Giving faculty and students the opportunity to read reviews about your textbook adds to the book’s credibility. A textbook with many positive reviews will reassure instructors looking for an open textbook that their colleagues approve of it. The reviews will also help you improve the quality of your textbook. By reading reviews carefully, you will learn about reported errors and suggested improvements. Record errors that can be fixed immediately in your maintenance plan and note any suggestions for future editions of your textbook. (See Maintain the Book.)
Using an established set of questions — or rubric — yields consistent and comprehensive feedback from each individual who reviews your textbook. Several open-education organizations use the BCcampus Open Education Review Rubric [Word file] — an openly licensed document available to anyone to use or change. Feel free to use this rubric, either as is or customized to your needs, if you decide to solicit reviews once your textbook is finished. These are the topics it covers:
- Content accuracy
- Relevance and longevity
- Organization, structure, and flow
- Grammatical and spelling errors
- Diversity and inclusion
- Book recommendation
There are several ways to locate reviewers. However, before looking for candidates, think about how you will determine a reviewer’s qualifications. At BCcampus Open Education, we ask that reviewing faculty fill out an application form and describe their credentials for and experience in teaching the textbook’s subject. We also ask for a list of current courses they are teaching at a post-secondary institution in the textbook’s subject area.
Once this information has been received, our team confirms this data by searching for the reviewer in their university or college’s faculty directory. If the individual is not listed, we ask for confirmation of their position from the department chair or dean.
How you canvass for potential reviewers will depend on your discipline, home institution, and the resources available to you. One obvious method is to include a request for reviews wherever your textbook is posted. This might be in your institution’s library catalogue or on your department or faculty website. Information should include details such as reviewer qualifications, the review process, and payment for a completed review. If payment, even a small stipend, is not feasible, consider a barter arrangement with fellow open textbook authors in the same discipline. In other words, you offer to review their textbook in exchange for a review of yours.
Some collections, such as the Open Textbook Library and the B.C. Open Textbook Collection, make it is a matter of course to gather reviews about books in their repositories. When you apply to add your book to a collection, ask if you may take a copy of the reviews generated for your textbook and place them in other spots where your textbook is posted. It is likely that these reviews, like the textbooks, are openly licensed. (See Communications.)
Develop a procedure for processing reviews from beginning to end. For example, decide how reviewers should contact you with a request to review your book, whether it’s by email, an application form, or other. Create a system for receiving the completed review, tracking in-progress reviews, and posting reviews. Consider constructing templates and standard language that can be used for communicating with reviewers at each stage of the process.
Deadlines are important for both you and the reviewer. At BCcampus, reviewers are given a deadline of three months to finish. If they don’t, access to the review form expires and reapplication to review the book is required. It has been our experience that approximately half of all applicants complete reviews.
BCcampus Open Education follows standard procedures — including email templates — that provide efficient and consistent services to reviewers. The steps include:
- Posting a call for reviews to Review an Open Textbook on the BCcampus OpenEd website and by each textbook in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection
- Requiring that potential reviewers fill out an application to determine their eligibility
- Vetting all applications to confirm each reviewer’s qualifications
- Emailing each successful candidate a copy of the BCcampus Open Education Review Rubric [Word file], instructions, and the deadline
- Recording and monitoring all reviews at each stage of the process whether they are in progress, completed, or expired
- Sending a confirmation email to the reviewer once the completed review is submitted, then posting the review, and updating records