College Unbound's mission is to reinvent higher education for underrepresented returning adult learners, using a model that is individualized, interest-based, project-driven, workplace-enhanced, cohort-supported, flexible, supportive, and affordable. Through rigorous and engaged scholarship, College Unbound integrates the students’ own purposes for learning with the needs of their workplaces and communities, improving the lives of the students and the lives of those they touch. As a degree completion college, College Unbound provides access, support through completion, and career placement, ensuring that students get in, stay in, and move forward.
1) Learners come to CU with prior experiences, knowledge, and abilities which must be recognized, honored, used, and credited. The multiple roles of these adult learners (workers, community members, partners, parents) are used as assets, not barriers. They are supported as scholar practitioners.
2) Curriculum begins with the student and builds from there. It must be personalized around the unique skills, knowledge, and needs of individuals—acknowledging that students have different goals and are at different places in their lives.
3) Learning in the world is multi-faceted and interdisciplinary; it is not broken into compartmentalized subject-matter packages. Content of disciplines is important as a means to an end, not an end in itself.
4) Learning means paying attention to how one knows as well as what one knows; paying attention to why it matters and where it can be applied.
5) Learning is a process powered by the learner and supported and stimulated by collaboration with others; social interaction empowers making meaning.
6) Learning is not a linear process; learners choose to access content at different times for different purposes, in different contexts. Arbitrary sequencing decisions may actually impede learning.
7) Adult learners have a strong preference for learning that is real—problem-centered or task-centered (with immediate application) rather than subject-centered.
8) Expertise exists in many places and forms; expertise accessed beyond the professor is encouraged and honored.
9) The workplace provides rich opportunities for learning; it provides space in which action and reflection can take place in a continuous cycle.
10) When assessment is shared between professors, academic advisors, workplace mentors, field experts, and peers, the learning is rigorous, relevant, and ongoing. When students open their work to public analysis, the learning increases.
11) Competence is not demonstrated through a single event; rather, a range of evidence in different contexts over time must be presented before judging competence.
12) Technology must be used to do more than deliver content; it must be used by students to discover, create, use, share, assess, discuss, manipulate and reshape content, and to connect with others.