November Office Hours: Tenure & Promotion in OER


Watch the video recording of this Office Hours session, or keep reading for a full transcript. The chat transcript is also available, for those interested in reading the conversation that took place amongst participants and seeing resources shared.

Note: If anyone would prefer to not be associated with their comments in either of these transcripts, please contact Apurva as soon as possible and we will remove any names or other identifying information.

Audio Transcript


  • Karen Lauritsen
  • Zoe Wake Hyde
  • Jackie Stewart
  • Jonathan Poritz
  • Mark Poepsel
  • Amy Hofer
  • Anita Walz
  • Deana Brown
  • Apurva Ashok

Zoe: Excellent, thank you, Apurva. And welcome everybody, it is great to have you all here today for another edition of Office Hours. I am Zoe from the Rebus Community. And as always, we are pleased to be partnering with Karen from OTN and the other folks at OTN, there are many more of them to bring you our Office Hours session. (Laughs) I like the responses to the officialness of our recording today. 

So, we are joined, as always, by some fantastic guests who are going to be talking to us about tenure and promotion and OER, how they intersect and some of the experiences they’ve had with these questions, which we think is going to be a great discussion and in particular we’re excited about this as a continuation of a theme that emerged semi-deliberately, I would say, over the past few months in these sessions. 

As we were talking about incentives and how to really recognize the work that goes into creating and maintaining OER and using them. And acknowledging that it’s very important to make that work known and rewarded in all sorts of different ways. And so, I think that’s very relevant to where we’re here with today’s discussion. So, I will now handover to Karen, who will introduce our guests and we’ll get rolling. Thank you, Karen. 

Karen: Thanks, Zoe. Indeed, I am Karen Lauritsen with the Open Textbook Network, and delighted to be here with the Rebus Community during our monthly Office Hours. As a reminder, these sessions are community driven, so if you have topics that you would like to explore in the future, please do let us know. And as Zoe said, today we’re going to talk about tenure and promotion in OER. 

And discuss if and how faculty engagement with OER can be impacted, incentivized by tenure and promotion policies. So, we have three guests who are joining us today. Our guests will talk for about five minutes, and then we will look to all of you for your questions and comments and to drive the conversation. We will hear from Mark Poepsel, who’s associate professor at the department of mass communications at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. 

Then, we’ll hear from Jackie Stewart, who’s senior instructor with the department of chemistry and deputy academic director of the center for teaching, learning and technology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. And finally, we will hear from Jonathan Poritz, who’s associate professor in the department of mathematics and physics as well as director and data analyst with the center for teaching and learning at Colorado State University, Pueblo. So, I will now turn things over to Mark to get us started. 

Mark: Okay, thank you for calling me associate professor, it always feels good to hear that, having just earned tenure officially at the end of the last academic year. It’s very exciting. I think that my story starts with working on one chapter for an OER textbook called Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship with Michelle Farrier, Liz Mays. And what really mattered for my particular department’s approach to tenure was that there was a peer review process before this was published. 

I think the most interesting perhaps caveat of this was at my college level my research was ranked at a higher degree, at a higher level. We have three levels, excellent, satisfactory and unsatisfactory. And my college colleagues wanted to call my research excellent and my department was like, “No, no, just satisfactory.” To which I said, “Whatever, I’m still getting tenure, whatever.” 

All right, so that’s the bit if you want to take a headline away from this, whatever, I got tenure. But what I think was convincing to people on a broader sense was that this is a really collaborative peer review process. We had editors review the chapter, we had blind peer review look at the chapter. And then, we opened this up to basically a creative community of practice, where we each picked apart each other’s chapters and made suggestions for practical use. 

But also, for updating whatever theoretical material was included and in a sense these are in the academic world like literature reviews. I think it’s something more than quote unquote just a textbook or just a textbook chapter, because you have to be on the cutting edge. You’re basically bringing brand-new literature as recent as possible to students and then, the final aspect of peer review was everybody who reads the book has the opportunity to open up a little tray on the right side and comment. 

And tell you about your mess ups, your typos or what’s missing. And I think that’s the most constructive feedback is what would they like to see in the next version, right? And so, I had great experience with that process, being part of a community of scholars and scholar teachers talking about media innovation and entrepreneurship. And then, I said, “You know, I have written this other textbook that was on an Apple platform and I would sure like for this massive text to count for something. Can you basically get it peer reviewed for me?”

