A comprehensive program for colleges to improve access and completion
Low cost, small footprint, easy implementation

The OpenDoor Learning Project

The OpenDoor Learning Project is a comprehensive strategy for improving college access and completion by addressing multiple key barriers to college access and completion. The Open Door Learning Project integrates college and community efforts without requiring complex coordination, and partnership with SeeMore Impact Labs provides free resources and services for implementation.

An OpenDoor Learning initiative starts with the college articulating the CSM Certificate for credit, followed by integration of the CSM Course into college access and completion programming and encouragement of CSM use in the community (schools, adult education, workforce development, and more).

Students launch into college with math requirements behind them, strong learning skills, more informed and effective career decision-making skills, and the earned self-confidence providing stronger aspirations and resilience.

Overcoming Barriers to College Access And Completion

The CSM Course addresses four key barriers improving both college access and completion for prospective and current students.

College math

Many students lack the math skills to succeed at rigorous postsecondary programs.

Half of 18-year-olds have 4th - 6th grade math skills (including those who have high school diplomas) and half of college students fail algebra on their first attempt.

The CSM Certificate satisfies the general education math requirements for a degree at many 2- and 4-year colleges, so students can matriculate with their college math in the rearview mirror.

The CSM Course remediates as low as 4th grade math, and is highly supportive and designed for students with math anxiety.

Learning Effectiveness

Many students are not effective, independent learners, lacking in learning strategies, meta-cognition and mindsets, persistence, self-reliance, attention to detail, and more.  

CSM explicitly focuses on creating active, engaged, independent learners.

Student learn skills on their own through reading instructional text. Through CSM and their coach, they are provided with feedback on their learning strategies, reading effectiveness, attention to detail, persistence, and more.

Low Self-Efficacy

49% of adults don't believe that they have the skills to succeed at postsecondary education (Strada-Gallup, 2020). This lack of self-efficacy is a barrier to persistence as well as matriculation and college access.

CSM builds self-efficacy by presenting students with appropriate challenges and providing them the resources that they can dig deep and use to conquer them. As their skills grow, the problems become harder, and students find themselves doing math they never imagined they could understand.

Career Indecision

Many students have poor career decision-making skills, and are required to make high-stakes decisions about postsecondary programming without a decision-making framework, or the appropriate knowledge.

Career Strategies teaches the skills of effective career decision-making so that students are able to deal with the complexity and fears associated with college and career decisions.

Money, housing and food insecurity, childcare, transportation and “life” are without question important impediments to college for many people, and programs addressing these issues are critically needed. However, we believe that students who know why they are in college and have deep self-confidence will be more likley to persist in overcoming these issues.

From Brittany in Charleston, WV: 

The CSM Certificate satisfies the general education math requirement for an associate degree at all colleges in the West Virginia Community and Technical College System. All adults in West Virginia can take the CSM Course, with a personal coach, for free through the Office of Adult Education.
Brittany took earned her CSM Certificate and matriculated at Bridge Valley Community College.

"I took a lot of special needs math classes growing up. And so I didn't finish high school – I kinda gave up on it, because I was like I can't do math so I won't be able to do anything. I did the whole stay-at-home-with-kids things for awhile, and only worked at restaurants.

Then the CSM Course came along…I've always hated math, but I really enjoyed CSM! I don't know if it was all the concepts for problem solving that it gives to you, or the fact that whenever I got so frustrated that I was going to shut my computer, it would take me to somewhere else for a while.

I managed to finish, and I was so excited! I got my three credits for math, and I started college to be a substance abuse counselor.”

I had always wanted to help people, and the only thing that was holding me back in my mind was well, I can't do math. As if the people I was going to be helping were going to say ‘well, can you do math?’.

Looking back, I felt like I wasn't deserving a college degree, because I couldn't get through basic math. It made feel really upset, and I had kinda given up, really. To me, CSM saved me.”

The clincher: Brittany is now on the Dean's List!

Creating OpenDoor Learning

Every college will implement OpenDoor Learning differently depending on the populations you serve, and on your community. These steps may occur over time as you gain experience and confidence.

Articulation of the CSM Certificate for math credit

The CSM Certificate has a recommendation from the American Council on Education for 3 semester-hours of quantitative reasoning credit at the lower baccalaureate level, and satisfies general education math requirements many 2- and 4-year colleges.

College math is a major hurdle to college access and completion, the availability of prior-learning math credit supported by the inexpensive and highly supportive CSM Course opens many new avenues for postsecondary achievement.

In a national study, CSM gave larger math and literacy outcomes than college-prep standards like ALEKS from McGraw-Hill and MyFoundationsLab from Pearson, working well with such tough populations as opportunity youth and low-literacy adults.

