Skip to main content

Getting OER into Promotion and Tenure Documents

NOTE: This is a working document and not meant to be cited as an original work of scholarship. Instead, please feel free to use this document to locate potentially useful resources for your OER program.

Published onAug 24, 2021
Getting OER into Promotion and Tenure Documents

If you know of a policy or resource you think would strengthen this list, please provide a comment below or contact the author, Abbey K. Elder at [email protected]

Part 1. Relevant Literature & Reports

A review of the literature from Skidmore & Provida (2019)[1]

Note: this is the most comprehensive and useful guide to date when it comes to synthesizing and reporting on the need for OER/OEP inclusion in the T&P process. Skidmore’s work speaks for itself, so I recommend that anyone interested consult the original source through the link above.

DOERS3 OER in Tenure & Promotion Matrix[2]

Note: DOERS3 is doing some excellent work in this space. They will be “ones to watch” for additional OER P&T work moving forward. Additional readings from them can be seen in the Appendix for additional readings.

“While few institutions have recognized open educational practices as deliverables toward tenure and promotion, faculty, in documenting their OER work in their portfolios, should characterize their work using these terms to aid their colleagues in understanding their contribution.

For each contribution, we have suggested whether the contribution could apply to those three categories, and in some cases, we have marked multiple categories--which is most relevant will depend upon the context. In addition, the matrix includes examples of how faculty might think strategically about where their open education contributions would be valued most and how best to frame those contributions.”

Rebus Office Hours on OER in Tenure & Promotion[3]

Zoe: Yeah, I’ll add a little note to that. I think too, that journals retain a lot of the prestige and structures of closed journal publishing in a way that open educational publishing doesn’t tend to or at least not as clearly. So, I think that’s why there’s the emphasis on peer review with OER as being the marker of it, because OA journals are still peer reviewed. They still have an acceptance process, they still have the editorial boards.

Whereas I think it’s at least directly parallel in those kinds of structures when we’re talking about open educational resources being published. And so, I think that makes the journal case a little easier to make. But I think that’s something for us all to take on in the OER community, to think about how we can help line up those things like what came up before about understanding what kind of peer review happened on this text.

Without limiting and reproducing the same kinds of systems that have existed, can we offer some structures, some indicators, something that helps translate it into terms that folks can be familiar with, who have more experience with traditional publishing approaches?”

Additional resources mentioned in this podcast, of interest:

UNC discussion, highlighting concerns and questions from faculty[4]

Note: This document outlines many concerns about OER and replies to these concerns-- a good overview for those new to OER advocacy. One question brings up the topic of OER for P&T directly:

Question: Creating OERs are a lot of work which is not recognized by P&T committees. (Answer: fair criticism, requires education/change in values by faculty).

Related: as long as the world (promotion and tenure considerations) views OER resources in one way (for instance lower quality, creation of OER not worthy of positively affecting faculty evaluation), then even if good, it may not have impact. (leads to question[s] of how to educate faculty (similar to open access issues). [investigation-- How do other institutions help with this educational process].”

Promotion & Tenure Reform Workgroup Report (2017)[5]

Note: Most of this document reviews open access and open science in the tenure & promotion process. Sections relevant to OER are on page 3:

“2. Open practices, on all sides of the table

As our workgroup considered “openness” as a virtue in professional advancement scenarios, we quickly realized that open practices should be encouraged by all actors in the system.Some examples of open practices that might be encouraged are...

  • Open educators can share their educational resources openly, use others’ open educational resources in their curricul[a], collaborate in the open to develop teaching materials, and encourage their students to develop in their own right as open researchers.”

Part 2. Examples of OER in T&P Documents:

1. University of British Columbia[6]

“Evidence of educational leadership is required for tenure/promotion in the Educational Leadership stream… It can include, but is not limited to…

Contributions to the practice and theory of teaching and learning literature, including publications in peer-reviewed and professional journals, conference publications, book chapters, textbooks and open education repositories / resources.”

2. Grand Valley State University policy on scholarly and creative activity[7]

GVSU recently updated our campus-wide policies about scholarly and creative activity, and thanks to vigorous advocacy by some of my colleagues, the new policy language and examples of what might "count" for tenure/promotion accommodate OER, specifically:

"Open-access trade/textbooks, if quality has been established through an appropriate disciplinary process."

