The pandemic forced educators into a largely uncharted world in which distance learning supplanted in-classroom instruction. To address the concerns of teachers, students and administrators, UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is collaborating with online learning specialist Strategic Education, Inc. to help instructors at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominately Black institutions (PBIs) deliver quality higher education in a hybrid environment of in-classroom instruction and remote teaching.

UNCF and SEI piloted this professional development training in Summer 2020 with 400 HBCU faculty members at 14 institutions enrolled. The formal rollout has begun for faculty. The training program was ready to offer the training to 500 faculty, but the response was overwhelming with more 1,200 faculty now enrolled. Enrollees train in a four-week program building proficiency for delivering online learning. Those that complete the training are eligible for a $200 stipend.

“We have facilitators from a variety of educational backgrounds who are available to support faculty in this training,” said Crystal Moore, vice president of Higher Education Partnerships at Strategic Education.

HBCUs and PBIs have been seen as a path for educating Black students. Operating within a digital environment will continue to grow for higher education. UNCF and Strategic Education are working to ensure faculty refine skills that today’s students require. To ensure faculty are supported in this program, Provosts and Vice Presidents for Academic Affairs at institutions receive guidance to support their newly trained educators.

“We set up a training program for administrators to understand this professional development scenario,” said Julian Thompson, a strategist in UNCF’s Institute for Capacity Building (ICB). “We researched a curriculum that would help institutions learn how to pivot from a classroom environment to online space. Curriculum design scenarios looked at student engagement, evaluation and assessment tools and innovations.”

UNCF reached beyond its 37 member schools to offer this training program. The largest minority scholarship program in the U.S., UNCF turned to Strategic Education to craft a training program in the wake of SEI’s success in training programs for Strayer University and Capella University. The company uses Sophia Learning, a social education platform that provides free tools and resources to teachers.

Training for participating faculty will  feature virtual small group interaction among educators to share best practices.

“There is a community-building aspect to this professional development initiative for participants,” said Moore.

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Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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