired. “There are literally thousands of data points that HBCUv can track and analyze to not only predict challenges, but also match students with courses that match their learning style or give professors deeper insights into who their students really are.”

During the pilot phase of the program, approximately 8,000 people will be able to test the revolutionary resource in nine HBCUs. Clark Atlanta University, Dillard University and Jarvis Christian College are among the initial group of institutions that will adopt the distance learning program.

UNCF and Deloitte Digital, a creative strategy and technology consulting firm, plan to expand the service to other black universities and colleges in the future. Eventually, students will have the option of taking courses or completing their entire degree online.

HBCUs were significantly impacted during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Schools were forced to transition to remote learning amid the crisis, but many were not equipped with the proper tools to develop an online infrastructure for students. In particular, small private HBCUs found it difficult to adapt to this unforeseen change.

“When you’re a small institution, and you’re just trying to keep your doors open, and you don’t really have the money to upgrade the infrastructure or to invest [in] platforms,” said Robert Palmer, chair of educational leadership and policy studies at Howard University. “It’s just not a priority because you don’t have the resources.” Fortunately, the initiative has received over $10 million in funding from the Karsh Family Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its development.

In addition to online classes, UNCF leaders hope the platform will help foster a sense of community among black students. HBCUv will offer several courses taught by notable black scholars from across America. The online learning resource will include courses in black history, political science and race relations, among other subjects.

“It’s not just about offering more online courses. It is about providing a safe space for Black joy and expression, giving students the opportunity to find their “tribe” of people, and inspiring students of all ages by showing them Black leaders who are part of the same HBCU heritage,” Julian Thompson, the director of strategy for the UNCF Capacity Building Institute, said in a statement. “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.”


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