And the answer was yes, and we can do it relatively quickly with a lot of enthusiasm and with very helpful editors. And I was very grateful for that, and I think it was taken by my college colleagues as a great effort to really contribute to a new way of approaching textbook authoring that was valuable from not just a pedagogical standpoint, but from a maybe more academic research literature review type approach. 

Then, my colleagues seemed to be like, “It’s not an academic book, it’s not a chapter, but we’ll give you some credit, because it was peer reviewed.” So, I think that’s been my five minutes, more or less. But it counted, can’t say how it will count for everyone else’s department. I can say it took a lot of explaining in detail and a narrative what people did to peer review me that this should count as peer review. 

But there are plenty of people in my field, especially at a master’s granting institution who get lit reviews published or more broad theory-based, they’re all doing experiments and surveys and quantitative social science. And so, I’m basically saying, “Look, this is a social science contribution, as a literature review. It just happens we’re bringing this into the classroom and teaching it now because it’s so needed now. Thank you very much, please give me tenure.” And they did. 

Karen: Congratulations, Mark and thank you. I’ll now hand things over to Jackie. 

Jackie: Okay, hi everyone, thanks for having me. As was mentioned, I’m at the University of British Columbia, which is a fairly large public research-intensive university in Canada. And we have two tenure track streams, one is the typical research professorial track, and the other we call the educational leadership stream. The education leadership stream is assessed on teaching excellence, educational leadership and service. 

And then, of course, the research side is research, teaching and service. And I’m going to tell you a little bit of the background for how open has become more prominent and recognized particularly as a form of educational leadership. It doesn’t mean that research faculty aren’t encouraged to do it, but there it would fall more under teaching excellence if research professors were to spend time on developing or using or adapting open resources. 

So, that’s how things work up here. We also have of course non-tenure track faculty as lecturers and sessional instructions, which are like adjuncts. And the big takeaway for what we call as educational leadership is something that has impact beyond your own classroom. So, this could be the scholarship of teaching and learning, widescale curriculum development efforts that take some leadership role, developing resources. 

There’s a huge list of things actually that so-called count. And about five years ago, there wasn’t really anything that explicitly mentioned open education resources in our policies or documentation. But you can clearly see how OERs would fit into that impact part, because if other people are adopting what you’re using, that’s evidence that you’re having a reach beyond your own class. 

In 2014, our institution developed a policy on the use of teaching materials that was pretty focused on whether or not faculty members had to give explicit permission to have others use the resources they created with UBC time. And in that policy, it was definitely stated that instructors were encouraged to use Creative Commons licenses or digital repositories or other open access channels to distribute the materials broadly. 

But this wasn’t really enforced, it was just in there as like we encourage this, it’s a good thing to do. Sorry (laughs). So, it was mentioned as we support this as a good thing to do, but not official. In our recent collective agreement, we do have a little bit in there, but the collective agreement that we have as faculty members between us and the institution again, doesn’t explicitly mention open. 

It does say, including publications such as textbooks, print and electronic publications, book chapters, articles, instruction manuals, other resources. So, resources are in there as something that people can work on and receive educational leadership credit for doing that. But, the most exciting part really happened in 2016, or leading up to 2016, when some students really got motivated to help faculty get recognized for engaging in OERs. 

And along with our collective agreement, there’s something that is really important on campus, called our senior appointments committee guide. And that’s really a fleshed-out version of the tenure and promotion requirements and what all these things mean. So, it’s in a lot more detail than the collective agreement. And so, our group of students, who were interested in this, met with the chair of the senior appointments committee and offered some wording suggestion for getting open explicitly into that SAC guide we call it. 

So, it’s in there now since 2016, and what it says is, “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, slash resources.” So, it just took a little tiny wording change to put it in there, but it definitely fit with the rest of what was in that section. 

So, since then things have really started moving, I would say, at my institution in our inclusion category of our 2018 strategic plan, open is really highlighted in that plan. So, it says, “UBC’s expanding the use of open textbooks to improve affordability” and later in that section talks about “UBC being committed to making education more affordable and accessible with expanded creation and dissemination of OERs.” 

So, it’s in there, it’s in the strategic plan. Maybe that was caused by more interest on campus, I think that certainly could be true. And now, what’s happening currently? So, we have the policy, the SAC guide, now it’s in our strategic plan, and we have I would say more dedicated resources because of this. So, this fall due in a couple of weeks actually, we have an OER fund that has been created as a way to implement that aspect of the strategic plan. 

