Currently at American universities, chemistry departments require introductory chemistry textbooks at an average cost of $190 per book. When combined with the accompanied study guide ($70), solutions manual ($50), the online student access kit ($48) and individual instructor Readers ($60), the total cost ranges from $250 to $420 annually per student. With an average of ~1,500 students taking General Chemistry sequences each year for a major department, we ask freshmen Chemistry students to contribute from $375k to $525k total annually per university, which essentially doubles to $1M per year when including O-chem classes. While textbooks are clearly an important and critical component to students’ education, their abusive price tags are not, especially in today’s economy as tuition and other student costs are increasing near exponentially.
Much of the content in chemistry textbooks (especially general and O-chem topics) has essentially not changed for years: thermodynamics has been around for centuries; SN2 reaction basics have been established for decades and even alchemists in the 16th century knew how to titrate properly. Why have we convinced ourselves that shelling out $200 per book for established knowledge is the way to go? Simply because there is no other choice; faculty, not students, determine the required textbooks for classes and for a suitable non-commercial textbook substitute to be viable, it must be off sufficient quality to warrant evaluation AND must be supported especially by faculty.
We are constructing an online freely accessible textbook to address both aspects. As a new Chemistry faculty member at UC Davis, I still remember the pain of textbook costs and I am now positioned to construct/manage and push the ChemWiki project as a viable alternative to conventional textbooks. However, the construction of a textbook is not a trivial task, requiring years of effort to complete. This cannot be done by one person, hence we are constructing the ChemWiki via a massively parallelized plan involving simultaneous development effort on multiple fronts, whereby content is written and re-written by not only by faculty members, but primarily by students and other contributing experts.
The ChemWiki project is constantly being written and re-written partly by students and partly by faculty members. The success of the ChemWiki hinges on the open access of a flexibly-built, rigorously-vetted online textbook. This aspect and other critical features of the UCD Chemwiki are outlined in our philosophy below. Please contact Dr. Larsen (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you desire to be a module designer for the ChemWiki. Click here for the latest Google Analytics report of ChemWiki site.
Students can participate in the development of the ChemWiki project in different ways. Naturally, volunteerism is highly encouraged from students of all stages of education, from high school to graduate school. Participation results in increased internalization of the course material, which is beneficial for both grades and for preparation for standardized exams like the GRE or MCAT. Furthermore, participation provides a powerful selling point for letters of recommendation often required for advance study (Graduate or Medical schools) beyond a undergraduate education. Below are several mechanisms for students participation.
Many students are fortunate enough to be enrolled in chemistry classes with instructors providing extra credit to students for active contributions to the ChemWiki. Classes that have established this feature with the ChemWiki staff are found under the "Wikitext" tab on the top toolbar, although other classes may do so when requested. Please ask your instructor for more details.
At UC Davis, honors students are allowed to leverage participation in the ChemWiki for "Honors Contract" Credit via the University Honors Program. This mechanism may be allowed even for classes not providing extra credit. Please ask your instructor for more details.
Undergraduate Research Credit
At UC Davis, students can gain undergraduate research credit (Chem 99 for lower divisional and Chem 199 for upper divisional students) by spending 2-3 hours per credit per week per student. Contact Prof. Larsen (email@example.com) for more details.