Roles & Responsibilities

This section of The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far) is meant to help you understand all the different players involved in the making of an open textbook or other OER. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY) and you are welcome to print this document, make a copy for yourself, or share with others.

Read through the sections below to get a better sense of the kinds of positions you can have on your team, how responsibilities can be distributed, and think on how best these might apply to your own project. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to post them in the Rebus Forum. This document is an evolving draft, based on our experience managing open textbook projects and community feedback. We welcome your thoughts and contributions, so let us know how it works for you, or if you have any suggestions to improve the guide.

How did we come up with this list?

During our time supporting different kinds of OER projects, we’ve seen teams take on a number of forms. However, we noticed some patterns emerging in how work has been distributed across these teams. The list below is our attempt at categorising these roles, and should give you an idea of the types of work carried out when publishing an open textbook (or OER), and who is responsible for completing these tasks.

Keep in mind that the roles and responsibilities outlined may not necessarily always be assigned to one person, and that crossover can happen. It’s also not likely that every project will have (or need) teams large enough to account for all these roles, so use this list as a guide to decide what is most applicable to your project’s needs. Please also note that this list is not comprehensive – it’s very likely that this will grow as we hear from you or other teams! So if you see any positions missing from here, please let us know in the Rebus Forum.

List of roles and associated responsibilities

To start, we’ll cross of some of the things that all team members are responsible for. This includes:

  • Being nice, compassionate, and a good team player
  • Promoting the project widely wherever possible
  • Supporting fellow team members in their work
  • Meeting their commitments, so that it does not fall upon someone else to complete

These basic standards apply to everyone, and everyone in a team is responsible for committing to them, and holding their fellow teammates accountable.

Beyond this, each of the roles we’ve detailed below offers up something unique and critical to the creation of the open textbook (or OER). Note that the following list is alphabetical, not in any hierarchical order (‘cause you’re all important!).

Accessibility Coordinator

All projects should ideally have an accessibility coordinator overseeing whether the resource meets best practices for accessibility. The accessibility coordinator will be responsible for:

  • Working with the project manager, lead editor, and lead author to build best practices into working documents, chapter templates and, ultimately, the final content
  • Finding and sharing resources on creating accessible content with the team
  • Answering (or finding answers to) questions about accessibility from authors and others on the team as they arise
  • Recruiting and onboarding an accessibility reviewer (or completing the review themselves)
  • Preparing an accessibility statement for the final text, surfacing the work done and any known issues

In some cases, this coordinator can act as an accessibility reviewer as well. Note that this position could be taken by any other member on the team, such as a lead editor or project manager, and they don’t necessarily need a lot of expertise themselves – just a willingness to facilitate the accessibility work that needs to be done throughout the creation process.

Accessibility Reviewer

The accessibility reviewer provides critical feedback on whether the resource, either as a whole or at a chapter or section-level, meets accessibility standards. The reviewer’s duties include:

  • Conducting an accessibility review on final file formats
  • Making recommendations for further improvements
  • Preparing, or contributing to, an accessibility statement
  • Coordinating with the lead author, lead editor, and project manager

Advisor

An advisor is someone not directly involved in the producing the book or resource, but who is involved at a high level and offers advice or input as needed. Their responsibilities might include:

  • Providing input on the project’s definition and direction, and shaping content at a high level
  • Setting broad strategic objectives for the resource
  • Making sure that these goals are met
  • Ensuring the team includes diverse perspectives, which are also represented in the content created
  • Mediating conflict if/as it arises
  • Acting as an impartial body and advising the admin team on decisions
  • Helping find and recruit volunteers
  • Attending meetings or calls with the leadership team
  • Promoting the project from conception to publication
  • Coordinating with the project manager

Read more about the role of advisors in a leadership team.

