Our historically Black college and university (HBCU) community has an abundance of riches when it comes to the profound thinking, robust research and collective wisdom of our students, alumni, educators and academics. Our HBCU institutions have many differences - they vary in size, academic focus, and assets offered to their students. No single institution has a monopoly on how best to approach learning, but what they all share is a collective genius and an unrelenting drive to provide an ever-more excellent education to their students.
A vision for HBCUv, our groundbreaking initiative at the UNCF (United Negro College Fund) Institute for Capacity Building (ICB), is to foster more cross-pollination among these riches, to allow them to be more easily shared across UNCF partner institutions for the benefit of all, no matter which HBCU they call home.
The idea of learning collaboratives in higher education is not new. There are some well-regarded models across the country, and we are surely learning from what they have built. But that’s just the beginning for HBCUv.
What makes HBCUv so unique is the breadth of what we are building. It’s not just a platform to share the valuable treasures of individual educators, but a true learning and research and development center where innovations in curriculum, approaches and a range of educational assets are tested, honed and fast-tracked for adoption at our partner institutions across the country. Our innovations will signal a shift from online classrooms to online learning experiences, not just for our own institutions, but for higher education as a whole.
And here’s another vital part of the HBCUv vision: offering a shared community for virtual education that will make this kind of mind-sharing a typical experience for all HBCU students.
Just imagine the possibilities. Our best educators, regardless of school affiliation or location, will now shape the minds of not just dozens of students a semester, but hundreds, if not thousands. Students across all UNCF partner institutions will be able to use different learning modalities to engage with world-renowned professors and researchers. Each institution will be able to share the best of what they have to offer - their greatest minds, their most challenging and innovative ideas.
We see this as a mechanism for bringing academic leaders together into the virtual learning space as never before, harnessing their expertise and creativity as we build new courses of study and pedagogies to implement in our classrooms.
We’re just at the beginning of this design-and-build process with our institutional partners. We have known from the outset that those who have the most to gain from the powerful minds engendered by the HBCU experience are our students. HBCUv will bring together the collective genius in Black pedagogy and higher education—no matter their background or discipline—to reimagine higher education for the 21st century and ensure HBCUs continue to be at its forefront.
I am excited about what’s possible and can hardly wait to learn how this enterprise will provide opportunities to reimagine the HBCU experience, and that it can ultimately be shared with so many who want to be a part of it.
Dr. Shawna Acker-Ball is the senior director of UNCF’s newly established Teaching and Learning Center. As the senior director, she provides active leadership and management for the support of professional development, curriculum design, and upskilling resources for faculty and staff at UNCF member institutions, HBCUs and PBIs.