Lion - Smith ’92 Champions HBCU Online and Distance Learning Efforts

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Few Historically Black Colleges & Universities are exploring online education and distance learning, but E. Reggie Smith III, Ph.D. ’92 is working to change that.

In November, Smith, who was the first African American president of the United States Distance Learning Association and chair emeritus of its board, was featured on the online TV show, “Khan’s Digital World,” to discuss his efforts to engage and increase HBCU participation. The show, which is hosted by Badrul Khan, a world-renowned academic leader, publisher, and mentor in the e-learning world, aims to address critical technological issues that have implications in all aspects of life.

“We have done a number of initiatives to really include those institutions, expand participation in online education to include engaging the White House Initiative for Historically Black Colleges & Universities,” says Smith.

The USDLA is a Boston-based nonprofit organization with 4,500 members nationwide that promotes the development and application of distance learning for education and training.

Smith, who is a major distance learning proponent and has lectured nationally and internationally on technology and distance learning, says he attends everything the White House Initiative on HBCUs offers to
ensure the institutions’ familiarity with USDLA as well as to promote access to the organization and its offerings.

Among those offerings, Smith says, he and his organization have introduced its 120-element, accreditation-level, certification program to HBCUs who are engaged in online education and distance learning. Though progress has been slow, Norfolk State University in Virginia was the first HBCU to receive the USDLA certification, and subsequently, Bethune-Cookman University in Florida, a year later.

He says the certification is important since it helps HBCUs ensure their programs are rigorous, employs best practices in concert with USDLA, and helps students and potential employers recognize the quality of the education.

Aside from the certification, he hopes HBCUs use USDLA in an advisory capacity and as resource to learn about and best take advantage of what content is available from digital repositories, and YouTube,
as well as available tools through Google and usage of mobile access.

“I’ve made an effort to really engage the White House Initiative for Historically Black Colleges and Universities as far as attending their conferences and providing opportunities and webinars; opportunities to engage and (help them) understand the online market especially when it comes to current students and also to alumni where (they) can really take advantage of online education to provide retraining and retooling of those alumni to engage the workforce.”

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2017 Lion.