Group of HBCUs will get $1.5 million for digital learning research

Grants will provide opportunity for Black students to achieve more equitable outcomes across higher education.

A handful of Historically Black Colleges and Universities will be selected in mid-November to receive a combined $1.5 million as part of a co-design research project from Complete College America and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help create a more equitable online learning framework in higher education.

The HBCU Digital Learning Infrastructure Initiative aims to look at how technology development and “culturally sustaining practices” can enhance the outcomes for students of color across the nation in terms of support, retention and completion as the push to digital at institutions becomes stronger.

Innovative practices being utilized now at HBCUs have been impressive and worthy of further discovery, the CCA said, that can be employed in shaping the future of education.

“I’m thrilled to see HBCUs, who have long deserved broader recognition for their contributions to postsecondary success, at the center of a national conversation about how digital learning infrastructure can support redesigning higher education to be a more effective engine of equity, prosperity and hope,” said Dr. Yolanda Watson Spiva, president of CCA. “Our team—many of whom are HBCU alumni or have worked at minority-serving institutions—is honored to steward this important exploration of what makes these institutions so effective.”

One of the goals of the project is to assess those successes, which have come despite barriers such as systemic racism, uneven power structures and a dearth of funding compared with other institutions. With the future of the nation leaning more toward technology, research will look at whether “the culture of HBCUs can be translated into digital learning spaces and, if yes, what should that look like?” Another is the hope that other institutions across the U.S. will use the data to create more inclusive and equitable spaces for students.

HBCUs are being invited to share their thoughts and to apply for entry into the grant program. Those that are interested need to apply by Nov. 1. Complete College America is hosting an informational webinar on Nov. 3 before making its selections on Nov. 17 of 5-6 colleges to participate.

In addition to backing from the CCA and the Gates Foundation, colleges and universities will receive support from a variety of campus stakeholders and experts in technology and higher ed.

Though Blacks have been underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math—less than 10% are employed at many of the top tech companies and even fewer hold leadership positions—HBCUs have been far and away the reason why so many have forged careers in those fields. Around one-quarter of all Black graduates who work in STEM got their training at HBCUs.

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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