2.5: Roles & Responsibilities

Teams come in many combinations, but all begin with…you! Regardless of whether you are the project leader or volunteer on a small task, your contribution and participation in the project is invaluable.

During our time supporting different kinds of OER projects, we’ve seen teams take on a number of forms. The list below is our attempt at categorising these roles. It should give you an idea of the types of work required to publish an OER and who may be 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 Community Forum. Keep reading to get a better sense of the kinds of positions you can have on your team, how responsibilities can be distributed, and how these might apply to your own project. Use our Roles and Responsibilities template to guide your identification of gaps, establishing of roles, and assigning of tasks within your team.

Considerations when assigning roles & responsibilities

With a solid project plan, good intentions, clearly articulated responsibilities, and a set of helpful strategies you can form collaborative alliances which will hopefully support your OER projects as needed. Before we introduce some key roles and associated responsibilities, there a few things to consider:

  • How will you delineate workload and ensure expectations are clearly communicated?
  • What are some initial strategies you would like to use to help build productive working relationships between the members of your team?
  • How can you make the roles and expectations for (new) team members clear?
  • What methods will you use to communicate effectively?
  • How will you address setbacks in the process?
  • What methods will you use to keep your team engaged throughout the project?
  • Are there any accessibility needs for your team members to effectively collaborate?
  • This stage is a good point to reflect back to your project goals and target audience:
    • Will your audience feel seen and respected through the content?
    • Are there current barriers to accessing the content that needs to be addressed?

All team members carry a shared responsibility to:

  • 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 (because you’re all important!).


Authors are generally subject matter experts who have deep knowledge of the field and are responsible for writing or creating the content in your OER. Duties, such as creating chapter proposals, writing chapter outlines, ensuring that the chapter fits within the larger text, offering insight into the student perspective based on teaching experience, etc.. They might also have other duties, including:

  • Coordinating with editors and project manager
  • Reading through and following the author guide, chapter template etc
  • Writing with best practices around accessibility and inclusive design in mind
  • Preparing a sensible chapter structure with intentional pedagogical elements to support student success, working in tandem with instructional designers or lead editors
  • Creating model chapters
  • Writing content (generally more than other authors, often most of the book)
  • Attending author calls and answering questions from other authors
  • Making chapter glossaries, bibliographies, or other materials
  • Researching, creating, or remixing non-textual pieces, such as videos, images, etc.
  • Including relevant media in each chapter and checking the web accessibility of these materials, licensing permissions
  • Creating ancillary materials, or templates others can follow
  • Coordinating with the lead editor and project manager


Contributors on a project will come in many different shapes, and be 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 no mistake – all contributions are valuable! Broadly, their responsibilities include:

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


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 images, graphics, illustrations, or videos to be included in the OER
  • 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
  • Creating promotional materials (such as email signatures, infographics, visuals for social media, etc.)


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


An advisor is someone not directly involved in producing the OER, 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 project managers, leads, or broader team
  • Promoting the project from conception to publication
  • Coordinating with the project manager


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


Similar to the contributor role, there may be different kinds of tasks 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! The coordinator may support the organization and implementation of processes like peer review, accessibility review, classroom review, author calls, etc.

Some projects will benefit from having a review coordinator overseeing and organizing the peer review process. All projects should ideally have an accessibility coordinator overseeing whether the resource meets best practices for accessibility. Note that this position can 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.

The coordinator may be tasked with:

  • Coordinating and communicating with the project manager, lead editor, and lead author to build best practices into working documents, chapter templates, and ultimately, the final content
  • Liaising and coordinating with contributors, editors, and reviewers
  • Clarifying expectations regarding contributions and producing supporting documentation to define tasks at hand
  • Ensuring any tasks are completed on the agreed timeline
  • Providing contributors with access to documents such as review guide, tools, and other preparatory documents such as tracking sheets, calls for reviewers, etc.
  • Answering (or finding answers to) questions about accessibility from authors and others on the team as they arise
  • Finding and sharing resources on creating accessible content with the team
  • Making sure review processes are successfully completed in the discussed timeframe
  • Preparing an accessibility and review statement for the final text, surfacing the work done and current standards met or yet unmet


Editing plays a large role in OER work – it enhances readability, overall quality and relevance of content. We’ve broken editorial roles and responsibilities into two categories: substantial editing and copy editing.

