She loved school. She wanted a degree. And, she wanted to be a role model. But with her medical challenges, Nancy Stephenson, the mother of three and grandmother of seven, just didn’t think it would ever happen. That was until her doctor told her about online classes.
“I was talking to one of my doctors, and we were discussing colleges and degrees. I told him I would love to go back to school but with my medical problems, I was unable to attend classes,” Stephenson said. After some research, she learned about TCC Connect and enrolled.
“I love school, and I always wanted a degree, but I also wanted to show my grandchildren that no matter your disabilities or age, anyone can achieve a degree and further their education, if they truly want one. Never let anyone tell you they can’t go back to school because they can,” Stephenson said.
TCC Connect was first established in 2013 as an administrative division responsible for eLearning, Dual Credit and Weekend College. Weekend College provides students the opportunity to earn an associate degree in 18 months or fewer in a flexible format that includes online and face-to-face classes.
TCC Connect received campus designation from The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) two years later in September 2015. While TCC students had access to online courses before the creation of the new campus, fully online programs previously had not been offered. TCC Connect moved to its current location at 444 North Henderson in downtown Fort Worth in 2017.
“Online learning is a modality that students appreciate because it means that college can fit into their busy schedules with work, family and all the complications of their lives,” said TCC Connect President Carlos Morales. “The future is bright for students attending TCC via online offerings. As family, work and economic opportunities increase, their schedules will require them to access and complete their education at non-traditional hours of the day.”
The flexibility of the classes allows Elizabeth Badgley to work toward a degree so she can better support her family. “TCC is making it possible for me to earn a legitimate degree from my own home. As a busy mom with two kids under 3, it is very hard for me to get out,” Badgley said. “Child care is a big issue for me, so just having that online option really makes it easier for me to get an education.”
Enrollment in TCC Connect in the last three academic years has increased 25 percent to 22,590 students from 18,016 students, including a 12 percent increase in exclusively online students to 5,280 from 4,719.
TCC Connect biology instructor Natalie Russell agreed. “Online learning allows people to continue their education when otherwise they might not be able to do so,” Russell said.
Since its inception, TCC Connect consistently has created additional opportunities to help students reach their educational goals. Students can be productive during traditional breaks by taking classes during a Winter-mester or during summer. Monthly enrollment also is an option that helps students trim the time it takes them to earn certificates and degrees.
As the only accredited virtual campus in Texas, this is another example of how our online and accelerated education opportunity allows us to intentionally provide TCC students with greater access to education because we understand the flexibility needed by the non-traditional student.
TCC Connect President
TCC Connect has distinguished itself during the years. Most recently, TCC Connect was named in January 2020 as the Best Online Community College by Intelligent.com, a resource for online degree rankings and higher education planning. TCC Connect was ranked Among Top Online Colleges in Texas in 2014 and 2016 by the National Center for Education Statistics.
In fall 2019, TCC Connect offered four new and completely online academic programs as part of the College’s commitment to being student-ready. Two of the classes were certificate programs in information security and two were associate degree programs in human resources and marketing, respectively. These courses expanded options beyond just being able to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Administration: Business completely online with eight-week classes.
“Our faculty work together to create courses that can meet students where they are. We have a collaborative style on our campus that allows us to learn from and work with each other, regardless of the subject we teach,” English instructor Allegra Davis said. “Teaching online means you get to work with students in so many new ways, and you get to try new things every semester. You can create and curate materials that meet students’ needs and share your experience with them in new ways. You have the opportunity (and obligation, too) to keep your courses updated and refreshed, to respond to changing technology and new research in effective online teaching.”
For the 2019-20 academic year, TCC Connect enrollment was 23,793. TCC Connect offers 31 fully online programs including 10 associate degrees and 21 certificate programs. TCC Connect provides an eLearning course inventory of more than 172 courses and 875 classes.
TCC Connect also is offering 712 classes in two five-week sessions during Summer 2020. Students may register for the first five-week session through May 26 and through June 30 for the second session. Summer classes begin June 2.
Online students who excel have the same opportunity for recognition as traditional students. TCC Connect established Beta Chi Zeta chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges. When it was chartered in 2017, it became the sixth TCC chapter of PTK that has recognized academic excellence since the honor society was established in 1918.
TCC Connect students are supported in their pursuit of their academic goals with access to all of the Student Support Services available to students enrolled in traditional face-to-face courses ranging from digital orientation to enrollment services. These services also include online advising, payment, library service, advising, tutoring and proctoring.
“The student holistic approach, taken by online support staff, is to take the student as a whole student and to meet the students where they are and to provide TCC resources to meet their needs,” Morales said. “Ultimately, these options provide the solid and flexible foundation for serving students.”
TCC Connect student Jillian Vestal said TCC Connect is providing her the opportunity to recharge her life.
“I enrolled because I felt stuck in my life. I felt as though I was going nowhere and was always going to be stuck in a low-income household,” Vestal said. “I knew that enrolling in college was a huge time-consuming step, but I thought it was my best option. Knowledge is power and nobody can take my education away.”
Information about enrolling in TCC Connect is available by calling 817-515-8000 or visiting www.tccd.edu/online.