Co-Designing with HBCUs for the Future of Digital Learning Innovation

We’re partnering with HBCUs to better understand and widely share the “how” behind their innovative, culturally sustaining approach to student success—with a focus on the role of digital learning in powering Black academic excellence. Together, we’re co-designing a long-term strategy to disseminate the policies, perspectives, and practices that lead to effective digital learning infrastructure. At the center of this work are two related questions: how can the culture of HBCU’s be translated into digital learning spaces, and if yes, what should that look like? Our vision is that these insights will support ongoing innovation at HBCUs while also enabling colleges and universities everywhere to build equitable learning experiences that center on the unique needs of every student they serve.

About the Initiative

In Brief

  • Up to 6 HBCUs will be selected to participate
  • $2.5M in total funding and grants, with $1.5M going directly to participating HBCUs
  • Focused on Digital Learning Infrastructure (“DLI”)—the ways technology is used to enhance the academic experience and improve student outcomes
  • CCA and its initiative partners will work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to co-design a long-term strategy for surfacing and scaling innovations from HBCUs for the benefit of the postsecondary education sector.


  • Explore the unique approach behind HBCU success—and share our findings for the betterment of higher education everywhere.
  • Support the development of equitable digital learning infrastructure that meets the needs of minoritized learners in increasingly hybrid and online learning spaces.
  • Co-design a long-term strategy for driving Black academic success at HBCUs and colleges and universities throughout the country.
  • Elevate new models for innovations in the midst of resources constraints and rapid change, informed by the success and resilience of HBCUs.


Since their founding, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have proven that institutions built with Black learners at the center can lead to extraordinary results of students. According to UNCF, HBCU’s represent just 3 percent of colleges and universities in the U.S. but produce 20 percent of Black graduates. And they do this in the face of long odds, having to overcome systemic injustices that leave them with far fewer resources than non-HBCUs. Their success is a model for innovative, student-centered success that deserves broader recognition. We believe HBCUs should be a leading voice in building an equitable higher education system. It’s why we’re partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a select group of HBCUs to co-design a long-term strategy for systems change. The HBCU Digital Learning Infrastructure Initiative is a first-of-its-kind partnership that seeks to understand and share the unique digital approach of HBCUs with colleges and universities across the country. This work will examine the role of technology in creating learning environments where Black students succeed and find purpose, momentum, structure, and support on the journey to a degree—especially in a post COVID-19 world where new modes of delivery are in high demand. A select cohort of institutions – alongside a team of advisors, subject matter experts, and partner organizations – will examine the dynamics of academic and career success at HBCUs and the role that technology can play is sustaining those dynamics in digital and hybrid learning contexts. Over the course of 12 months, we’ll capture the policies, perspectives, and practices that can be shared widely for the benefit of institutions and minoritized students everywhere.

Participating Institutions

Complete College America selected six institutions to take part in a first-of-its-kind Digital Learning Infrastructure (DLI) initiative. The institutions are: Coppin State University in Baltimore, MD; Langston University in Langston, OK; Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, MS; Virginia State University in Petersburg, VA; Wiley College in Marshall, TX; and Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, LA. Institutions were evaluated on a number of criteria, including track record of innovation, commitment to student success, and novel uses of technology to deliver exceptional learning and campus experiences. These institutions – with the support of the advisory board – will collaborate on an extensive research and design project focused on building an integrated framework for digital learning at HBCUs.

HBCU: Digital Learning Infrastructure Convening


Follow the hashtag #HBCUDigitalSuccess on Twitter and LinkedIn to join the conversation. 

How to Get Involved

Watch Informational Webinar

We hosted a virtual meeting on November 3rd to share more information about this exciting work. Missed the webinar? Watch the recording and access the PowerPoint Presentation here.



Support the Initiative

For non-HBCUs and higher education nonprofits interested in learning more about supporting this work, we’d love to talk. Get in Touch

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