By Kim Thanos, CEO

In June 2018 we crossed a noteworthy milestone: 100,000 students enrolled in Lumen-supported course materials in a single term. Happily, a spring term College Success course at Ivy Tech Community College carried us over the threshold.

Why is this milestone so significant? Because it represents a critical mass moving towards the new model we’re offering to provide OER course materials that are

  1. Highly effective for learning, while becoming even more effective through data-driven continuous improvement
  2. Affordable and easy to access for students, and
  3. Simple to adopt, especially for time-crunched faculty members

Even amid a busy back-to-school season, we are pausing to mark this milestone publicly with an announcement and a heartfelt thank-you to the many people and organizations who have marched with us towards this achievement.

In the Beginning

While the roots of OER go back decades, the seed for what would become Lumen Learning started in 2011, in a room with 50 or so early crusaders for open education hypothesizing whether it was possible to create a fundamental shift that could open access, dramatically impact textbook affordability, and transform the effectiveness of teaching and learning. At the time, with the textbook market locked in a chokehold with traditional publishers, those ideas seemed visionary, provocative and revolutionary.

We offer huge thanks to the Shuttleworth Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation for generous philanthropic gifts that gave us resources to begin testing our hypotheses: Can you replace all course materials with OER? Will instructors voluntarily shift to OER? Do OER support student learning and success?

We also give a shout-out to those who rejected some of our early petitions for philanthropic support (thank you, Nancy Millichap and Rahim Rajan!), and directed us instead towards the path of social entrepreneurship and a community-driven solution the education community could support. They reminded us there are limits to how much you can scale relying on philanthropy alone. To achieve the structural change we seek, we must find creative ways to fund the sustainability of OER.

In the Company of Giants

Thank you to Creative Commons and SPARC for stalwart advocacy to lay the policy and legal foundation making open education a viable, mainstream option to alter education forever.

Thank you to Hewlett Foundation, OpenStax, Open Learning Initiative, NOBA Project, PhET, CK12, David Lippman, James Sousa, and many other heroes of open education, creating OER to benefit generations of students and faculty.

Thank you to open education soulmates at BCcampus, the Carnegie-Mellon Open Learning Initiative, CCCOER, Achieving the Dream, and others working along diverse pathways to operationalize a collective vision for the role of OER in mainstream higher education.

And then there are the institutions, faculty, and campus leaders who have said yes to OER. Lumen exists only because of you.

There are far too many to name one by one, but I can’t let this milestone pass without calling out some seismic contributions:

The Turning Tide

This brings us to our current moment in August 2018:

Thousands of institutions and millions of students will use OER in classes this fall.

The average cost of textbooks has dropped for the first time in 50 years.

An effective policy framework is taking hold around open education and open access.

The open education community is rapidly infiltrating the education community.

A vibrant ecosystem of individuals and organizations is investing in the future of learning using OER.

For all of us engaged in the crusade for open education, this is what victory starts to look like.

And from the bottom of our hearts at Lumen Learning, thank you.


Photo Attribution: Markus Spiske on Unsplash