Use CSM at your college

Many new or struggling students are facing similar issues, including anxiety around college math, and a passive and scattered approach to learning. CSM can be used to gain students the math credit they need, while also boosting their persistence, learning abilities, and confidence.

Applications include:

  • Early in students’ college career as a summer bridge program, in a first year experience course, as an alternative to developmental education, etc
  • As the curriculum in a general education math course
  • For struggling students as a course to bring students on probation back into standing or to bring back stopped-out students

Note that these uses don't impinge on core college functions, and are compatible with popular programs like wraparound services (e.g. ASAP) or pathways programs (e.g. Guided Pathways). A college can start with a single program, and then expand as it gains experience with CSM.

Encourage your community to use CSM 

Colleges share common interest in expanding postsecondary access with many community entities, including schools, adult education, workforce development and employers. Articulating CSM at your college incentivizes them to implement CSM in their own programs, leveraging their capacity, resources, and reach into the community.

Community partners can include:

  • High schools as an alternative to dual/concurrent enrollment
  • Adult education for college transition and/or high school equivalency
  • Work-based learning programs (e.g. apprenticeships)
  • Employers for tuition assistance and employee upskilling

And given that CSM acts as well as an employability skills credential, partnerships can be made with employers and workforce programs to act as an employability skills credential, potentially with hiring preferences (e.g. see the Excel Together Initiative).

Free Services from SeeMore Impact Labs

The OpenDoor Learning Project provides many forms of free assistance to ensure successful, lasting implementation:

  • Marketing– This includes helping with website development, developing of marketing materials, assisting in marketing campaigns, and providing presentations both internally within the college, as well as externally to education, workforce development and employer entities in the community.
  • CSM branding/customization – the CSM course can be college-branded, with links to your college admissions pages, as well as interludes that highlight programs at your college. A key benefit of this assistance is that as a student in the community completes CSM, with opt-in, their contact and demographic information can be shared with the college. This serves as a no-cost “qualified lead” for the college.
  • Operations– SeeMore provides free professional development for staff at both the college and entities in the community to become Certified CSM Coaches, as well as follow-on coaching tools and support. Finally, as needed, CSM can be integrated with most college Learning Management Systems.

Expanding dual/concurrent credit

Dual/concurrent enrollment is one of the most successful college access and completion strategies, and  allows high school students to gain college credit and a sense of membership in college.

However, this powerful strategy is difficult for high schools set up, and is completely unavailable to adult education, workforce, and community programs, and after/summer school programs. Scope is often limited due to issues with paying for credit, finding qualified instructors, and ensuring students place into college-level classes.

OpenDoor Learning allows community programs to gain their students college math credit. Students can take CSM in support of their own goals (high school equivalency, workforce training, etc) while simultaneously building the confidence, skills, and credit to transfer seamlessly into college programs.

OpenDoor Learning is an equity program

The four hurdles to college access and completion -- math skills, learning effectiveness, low self-efficacy and career indecision -- disproportionately affect students of color, students living in poverty, and other underserved populations. OpenDoor Learning and CSM address these issues in powerful and scalable ways, and the OpenDoor model is designed to help these individuals in the community in places that postsecondary education does not reach: in adult education, in alternative and low-performing schools, at the One-Stop Center, through family and friends.

Review of OpenDoor Learning

Articulate CSM for college math credit

Use CSM at your college

Encourage your community to use CSM 

Free services from SeeMore Impact Labs

Benefits of OpenDoor Learning


OpenDoor Learning provides a streamlined approach to college access and completion programs.

Most colleges run a variety of programs for incoming students, each with its own Theory of Change, curriculum, instruction, credential, funding. This is hard to operationalize and scale, and there is often limited knowledge transfer between programs about what works and what doesn't. These issues are magnified when community programs are brought into the mix.

OpenDoor Learning provides a general framework for building the most important skills for college access and completion.


The cost of running an OpenDoor Learning initiative is low. CSM is inexpensive, and sessions of the CSM Course can be run for many programs - the same CSM section could include summer bridge students, stop-out recovery students, and students who are nearing probation status.

Furthermore, many of the programs participating in the OpenDoor Learning initiative will be in the community: schools, adult education, workforce development, etc. This off-loads some of the work and expense from the college.

On the revenue side, the initiative should act as a broader pipeline for students into the college -- students who have college math credit, stronger learning skills, a framework for making career decisions, and higher self-efficacy. These students will have a higher completion rate, and require fewer support services from the college.


The entire framework of OpenDoor Learning is based in equity -- how to funnel more underserved students into postsecondary pathways, armed with the skills to succeed. To help with the equity aspect of program fidelity, SeeMore's support services are designed to reach out to community organizations that have an equity mission and help them design and operate postsecondary programs for people who are not college bound.

Contact us

If you're interested in learning more about OpenDoor Learning and how it might apply at your college, please fill in the form below, or write us directly at hello@smilabs.org.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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