Author

The author on an open textbook or OER project is, you’ve guessed it, responsible for writing or creating the content. They might also have other duties, such as:

  • Creating chapter proposals
  • Writing chapter outlines
  • Attending author calls
  • Reading through and following the author guide, chapter template etc.
  • Ensuring as best they can that the chapter fits within the larger text
  • Writing with best practices around accessibility and inclusive design in mind
  • Including relevant media in each chapter and checking permissions
  • Creating ancillaries
  • Making chapter glossaries, bibliographies, or other materials
  • Coordinating with editors and project manager

Beta Tester

A beta tester is either an instructor or a student using a resource in their classroom, typically before the ‘official’ release of a text, and providing critical feedback, either on the text as a whole or at a chapter or section-level. The beta tester’s duties include:

  • Conducting a ‘trial run’ of a text in a classroom setting
  • Reading the beta testing guide thoroughly and making sure they understand it
  • Providing feedback in line with rubric or other guidelines (contained in a beta testing guide)
  • Providing feedback in agreed format and within set timeframes
  • Communicating with the beta testing coordinator
  • Communicating with authors/editors
  • Promoting the book, if they are satisfied with the quality of the resource and see value in it
  • (Hopefully!) Adopting the book, if as an instructor they would like to use the book for future courses

Beta Testing Coordinator

Projects can benefit from having a beta testing coordinator overseeing and organizing the beta testing process. The beta testing coordinator will be responsible for:

  • Making sure beta testing is completed successfully
  • Preparing a beta testing guide and other preparatory documents such as tracking sheets, calls for beta testers, etc.
  • Recruiting beta testers
  • Providing beta testers with access to documents such as the beta testing guide, tools, and feedback mechanisms
  • Acting as a point of contact for anyone involved in the beta testing process
  • Managing deadlines, etc. for beta testers
  • Liaising between authors or editors and beta testers
  • Collecting and collating student and instructor feedback
  • Coordinating with the project manager

Champion

This is an unofficial role, but an important one! Champions are the project’s biggest cheerleader, both for the internal team and for the external public. They can help with:

  • Keeping the team motivated
  • Promoting the project
  • Providing quotes, snippets, and updates about the project for marketing/promotional materials
  • Acting as an audience test-case and asking for clarification on anything that isn’t clear
  • Helping polish any communications about the project
  • Acting as the public face of project, along with the project manager
  • Providing input on the project broadly, similar to an advisor
  • Helping recruit collaborators to the project and sharing any calls within their network
  • Helping find adopters for the final resource
  • Being enthusiastic about the project and the team! It goes a long way to making the experience enjoyable for everyone.

Contributor

Contributors on a project will come in many different shapes, and asked to complete many varying tasks. This is a bit of a catch-all term for the kinds of jobs that aren’t captured in the other roles, but make not mistake – all contributions are valuable! Broadly, their responsibilities include:

  • Performing the task in line with expectations
  • Asking questions if the task and expectations are unclear
  • Communicating with other contributors, the coordinator, lead editor, lead author, project manager, and the rest of the team.

Coordinator

Similar to the case with contributors, there may be different kinds of task that emerge that don’t fit under any of the headings in this list, but someone still needs to be responsible for them. Enter the coordinator! They may be tasked with:

  • Clearly defining the task at hand and producing supporting documentation for it
  • Recruiting and coordinating with contributors
  • Clarifying expectations regarding contributions
  • Ensuring any tasks are completed on the agreed timeline
  • Coordinating and communicating with the project manager, lead editor, and lead author

Copyeditor

The copyeditor serves a few different purposes on a project, including:

  • Reading through the text correcting errors with grammar, punctuation, or sentence structure
  • Following and implementing the appropriate style guide for the project
  • Reading the text from a layman’s perspective and making sure the content is clear, concise, and makes sense (as such, the copyeditor doesn’t need to be a subject expert)
  • Ensuring that citations are accurate and consistent
  • Checking permissions on media or other non-textual elements

Designer

A project may be fortunate enough to have a dedicated designer, and there’s no shortage of things they can bring to the table. These include:

  • Designing the book cover (and/or resource landing page )
  • Creating promotional materials (such as email signatures, infographics, visuals for social media, etc.)
  • Creating images, graphics, or videos to be included in the book
  • Checking permissions for any media elements used
  • Sharing media in final formats and editable files to enable easier remixing
  • Designing with accessibility in mind
  • Coordinating with the project manager, lead editor, and lead author