We’ve also had some OER emphasis in one of our large teaching and learning enhancement funds. So, that’s there as well. And then, I’ll just wrap up with some of the impact, so this hasn’t been something that has been tracked quantitatively in terms of whether these things have gotten more faculty members interested in using or creating OERs. But I talked to Will Engle who’s our strategist at the center for teaching, learning and technology for open education initiatives. 

And he thinks the conversation really has changed a few years ago, he reports that faculty members might be worried like is doing this good? Is it good for the university? Is this something that they think I should be spending my time on? How will this count towards my scholarly educational activities? And so, those conversations have definitely shifted and just become more nuanced in terms of figuring out different ways to do it, what the licensing requirements might do. 

How to write about these things in one’s tenure and promotion package. So, I think for all of these things, we’re really making headway to overcome some of these barriers to adopting and making new OERs, which is that lack of professional recognition. I think that’s really going away. And yeah, so it’s nice to see our university supporting this with the strategic plan and some funding. And we’re kind of riding a wave, right now, I see it as. So, I’ll stop there. 

Karen: Great. Thank you, Jackie. And it’s great to see some questions coming up in the chat. We will turn to those shortly, after we hear from Jonathan. 

Jonathan: Hi, okay, so let me do past, present and future on my institution. So, I’m at a four-year regional comprehensive, public institution in southern Colorado. I think the statistics are that the majority of students in higher education in the United States are actually in community colleges. But among four-year institutions in the United States, the majority of students are at four-year regional comprehensive institutions. So, it’s like the one I’m at. 

So, anyway, I got into let me tell you my personal experience. So, I got tenure in 2012. And that was the first year that I had started using OER in my own classrooms. Actually, I had open ed practice, I had a student written textbook that we were building in an advanced course on our major. So, obviously it didn’t impact my tenure process at all. I just want to underline things I was thinking about to get tenure. 

So, on my campus you had to have one research publication to get tenure. But the things that I thought about, so I had lots of research publications, that wasn’t my concern. The things that I thought about at the time I was on tenure track was I didn’t want to spectacularly screw up any of my classes. I didn’t want to piss off any of the senior members of my department, and I wanted to do visible service in the department and around my campus. 

Those were the three things I thought I had to do to get tenure. And it worked, I got tenure. So, for the present maybe, so I’m an associate professor, in theory I could apply to be promoted, so promotion is the second part of tenure and promotion. And there is no numerical requirement on my campus for a number of publications. There’s some sort of generic thing about significant continuing contributions to the campus and the discipline. 

I think I do both of those things, but I also think I have no chance of ever getting promoted, because since I got tenure, I stopped being so careful about not pissing off the senior members of my department. So, I would say this is a thing that people maybe who are not living this experience don’t realize how the formalities are in some sense merely formal. 

There are places where you could have a requirement for one publication and a little note you wrote on the bathroom stall could count as a publication if the people in your department like you. If they don’t like you, you could have great publications in other great journals. So, that’s a conflict. So, then in terms of the future, so we have more activity on my campus in OER, and so there has been a lot of discussion, everyone says that it should be valuable to get some formal recognition of OER in P&T. 

So, I’m working with the president of our faculty senate to have a proposal. The thing is these things, I don’t know if we’re just a particularly inept institution, or this is typical of my kind of institution, it takes forever to get a change like this made. It’s like it goes through first readings, and second readings, and committees, and the committee changes in the middle of this process and a whole new committee needs to revisit everything. 

So, it’s taking just absolutely unimaginably slow pace to get anywhere. The proposal is to make a specific line item on I think the research, recognition as a research concept. Of course, the three famous pillars: service, scholarship and pedagogy, and putting it in the scholarship category, an OER publication or some sort of OER entity. And I think on my campus it’s going to hit a big barrier, because there’s a feeling that why should it be scholarship?

So, Mark gave a good case for it being related to scholarship as related to lit reviews. But I think the more hard ass the faculty wants to be about this is pedagogy, it’s not really advancing the scholarship of my discipline as much. So, I think it’s going to be very hard for us to get that realized and let me end with a provocation. I don’t know that formal policies on P&T would make any difference on a campus like mine. 

Actually, I would argue in maybe lots of institutions. I think in our ones, you’re never going to get recognition of an OER as scholarship, because it’s not advancing the cutting edge of your discipline. Pedagogy you could recognize it, but pedagogy counts much less than the other ones than it does at other institutions. On a campus like mine, the people who you want to convince are already convinced. 

They care about teaching the students, and they’re already on board. So, I would argue that the crucial thing of advancing the agenda of OER through formal policy, the major thing is culture. We need to change the culture that it should be part of something you’ll always reach to and I think actually Jackie made an interesting case for some policies do change the culture slowly. 

