How One Chemistry Department Saved Its Student Population Over $60,000 Per Year

Brad Bates and Brian Woodrum have led the adoption of Aktiv Chemistry and OpenStax Chemistry to increase engagement and significantly reduce student costs in their General Chemistry sequence

Brad Bates & Brian Woodrum

Chemistry Faculty, Department of Physicals Sciences & Engineering, Chandler Gilbert Community College

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The barrier of student costs

As college tuitions continue to rise, on average about 8% each year, finding ways to cut student costs are not only helpful but also vital. Courses that require the purchase of textbooks and technology, like clickers or online homework platforms, are often the source of additional financial stress for students. Brian Woodrum and Brad Bates, chemistry professors at Chandler Gilbert Community College in Chandler, AZ, are committed to finding educational resources for their students that don’t break the banks of their diverse student population.

Brad, who has been a chemistry instructor at Chandler Gilbert for over 20 years, illustrates the immediacy of finding cost-effective solutions for their students. “We’re talking about people that are struggling to go to school and, if the price point is high, they’re not going to go to college. It’s that simple. Whether they can take four or five classes and stay in school, or whether they can only take one or two. When you’re paying more on books and technology for a class than tuition, something is seriously wrong.” When it comes to technology for Chandler Gilbert’s chemistry courses that is both affordable and increases student engagement, Brad and Brian agree that the best choice is Aktiv Chemistry.

“Aktiv Chemistry is an extremely high-quality product for an extremely great price and everyone seems to love it. I get zero complaints. It’s fun, easy, and [the students] pick it up really quickly.”¹
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Brad Bates
Chandler Gilbert Community College

Aktiv Chemistry’s intuitive platform of expansive questions and problem-solving modules provide a highly engaging and interactive learning environment that can substantially reduce student costs in chemistry courses. As Brian points out, students have been very satisfied with the improvement in quality and cost compared to their former systems. “They always seemed dismayed when they were spending more and the quality of the platform was poor. Now, we have Aktiv Chemistry, an extremely high-quality platform for an extremely great price and everyone seems to love it. I get zero complaints. It’s fun, easy, and they pick it up really quickly.”¹

Easy, intuitive, and fun

Ease of use is a characteristic that applies equally to instructors as well as students. Chandler Gilbert has six full-time chemistry faculty members that all use Aktiv Chemistry. They also have six to seven adjunct faculty who teach sections of General Chemistry each semester. With Aktiv Chemistry, full-time faculty are able to create assignments on the platform and share them with adjunct professors to easily provide them with prepared materials for their sections. According to Brad, “I spent two days trying to get [an e-textbook] to work. I spent three days trying to get [a lab product] to work with my students – lots of headaches, lots of emails, lots of phone calls. It was five minutes for Aktiv Chemistry to be up and running. It’s very user friendly and it’s very time-efficient, which means a lot to us”.¹

“It was five minutes for Aktiv Chemistry to be up and running. I think that says it all. It’s very user friendly and it’s very time-efficient, which means a lot to us.”¹

Enter OpenStax

Chandler Gilbert’s students have also benefited from Aktiv Chemistry’s integration with the OpenStax Chemistry textbook. OpenStax is an educational initiative from Rice University that produces and publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed, openly licensed college textbooks that are free to access online. As part of Aktiv Chemistry’s integration with OpenStax, instructors have access to an extensive question bank specifically tailored to each chapter of the OpenStax text. Aktiv Chemistry provides unique integrations for the Chemistry and Chemistry Atoms First textbooks. This integration also provides students with extra assistance on assignments. When a student is working on a problem and needs assistance, the student can select a button and be brought to the exact page in the OpenStax textbook with the relevant information that will help them address the question.

Aktiv Chemistry’s direct integration with the OpenStax Chemistry and Chemistry Atoms First texts take students to the relevant section of the book if they are struggling on a problem or need additional help
Not only is the OpenStax textbook free for students, Brian believes it is just as high-quality as a traditional publisher text. “I find that OpenStax covers all the material. I find it to be a very good starting point for students in chemistry.” Brad adds, “I went from Brown LeMay to Silberberg just to give it a shot, but it’s too expensive and for our community college students, that’s the bottom line for us. When we found OpenStax, it was a no brainer. It really works well!”
“I went from Brown LeMay to Silberberg just to give a shot, but it’s too expensive for our community college students, that’s the bottom line for us. When we found OpenStax, it was a no brainer. It really works well!”

An affordable digital platform linked to a free, high-quality textbook made adopting Aktiv Chemistry at Chandler Gilbert Community College a no-brainer for their staff. Previously, their chemistry course package cost each student more than $200 for full-year use, adopting Aktiv Chemistry and using OpenStax for their chemistry textbook has brought the full-year cost for each student to only $50 a year. As a result, Aktiv Chemistry has saved the 400 students enrolled in the General Chemistry courses at Chandler Gilbert more than $60,000 a year.

Embracing the phone

Aktiv Chemistry can be used by students and faculty on a range of devices including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops. With a textbook and a digital platform, the students at Chandler Gilbert now have access to all of the materials they need for class and homework on the devices they already own. Brian observed that the majority of his students were accessing Aktiv Chemistry and OpenStax on their smartphones, but his class wasn’t running into pitfalls they endured with other digital platforms. “It’s so strange to have the students all pull out their cell phones and still be engaged in class. With previous systems I tried to use, the cell phones would come out and their attention would go somewhere else. With Aktiv Chemistry, students are more engaged with the platform and with the chemistry. I’ve noticed nothing but more engagement when using the Aktiv Chemistry platform even though they have their devices out.”¹

“With previous systems I tried to use, the cell phones would come out and their attention would go somewhere else. With Aktiv Chemistry, students are more engaged with the platform and with the chemistry.”¹
Brian Woodrum
Chandler Gilbert Community College

In fact, Aktiv Chemistry’s compatibility with smartphones was a big seller for Brad and demonstrated the company’s forward-thinking mindset. “The fact that Aktiv Chemistry had designed a program for a phone was a real indicator for me that Aktiv Chemistry knew what would be going on in the future. That’s what my students use: a phone or their iPad. They don’t use a computer. The culture at Aktiv Chemistry was so open to saying ‘Hey, what do you guys need? How can we help you?’ and then Aktiv Chemistry would make that happen.”¹

“It’s far superior to anything I’ve seen, and I’ve been around this game for over 30 years.”

As for implementing Aktiv Chemistry in classrooms, Brad takes an unequivocal stance on Aktiv Chemistry’s effectivity, its innovation, and its affordability. “It’s far superior to anything I’ve seen, and I’ve been around this game for over 30 years. Aktiv Chemistry gives us the ability to try something low cost. It’s not tied to a textbook or a system that costs a lot of money. The risk is very, very small but the reward is very, very large.”¹

Experience the (many) rewards for yourself

¹ This page may contain direct quotes that were provided at a time where Aktiv Chemistry was named Chem101. We have replaced the name Chem101 with Aktiv Chemistry to minimize confusion.

About the Faculty

Brad Bates and Brian Woodrum are both full-time faculty in the Department of Physical Sciences & Engineering at Chandler Gilbert Community College in Chandler, AZ. As part of the Maricopa Community College System, they share a mission at Chandler Gilbert to incorporate student-centered and active learning teaching metholodogies. Both Brad and Brian teach a variety of courses at CGCC including General Chemistry and Introductory Chemistry. In addition to their teaching responsibilities, both faculty help coordinate the department’s lecture courses and part-time faculty.

Brad Bates & Brian Woodrum

Chemistry Faculty, Department of Physicals Sciences & Engineering, Chandler Gilbert Community College

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