OER Pioneer David Wiley Launches Startup to Help Schools Cut Textbook Costs

WILEY COYOTE: BYU professor David Wiley is widely known in edtech circles for pioneering the use of OER materials. And just last year, he was one of the brainchild behind the Ed Startup 101 MOOC that explored the thrills and throes of running an edtech startup. Now put the two together, and voila--you've got Lumen Learning, the new company that Wiley and fellow edtechie Kim Thanos announced last week to "help institutions adopt an evidence-based approach to using open educational resources to eliminate textbook costs and improve student success." One of their target metrics is to reduce the cost of course materials for students by up to 97%.

OER has long been one of these holy grail ideas that everyone agrees with in principle but find difficult to implement. "Over a decade and $100M US in foundation funding later, an incredible amount of high quality open educational resources exists which are only rarely used in formal settings," Wiley shared in his blog. Lumen Learning will offer consultation services and tools that focus on strategic planning, professional development, and open textbook adoptions, along with an open-source math program.

Funded in part by the Shuttleworth Foundation, Lumen Learning currently counts thirteen colleges as partners--many of them community colleges.

When we spoke with Wiley, he no left doubt of the mission-driven purpose that drives his small team of four (and one part-timer). He admitted that he's still working on a revenue plan, which didn't appear to rank too high on his list of priorities. "We think of our company [operating] on a 'not-for-loss' business model...We are definitely not seeking venture capital as we've seen what it has done with other startups when the revenue motive takes over."

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