Lumen Learning and Rockland Community College Create First Student Testing Center to Address Equity Gaps

Lumen Learning and RCC logos

Suffern, NY. (November 16, 2021) – This fall Lumen Learning is launching its first campus-based user testing center at Rockland Community College with a goal to increase the effectiveness and cultural relevance of Lumen’s solutions for all students across the United States. Rockland Community College, a Minority Serving Institution (MSI), is part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system and is a national leader in the creation of private-public partnerships that enrich its students and community.

Together, Rockland and Lumen are seeking to design solutions that create equitable educational results for all students. While user testing is a common practice for education companies, socioeconomic status has a significant influence on participation in volunteer activities such as user testing. As a result, low-income students and students of minoritized races are less likely to participate. The Rockland-Lumen partnership addresses this by creating the environment, structure and support to engage students with a broad range of lived experiences in designing equity-centered learning solutions.

“Education companies try to create products that work for everyone,” said Kim Thanos, CEO at Lumen Learning.

“The reality is that the needs and experiences of our students are not monolithic, and our solutions cannot be either. At Lumen, our mission is to enable unprecedented learning for all students. Today, race and income are often predictors of how students will persist in courses. If we want to change that, we have to better understand the needs and challenges faced by our Black, Latinx, Indigenous and low-income students, and invite them to the table to actively participate in designing solutions.”

Rockland Community College has a rich history of building programs that provide students with a strong academic foundation and real-world applications that prepare them to achieve their career goals. As the first college to launch the user testing concept this fall, Rockland will work closely with Lumen to support the student interns and refine the center concept. “At Rockland Community College we actively seek collaborations that improve the lives of our students and the vitality of our community. This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to apply their education to an initiative that builds job skills and makes a difference in the world. We look forward to contributing to a more positive learning experience for students across New York and throughout the country,” said Dr. Michael A. Baston, President of Rockland Community College.

The testing center will also build upon Rockland’s ongoing work to create a more inclusive campus, efforts that have included the launch of a “Steps Beyond Statements Working Group” to turn the college’s commitments to racial equity and inclusion into concrete actions. As part of that work, the working group worked with students to lead focus groups with their peers that led to actionable recommendations for transformative change.

As part of an equity-centered design process, Lumen Learning’s user testing center will seek the experience and feedback of a broad range of students. Paid student interns will become a part of  Lumen’s product design team. With support from the Rockland and Lumen teams, student interns will learn about the products, identify questions to investigate, and then recruit peers and run the tests.

“Students will sit with us and look at the data,” explained Carie Page, Senior Product Manager with Lumen Learning.

“When you’re not a student, it’s easy to have blind spots. Our goal is that the interns will enrich our understanding of the students’ experiences, in particular the experiences of Black, Latinx, Indigenous and low-income students. Interns will interpret the results as students. This approach will bring student voices into the process to interpret the data through their unique perspectives. Students will also connect their work directly to career options and job skills.”

For Lumen, working with Rockland Community College, a SUNY institution, on this important initiative is indicative of the collaborative partnership it has had with the system for over nine years. Lumen has been working alongside the SUNY OER Services team to provide SUNY faculty and students with unlimited access to well-designed course materials through SUNY’s Ready-to-Adopt OER Catalog, all available at no cost to students.

Over the next year, Lumen plans to open additional testing centers at MSI’s across the country. “We plan to create this user testing structure, replicate it on other campuses, and share what we learn with the field broadly,” said Thanos. “We believe this approach can improve Lumen’s solutions, expand the models for equity-centered design, and create a lasting impact for the participating students. We want the interns and the testers to be themselves and to know that their voices are valued and need to be heard.”