Affordable Course Materials Profiles: an interview with Professor Ravichandra Bachu

Professor Ravichandra Bachu headshot

Tisch Library's "Affordable Course Materials Profiles" feature interviews with faculty & instructors who have received an Affordable Course Materials Award

This interview is with Professor Ravichandra Bachu, lecturer in the Department of Chemistry. Professor Bachu received an award for Spring 2023.

What department do you teach in? Which classes do you most commonly teach? 

I teach in Chemistry Department. The most common courses I teach are Chem 0001 and Chem 0002.

Briefly describe your project to use or create more affordable course materials for students.

I teach Chem 0001 which is one of the biggest classes in Chemistry Department. During the spring semester of 2023, I implemented a plan to reduce the cost of required course materials such as textbooks and other resources for this course. The idea is to promote equitable access to all educational resources and reduce financial barriers for the students taking my course. I transitioned from using ``Chemistry: The Central Science'' authored by Theodore E. Brown, Eugene LeMay, and others, which carried a price tag of USD 186.66, to ``Chemistry: Atoms First 2e'' from OpenStax, which was available for students at no cost. In addition, I made a transition from using an online homework platform called ``Mastering Chemistry'' from Pearson, which had a subscription fee of USD 79.99, to ``Achieve'' from MacMillan Publishers, which was priced at USD 39.99. 

What motivated you to use these new materials?

I grew up in India, where the cost of textbooks was significantly lower compared to the USA. Despite this, I faced significant challenges purchasing them due to my financial situation. My motivation in using this material is to ensure all students, regardless of their financial status, could access these resources.

How were students impacted by the new materials? What was their reaction?

Although students did not explicitly express it, I am confident that they responded positively to the new materials. I received no complaints from them, which, based on my experience, indicates their satisfaction with the material. What pleasantly surprised me even more is that my colleague, who teaches Chem 0002, also adopted the same approach and is currently using the same textbook and online homework for students.

What was your experience incorporating these new materials into your course? How did the Tisch award support your work? Were there challenges?

I applied for Tisch Library's Affordable Course Materials Award and won an award of USD 500 for my project which significantly reduced the costs of course material. As a part of this award, I worked with a representative from the library and learned about various open-source textbook materials that could be used for my course without compromising on the rigor of the course. The award helped me strengthen my commitment to offering affordable course materials for my students.

Do you have any advice for other faculty considering a switch to open and affordable course content?

I highly recommend that all faculty embrace the adoption of affordable or free course materials in their classes. In this age of the Internet, where a wealth of information is readily accessible, I feel that the idea of paying for textbooks should be the last consideration.