Substantive Editors

This editor is a subject matter expert primarily responsible for an initial review of the OER for content accuracy. They help set the vision for the resource, and coordinate with the project manager to outline process and workflows related to content creation. The major duties assigned to substantial editors include:

  • Crafting the OER’s outline and structure, and soliciting input on both
  • Helping shape processes around content (including creating guides and templates)
  • Keeping the team focused on broader goals and priorities including diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, etc.
  • Coordinating with the project manager and other editors
  • Liaising with authors and other editors on the team, conducting check-ins, and sending reminders with them
  • Editing content within their section and providing input on other sections in the text
  • Looking through the text with an expert eye and viewing the resource as a whole throughout the creation process (focusing less on grammar and punctuation and more on cohesion, structure, and working with the content available)
  • 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.
  • Helping recruit authors for other sections
  • Coordinating review on their section (optional)
  • Being a cheerleader to authors and other editors
  • Stepping-in when needed, to make decisions about content, or to resolve conflict
  • Looking at existing resources for comparison
  • Making sure that each chapter follows the same structure for easier reading and learning
  • 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 authors to revise

Copy Editors and Proofreaders

The copy editor serves a few different purposes on a project, including reading the text from a layman’s perspective and making sure the content is clear, concise, and makes sense (as such, the copy editor or proofreader doesn’t need to be a subject expert). The copy editor’s duties include:

  • Reading through the text correcting errors with grammar, punctuation, or sentence structure
  • Following and implementing the appropriate style guide for the project
  • Ensuring that citations are accurate and consistent
  • Checking permissions on media or other non-textual elements

Your project may benefit from having a proofreader to conduct a final read-through of your resource. Proofreaders will check spelling, grammar, and punctuation to fix and find small errors or typos.

Instructional Designer

Instructional designers are instrumental towards ensuring that your resource is an effective learning tool. They review the learning design of the OER and think deeply about the learning experience being created. 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 learners in the target course(s)

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 the Rebus Community forum
  • 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. Project managers are of course not alone in handling these, and others in the team have a big part to play, too. Overall, those running a project are responsible for making sure everyone involved (including themselves) is supported throughout the process and recognised for their time and commitment.


A reviewer provides critical input and suggestion on the resource, either as a whole or at a chapter or section-level. They offer both positive and constructive feedback to help you determine whether your OER is set up to fulfill the goals you outlined in your project summary. Our Review and Feedback section delineates the three different types of reviews we recommend all OER projects conduct: accessibility review, classroom review, and peer review. Below are the reviewing duties that each type of review includes:

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

Classroom Reviewer

A classroom reviewer 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 classroom reviewers’s duties include:

  • Piloting the OER in a classroom setting
  • Reading the classroom review guide thoroughly and making sure they understand it
  • Providing feedback in line with rubric or other guidelines (contained in a classroom review guide)
  • Providing feedback in agreed format and within set timeframes
  • Communicating with the review coordinator or project manager
  • 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

Peer Reviewer

The peer reviewer is a subject expert who provides critical feedback on the resource, either as a whole or in part. The peer 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

Technical Lead

Since OER are digital-first resources, having someone on your team to support the software/technology where your resource will be hosted is critical. The technical lead’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). This role’s tasks broadly include:

  • Reviewing potential tools that could be used by team
  • Supporting the team with selected tools (set up, training, troubleshooting, etc.)
  • Coordinating with the lead author, lead editor, and project manager
  • Collecting “finished” content (generally finished means reviewed, edited and proofread)
  • Formatting content in OER publishing platforms 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
  • Entering OER metadata
  • Exporting the OER in various file formats and conducting a visual check


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The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far) Copyright © 2019 by Apurva Ashok; Zoe Wake Hyde; and Kaitlin Schilling is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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