Developmental Editor

The developmental editor’s main focus on the project is structure – of the concepts and content in each chapter, of the structure of chapters, and of the book overall. While others are focused on what the book should say, the developmental editor is the person making they say it clearly. This includes:

  • Providing input on the book’s outline, model chapter, chapter templates with an eye to overarching order of content and avoiding duplication of definitions, themes, etc.
  • Conducting an intensive start to finish edit of text as a whole (focusing less on grammar and punctuation and more on cohesion, structure, and working with the content available)
  • Looking at existing resources for comparison
  • Making sure that each chapter is structured the same as the others
  • Ensuring the text fits together cohesively as whole
  • Seeing that text serves its purpose (for a particular course, to fill a void in a field, etc.)
  • Identifying areas where content is unclear for a subject matter expert to revise

Depending on the nature of the resource, the person in this role, and the time they can commit to the project, the developmental editor might make any necessary adjustments or changes to the text based on the above themselves. However, this work could also be assigned to the lead author(s), lead editor(s), other authors, or another contributor on the project.

Formatter

The formatter’s work on an open textbook project will vary greatly depending on your choice of book formatting software (note: we strongly encourage using tools that provide both a web version and offline formats, including editable formats). However, their tasks broadly include:

  • Collecting “finished” content (generally finished means reviewed, edited and proofread)
  • Formatting content in book formatting software such as Pressbooks
  • Standardizing formatting across chapters (headings, text boxes, learning outcomes, images, tables, etc.)
  • Conducting a simple pass over content for accessibility, both when formatting content and also in the resource’s final file formats
  • Exporting the text in various file formats and conducting a visual check
  • Entering book metadata
  • Coordinating with the lead author, lead editor, and project manager

Instructional Designer

Instructional designers are instrumental towards ensuring that your resource is an effective learning tool. The instructional designer’s tasks are varied, including:

  • Working with lead editor or lead author on chapter template and preparatory documents (such as the project summary, outline, model chapter, etc.)
  • Confirming learning objectives for resource with the project manager, lead author, and lead editor
  • Ensure that these learning objectives are served by the content
  • Supporting authors, editors, formatters during content creation and responding to questions as they arise
  • Making sure text fits needs of target course(s)

Lead Author

The lead author is typically the person writing the bulk of the content for the text, and will work closely with the lead editor. The major duties of the lead author include:

  • Preparing a sensible chapter structure, working in tandem with instructional designers or lead editors
  • Creating model chapters
  • Writing content (generally more than other authors, often most of the book)
  • Answering questions from other authors and making judgement calls when necessary
  • Creating ancillary materials, or templates others can follow
  • Coordinating with the lead editor and project manager

Note that in the absence of a dedicated lead editor, the lead author would likely assume many of the lead editor’s responsibilities.

Lead Editor

A lead editor is primarily responsible for setting the vision for the resource, as well as process and workflows related to content creation. The major duties assigned to the lead editor include:

  • Crafting the book’s outline and structure, and soliciting input on both
  • Helping shape processes around content (including creating guides and templates)
  • Managing and liaising with any other editors on the team
  • Stepping-in when needed, to make decisions about content, or to resolve conflict
  • Editing content
  • Looking through the text with an expert eye and viewing the resource as a whole throughout the creation process
  • Taking charge of promotion and recruitment, and filling in any gaps for authors or section editors
  • Being the face of the project, alongside the project manager
  • Being a cheerleader to authors and other editors
  • Keeping the team focused on broader goals and priorities including diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, etc.
  • Helping organise and leading team calls
  • Running and organizing calls with editors and authors
  • Coordinating with the project manager

Project Manager

If you’ve read any of our other resources, you’ll see the words project manager cropping up over and over. As the name suggests, this person is responsible for managing the project – that is, running the process of creating a resource from the beginning, all the way to release (in the traditional publishing world, the managing editor would be a good equivalent for this role). It’s a big job, but can be shared, and is critical to a project’s success. Duties include:

