Welcome to the latest edition of our From the Field series, featuring interviews with and spotlights on competency-based education leaders.

About College Unbound

College Unbound was founded in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2009, with an inaugural class of 10 college students. Since then, it has evolved to include distance learning, online learning, adult learning, and traditional college campus programs.

A snapshot of the College Unbound student body:

  • 77% of students work full-time while enrolled
  • 80% of students graduate
  • 87% of alumni are employed full-time
  • 38% of participants are promoted because of their coursework
  • 20% go on to Graduate School

What makes College Unbound amazing

Passion. Growth. No Bull.

At College Unbound, students and educators are reinventing higher education. Much of the student population are underrepresented, returning adult learners who balance home, school and life. The program experienced rapid development in the last year, recently gaining state authorization from Rhode Island, and currently pursuing NEASC accreditation, and becoming the thirteenth Institution of Higher Education in Rhode Island to offers a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership and Change. The program is responsive to students’ needs and delivers individualized learning pathways to students that are interest- and project-driven. College Unbound creates a cohesive learning environment that offers unparalleled support and collaboration with a peer cohort as well as workplace professionals.

Students improve their own lives and the lives of those they touch by accepting the challenge of deeper learning with respect for their peers and their education by supporting and encouraging each other as they move through their unique learning journey. College Unbound is an amazing and evolving learning community dedicated to equipping students with the most essential skills for success in life and in real workplaces in their local and global communities.

How did Motivis Learning get involved?

The first time we met Dennis Littky, Co-Founder of Big Picture Learning and Founder of The MET School, he was wearing a t-shirt proclaiming Passion. Growth. No Bull. A mantra of sorts to describe the qualities one finds at College Unbound. He is a formidable educator with a long history of disrupting the status quo in an effort to create a better learning experience for students. After creating and running a world-renowned student-centered high school (MET), Dennis recognized the continuing needs of post-secondary students and working adults, and founded College Unbound, which meets on campus at the Met School in Providence.

At the same time, Motivis Learning was working through research and development of a digital platform that supports learning via relationships. Dennis soon extended an invitation to us to join his staff and design a course on data analysis, and we’ve built our collaborative relationship from there.

Fast forward to last week, when Motivis Learning CTO, AJ Dellicicchi, and I, co-taught our first course on Improving and Empowering Lives through Data. The course is led and executed faithfully (and expertly) by Adam Bush, College Unbound’s founding Director of Curriculum and the Vice-President of Academic Affairs. Adam has been working with the cohort since the program’s inception and works with students every week to design personal learning plans based on individual learning needs, helping them stay motivated and on-track.

With such intense personalization, the question has become, “How can we scale a program so responsive to students’ needs?” For example, if individuals truly progress at their own pace, can personalized learning progress in a sustainable way? The answer is yes, if the program embeds and integrates skills that create better collaboration and therefore more meaningful and deeper learning. Through the cohort and CU’s emphasis on relationships, the focus shifts from individual contributors to a team of empathetic leaders, holding each other accountable and moving forward together.

Why is community so important for learning?

When it comes to building learning communities designed for student success, incorporating and welcoming professional members of the community provides opportunities for authentic application of skills, and real-world mentorship in a relevant industry. Students emerge prepared for the workforce with social capital as well as skills in demand.

During the last century, there’s been a deterioration of community partnerships in education, creating a silo of educational practices with no connections to industry needs. This has, unfortunately, led to a professional sector desperate for a trained workforce, and schools simultaneously producing graduates unqualified for the jobs that await them.

Meanwhile, at College Unbound, Littky and Bush harness the power of community inside and outside of the school to accomplish two amazing things at once: students become part of the greater community and the community becomes part of the school. The community and its leaders provide innovation and employment, and they serve as an exceptional resource for professional expertise, mentorship, and relevant and engaging instruction. Access to educational institutions like College Unbound provides a conduit for industry to share informed and practical requirements for career readiness while enabling students to build valuable experience and the social capital for success.

Why is Motivis Learning’s partnership with College Unbound so awesome?

At Motivis, we work tirelessly to build and deliver a Learning Relationship Management system that focuses on the relationships that support learning. We know that connecting with students is essential through curriculum, data and conversations that keep students moving forward. Working with a school that is doing that face-to-face work everyday is exciting, and inspires our design.

College Unbound is an amazing and evolving learning community dedicated to equipping students with the most essential skills for life as well as career success. Through partnerships with local businesses that pair students with workplace mentors that match students’ educational goals and studies, College Unbound meets students where they are on their educational journey and raises them up through empowering relationships. Motivis Learning is honored to be a part of the community that supports students at College Unbound and on campuses across the country.