Pioneer Lifelong Learning Program Closes


The brochure cover shown is the last brochure of the Learning Connection.
The brochure cover shown is the last brochure of the Learning Connection.

The Learning Connection of Providence, Rhode Island, has closed after a storied 33 year history.  A pioneering program in lifelong learning, the field adopted many of the Learning Connection’s innovations in brochures, course analysis, and software.

Among its contributions:

  • Cutting the brochure production timeline
  • Producing six brochures a year
  • Tracking brochure distribution by carrier route rather than zip codes.

It also was the originator of the online registration and business system that became Lumens, now used by hundreds of lifelong learning programs.

During its four decades, the Learning Connection was the largest lifelong learning program in Rhode Island.  It was founded by Greg Marsello, a co-founder of LERN.  Other staff members included Kathy Brady, Brendan Marsello, and Roy Singleton.

The program produced 193 catalogs, had 1,500 teachers, offered 3,000 courses and served over 25,000 people.

The Learning Connection was also one of the last free universities in the nation.  Free universities started in the 1960s.  Their educational philosophy that “Anyone can teach, anyone can learn” was widely regarded by traditional institutions and media as educational heresy at the time.  The philosophy and free university model then was adopted by every lifelong learning and continuing education program throughout North America, including your program.

The free university business model consisted of diverse subjects taught by people in the community and promoted with regular and colorful brochures.  The word “free” meant free to learn and free to teach, not no-cost. It was Marsello’s second free university, having started The Clinton Free School while in college.

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