So, I suppose I could be convinced that putting it in P&T would help change the culture. But I think the goal is changing the culture. What is in the policy would have had very little impact on my life and on the lives of people I see who are on the tenure track now. And one final comment, I think it’s important, at least in the United States, I’ve seen the number. More than 75% of contact hours that students in higher ed have is not with the tenure aligned faculty member. 

So, are we hitting the biggest target here by going after P&T if the people that are in the classrooms with the students are not tenure line, then we can have whatever policy we want on P&T and it’s not really going to— maybe we should be working on OER making the lives of adjuncts better would be a more— I don’t know. Anyway, that’s just my last provocation. 

Karen: Thank you, Jonathan. And thanks to our three guests for their perspectives and ending with those provocations. So, Jonathan has put questions to this entire group and Jackie and Mark of course feel free to chime in, too to Jonathan’s questions. And there has been a lot going on in the chat, so I’m going to try and catch up. But please, if you have a question and you prefer to unmute and be more conversational you are invited to do that. 

So, let’s see, I think Jackie, the first question we have note of is for you and the student leaders, were they graduate students, undergrads? Who was leading the charge?

Jackie: Yeah, great question. My understanding is that they were undergraduate students who were part of the executive of our student society, the Alma Mater Society. And that society has been very supportive of OER and recently has been working with our center to create an open education award. This year they had an event for what were we called? Open Delivery? 

But people who were involved in open, they had an event that recognized them, and said how important this is to students. So, again, it was mostly undergraduates at that student society who have been leading the way. 

Karen: Great. And Mark, this question is for you from Colby. You mentioned different types, typos, broader content of peer review. How were those different types of peer reviews perceived by your institution? Does peer review need to be by peers from your own discipline to be perceived as legitimate? I think you responded in the chat, but if you could also share your thoughts with us. 

Mark: In short, yes. To be counted as peer review toward tenure, I needed to have other people preferably at least if not at a research one university in the United States, at least at a master’s granting or someplace that conducts research review my text. So, I had to make the case that the editors of the textbook were research professors or even dean level folks. And I had a letter from Michelle that explained how my blind peer reviewers were and their feedback that they gave. 

I think the public feedback is just something that helps make the case for the value to students and for the value to the broader community. Part of it is having peer review, and then part of it is measuring the impact. And on the impact side, you’re not going to get little parenthetical citations and academic articles for your textbook. But you can demonstrate that this has had a real impact on teaching and on the teaching of the theory. 

Which is why again, I don’t want to call it a luxury, but I can keep going back to, I’m at a master’s granting, teaching oriented institution. So, if I’m bringing theory to teaching, that’s what I’m meant to do. And so, that’s a long answer to a simple question, which is it still needed to be peer reviewed, I still needed to document that. But in terms of impact, I think, it could make the case that I was in amending the text, listening to what the public was saying. 

Nobody really cares about the grammar and typos, but it did show I could make the case this is a totally comprehensive review process. 

Karen: Some people care about grammar and typos. They’re out there. 

Mark: I have an English degree and a Journalism degree, and I used to go head to head with the editor of the college paper about grammar. I really appreciate the importance of it. I love it. 

Karen: Right. And this connects actually to something Anita said, I think Mark, you just said you did have to document the peer review process. Is there any visible place where that documentation may live that you could share with others?

Mark: I don’t have it in the book itself, right, was that the question? 

Karen: In the book, or in a document or at a link?

Mark: I would have to— you’re asking for—?

Karen: Anita, feel free to chime in, but I think…

Anita: People who might be interested in adopting your book or reviewing it may be swayed positively (laughs) by knowing what type of review it went through. 

Mark: Okay. Apurva might be able to chime in, but there’s some reference to that somewhere in the materials and stuff. But I didn’t do that, so I was luckily I didn’t have to generate that. 

Karen: She did just post a link in the chat about the review statement that the book went through, so thank you, Apurva. 

Anita: Thank you. 

Apurva: No worries and I’ll add that in addition to this I think for Mark’s tenure dossier we also put together a little letter that outlines this process again in a little more detail. So, on Rebus letterhead or whatever it was, so we gave that to him to include in the file as well. It’s pretty much the same information in both places. 

Mark: Yeah, I guess I didn’t write that into a chapter, and so once I got tenure, I put a lot of that out of my mind (laughs). 

Karen: Thank you, Apurva. Speaking of links and resources, Jackie do you have the link to the collective agreement? Have you already posted that?

