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Connect, Learn, BreakThru: Summative Findings from 5 Years of Electronic Mentoring in STEM Education

Proposal No: 2681

Bios & Handouts


  • Chris Langston, UX Researcher - Accessibility, Pearson
  • Nathan Moon, Associate Director of Research, Georgia Tech

Disability Area:          

Topic Area:                  

Length of Session (in hours): 1-hrFormat: Lecture Expertise Level: All Levels Type of session: Not provided

Summary of Session

Over the past five years, the BreakThru project has used social media, mobile technology, and our Second Life virtual environment to enable STEM students and mentors to break through barriers to accessibility and achieve success. We now present summative data of five years of data collection.


The NSF BreakThru project has recruited 255 mentors and students with disabilities from STEM careers and majors during its five-year lifespan. Students participate in fully accessible mentoring activities using our Second Life islands and mobile technology to improve academic outcomes and successfully transition from high school to college. Mentors connect with students through a variety of accessible mobile and online communication channels to complete online learning modules, enabling a diverse array of mentoring relationships as unique as each student. BreakThru has presented annual progress reports with AHG since 2011. For 2015, BreakThru will present summative data from five years of student participants detailing changing usage patterns, technology needs, and accommodation challenges. In addition, we will present detailed findings of a study undertaken specifically to gauge the appropriateness and advantages of Second Life as a mentorship platform for students with disabilities.


  1. What have we learned from 5 years of summative data?
  2. How are changing technologies affecting platform choice among key demographics?
  3. What can BreakThru’s successes and lessons do to inform future electronic mentorship models?

Speaker Bio(s)

Chris Langston

Chris Langston has a decade of applied and experimental research experience in progressively senior roles as qualitative UX researcher, accessibility specialist, and instructional designer. He has designed and conducted experimental protocols using multiple UX research methods to generate findings from students with disabilities in virtual world environments as a Co-Principle Investigator for the Georgia STEM Accessibility Alliance. He developed and taught a graduate-level course on usability and accessibility for Georgia Tech’s Industrial Design program. At Pearson, Chris leads research related to accessibility for the UX research team within Pearson’s learning design division. He works with designers, product managers, developers, and prototypers to increase conformance with WCAG 2.0 guidelines. Chris also provides expert assistance to expand access to online education products through identification of problems, and application of research methods to reveal accessibility barriers.

Nathan Moon

Nathan W. Moon, PhD, is the Associate Director for Research of the Center for Advanced Communications Policy (CACP) at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. His primary research interests are workplace accommodations for people with disabilities, disability policy, accessibility and inclusion in postsecondary education, and systematic interventions to improve postsecondary STEM education. Dr. Moon has conducted research sponsored by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Education regarding accessible STEM education. He led a team that authored a handbook on classroom accommodations for students with disabilities in STEM education. He also currently serves as the external evaluator for the University System of Georgia’s (USG) STEM Initiative, and is Co-Principal Investigator of the Georgia STEM Accessibility Alliance BreakThru project.


Langston and Moon AHG 2015