HBCUs Kick Off “Excellence in Online Instruction” Initiative

Presidents, provosts, and project directors from 14 public HBCUs convened last week as the “Excellence in Online Instruction” initiative begins to take root within their campuses. Out of a shared commitment to strengthen the quality and equity of higher education, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) and the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) have partnered to equip more than 660 faculty with evidence-based online teaching practices, ultimately reaching tens of thousands of students.

“TMCF’s members have made instructional quality a top priority, whether online, in-person, or in a blended format,” noted Dr. Harry L. Williams, TMCF’s president & CEO, when the initiative launched through generous support from the ECMC, Bank of America, and Sam’s Club Foundations and the Partnership for Education Advancement (formerly Education Finance Institute).

Leaders across the 14 participating institutions are committed to making effective teaching central to their student success efforts. “Through this partnership, HBCUs are coming together around a critical imperative: to put teaching at the heart of student success,” said Scott Durand, ACUE’s CEO. “A focus on measurably improving teaching and learning is one of the strongest signals an institution can send to its faculty, students, and communities.”

Two cohorts of 30 full-time faculty members across various programs, paired with mentors, were selected to take part in the one-year training course. Delivered by ACUE faculty, the 25 modules focus on the pedagogical aspects of online teaching. The faculty are learning how to distinguish between the competent technical delivery of a course and being an effective teacher online, including being innovative, engaging, and compelling.

The group represents a “powerful network” for insight to “elevate and share learnings” across HBCUs and minority-serving institutions, said Dr. Steve Michael, Provost, and Dr. Eun Mi Park, Executive Director for Faculty Development, of the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.

Florida A&M University’s President Dr. Larry Robinson and Associate Provost Dr. Genyne Boston commented on the importance of integrating faculty learning opportunities into the professional incentives that matter. As examples, Boston mentioned action-research publication opportunities and greater consideration of teaching effectiveness in promotion and tenure. Such holistic thinking aligns to approaches recommended in a new faculty engagement toolkit, published by ACUE with the Education Commission of the States and Strong Start to Finish.

Dr. Carl Pettis, Provost of Alabama State, emphasized the need to respect faculty autonomy by explaining how evidence-based teaching practices—relevant across the professoriate—are proven approaches for how to teach most impactfully and steer clear of what faculty, departments, and disciplines decide to teach.

This impressive network of leaders will gather quarterly over the coming year to share successes, learn from challenges, and problem-solve together, in parallel to the work of their faculty members who are currently earning their ACUE credential in effective online teaching practices.

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