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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Lumen Learning Initiative to Focus on Equity-Centered Courseware

Open education company Lumen Learning has announced a new initiative aimed at creating and implementing equitable course materials that will boost student success. The project will begin with the creation of new courseware for Introduction to Statistics that will "replace traditional textbook packages and provide students with a rich, interactive, and personalized learning experience, as well as a complete range of support for faculty members," according to a news announcement.

Introduction to Statistics was chosen because it is a "gateway course": a foundational, lower-level course in which large numbers of students are at risk of failing, contributing to significant dropout rates between the first and second year of college, Lumen explained. The company hopes that the new courseware will serve as a model of how an equity-centered approach can make a meaningful difference in student success.

To inform the courseware creation process, Lumen is partnering with Minority Serving Institutions to collect feedback directly from students. The company has opened user testing centers at New York's Rockland Community College as well as Santa Ana College in California, which employ student interns to analyze Lumen products, identify questions to investigate, recruit peers for testing and evaluate the effectiveness and cultural relevance of the courseware. Lumen also has a partnership with Howard University for further guidance on course and platform development.

The project is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of its Postsecondary Success strategy, an effort to improve student outcomes and ensure that race, ethnicity and income are not predictors of student success. Additional partners include Digital Promise and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

"We are extremely grateful to have received this incredible grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This will allow Lumen Learning to aggressively and purposefully advance racial and socioeconomic equity through rapid innovation of our proven courseware and faculty professional development experiences," said Kim Thanos, co-founder and CEO of Lumen Learning, in a statement. "This grant will propel us faster to our goal of implementing more relevant digital learning and improving outcomes for Black, Latino/a, Indigenous and low-income students. Improving outcomes for these students, whose needs have not been met by existing solutions, is an 'all-hands-on-deck' challenge."

"Key insights from this work will inform subsequent courseware development and help us advance our mission to support unprecedented learning for all students across a broad range of gateway courses," commented David Wiley, Lumen Learning co-founder and chief academic officer. "Investment from this grant will deepen our expertise in equity-centered design. We believe that the best courses foster community and connection and promote a sense of belonging where all students feel represented and appreciated."

Lumen plans to pilot the Introduction to Statistics courseware in January 2023 and make it broadly available in the following fall. For more information, visit the Lumen site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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