FAQ: How We Use OER

We get a lot of questions about why and how Lumen Learning uses open educational resources (OER). Use these FAQs to learn more, and feel free to contact us with other questions.

What does Lumen do with openly licensed content, or OER?

Lumen’s mission is to enable unprecedented learning for all students. To fulfill this mission, we curate and create OER to develop sets of course materials aligned with learning outcomes for general education courses. The result is a great set of learning content faculty members can use to replace expensive textbooks.

We also provide services around OER to make it simple to use and more effective at supporting student learning. In ongoing cycles of continuous improvement, we apply learning design, add interactive practice, create formative and summative assessments, update and replace less effective content, and make other changes to OER to strengthen learning in the areas where students struggle. All Lumen-developed content carries a CC-BY license, allowing everyone to engage in the 5R activities to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute our course materials freely.  

Does Lumen charge money for OER?

No, we don’t charge money for OER. All Lumen-supported course materials are publicly available through the catalog on our website. Anyone can access and use this content freely. In fact, many faculty members replace traditional textbooks by simply linking to our website. In 2018, over 43 million people from 240 countries accessed Lumen’s free OER.

For a modest, $25 course support fee that replaces the cost of expensive textbooks, we provide support services designed to make using OER simple, reliable and more effective at supporting learning for students and faculty. This includes assistance with course set-up and orientation, tools to personalize the learning experience and make it more engaging and interactive, access to Lumen’ platform for customizing and editing course content, online homework, LMS integration with automatic grade return, faculty training and technical support.

How does Lumen’s work with OER address equity in higher education?

For Lumen, equity is about more than whether all students have access to learning materials. For us, equity is about helping all students learn. We work on this important problem by tapping into the unique affordances of OER. Permission to engage in the 5R activities associated with OER allows us to apply research findings from learning science and other fields to make the experience of using OER more effective at supporting learning. These permissions  also allow us to engage in cycles of data-informed continuous improvement, so that students learn more with our OER semester after semester.

What is Lumen doing to make OER better at supporting learning?  

Lumen focuses our R&D investments on things that make OER more effective at supporting student learning. We put a lot of time and attention into learning design, learning engineering, and using data to help us understand where current OER isn’t effectively supporting learning.

The following video walks through the process we use to analyze what’s happening with students using our course materials and where to focus improvements to better support learning. Term over term, we test the effectiveness of our content and make iterative improvements.

We have also invested in using data to help us understand what’s happening during the learning experience, to make our platform more effective at supporting student learning. This blog post explains the learning data and user research behind updates to our Waymaker courseware platform introduced in May 2019. 

Does Lumen put OER into a platform that requires users to log in?

The vast majority of people using Lumen content do not log in. There is no need because the content is openly and freely available through the catalog on our website.

Our content resides in the Lumen Platform, an authoring, management, and delivery platform we developed based on WordPress, together with the Pressbooks plugin for WordPress, open source WordPress plugins created by Lumen and available in our Github repository, and other WordPress plugins.

If you want to author or edit content, you are required to log in whether you’re using the Lumen Platform, Pressbooks, WordPress, or most other authoring/publishing platforms. This is a standard, best practice for user and security management.

Does Lumen prevent content from leaving our platform?

Lumen does not employ any “Effective Technological Measures” (as they are called in the Creative Commons licenses) that prevent people from manually copying or automatically “screen scraping” Lumen’s OER and rehosting it elsewhere. Copying information from the Lumen website and using it elsewhere it absolutely permitted by the Creative Commons licenses and you may do so freely, as long as you conform to the conditions of the specific Creative Commons licenses governing the use of the content. Please pay close attention to ensuring that you always copy attribution information from the bottom of the page when taking content from our website to use elsewhere.