Jackie: I haven’t, do you want me to post it now? 

Karen: Sure, that’d be great. 

Jackie: I’ll do that and the SAC guide. There’s also a document story about that student involvement piece that I’ll post, too. 

Karen: Thank you. Let’s see, Amy Hofer has a question for any and all of our three guests. Do you have experience with top down institution-wide changes versus changing guidelines one department at a time? 

Jackie: I guess I can speak to that first if you want. I think our approach or what has happened at UBC is grassroots, people start to hear about OER, and start valuing it and being involved. But I think for us that top down policy was important just to say it counted. Because our culture here is if we’re not sure it’s going to count, then it won’t count, that’s I think where people err more on the side of. 

And I think that wasn’t necessarily true, if people wanted to put a lot of effort into explaining what this was and how it worked in their tenure package, that may be successful. But of course, when you go up for tenure, there’s that element of fear and not knowing if something will count or not, so I think that policy was really important. Yeah, so it has led to that culture change like, I think was it Mark talking about that? In terms of it raising the status of that activity has definitely happened since then. 

Mark: So, I’m the president of my faculty union, and we’re currently going through with regard workload operating papers changes across the entire campus. We just ratified our first contract over the past summer. And then, I was the vice president of my union and the president got pneumonia and she just quit. And so, now I’m president and I’m worried actually, that we don’t have it formalized where to put open educational resources and where they’re going to count. 

I think that most P&T is left out of the contract and for departments and other units to figure out. But I also know that the initiative has come from our own provost that we should have something in the vein of the educational leadership stream that you talked about. I don’t know what we would call it, but we would basically call it tenured as a teacher kind of thing. And as a union we would really support that, because the more paths you have to tenure probably the better for people. 

Especially in these fields like, I’m in mass media where the technological changes and the research changes so rapidly, it’s often outdated by the time you publish an article, even if you’re on top of changing in the journals of industry, journals of media studies. To publish something that was brand-new in 2016 that really smells outdated in 2019. And so, open is sometimes a better way to move the research and the pedagogy together on parallel tracks rapidly. So, we’ll make that case, but my future thinking is how can I do that as a union leader? 

Jonathan: I think the phrase I don’t think we’ve said out loud yet is academic freedom, right? And so, it seems like these policies, departments very jealously and faculty very jealously guard their idea of academic freedom. And part of the idea of academic freedom is disciplinary expertise, right? So, in a certain sense if you believe in academic freedom and if you believe in the justification of it, then you have to leave all these things to the individual departments to set their own priorities. 

And what Mark was just saying about workload, we’ve even had different disciplines want to have different workload policies, and my campus has colleges. And then, departments within colleges and they tried to have even college-level workload policies, the provost would really love to have that. And there’s a huge amount of pushback about it. It’s different to be a bench scientist in a physical science than it is to be a social scientist or a humanities professor or many other disciplines. 

So, I don’t have any trouble with academic freedom being important, and so I think it’s very hard to drive it from the top down without trampling on it, a fundamental thing that makes universities good. 

Karen: Thank you, all. So, we’re talking a lot…

Mark: Can I chime in and say one more thing? A lot of this if we’re talking about top down or bottom up, it might actually come from outside of your institution. The State of Illinois wants to encourage open educational resources, I’m not sure it fits into this conversation, but my university said, “Hey, Mark, we know you do this OER crap, can you serve on a statewide committee about OER?” 

And I said, “Well, I guess I have to because I’m the biggest name on campus about this, I’m a big proponent, and you don’t make a huge case in your tenure packet about caring about OER and not expect there to be some punishment.” (Laughs) And so, in my case, I have some ability to influence policy at the state level. But the State of Illinois is going to do it because they can make the case that they’re watching out for students’ budgets and watching out for the people. 

And I wholeheartedly support making information available where possible, where feasible for broader audiences. And I think that’s one of the main points of being involved in the movement. Just about everybody you talk to who is really invested in OER talks about students first and reaching public on a consistent basis. But it may come from even outside of your institution. 

Karen: And Jackie clarified in the chat that none of the UBC policies mandate using OER and I think there are a few stories already out there about how that can be a problem. But they recognize creating, using and sharing it as educational leadership. Do you want to add to that comment? 

Jackie: Not really, I think there are separate discussions about resources that cost students money that are used for assessment, that are happening in parallel and should we have caps on that? And what are the guidelines around that? Which are also good, but I think it’s good that it’s happening separately. Yeah, just because OERs are growing, there might not be appropriate resources for all disciplines. 

