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Another honor for Nation’s first textbook-free degree

Z-Degree logoTidewater Community College’s unique zero-textbook degree program – known as the “Z-Degree” — took home a first-place Excellence in Education Award at New Horizons 2014.

New Horizons is an annual academic conference for Virginia’s Community Colleges to showcase innovations in teaching and learning. It was held April 9-11 at the Hotel Roanoke.
A member of the “Z-Degree” faculty team, Diane Ryan, assistant professor of speech, and Linda Williams, faculty team lead and professor of business management and administration, presented the “Z-Degree,” which competed in Best Practices in Teaching Face-to-Face, Online and Student Success.
The other TCC team members were:

  • Lisa Carter, professor of information systems technology
  • Sean Lacroix, economics instructor
  • Pamela Dale, assistant professor of mathematics
  • Debra Porter, associate professor of accounting
  • Okema Bowers, adjunct instructor of student development
  • Lynnette Hauser, assistant professor of biology
  • Natalia Kuznetsova, adjunct instructor of music
  • Maura Lansing, adjunct instructor physical education
  • Elizabeth Lohman, adjunct instructor of English and humanities
  • Lynn Rainard, professor of history
  • Darlene Stoll, adjunct instructor of art

Daniel DeMarte, vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer, and Kimberly Bovee, associate vice president for strategic learning initiatives, rounded out the team.
TCC launched its “Z-Degree” to ease the pain of soaring textbook costs for college students. It partnered with Lumen Learning, a Portland, Ore.-based company that helps educational institutions integrate open educational resources (OER) into their curricula. OER are freely accessible, openly licensed materials helpful for teaching, learning, assessment and research.
It is estimated that a TCC student who completes the degree through the textbook-free initiative might save one-third on the cost of college.

It was at the 2012 VCCS Chancellor’s Retreat that the idea of offering an OER-based degree came to DeMarte. “While many colleges and universities were experimenting with using OER, no one had actually taken the next step to put together a complete OER-based certificate or degree program,” he said. “I knew that if we pulled it off, we could save students a tremendous amount of money.”
DeMarte credits the dedicated faculty team for making the “Z-Degree” a reality at TCC. “From the beginning, the entire team insisted that these courses would be at least as good as traditional textbook-using courses,” he said “and as it turned out, the faculty team completely rebuilt the courses based solely on the learning outcomes and created focused, effective courses.”
The Excellence in Education awards provide individuals or teams an opportunity to highlight their use of a technology-based idea, tool or process created for direct use in the classroom or online. The submission must demonstrate a connection with student success.
Data collected after the first semester of the “Z-Degree” found high rates of student satisfaction in content and achievement of academic outcomes and improved student retention.
Since its launch as a pilot program in fall 2013, the “Z-Degree” has attracted national attention from media as well as other institutions hoping to replicate an OER-based curriculum.