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UT System launches first all-digital textbook program at UT Rio Grande Valley
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UT System launches first all-digital textbook program at UT Rio Grande Valley

AUSTIN— Entering freshmen enrolled in the new biomedical sciences degree program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will never have to buy a traditional textbook.

Instead, their course materials will be delivered to them on iPads, which they’ll receive at orientation on Aug. 26. And that’s just the first indication that this degree program will not be business – or in this case – higher education as usual.

BioMed: UTRGV students attend orientation for the biomedical sciences programBioMed: UTRGV students attend orientation for the biomedical sciences programThe biomedical sciences degree marks the official launch of the UT System’s competency-based education initiative, an ambitious and sweeping mission to reimagine and personalize courses to increase student success and access. The degree uses elements of competency-based education.

Competency-based education allows students to advance through courses based on their ability to master knowledge and skills. Students are held to clearly defined and rigorous expectations but can move through a course at a pace that ensures their success. Courses will be delivered in a hybrid format, a combination of online, classroom, laboratory or clinical time.

The UTRGV biomedical sciences degree program was designed by the UT System’s Institute for Transformational Learning in partnership with UTRGV Department of Health and Biomedical Sciences faculty and is part of a larger initiative to increase the number of physicians in South Texas, who are desperately needed in the region.

Francisco Fernandez, M.D., dean of the new UTRGV College of Medicine, calls the project a groundbreaking initiative in premedical education that’s a game changer for aspiring physicians.

“Using elements of the competency-based approach and student services supporting creativity, determination and drive, UTRGV students are going to be better prepared to take the MCAT, enter medical school and be successful medical school students,” he said.  “What this will result in is more qualified doctors coming from the Rio Grande Valley who have the power to transform this community.”

The reconstructed biomedical sciences curriculum features core courses relevant to health professions, including medical humanities, the history of medicine and public health, and health care policy.

“It’s an innovative approach for the biomedical sciences with emphasis in the clinical application of the basic science knowledge,” said Hugo Rodriguez, Ph.D., UTRGV assistant professor of biomedical sciences.

Marni Baker Stein, Ph.D., UT System ITL’s Chief Innovation Officer, said UTRGV faculty worked tirelessly to reimagine this curriculum for a new education delivery model that, if successful, could be adopted by other universities.

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