So, yeah, it’s mainly just that it counts for something, whether you’re on the research side and that’s more teaching excellence or the educational leadership side and then it’s a sign of that leadership. 

Jonathan: Can I just jump in for a second? I think the temptation for mandates, it’s great that Jackie pointed out that it’s not mandatory for UBC. But the temptation for putting a mandate is so overwhelming I think for some people who have these kinds of powers. Like, about a year ago, I gave a presentation to the Colorado Commission on the higher education, which is some oversight board in the state government of all public higher ed. 

And most people had never heard of open education before I walked into the room. But I gave a kick ass presentation, and as I was walking out, one of the commissioners grabbed my shoulder and he said, “You know, why don’t we just require this for all of public higher ed in the state of Colorado? You convinced me.” “That was not what I wanted to convince you of.” I think it’s awfully tempting to people. And I almost see why they would say that, but I think we all in this community know it’s a bad idea. 

Karen: Okay. I just wanted to pause in case anyone else wanted to chime in on that note. The next question we have here is from Sherry Jones, who mentioned all of the good points about changing the culture to change perspectives on OER. And she asks what about publishing articles in OE journals would OA articles be considered advancing discipline scholarship? 

Jonathan: So, again, I’ll just jump in, I’m not at a research heavy institution, but I was educated at ones. And I know people who are still in that world, and it seems like this whole idea of impact factor being a measurement of the quality of a journal is this numerical thing. And I think that most places that are research heavy have a little more nuanced view of that. So, open access journals like PLOS Science, PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, some of those journals are some of the most widely read. 

And there are studies that the impact of publishing in open access journals is much greater than publishing in closed journals. So, in my discipline, if I had an article in the Annals of Mathematics, that would be really amazing. If I had an article in an open access journal, people wouldn’t instantly say, “Oh my God, that’s amazing.” But they would recognize it fully well. So, I don’t think there’s really a problem. 

I don’t think there’s a negative view of open access journals. I think the journals world is changing so quickly as I’m sure we’re all aware that I think that in another few years people will stop even wondering about this that we ever gave all of our firstborn children to Elsevier and Taylor & Francis would be an odd thing. 

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 is 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?

Mark: One of my main purely academic publications is in an OA journal. And what I recall from having to describe my narrative was how the peer review process worked, but I also put into that narrative who else publishes there, and that these are some of the most cited people in my field. So, I’m head and shoulders with these other people who you might have heard of, or if you hadn’t, you can Google them while you’re reading my tenure packet and see that they’re for real. 

The main case that I had to make was this was not a pay to play journal, because there have been some problems elsewhere in the college, not in my department, with somebody trying to get a couple of articles into quite questionable journals. And so, I just had to make the case for why this type of OA wasn’t that and I think that will become less incumbent upon us as people get more used to it and publish more in OA. 

Karen: Going back to the conversation earlier I think, Jonathan, you made the point about adjunct and part time faculty doing a lot of this work. And maybe there is something there to consider. So, Amy Hofer and Sherry Jones have some questions about that. So, Amy says, “Default adoptions, especially for high enrolment courses is something I think about regarding this issue, however that is not related toward tenure promotion or moving from part time to full time positions for those faculty members. 

Is there a P&T angle on improving work stability for that particular faculty population?” Amy, I don’t know if you want to say anymore or chime in with any details for that question, but Sherry added— Actually, I’ll wait on what Sherry added, because I think it’s a separate angle on this question. 

Jonathan: Wait, didn’t she modify her comment and say that it was in fact not a P&T angle, but an OER angle on making things more stable? 

Karen: Did she?

Jonathan: Because P&T is for contingent labor that’s a whole huge ball of wax, it’s a horrible thing happening educationally now. And that’s a separate question, but I think P&T is not a way that we can offer support to our colleagues who are in that status. But I think OER is a way we can offer support, the road warrior who goes to several different campuses I think if they use Cengage Unlimited on one campus and a Pearson offering on another campus. 

Their lives are much more complicated. If they’re all using OpenStax or even if one of them is using OpenStax, one of them is using some other resource from some other repository, it’s open, they can get it more quickly, they can make modifications in some local version that bring their work more into line on different campuses. I think the same argument, the quality of the resource and the ability to control your pedagogy that OER provides to tenure line faculty applies equally well to adjunct. 

So, we can make their lives better, I think, by encouraging the use of OER on one or many campuses where they do this work that they do. 

