About This Course

Course Goals

This Lumen Learning Waymaker U.S. History course aims to help students think critically about history and use historical thinking skills to describe, compare, contextualize, and construct historical arguments about major events in American history through 1877, from the European settling of the Americas to the Reconstruction Era.

  • Other primary course goals include the following:
    • Describe key historical trends, events, and figures in early American history
    • Examine historical figures and events from multiple, diverse perspectives, recognizing how American history is influenced by race, ethnicity, gender, class, religion, etc.
    • Think like a historian; make historical connections by studying historical narratives and arguments, analyzing documents, synthesizing information, evaluating cause and effect, and studying how things change over time.

Course Content

This course will guide students through a wealth of primary sources, readings, and videos tied to clear learning objectives designed to improve their critical thinking skills. Sample discussions and assignments are included. Key topics include early globalization and European exploration, colonial societies, the English Empire, America’s War for Independence, the creation of the American Republic, the industrial transformation, Jacksonian democracy, westward expansion, “King” Cotton and idealism in the antebellum South, the troubled 1850s, and the Civil War to Reconstruction.

This text for the course comes primarily from OpenStax U.S. History and The American Yawp courses, but it has been extensively enhanced and embellished.

Course Highlights

The course includes additional narratives, practice questions, videos, quizzes, discussions, assignments, and slides. Other key course features include:

  • A greater emphasis on historical connections and significance
    • Every module will begin with a “Why It Matters” and conclude with a “Putting It Together” page that will help introduce students to content and provide relevance. Content will be adjusted to focus on connections and relevance.
    • More special features and sections have been included to create a more inclusive and nuanced understanding of history, as seen through multiple perspectives, recognizing how American history is influenced by race, ethnicity, gender, class, religion, etc.
  • Practice and interactivity
    • Practice questions are included for every learning outcome. Primary source documents are included and interpreted throughout the text, and exercises will allow students to reflect on the content.
  • “Historical Hacks” sections in every module
    • These small tutorials help students to learn and apply historical thinking skills. These skills are broken down into understandable chunks and give students an opportunity to practice important skills, such as interpreting primary source documents, citing sources, creating thesis statements, comparing perspectives, analyzing political cartoons and photographs, deciphering complex language, and thinking like a historian. These often involve looking closely at primary source documents, and include suggestions for further thought or accompanying in-class discussions.

Some of the materials inspiring the organization, content, and approach to pedagogy in the Waymaker U.S. History course include the following:

Course Improvements

We believe in making continuous improvements to our courses in order to enhance and facilitate student learning. This newest version of the course includes a vast number of data-driven improvements to assessment questions and text content in order to better illustrate, clarify, and evaluate concepts.


This course was developed by Lumen Learning with significant contributions by:

Primary Content Authors
Lillian Wills, Contributor
Sarah Franklin, University of North Alabama
Mark Lempke, SUNY Buffalo
Marin Bryce, Contributor
Scott Barr, Contributor
Megan Coplen, Contributor
Josie Jones, Contributor
Erica Holland, Contributor
Katherine Rippel, El Camino College
Richard Zollars, Patrick Henry Community College
Burton Kirkwood, Contributor
CJ McClung, Contributor
Fernando Reyes, Contributor

About Lumen

Lumen Learning courseware is based on open educational resources (OER). When we can find well designed, effective OER that are appropriately licensed, we use them in our courseware. When we can’t find pre-existing OER, we create original content and license it as OER (under a Creative Commons Attribution license).

Lumen’s authoring process doesn’t end when our courseware is released. Our choice to adopt open educational resources means that we have the copyright permissions necessary to engage in continuous improvement of our learning content. Consequently, our courses are continually being revised and updated. Errata reported for our courseware are fixed in a matter of days, as opposed to the traditional model in which errors persist until the next “edition” is printed (often a year or more). Students and faculty can suggest improvements to our courses directly from within the courseware as they use it. And we conduct regular analyses to determine where students are struggling the most in our courseware, and make improvements that specifically target these areas.

Given our unique approach, our list of authors and other contributors may look different than the lists you are used to seeing. We provide both a list of the primary content authors (the people involved in the initial creation of the course) and a list of everyone who has contributed suggestions and other improvements to the course since it was first released. We invite you to join us as we create courseware that supports student learning more effectively each semester.

If you’d like to connect with us to learn more about adopting this course, please Contact Us.

You can also make an appointment for OER Office Hours to connect virtually with a live Lumen expert about any question you may have.