3. UMass Amherst Promotion & Tenure Letter from the Provost[8]

The Provost at UMass Amherst has a line about OER in their annual Promotion & Tenure letter. It is in section 4.2: Teaching and says:

"Beyond the classroom, reviewers should include assessments of the candidate’s role, if any, in such areas as:

  • Academic advising (unless this falls in the service category).

  • Creation of open educational resources"

4. Miami University Guidelines for Second Promotion of TCPL Faculty Members[9]

“Examples of Distinction or Excellence

  • Receiving internal and external grants related to teaching or service responsibilities

  • Directing an academic program such as a major, minor, or concentration and demonstrating its success via assessment measures

  • Serving as an exemplary course coordinator for a highly enrolled, multi-section course that had positive outcomes related to student learning

  • Completing the OER Adopt Program, including assessment of the use of open educational resources and presenting the OER to other colleagues in the department or professionally”

Part 3. P&T Statements that may pertain to OER

Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL)

SOTL and the Tenure Process at Western Carolina University[10]

p. 12 Provides a useful explanation of this process, and a clear throughline for connecting P&T processes already including SoTL to support OER:

“Taking a different tack, another department chose to differentiate between published articles and creative activities, both of which counted as scholarship for tenure purposes (not surprisingly, this was a creative discipline). For this department, the scholarship of teaching and learning included “creation and publication of original aids to teaching whether in traditional print media or on the web” as well as “master classes that reach an off-campus audience.” Other departments allowed for unpublished outcomes, ranging from grant development to classroom experimentation. With the two-tier adoption system, departments could define SoTL in a way that they were most familiar and comfortable with, and the university allowed for differences in interpretation.”

SoTL Evidence on Promotion and Tenure Vitas at a Research University[11]

This case defines SoTL clearly and provides good language for showcasing an important but not required (or academic freedom-infringing) innovation in research & scholarship (p.22):

“The ISU Faculty Handbook compares and contrasts scholarly teaching with SoTL and states, in part (2016, p. 62): At Iowa State University, SoTL contributes to the discovery of knowledge about teaching and learning in higher education and must be held to the same standards of rigor, relevance, peer review, and dissemination as other forms of disciplinary research and creative activity. While SoTL may be an important part of the promotion and tenure process, it should not displace high quality scholarly teaching in annual performance reviews and in promotion and tenure decisions. Although all faculty should engage in scholarly teaching, not all faculty need to engage in SoTL. Scholarly teaching is part of a faculty member's teaching responsibilities; if a faculty member chooses to pursue SoTL, this work is part of their scholarship/creative activity/research responsibilities.”

This example is good for showcasing a case similar to OER, and also shows the methods by which a group can incentivize a new form of scholarship through multiple means at a single institution.

(pp. 22-23): “Past research exploring individual experiences within the framework of Iowa State University found institutionalizing SoTL through definition and valuing in the faculty handbook helped enable and encouraged faculty members’ SoTL work (Marcketti, VanDerZanden, & Leptien, 2015). Additional institutional means of supporting SoTL include selected departments inclusion of SoTL as part of position descriptions, as well as a component of the faculty members’ Position Responsibility Statement (PRS). Because the PRS is the basis for all annual, probationary three-year, promotion and tenure reviews, and post-tenure reviews, the documentation and importance of SoTL is further solidified.

An additional means of easing faculty members’ participation with SoTL was the streamlining of the institutional review board (IRB) process in which most forms of educational related research are considered exempt. The form for approval of exempt research is a short document that recommends, but does not require informed consent documentation or detailed responses as compared to the long form necessary for review board approval. [Note: if it is determined that the proposed research is not exempt, the faculty would then have to go back and complete a full IRB request.] In recognition of teaching and SoTL excellence, in 2013, the university established the Morrill Professor title which recognizes faculty members whose professional work has demonstrated outstanding success in teaching and learning in undergraduate, graduate and/or Extension/outreach programs. The Morrill Professorship is similar in its nomination process and prestige to the University and Distinguished Professor titles and awards.”

