Principles of Toxicology (HSCI 3580)

Purpose: to help other instructors teaching the same course

Common Course ID: HSCI 3580
CSU Instructor Open Textbook Adoption Portrait

About the Course

Course Title and Number  HSCI 3580 
Brief Description of course highlights:  Principles of Toxicology (HSCI 3580)

Prerequisites: College-level biology and chemistry courses
The course covers the history and scope of the field, general principles, absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination of various toxicants, mechanisms of toxic action, dose response tests, carcinogenesis, environmental toxicology, toxins of animals and plants, as well as toxicological evaluations.

Topics discussed in this course include:
1. Introduction to Toxicology: Principles & History
2. Dose-Response in Toxicology
3. Health Effects of Alcohol & Caffeine 

4. Health Effects of Nicotine & Cannabis
5. Toxicology of Pesticides
6. Toxicology of Heavy Metals
7. Toxicology of other Metals
8. Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
9. Toxicology of Nanomaterials
10. Animal & Plant Toxins
11. Toxicology of Nervous System
12. Cancer & Genetic Toxicology
13. Developmental Toxicology
14. Toxic Products at Home
15. Environmental Toxicology
16. Toxicological Evaluation: Hazard, Risk, Risk Assessment and Risk Management 

Student population:   Most of my students are Health Science majors, however one is a graduate student of Environmental Science and the other one a Biology major. Some will be graduated spring or fall 2021. Since many of them are in the last year of their undergraduate education, they have already passed a wide range of courses in Environmental and Public Health Sciences. This course, Principles of Toxicology, though offers a lot of new topics to most students. Because of no prior background, I had to first discuss terminology and tailor my course so that it covers fundamental subjects. This way I could be ensured that all students can follow the discussions with no difficulty.

Learning or student outcomes: 

At the completion of this course students will be able to:
* Identify potential toxic chemicals
* Determine dose dependence of chemicals to toxicity 

* Define toxicity and hoe it is measured
* Define describe and explain uptake and distribution of toxic chemicals
* Describe mechanisms of activation of toxic chemicals
* Describe mechanisms of enzymatic deactivation of toxic chemicals
* Understand the therapeutic and adverse effects of selected drugs, supplements, and environmental toxins.
* Understand and identify health conditions linked to selected toxic exposures from food, lifestyle, environment, workplace and home.

Key challenges faced and how resolved: Syllabus and/or Sample assignment from the course or the adoption [optional]: 

Even though the OER I found was a good resource, not all topics of syllabus could be fully covered by that open source. Therefore, I had to spend time to find other resources to cover what was missing in the OER. I used multiple resources to eventually cover all topics of syllabus. 

Additionally, I needed some good video clips, not longer than 6-7 minutes, to clarify some procedures or physiological processes. It was a time-consuming task and I had to spend plenty of time looking for such videos. 

This OER comes with a set of PowerPoint presentations as well, but the presentation was not fit to the needs of my students and could not reflect the main core of the OER content. Practically, I could not use those slides and had to prepare all lecture slides myself. Another issue was the lack of a test bank or sample questions. Those could be very helpful and save my time. I had to design sample questions for in-class exercises and problem solving and also for quizzes and exams myself. 

About the Resource/Textbook 

Textbook or OER/Low cost Title

Brief Description:  The original textbook, which was used before by other instructors was: Lu's Basic Toxicology.  Lee MB, Kacew S and Kim HS. 2017. 7th Ed. CRC Press, Burlington, MA. 663 pp.

Student access:  All materials were placed on Blackboard and were easily accessible to students. Further materials to study, in form of PDF, were also added to Blackboard. In some cases, link to the materials were provided and posted on Blackboard. 

The E-book itself is available from:

I changed the syllabus to achieve this adoption. As indicated above, I removed the need for a specific textbook and replaced that with materials gathered from OERs. The sequence of course topics were rearranged and added to the syllabus. I also brought the chapter number of the new reference book (free E-book) in front of topic of each session.

Learning activities include class discussions, posting on a discussion board, writing assignments, class presentations and integrating examples from my own research and prior experience. I lowered the weight of conventional exams (midterm and final) and increased the weight of other learning tools such as paper composition, class discussion, class presentation, discussion board and class quizzes.  

Cost Savings:  
If I had used the previous textbook (Lu' Basic Toxicology), my students had to overall pay the following for either a hardcopy or E-book: Hardcover copy saving: $ 5380.00
E-book copy saving: $ 2200.00
I replaced that textbook with an OER, prepared all the required materials (including educational pictures and video clips) and therefore, made it zero cost to my students. New cost: $0.00  

OER/Low Cost Adoption

OER/Low Cost Adoption Process

Provide an explanation or what motivated you to use this textbook or OER/Low Cost option.  First, the cost of original textbook was really considerable ($224.00 for hardcover and $92.00 for E-book) and I knew most of my students were not in the position to spend hundreds of Dollars to obtain this textbook. Most of my students work with the minimum wage at the same time as studying and paying this much was really hard for them. We are in the COVID time and I assumed some might have even lost their jobs. 

