Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lumen Learning over physical textbooks!

Over the past several years, the amount of internet resources for education has grown exponentially. Many of these resources have become either low cost or completely free! Lumen Learning is a great online tool for anybody needing to find a low cost online textbook-like resource! On the Lumen Learning webpage, there are three open courseware choices. These options are, Waymaker, Candela and OER degrees.

Waymaker is a new resource by Lumen which is actually quite revolutionary. Many learning softwares today make decisions independently and adjust accordingly to either a correct or an incorrect answer. For example, a type of formative assessment taken by middle school students  called the MAP test will adjust the difficulty level of upcoming questions based on the performance of the students answers on previosu in earlier questions. However, what makes Waymaker special is that instead of hiding the learning process behind the learner, it provides transparency. Waymaker asks the learner to "reflect" on where they are instead of making a computer decision solely on an incorrect or correct answer. 

Photo (Above) shows the "reflective" learning of Waymaker. Credits: Lumen Learning

In Waymaker, Open Educational Resources (OER) are utilized for the learning experience. In an institution which uses Lumen Learning, staff can customize content based on the need of the students. However, an assessment must be performed in order to make decisions on customization. Waymaker provides, "Formative pre-tests and self-checks, summative quizzes and human-graded performance assessments [to] offer guidance to students and faculty about where to focus and how to improve learning"(Lumen Learning). Currently, Waymaker is providing courses on:

  • Introduction to Business
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Principles of Marketing
You may request a demo of Waymaker by contacting Lumen Learning. 

The second of the three Lumen Learning open courseware choices  is Candela. The main purpose of Candela is to provide a cheap alternative to textbooks. Candela is provided for over 60 high enrollment college level courses and is designed using open educational resources. 

While 60 might not seem like a very large number, if you browse through the Candela catalog, each of the 60 plus subjects that are present actually go pretty far in depth. For example, if you click on American Government, a table of contents with videos and many reading resources organized with a clear structure appear. Before every section, learning objectives also appear which help the reader  focus on the important ideas. 

Another beneficial reason of using Candela over physical textbooks (besides cost) is its ability to improve learning. Lumen evaluates the effectiveness of its courses regularly. Additionally, clients of Lumen also interact to improve the online resource. However, a physical textbook can not do the same. A textbook is printed once and if changes need to be made, the entire textbook must be reprinted or resold. 

The final of three Lumen coursewares is creating an OER degree program. This courseware's biggest benefit is its low cost textbooks. According to some, this program is also known as the Z-degree. Meaning zero textbook cost.This program is such a huge benefit to students in college struggling financially. Textbooks can easily cost the student  hundreds of dollars each, and when a student is taking many different courses at a time for multiple years, textbook costs  can easily reach several thousand dollars. Not only is an OER degree program financially beneficial to a student,"In eleven separate research studies published in peer-reviewed journals, which include over 48,000 college and university students, 93% of students whose faculty assigned OER in place of commercial textbooks received final course grades that were the same or higher than control students using commercial textbooks (1)" (Lumen Learning). If both your grades and your wallet can benefit, why miss out on an OER degree program?

Lumen Learning is the definition of low cost, highly productive learning. Instead of buying textbooks, a lower cost, abstract, but still effective version of a textbook is utilized. The environmental benefits of printing less textbooks also apply and students often perform better in an OER degree program. So if you can save paper, your money and improve your grades, why would you miss out on this great opportunity? 

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