Why are we using UM RhetLab?


The Lumen modules address three issues in our Writing 100/101 classes: students’ varied levels of preparation for college writing; the limited means of assessment in composition courses; and the expense and generalized nature of copyrighted textbooks and courseware.  

We know from the annual Condition of College and Career Readiness Report (2016, 2017, 2018) that less than ⅔  of ACT-tested high school graduates meet ACT college readiness English benchmarks and less than ½  meet reading benchmarks. Percentages are even lower for African-American and Hispanic students. Several studies (Pane et. a.l, 2015; Kiang et. al., 2016) have suggested that personalized learning tools can improve college readiness. The Lumen modules focus on the foundational rhetorical strategies and concepts first-year students need to meet the demands of college writing. Students use the modules in ways that suit their level of preparation. Some modules may serve as review of foundational knowledge while others introduce learners to new material and provide opportunities for practice.   

The essay is the standard means of assessment in composition courses, which is appropriate. But the composition of an essay demands a solid grasp of foundational rhetorical concepts and facility with varied rhetorical strategies. Drilling down into an  essay to pinpoint the concepts and skills students are struggling with is difficult, both for students and instructors. In How Learning Works (2010), Ambrose et. al. note that “adding structure and support — also called instructional scaffolding — to a practice activity in or out of class promotes learning when it helps students practice the target skills at an appropriate level of challenge” (132). The activities and quizzes in the Lumen modules operate as part of the instructional scaffolding students need to meet the challenges presented in a full-length essay or multimodal project. Because work in the modules is self-paced and quizzes can be taken more than once, students can work with a concept until they understand it, demonstrate their learning, and be affirmed for their knowledge, even if they cannot yet apply that concept in an essay.

While many textbook companies offer personalized learning courseware, those products are designed for mass audiences, protected by copyright, and come with a high price tag. Because the content of the Lumen modules was suggested and composed by DWR teaching faculty, it aligns closely with UM’s first-year writing curriculum. As each module is an independent entity, faculty can easily order and implement modules to fit their individual course calendars. That close alignment and flexibility frees instructors from having to mine generalized, pre-packaged content for material relevant to their courses, and because the content of the modules is OER, their cost is low.