  • Keeping track of everything on the project to ensure that the resource is on its way to completion
  • Keeping everyone on track with their tasks, including sharing supporting documents, answering questions and sending reminders
  • Managing project-related documents and tools
  • Managing the public listing on Rebus Projects
  • Coordinating team calls
  • Coordinating recruitment and calls for contributors
  • Managing team communication and keeping the whole team up-to-date as things progress
  • Creating and managing timelines and schedules
  • Identifying gaps or problems in the process, and ensuring these get resolved
  • Being the first point of contact for the project
  • Creating a welcoming, supportive environment for all members of the team

Ultimately, the project manager is what we like to refer to as the all-seeing eye on the project, who knows what is happening, when it’s happening and who’s doing it. This kind of coordination is so important to keep the project on track and make sure that everyone has what they need to be contributing.

The project manager is also very much like a chameleon in that they adapt based on the project’s needs. They can step in to work on any smaller teams within the project, help pick up the slack, amplify calls, coordinate schedules, etc. to keep the project moving. Given the flexible nature of a project manager’s work, it’s good to note that this can easily be a full-time undertaking (so be cautious about doubling up this role with other big jobs like lead author!) although that may not always be the case.

Proofreader

The proofreader conducts a final read-through of the text to:

  • Find and fix typos, small errors, etc.
  • Check spelling, grammar, and punctuation

Researcher

A project may have a general researcher at hand or a dedicated one for copyright and permissions (for images, media, extensively quoted texts, remixed texts, etc.). Regardless of the type of researcher you have on your team, their responsibilities broadly include:

  • Getting clear instructions on what the project needs and locating them (this could be images, videos, public domain texts, examples etc.)
  • Checking permissions and copyright, and obtaining permissions where necessary (note: we discourage relying too heavily on one-off permissions, so as to avoid complications for downstream users adapting your text)
  • Creating a clear and accurate list of permissions, licenses, and attributions in the final text
  • Coordinating with the project manager

Review Coordinator

Some projects will benefit from having a review coordinator overseeing and organizing the peer review process. The review coordinator will be responsible for:

  • Preparing a review guide and other preparatory documents such as tracking sheets, calls for reviewers, etc.
  • Recruiting reviewers
  • Providing reviewers with access to documents such as review guide and tools
  • Acting as a point of contact for anyone involved in the review process
  • Managing deadlines, etc. for reviewers
  • Making sure peer review is successfully completed
  • Liaising between authors or editors and reviewers
  • Writing the review statement
  • Coordinating with the project manager

Reviewer

The peer reviewer is a subject expert who provides critical feedback on the resource, either as a whole or at a chapter or section-level. The reviewer’s duties include:

  • Reading review guide thoroughly and making sure they understand it
  • Providing feedback in line with review rubric & project specific questions (contained in the review guide)
  • Providing feedback in agreed format and within set timeframes
  • Communicating with the review coordinator
  • Communicating with authors/editors (if not part of an anonymous review)
  • Promoting the book, if they are satisfied with the quality of the resource and see value in it
  • Adopting the book, if they would like to do so

Section Editor or Subject Editor

This editor is a subject matter expert for one section of the book, or for a number of chapter that fall under their expertise. Their responsibilities include:

  • Crafting outlines and deciding what content is covered, along with the lead editor
  • Helping create guides and templates
  • Recruiting authors and reviewing applications
  • Liaising with authors, conducting check-ins, and sending reminders with them
  • Editing content within their section
  • Provide input on other sections in the text
  • Helping recruit authors for other sections
  • Coordinating with other editors and the project manager
  • Coordinating review on their section (optional)

Need further assistance?

We hope these suggestions help to clarify the roles and responsibilities of those in making an open textbook or OER, and what their particular contributions include. We’ll continue to add to this guide as we work with more projects, and we welcome your ideas on what else we could add, or your feedback on how these approaches have worked (or not!) for you.

If you have questions, or anything to add, please let us know in the Rebus Forum.

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This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Roles & Responsibilities by Apurva Ashok and Zoe Wake Hyde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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