First-year Writing Classes Use Waymaker Digital Courseware to Address College Readiness Gaps  

Interactive content and personalized learning tools help students improve conceptual understanding and equip them for college-level writing 

Portland, Ore. (February 12, 2020) – Around the U.S., first-year writing teachers at colleges and universities are turning to Waymaker digital courseware from open education innovator Lumen Learning to help them address college readiness gaps in first-year composition classes. Students enter college with varying levels of writing ability, and faculty members often struggle with how to remediate struggling students while still engaging those who arrive with college-ready writing skills. Using interactive learning activities and personalized feedback, Waymaker courseware provides tools to help students self-remediate and bring them to a common level of preparedness for college-level writing. 

“For some people, the idea of using digital courseware in writing classes raises eyebrows, because they think the writing process doesn’t lend itself well to technology-assisted learning,” said Dr. David Wiley, chief academic officer and co-founder of Lumen Learning. “But digital courseware can be a superb tool to build students’ conceptual understanding, coaching them to become more self-directed learners, and helping them develop essential skills for college writing.”

Waymaker digital courseware is a product of learning engineering, the process of designing educational materials based on scientific evidence about what types of activities support effective learning and refining the materials over time based on analysis of effectiveness data. Used as a replacement for traditional textbooks, Waymaker courseware emphasizes interactivity and learning by doing, which is six times more effective than reading text or watching a video, according to research published by Carnegie Mellon University. Within the courseware, students receive directed feedback when they respond to practice questions, telling them not only whether they answered correctly but also validating accurate answers or correcting common misperceptions. Personalized study plans help students know where to focus their time and attention, and built-in analytics make it simple for faculty to identify and offer just-in-time help for struggling students.

A screen shot from a Waymaker course showing an example of directed feedback in a practice question, where the digital courseware tells them them not only whether they answered correctly but also corrects common misperceptions.

An example of learning engineering in Waymaker courseware for writing courses, applying directed feedback to a practice question.

“When adaptive courseware brings scientifically-proven instructional practices into the classroom and faculty use the system information to personalize learning, students will have more effective learning experiences,” said Dr. Karen Vignare, executive director of the Personalized Learning Consortium at the Association of Public & Land-grant Universities (APLU). “If we offer this type of learning experience to more students early in their college careers, it will help them experience greater academic success during that formative first year and pave the way for increased persistence and successful college completion.” 

Vignare has led multiple projects and grant programs aimed at encouraging effective adoption of adaptive courseware in general education courses. One veteran of these projects is the University of Mississippi, a member of the APLU’s Personalized Learning Consortium. Since 2017, the University’s Department of Writing & Rhetoric has used Waymaker and its combination of evidence-based learning tools for its first-year writing program. 

“We wanted to teach with interactive learning modules that would refresh and expand the content knowledge of better-prepared students, while helping less-prepared students bridge gaps that might otherwise hinder their chances at college success,” said Guy Krueger, core lecturer and Writing 101 Curriculum Chair at the University of Mississippi. “Faculty members often use students’ quiz results from the Waymaker modules to plan individual consultations where they work together on applying rhetorical principles in their writing projects.” 

Effective use of valuable class time is an ongoing challenge for writing instructors, who look for ways to make their time together with all students engaging and worthwhile. When they spend time covering remedial topics in class, it comes at the cost of other learning activities they might use to engage all students in critical reading and refining their writing. 

“The range of student skills in a composition course is challenging, and Waymaker allows me to ensure baseline knowledge for everyone,” said Audrey Fisch, professor of English at New Jersey City University. “In course evaluations, students have commented that they appreciate the way the Waymaker study plan personalizes learning, allowing them to go at their own pace and focus on areas in need of development. I appreciate the fact that the courseware gives me the ability to use class time for discussions and interactive activities to help improve students’ writing, critical reading, and speaking skills.”

A screen shot of a Waymaker digital courseware personalized study plan for a module called, "Beyond the Five Paragraph Essay." The study plan shows the student where they need additional work to master the course material.

A Waymaker personalized study plan uses quiz results to guide students on where they should spend additional time with the course materials to improve their performance.

Since introducing Waymaker English Composition course materials in 2016, Lumen has seen steady growth in interest and adoption among both two-year and four-year colleges and universities. During the 2019-2020 academic year, students at 30+ institutions in fifteen states are using Waymaker courseware for first-year writing courses. Because writing programs differ, the company has developed different sets of Composition I course materials that may be used together or separately, depending on instructor and program preference: 

  • Waymaker English Composition I: Course materials designed around components of the writing process including critical reading, writing, and research. 
  • Writing Skills Lab: A set of workbook-style interactive modules that focus on closing performance gaps in common trouble spots.
  • Coming Soon! Waymaker English Composition I – Corequisite Design: A hybrid approach blending Composition I and Writing Skills Lab, with integrated review and remediation to support learning outcomes for college-level writing.
  • All Lumen English & Communications Courses: View all courses in these subject areas available from Lumen Learning

All Waymaker course materials are developed using open educational resources (OER). Use of OER content makes the course materials affordable; standard pricing is $25/student per term*. OER content also affords permissions to revise and improve the learning materials continuously. Lumen’s learning scientists and course designers analyze student learning data to identify problem areas where the content isn’t sufficiently supporting learning. Faculty members and other subject matter experts collaborate on diagnosing problems with the content and assessments and developing improvements. Term over term, Lumen can apply and test updates, making the course materials more and more effective over time. 

“Working with Lumen Learning to implement and improve Waymaker, we’ve had the opportunity to develop precisely the type of tool our department was looking for, and to ensure it is a strong fit for our students and how we teach,” said Krueger of the University of Mississippi’s Department of Writing and Rhetoric. “We look forward to continuing to enhance the courseware and how it supports student learning.”

*Special pricing and payment terms may apply to some institutions, including making Lumen course materials available at no cost to students. 

About Lumen Learning 

Lumen Learning uses open educational resources (OER) to provide affordable course materials that improve learning and replace expensive textbooks in high-enrollment college courses. Adding timely updates, learning design, and technical support to OER, Lumen makes the transition to open content simple, reliable, and effective for instructors and students. 

Lumen OER courseware includes Waymaker personalized learning course materials, OHM online homework system for math and other quantitative subjects. Over 350 colleges and universities across the U.S. use Lumen-supported digital courseware for in-person, online, and blended courses. Materials created by Lumen are published under Creative Commons Attribution licenses and contributed back to the education community. Learn more at, and visit our course catalog at

©2020 This announcement is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license 

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