Evaluating an Open Textbook
What are the qualities of a good textbook?
Before you begin looking for an open textbook, it is a good idea to get familiar with what the qualities of a good textbook are. You have probably reviewed many textbooks in your career, and have your own set of guidelines you evaluate textbooks against. Before we begin looking at some of the criteria that some open textbook projects are using to evaluate the textbooks in their collection, it would be useful to review some of the qualities and structures that go in to making a good textbook.
First, read the Wikibooks page on Textbook considerations & structure. Following that, review the Slideshare presentation Textbook Structures. While this presentation is about the textbook structures specific to a high school History textbook, the examples in the presentation should be generic enough to get you thinking about how information is presented in a textbook to convey meaning.
Textbook review criteria
Increasingly, open textbook projects are placing a greater emphasis on having peer reviewed materials in their collection to help aid faculty with adoption and address concerns some have about the quality of open textbooks. A number of open textbook projects have created criteria for evaluating and reviewing open textbooks.
- BCcampus open textbook review criteria (PDF)
- Saylor.org textbook review criteria
- CCCOER review criteria
Some of the other items you may want to consider when evaluating an open textbook are:
- Will I need to modify or edit the book to meet my needs? If so, does the license allow me edit or modify the book?
- Is the textbook in a format that I can edit if I want to modify it?
- Are there ancilliary resources available for the textbook?
- Is there a community to support the textbook?
After reviewing the qualities of a good textbook and the criteria others use to determine if a textbook is a good quality textbook, post your thoughts in the discussion forum. What do 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? Are there criteria missing that you think are important? Do you think the criteria, considerations and qualities are different for printed books than for digital books?