Tidewater Community College: TCC Offers First Textbook-Free Degree

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Tidewater Community College (TCC) became the first institution of higher learning to launch its associate of science in business administration as a textbook-free degree program in 2013. Known as the Z-Degree—z for zero textbook cost—the program eases the pain of soaring textbook costs for college students by allowing students to complete the degree and spend no funds on textbooks and course materials.

Professor Linda Williams is the faculty lead for the Z-degree.

Students in the program use high-quality open textbooks and other open educational resources (OER), which are freely accessible, openly licensed materials specifically designed for teaching, learning, assessment, and research. It is estimated that a TCC student who completes the business degree through the textbook-free initiative saves a student $2,400 on the cost of college.

TCC partnered with Lumen Learning, a Portland, Oregon-based company that helps educational institutions integrate OERs into their curricula.

Although many colleges offer OER courses, TCC is the first regionally accredited institution in the United States to offer an entire degree in which students pay nothing for required textbooks. TCC's textbook-free pilot project launched in the 2013-2014 academic year and continues this academic year.

Z-Degree courses have resulted in higher student satisfaction, retention, and achievement of learning outcomes, preliminary data show.

"Our use of OER is changing the conversation about student success and learning outcomes as we measure results and identify what are the best resources to teach a particular outcome," said Daniel DeMarte, TCC's Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer. "That is the real power of open educational resources."

TCC's President, Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani, described the initiative as a significant step toward making higher education more accessible and affordable. "We won't stop working with our bookstore partner to provide options like used books, rentals, and e-texts, but neither will we stop our bold experiment to improve teaching and learning through free resources."