July 9, 2019

Creating Better Chemistry and Delivering Student Savings

An email from Fenwick Library caught the collective eye of the teaching team responsible for delivering CHEM 336: Physical Chemistry I Laboratory.  The email referenced the 4-VA at Mason course re-design grants, which are provided to encourage the incorporation of Open Educational Resources (OER) into the curriculum.

LCOS Portraitsead PI Moissa Fayissa, PhD. thought that this might just be the path for the team to pursue:  He believed their current text and lab books were subpar and incomplete as a match for their course.  Fayissa saw the need to provide only top-notch materials for this intensive class — which is offered in three sessions in the fall semester and two sessions in the spring semester.  Additionally, Fayissa worried about the cost of their then-current textbook.  At more than $250, this was a high price to ask students to pay.

When Fayissa and his CO-PI Pritha Roy, PhD. received their 4-VA grant, they split up the lesson plans and got to work.  Says COS Portraits, “The materials search included looking at printed laboratory manuals and online open resources. When we could not find enough information online for the experiment, we referred to the previous laboratory manual and cited the lab manual as the reference.  The instructions and background materials found online were rewritten to suit our needs.”

While the team did find that locating and utilizing materials without copyright infringement concerns was challenging, they worked with library staff to ensure they were taking the correct approach.  Careful consideration was given to each citing.

Fayissa is pleased with the results, “This process has led to better background materials and better explanations for experiments.  In addition, the students have access to these materials without the expensive textbook, which was an important goal of this project.” Although CHEM 336 is limited to 16 students per class due to lab restrictions, the textbook cost savings in total approximates an impressive $20,000 annually.

They are now planning to upload the entire course work into BlackBoard for the fall semester and are considering working with the library staff further to publish the materials through Mason Publishing Group so that students can obtain a hard copy of the materials if they prefer.  Fayissa and Roy agree that the final product was worth the effort for the improvement curriculum and cost savings for the students.