After reviewing the content and criteria in the Evaluating Open Textbooks section, use this topic to post your thoughts on what you think are the most important qualities of a textbook? Why? Thinking about textbooks you have used in the past, what do you like/don't like about them? Post your thoughts in this discussion topic.
Very interesting reading Clint. I never really thought about the design aspects of a textbook but I do know when I like a textbook and when I don't. I see that it had a lot to do with the structure of it. Some were just too visually busy and colorful for me to concentraite on the content.
I haven't looked at that many open textbooks yet but my thought was that I would find most of them to be more plain text reading, like a wikibook. I will look at them through this lens now and when I design my own open textbook, I will keep these principles in mind.
You're right about overdoing the visuals. It can become a distraction, especially if the visual styling is grateuitous and is not purposeful. Most of the open textbooks I have seen have been text heavy, unless they are math or scientific disciplines that use a lot of formulas. The exception has been the open textbooks from OpenStax College which have lots of colour and images, and have begun to cleverly incorporate multimedia components like QR codes into the printed text. I think that is one way to incorporate multimedia elements into print.
I agree totall with Chris. The visuals can be extra baggage, and as Clint mentioned, it can get worse when the visuals serve little purpose. I suspect we are judging textbooks from the commercial publisher perspective since most of us have been exposed to that path in our student and teaching years.
I find that the some of the best textbooks are those that are concise and to the point in terms of clearly defined and achievable learning outcomes. That may or may not include visuals. Some of this preference has to do with whether you are looking for materials to support and scaffold higher order thinking (short, clear textbooks) or whether you want information and analysis served up with little opportunities to think and reflect (bloated textbooks).
David Wiley had an interesting blog post last week that touched upon this idea of "judging textbooks from commercial publishers perspective". This is a lengthy quote from the article. It is a good read.
On Quality and OER
Beyond issues of accuracy, when publishers, their press releases, and the media who reprint them say “quality” with regard to textbooks and OER, they actually mean “presentation and graphic design” – is the layout beautiful, are the images high resolution, are the headings used and formatted consistently, is the book printed in full color?
But this is not what we should mean when we talk about quality. There can be one and only one measure of the quality of educational resources, no matter how they are licensed: How much do students learn when using the materials?