Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Going Online with V-HBCU; Coalition Seeks to Boost Presence of HBCUs in Distance Learning. (Tech Talk)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Going Online with V-HBCU; Coalition Seeks to Boost Presence of HBCUs in Distance Learning. (Tech Talk)

Article excerpt

For many higher education institutions, the establishment of online distance education courses and certificate and degree programs remains a difficult struggle despite the presence of hundreds of schools in the online sector. The task of building and maintaining a top-notch information technology infrastructure combined with the need to have faculty trained to create and teach online courses represents an ambitious and expensive goal for any institution of higher learning.

Nevertheless, a group of historically Black colleges and universities have formed a coalition to boost the presence of predominantly Black institutions in the online distance education arena. The Virtual-Historically Black Colleges' University (V-HBCU) includes six schools, five of which are seeking to join the U.S. Army's eArmyU online initiative. V-HBCU is the online education arm of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institutions Research Alliance (HMIRA), a nonprofit association based at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Fla.

"I have been saying that if HBCUs don't get into online distance learning, they'll become museums one day for having missed out," warns Hank Valentine, the CEO of V-HBCU and the executive director of HMIRA.

This month, V-HBCU executives and officials at the schools have been expecting to learn from PwC Consulting, the corporate coordinator and manager of the eArmyU distance learning portal, whether the V-HBCU coalition qualifies for the program. PwC Consulting is a division of the accounting and consulting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Since its launching in early 2001, more than 12,000 soldiers have enrolled in eArmyU courses and degree programs being offered by 23 U.S. colleges and universities (see Black Issues, Feb. 28). Over the next five years, up to 80,000 soldiers are expected to enroll in the program, which provides its participants a laptop computer and Internet access to take courses free of charge.

Of the participating schools that began the program, only one, North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C., was a historically Black institution. Recently, A&T officials withdrew its full participation in eArmyU, declining to enroll new students in order to retool its online programs for full participation potentially at a later date.

While the Distance Education and Training Council has estimated that two-thirds of all colleges now offer distance courses, a survey by the Digital Learning Lab at Howard University revealed this past January that among the Web sites at 123 predominantly Black institutions only 40 schools had links to online courses. …

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