Amy: I think, Jonathan, I was really struck by the comment that you made. And that you just reiterated about who this discussion is relevant for and that it doesn’t really reflect the entire labor pool of who’s teaching courses. And it just made me curious, because there are evaluation processes they’re not P&T process, but there are guidelines and ways that part time and adjunct faculty get evaluated or get onto multi-year contracts. 

Or if a line opens up, could be hired, etc. So, it just sparked that question for me, but before we go any further, will you please talk about the apron that is behind you? (Laughs) 

Jonathan: I’m sorry, we in Colorado, we had a conference in May, and I think it was Deb Keyek-Franssen and Dustin Fife who apparently you can special order Home Depot style aprons with any slogan you want. And so, for all of us who were the organisers of this conference, they gave us. We tried to give one to the governor of Colorado, who introduced our conference and he wouldn’t even touch it, politicians don’t like to put on silly clothing because they’re afraid someone might take a picture of them. It was really disappointing. But I like it. 

Karen: Thank you, Amy, for asking the question on everyone’s mind. Okay, so the next two questions from Sherry and Stephanie Hallam I think are related and that probably some folks from the Rebus team and also I would chime in to address. But Sherry’s question is is it possible to create peer review systems of OER materials in which both full time and adjuncts collaborate and review OER materials?

And Stephanie, which I think this is a related question, are there any platforms for faculty to submit OER where materials could be peer reviewed? So, in the Open Textbook Library, there is a light peer review that happens post publication. So, certainly that is one way to get feedback and review on open textbooks. And would you care to speak to how the Rebus Community could be involved?

Zoe: Yes, absolutely. Love this question. So, we have worked with a bunch of projects, including Mark’s as he’s spoken to on peer review. And what we have is it’s not a question of materials being able to be handed over to us to then organize the peer review for, but we have a system that is replicable that anybody can pick up and use and adapt. And then, we also have the platform to support it, where people can create a proper homepage for their project, so people know that this is happening. 

And then, release a CFP through our network, and we have resources to advise them on where else to put that CFP to recruit reviewers. And then, how to handle them once they’ve got them, the whole process start to finish we’ve done it would be a couple of dozen now I think projects have gone through this peer review system that we’ve been refining. So, it’s not quite that idea of a handoff and the review happens. 

It is still done by the project leads. And then, to the question of who’s doing it, we’ve had a huge range of people respond and participate in that. Again, it’s the person leading the project who decides what they need. And I think this is a really interesting conversation in that sense of who is doing the review is going to be considered, then that go into your thinking. 

We also encourage people to think very broadly, so if you know that needs to be a priority because you’re submitting for tenure, great. Think about how else you can have other people involved to contribute other kinds of feedback that will still make the text stronger. And that includes things like classroom review and the proofreading, copyediting reviews, those are handy too, for those of us who like the grammar to all be intact. Apurva, would you add anything to that? Great, thank you. 

Karen: I will add that I’ve also seen project leads in the Open Textbook Network organize these type of peer reviews among the community, sending out messages in our Google group for example. And there are probably at least half a dozen openly licensed metrics and rubrics out there that you can use as a jumping off point. And I think we can probably track down some links for that, as well. 

I’m conscious of time, so I’m reviewing the questions that we still have here. We got a question from Twitter, which is exciting. This question is a bit more broad and big picture, and it’s for anyone who’s in this call. Do you have concerns about how publishing in non-traditional avenues might impact an early career librarian and researcher’s career?

Jonathan: Yes, go for it, I think there’s evidence in publishing of novels that appeared on bestseller lists of the New York Times and in OA access journals, there’s evidence that going open means you have more impact. If you’re an artist, I know of two studies that say commercial fiction writers who’ve made more money releasing their books under CC license at the same time they’re commercially published through publishers. 

So, I think that the earlier you are, the more impact it only will grow longer. It’s like compound interest, get in early, and you’ll have more impact over the course of your career. That would be my take on it. 

Jackie: I think my cautious stance would be yes but pay attention to your unit culture. And talk to people that have gone through the process, or who will be involved in your process, just in case. Because bad things can sometimes happen later. 

Zoe: And I think being able to really tell the story of why you’ve made those choices is important, too. I’ve heard it more in open access research conversations, but if you wear your open on your sleeve, if you make it part of the fabric of doing the work, that’s an easier sell. No there is no universe in which everybody can take that big step. If you can, that’s one way to approach it, or otherwise just being able to explain very clearly like what Jonathan was saying. 

That actually this is to increase my impact, this is still putting it in the language of what people are expecting to hear as you’re preparing for tenure or in other ways trying to advance your career. 

