“It is amazing to be the first accredited institution of higher learning to offer a zero textbook degree,” said Williams. “While we see the obvious benefits for our students, we hope to inspire other faculty and institutions to replicate what we’ve accomplished.”
Launched in fall 2013, TCC’s “Z Degree” – “z” for zero textbook cost – was created to ease the pain of soaring textbook costs for college students. TCC partnered with Lumen Learning, a Portland, Ore.-based company that helps educational institutions integrate open educational resources into their curricula.
“There’s nothing more tragic than to see a student with unlimited potential fail because of lack of course materials. Affordability is one of the reasons students are attracted to the community college. We bring them in with low tuition rates and soon some students are making the difficult decision to buy textbooks or pay the gas bill or rent.”
With the Z-Degree, from the first day of classes, students have access to the open educational resources selected for their learning. “We’re seeing very engaged learning and a creativity flow that’s very dynamic,” Williams added.
Williams, who has roots in industry, has been teaching at TCC’s Chesapeake Campus since 2009. She is the daughter of an entrepreneur and she says that spirit stuck with her. “I’ve owned several businesses and worked as an industry consultant for some large firms from Sara Lee to DuPont to the U.S. Coast Guard. And those experiences prepared me to present business subjects with a real-world twist.”
Noting that there’s not another job she’d rather be doing Williams said, “You have to breathe life into the subjects you teach and enable students to imagine what they can do with the concepts they are learning. I hold my students to extremely high standards and expect them to do the same to me.”
“I know my students by name and I know their stories,” Williams said. “Because of this connection, I have a greater opportunity to make a difference in their lives.”
Williams says that the Z-degree is her greatest professional achievement and she credits the faculty team she works with and administrators Kim Bovee and Daniel DeMarte for their dedication to the project.
“As an individual I know I can only accomplish so much in my lifetime. As a teacher, I have the chance every day to encourage my students, so they can go out and change the world.”