UNCF (United Negro College Fund) and Deloitte Digital announced a new online platform for community learning: HBCUv. The platform is part of an initiative to reimagine online education at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Together, they will design and build a shared online platform where students, educators, and staff can learn, develop, and build community from anywhere. HBCUv will provide best-in-class remote education, community engagement, and career pathways to students seeking an HBCU education. 

“For too long there has been a major innovation and investment gap between this nation’s HBCUs and other higher education institutions,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and chief executive officer of UNCF. “HBCUv not only aims to close that gap, but also lead the way in online instruction and degree granting.”

In response to the pandemic, UNCF trained over 2,500 faculty to develop courseware for online classes, but quickly realized the limits of current learning management systems. 

“What we learned from the pandemic was that better training isn’t enough,” Dr. Shawna Acker-Ball, senior director at UNCF’s Teaching and Learning Center, said. “We need better tools and technology to deliver on the rich instruction and the strong culture of America’s HBCUs and extend this transformative experience for students online.”

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UNCF cited that the current systems are cumbersome for instructors and students unfamiliar with online learning. The systems also frustrated HBCU instructors with the lack of student progress tracking. The instructors could not assess when students needed additional coaching. And, the systems do not replicate the culture and community for which HBCUs are known, leaving the online learning experience feeling hollow. 

“This isn’t just about getting more classes online, it’s about providing a safe space for Black joy and expression, giving students an 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 legacy,” Julian Thompson, director of strategy at UNCF’s Institute for Capacity Building, said.

He said that HBCUv will do this by embedding culture, community and commitment to Black excellence into the platform.

UNCF has 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 HBCUv platform.

Beginning in 2023, more than 8,000 students enrolled at those partner institutions will have the ability to cross-register for and take credit-bearing courses online via the HBCUv.

As the platform matures, UNCF plans to expand HBCUv to include more HBCU students and institutions.

The initiative was made possible by more than $10 million in funding from the Karsh Family Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, Citi Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Bank of America Charitable Foundation.

Still, UNCF stresses that there is a need for additional funding and partnership from leading companies, foundations and other funders.

“This is just the beginning,” Edward Smith-Lewis, vice president for strategic partnerships and institutional programs at UNCF, said. “Solving for the historic inequities that HBCUs and their students and staff face will take a sustained and concerted effort from a diverse coalition of nonprofit and for-profit partners.”

UNCF selected Deloitte Digital’s Ethos to design and develop the platform.

While the platform is in development, Deloitte leveraged a proprietary approach to product design called “equity-centered design.”

“The intention behind our approach to design really matters when it comes to projects like this,” Nathan Young, head of strategy of Ethos at Deloitte Digital, said.

You added that they opened up their design process and worked alongside dozens of HBCU students, instructors and administrators to ensure HBCUv is truly a solution designed by HBCUs for HBCUs.

Dr. Valora Richardson, UNCF’s director of digital solutions and innovation, added that the inclusion of HBCU students, faculty, staff and administrators as co-designers of the platform will be an attribute of its success as they know what they need.

Deloitte Digital’s Ethos formed a team that is 90% racially and ethnically diverse, 61% Black, and 28% HBCU alumni to deliver against the unique needs of the project.

“Our diversity has always been our strength,” Betty Fleurimond, national leader of Deloitte’s Higher Education practice, said.

Kwasi Mitchell, chief purpose officer at Deloitte Consulting LLP, added that they are investing in the future of Black excellence with this project, and that the HBCUv team’s work is inspiring, impactful, and resounds with their firm’s purpose.

The HBCUv will have defining characteristics to ensure the experience is authentic and impactful. These include: 

  • Promoting Black Excellence: HBCUv will be home to the best Black courses taught by the best Black minds in America and serve as a beacon to young Black talent globally.
  • Creating Black Futures: HBCUv will provide tools and technology that help Black students discover and design their path to a brighter future, including career planning and degree program matching.
  • Connecting Black Talent: HBCUv will connect students and faculty from multiple HBCUs on one online social platform to encourage networking, collaboration, and tighter community bonds.
  • Putting Flexibility First: HBCUv will support both synchronous and asynchronous learning environments so students can choose the learning style that best fits their lifestyle.
  • Driving Results with Data: HBCUv will leverage machine learning and big data to fuel predictive analytics on student performance and provide real-time feedback to instructors on lectures, assignments, and assessments.
  • Activating Collective Genius: HBCUv will be a shared resource open to all HBCUs and enable institutions to share knowledge, resources, and best practices in a cost-effective, tech-forward manner.
About UNCF
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, supports and strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically Black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20% of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”® Learn more at UNCF.org or for continuous updates and news, follow UNCF on Twitter at @UNCF.
About Deloitte

Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including nearly 90% of the Fortune 500® and more than 7,000 private companies. Our people come together for the greater good and work across the industry sectors that drive and shape today’s marketplace — delivering measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in our capital markets, inspire clients to see challenges as opportunities to transform and thrive, and help lead the way toward a stronger economy and a healthier society. Deloitte is proud to be part of the largest global professional services network serving our clients in the markets that are most important to them. Building on more than 175 years of service, our network of member firms spans more than 150 countries and territories. Learn how Deloitte’s more than 345,000 people worldwide connect for impact at www.deloitte.com.
Deloitte Digital helps companies create new growth by elevating the human experience — with connected ideas, technology and talent. Our ambition is to make the best customer-oriented organizations in the world. Alongside all of Deloitte, we foster the connections necessary to shape a better future for our clients, our culture, our society and our planet. Visit www.deloittedigital.com or follow Deloitte Digital on LinkedIn or Twitter to learn more.

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