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Cutting Costs, Not Quality 

UHCOP's Marwaha Among Recipients of Inaugural UH Program to Help Improve Student Performance, Mitigate High Cost of Textbooks 

The semester ritual of students suffering sticker shock over the cost of textbooks seems like an inescapable part of the higher education experience, but University of Houston administrators and faculty members are exploring options to reduce those traditional expense while not sacrificing their commitment to academic excellence.

In a new initiative launched recently, UH Libraries and the Office of the Provost launched the Alternative Textbook Incentive Program (ATIP) to provide faculty members with incentives to adopt, adapt, or create an open textbook for use in their courses.

Five of this year’s awarded ATIP projects were for creating open educational resources (OER), seven involve the adoption of OER and/or library materials, and three involve a combination thereof. Awards for the first cohort total $23,500. Projected student savings are based in part on enrollment and amount to approximately $231,074 in the first year of the award cycle.

marwaha photoSupported by a $2,500 ATIP award, UHCOP Instructional Assistant Professor Aditi Marwaha, Ph.D. ('05), created an open, web-based textbook for "Pharmacy Calculations," which is now a part of PHAR 4330 (Pharmaceutics I and Pharmacy Calculations) in the new Pharm.D. curriculum launched in the fall 2018 semester.

"PHAR 4330 is an integrated course, and would have involved three textbooks for a single class," Marwaha said. "The open textbook for the pharmacy calculations part saves students from buying one of the textbooks, although there is a recommended textbook still associated with the course, it's not required – which saves each student about $80."

Marwaha said the concepts, sample calculation walkthroughs and exercises in the open textbook, which randomly generates practice problems from a database, complements the other components of the integrated course for students to be fully prepared for advancing to the next steps in the curriculum, excel on their licensure exams and be "practice ready" upon graduation.

The transition was helped by the fact that former standalone Pharmacy Calculations course was online, but did require the students to have a textbook and there was still a cost associated with updating and maintaining the site, Marwaha said.

ATIP awards were granted based on projected cost savings for students, frequency of course(s) taught, and feasibility of the successful implementation of the proposal. A total of 25 proposals were received for this first program year.