Closing Pell-eligible Performance Gaps with Waymaker OER Courses

Brief Abstract

As students find their footing in college, the right intervention at the right moment can transform outcomes. Waymaker’s just-in-time messaging tools help instructors easily identify and encourage struggling students. Applying research-driven learning design to engaging OER content, Waymaker courses show promise for closing performance gaps among Pell-eligible students.


Kim Thanos is the CEO of Lumen Learning. Lumen provides well-designed, low-cost digital course materials that help colleges and universities offer the best education to all students, regardless of socioeconomic status. Core to its approach, Lumen guides institutions to use open educational resources (OER) to their full benefit. Kim has spent the past ten years focused on the challenge of how to move OER from a concept that is philosophically interesting, to a practical tool that is changing success rates for at-risk students. Through that journey she has worked with hundreds of institutions to explore content creation and adaptation models, student and faculty engagement approaches, economic impacts, institutional strategy and policy, faculty collaboration, and the possibilities that open education provides to create to a more personalized learning experience.
Nicola Wayer is an experienced educator with extensive teaching and instructional design experience in both K-12 and higher education settings. She is currently the Director of Instructional Design and Training for the Tennessee Board of Regents and is also on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University School of Education. Previously, she has served as a teacher and curriculum specialist at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, an instructor, instructional designer, and faculty developer at University of Florida, and helped to found the Center for eLearning at Florida State College at Jacksonville, and was Director of Instructional Design at Champlain College in Vermont. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Florida in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in educational technology; an M.Ed. from the University of North Florida in secondary education; and a B.A. from Flagler College in deaf education and elementary education. Dr. Wayer’s research interests include serving students with disabilities in blended and online courses and teacher professional development for blended and online learning.

Extended Abstract

Kim Thanos, CEO of Lumen Learning, opens this Digital Courseware Preview sharing learning data analysis about the impact of Waymaker digital courseware on student success. Building on this learning data analysis, she guides attendees through a brief tour of Waymaker courseware content and personalized learning tools. She highlights how research-driven learning design augments open educational resources (OER) in Waymaker courses, to enhance the quality of learning and engagement using OER. With grounding in learning science and efficacy research, Ms. Thanos demonstrates how Waymaker contributes to improving metacognition, student engagement, and academic performance.

Joining Ms. Thanos are representatives from two institutions using Waymaker courseware to replace expensive textbooks in high-enrollment college courses. Nicola Wayer, Director of Instructional Design & Training for TN eCampus at Tennessee Board of Regents, describes the impact her institution is seeing with a new summer-fall 2017 implementation of Waymaker digital courseware. Tom Ayers, Associate Dean for Information Technology, Business Administration and Competency-Based Education at Broward College, shares recommendations based on his institution’s multi-year Waymaker implementation and how to ensure courseware initiatives align well with broader institutional strategies and priorities.

From this Digital Courseware Preview, attendees will: Identify courseware capabilities that can increase personalization, individual agency, and metacognition for students and faculty See and explain how digital courseware tools wrap around open educational resources (OER) to improve the learning experience Discuss the impact automated messaging tools can play on how faculty members work to build connections, encourage success, and offer individualized help when and where needed Recognize how learning science insights can be applied at scale through digital courseware packages