By: Gayle Andrews and Communications Staff
Students at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) Developmental Research School (DRS) recently learned of a new research project designed to pioneer online learning methods and technologies.
The research project is the first effort to emerge from an alliance between the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) and the University of Phoenix (UOPX) to bring enhanced online learning and teaching methods to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The program will focus on preparing K-12 students for higher education at HBCUs, specifically FAMU’s emerging online learning programs, by emphasizing college readiness and preparing them for college-level coursework.
The partnership will design, equip, and deliver new blended learning classrooms at the high school and middle school in spring 2016 and in the elementary school in fall 2016.
According to Vice President for Research Timothy Moore, the research project will also include innovative strategies in assessing student learning. DRS faculty and staff will collaborate with representatives from TMCF and the University of Phoenix on research, design, data collection, and enhanced online instruction methods.
“We simply must do more to improve learning for underrepresented students,” Moore said. “By introducing blending learning, we aim to ensure that our K-12 students will reap the benefits from instruction both in the physical and online classroom environments. Our K-12 research environment at DRS will lay the foundation of what we hope becomes a blended learning ecosystem for all students as they progress toward on-time completion.”
“Retaining students and improving our graduation rate is critically important to our performance metrics and mission as a land-grant, doctoral research university. Dr. Moore and this team are on the right track,” said FAMU President Elmira Mangum, Ph.D.
Superintendent Patricia C. Hodge, Ph.D., echoed Dr. Mangum’s sentiments and welcomed the research project as an opportunity to “make sure students have a smooth path to college, are better prepared to succeed, and graduate on time.”
According to a report on college readiness issued by the ACT, only 25 percent of ACT-tested high school graduates meet the College Readiness Benchmark in English, math, science and reading combined: 56 percent meet the benchmark in reading; 46 percent in math; and only 31 percent in science.
More startling, however, is only five percent of African-Americans graduates meet all benchmarks. None of the benchmarks were met by 50 percent of African Americans.
“As a result of these and other such dismal statistics, it is clear that ensuring middle and high school students are prepared for college requires a fundamental change in how schools are organized and how, when, and where teaching and learning are accomplished,” said President Mangum. “Being better prepared academically for college improves a student’s chances of completing a college degree or earning a meaningful income. Also, college readiness reduces gaps in persistence and degree completion among racial/ethnic and family income groups. ”
Timothy P. Slottow, president of the University of Phoenix, expressed his excitement about working with FAMU in it inaugural efforts.
“We believe in the power of a high-touch, high-tech approach to online distance learning with expert faculty and their important role in assessing students’ progress toward achieving learning outcomes,” Slottow said. “We are grateful to join FAMU, leaders and educators at DRS, and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund in expanding their online education capabilities.”
Byron Jones, chief financial officer at the University of Phoenix, said he is also looking forward to assisting FAMU-DRS.
“Part of being college-ready means being ready to learn online. At the University of Phoenix, we are eager to join with this historic community surrounding FAMU’s Developmental Research School and bring our expertise in online distance learning to the benefit of students and educators,” said Jones. “Our hope is that more students at the DRS will be ready for college-level coursework at nearby FAMU upon completion of high school. We are grateful for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and its leadership in providing more accessible online courses, tools, texts, and other resources to larger HBCU communities, and we expect a dynamic laboratory environment thanks to the support of Dr. Timothy Moore.”
In November 2014, the University of Phoenix agreed to offer its online platform to students attending HBCUs across America through an alliance with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. This opportunity has been extended to both publicly supported and private HBCUs. FAMU is the first publicly supported HBCU in the country to take advantage of the opportunity. Paul Quinn College in Dallas will be the first private HBCU to work with the University of Phoenix to bring online course options to its students.
TMCF President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor Jr., explained that the success of the program at FAMU will help pave the way for improving outcomes at other HBCUs.
“We look forward to leading the way in discovering innovative solutions that will help other HBCUs gain access to cutting edge technology and online class solutions that will increase student retention and graduation rates,” Taylor said.