On the other hand, however the textbook was a good one, it was not compatible to the background knowledge of my students. On the other hand, some chapters of the textbook were not that much fit to my syllabus and also the needs of my students. I also wanted to emphasize on a couple of issues, like toxicity to metals, nanomaterial toxicity, nicotine, alcohol and caffeine toxicity which were not covered in the original textbook.  

How did you find and select the open textbook for this course?  I browsed OER resources until I found one which was fit to my HSCI 3580 class. Once I identified an OER resource, I evaluated the content to see how this might contribute to my course. Finally, I chose the online book, "Toxicology & You: An Introduction to a Small Dose of Toxicology". This is an open-source book, published by the Institute of Neurotoxicology & Neurological Disorders (INND) in 404 pages (2019 edition). Here is the weblink to this online book:

Another resource which considerably helped me for preparation of my course materials was websites of government agencies, such as EPA, FDA and CDC which contain very detailed and precise information about the topics under discussion. 

Sharing Best Practices:   In my discipline, technical publications, including technical brochures, technical flyers and pamphlets are open to everyone and in fact have designed and produced to reach the maximum number of readers. Many of them have a knowledge level fit to an undergraduate class and are composed of first hand, updated materials, prepared by known experts.  

There are even open-source books and booklets which are very valuable resources. These are free publications, prepared by professional organizations or state and federal agencies. In preparation of my teaching materials, I used the ones mostly prepared by EPA, FDA, CDC and California Department of Public health, California Department of Toxic Substances Control and California Environmental Protection Agency. 

Do you collaborate more with other faculty now or use a broader range of teaching materials and methodologies, etc.?  Yes, definitely. Now, I use a wide array of open resources. In addition to the freely accessible textbook, I collect the required contents of my class from websites of federal agencies and a few departments of the state of California. This latter is of high importance because many of my students will go through REHS certification, right after graduating from CSUSB, and I believe my course format is better matched with their needs and prepare them better for the REHS exam and California job market. 

Have student grades improved or stayed the same?   My class performance was astonishing. Except for two C grades, all other students had A and B+. I had a reflection at the last week of classes and around 97% of students liked the idea of not having a textbook. They also confirmed that the materials I provided to the class were clear, easy to understand and their sequence and complexity was fit to their background knowledge. 

Student Feedback or Participation

Since the materials were prepared completely and shared with the class, my students did not need to look for any other resources to fulfill the class requirements. This made this course so appealing for my students. 

Below, please find some opinions from my students about using OER instead of a textbook, quoted from my post-class reflection:

  • I very much was glad that we did not have to purchase a book as a requirement for the course. I find it extremely helpful that there are lecture pdf for us to go back and look at just in case we need clarification.
  • I liked that this class didn't necessitate a textbook because the required information was provided to us through PowerPoint and pdfs, making it better to learn instead of reading a textbook.
  • I find it much easier to understand the class with the powerpoints, pdfs, class discussions and videos rather than reading from a textbook.
  • I prefer classes to not have textbooks because they often interfere with a lot of the material and sometimes professors make student buy them for only a chapter or two.
  • I like not having a textbook because we just get all the information from your pictorial lecture, powerpoints and pdfs.

About the Instructor

Mahmood Nikbakhtzadeh
California State University, San Bernardino

My class mostly includes senior and junior students. This is one of the upper-level courses and students need to pass general biology as a prerequisite. Except for two, all other students are undergraduates of HSCI department. 

Please describe the courses you teach.

  • Epidemiology of vector-borne diseases (Graduate course, 2 credit hours)
  • Insect Ecology (Graduate course, 3 credit hours)
  • Insect Morphology & Physiology (Graduate course, 3 credit hours including lab)
  • Introductory Entomology (Undergraduate course, 3 credit hours including lab)
  • Medical Entomology (Graduate course, 4 credit hours including lab)
  • Principles of Ecology (Undergraduate course, 3 credit hours)
  • Principles of Environmental Health (Undergraduate, 3 credit hours)
  • Toxicology of Pesticides (Graduate course, 2 credit hours)
  • Vector-borne Disease Control (Undergraduate course, 4 credit hours)

How do you plan to share this OER experience with other faculty, staff, etc. who develop curriculum and teach?  I will present my experience at a university-wide showcase in April 2022, and I hope my colleagues come and visit my presentation. Besides, I have briefed my Department colleagues on how I have prepared an affordable course using OER.