University of Arkansas: Evaluative Criteria... for Initial Appointment, Successive Appointments, Annual and Post-tenure Review, Promotion and Tenure[12]

While this example calls out SoTL specifically, it is notable that it includes textbooks in that category. This falls under the “Teaching” category for UARK:

“Evidence of participation in the scholarship of teaching including but not limited to:

  1. Publications (textbooks, abstracts, articles, or reviews).

  2. Conference presentations.

  3. Grants/contracts to fund innovative teaching activities/course development.

  4. Participation in teaching conferences.”

Publication of textbook(s) and textbook chapter(s)

USCA Guidelines for Tenure & Promotion: Languages, Literatures & Cultures[13]

The publication of textbooks is called out specifically on page 3 of this document:

“In the area of applied scholarship (the application of professional knowledge), the department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures recognizes the value of the following discipline-related work, not necessarily listed in order of importance:

  • publication of textbooks

  • publication of chapters and articles in pedagogical books”

Purdue Criteria for Tenure and Promotion for the West Lafayette Campus[14]

Textbooks fall under the “Teaching & Learning” category for this institution:

“Examples of such publications or impact include a widely-adopted and well-regarded textbook, publications in a pedagogical journal, or products which enhance student learning. In all cases, the impact of the individual’s work should be the primary focus of review.”

Releasing research & scholarship open access

Note that this section specifically is not comprehensive. Open access policies have become more common across higher education; however, they are still rarer in tenure and promotion documents. Although open access content is not the same as open education (particularly open educational practices outside of traditional publication), this section has been included for two reasons:

  1. Both open educational resources and research related to open education can be categorized as “open access scholarship,” if that term is preferable or recognized more at your institution, and

  2. The presence of statements related to open access can often act as a “foot in the door” for broader conversations about the impact and importance of open content and practices.

Lafayette College Anthropology and Sociology Department[15]

“The department recognizes that new and emergent venues, such as online-only or open access peer-reviewed journals, will increasingly serve as important scholarly outlets due to their scope of readership, interactivity, immediacy, availability of access, or more diverse and interdisciplinary audiences. As with traditional venues, peer review and quality and originality of research are paramount to assessing the importance of such contributions”

IUPUI University-wide Promotion and Tenure Guidelines[16]

  • “IUPUI is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarly activities as widely as possible and as such supports faculty participating in digital open access distribution of their scholarship. The IUPUI Open Access Policy provides a no-cost, opt out approach to increase access to scholarly articles authored by campus faculty members.

  • Open access supports many of IUPUI’s Institutional Values including: Civic Engagement; Collaboration; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Economic Development; Interdisciplinary Work and Publication; International Work and Publication; Public Scholarship, and Translational Research.”

Part 4. Alternative methods for amplifying and supporting faculty

Resolutions to support OER

Some institutions choose to acknowledge and incentivize the use of OER through other means, such as through Resolutions passed by Student Government and/or Faculty Senate:

Letters and Awards

Additionally, institutions may incentivize the use of OER through awards that can be included in P&T packets, such as competitive grants, thank you letters, and awards for exceptional work:

Inclusion of OER in Strategic Plans

Appendix A: Additional Readings & Resources of interest

Coolidge, A., and DeMarte, D. (2016). “OER policy development tool.”

Commonwealth of Learning. (2016). “Institutional OER Policy Template.”

Abeywardena, I.S. (2017). An empirical framework for mainstreaming OER in an academic institution. Asian Association of Open Universities Journal, 12(2): 230-242.

McKinney, A. (2021, March 2). “Practitioner perspectives: The DOERS3 Collaborative on OER in tenure and promotion.” New England Board of Higher Education Practitioner Perspectives.


Getting OER into Promotion and Tenure Documents by Abbey K. Elder is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Kristin Whitman:

I would love to see a table of contents at the top of the page if possible!

Abbey K. Elder:

Hello, Kristin! You can see the table of contents on the top right of the page, under the “Contents” button. PubPub builds it out for us, by reading the headers on the page.

Kristin Whitman:

If you would like to adapt it as a potential resource, here is a set of Google Slides that could serve as the basis of a presentation to faculty senates or other stakeholders…

Abbey K. Elder:

Thank you, Kristin! If you’d like, I would be happy to partner with you to adapt these slides into an ancillary for folks on our website. However, if you don’t have the time, I’d be happy to list you as a co-author on any adaptations I share here regardless.