Karen: Rick has an interesting question, so we’re all familiar with the metrics associated with OER, like student savings, greater enrolment in courses, because of that lower cost, greater retention of students in courses because they don’t have to drop the course because of high textbook costs. Things like that. Do any of these metrics have value in a tenure portfolio or a tenure narrative like my teaching saves money, increases retention and so on? Or with adjunct folks trying to argue for a tenure gig. 

Mark: I think it might be pretty limited in its value in terms of going up for tenure. But it would probably fit under the pedagogy of the research teaching and service. And so, you should definitely put it in there and it’s some meat to put behind. Everybody pays lip service to retention, but there’s an actual research-based approach to keeping students is that if it’s more affordable you’ll be able to retain more students and keep them there longer under different conditions, under different challenges that they face. So, that’s my primary guess. 

Jackie: At my institution, I think for both streams the research stream and the educational leadership stream, the angle might be different. For the research stream, the angle might be these things, or these demonstrated metrics are evidence of good teaching. And then, for the educational leadership stream, for tenure and promotion would absolutely need to include evidence of impact. 

So, it wouldn’t be enough to say, “I wrote this thing.” But really, what was the impact that that had? So, I think everything in Rick’s comments would be fleshed-out in a tenure package for somebody in the EL stream here. 

Leigh?: Yeah, I’ll also add that Virginia Clinton has just done a meta-analysis of a bunch of different studies that measured the impact of OER relating it to course withdrawal, measuring it against a traditional textbook. And that study particularly is starting to I think interest a lot of people in business offices, and we can perhaps use that to push forward this story. 

Obviously, there are some questions that need answering around that, like how does withdrawal rates affect graduation rates? But there is certainly research that’s happening around how do you respond to the KPUs that a business office would require?

Jonathan: I think both Jackie and Mark’s responses had to do with maybe you want to talk about the metrics and not so much I used OER because I hope to get those outcomes, but don’t even mention the OAs. I had greater success rate because gee, the students comment in their evaluations that they had the textbook from day zero. But anyway, I had a higher success rate. 

I do think we need to be careful which is if you were making the choice yourself about whether to switch to using OER in a class, you’d think I’m going to get suddenly that I’m always saying one third reduction in DFW rates among minority and eligible students from that Hilton study, I think it was. And here’s a dirty little fact there’s an enormous amount of variation from semester to semester, instructor to instructor in these kinds of metrics, which is enormous. 

So, if you may see a tremendous drop in your success rate the semester you switch to using OER but it’s not because of the OER, it’s because there’s an enormous amount of variation. Hang in there for another few years and the average will look good. But it’s not a silver bullet, and I’ve been collecting data on this stuff lately and it’s just amazing how much variation there is across academia in these kinds of metrics that we care the most about. 

Karen: A slightly different angle of this same question from Anita, who’s wondering specifically about research universities. And anyone who’s here your perceptions of OER and tenure and promotion at research universities and what counts? It seems that departmental P&T is very influenced by disciplinary bodies. So, anyone at an R1 or research institution who cares to?

Jackie: Everything I’ve said applies, since we would put ourselves in that category. But I think we’re in a unique situation because we have this teaching focused tenure track. So, I think going back to P&T for a research faculty member it would be evidence of good teaching, which is important. But it would not be placed in the scholarly activities in one’s discipline, usually. 

Karen: We have one question remaining, and I think we have time for it. It is a bit of a departure, I think, from our ongoing conversation, but in the same vein of how can we all support the advancement of open education? So, Deana’s wondering she’s a consultant at a state library and what role, if any, can you see state libraries playing in spreading awareness about OER and increasing adoption? 

And this is not just for our three guests, if there are others in the call who have thoughts, please chime in, feel free to unmute or share in chat. Deana, do you have ideas? Do you want to bounce off of us? 

Deana: Hey, this is Deana, I work at the Idaho commission for libraries, which is essentially the state library in Idaho. And this is new angle that we’re looking at taking, and we’re looking at it as a way to engage with academic librarians across the state, which is a group that we haven’t always really made a really strong connection with. And we know that there’s a lot of talk in the state about OER. 

There have been some one-off efforts here and there, but we’re wondering if the state library can serve as an entity that helps bring some of those conversations together, as staff move on to other things. So, having a consistent group of people to shepherd this through. So, I’m wondering have you had any experiences with your state libraries? Have you heard of other state libraries that have been helping with initiatives that you thought were successful or at least something to learn from?

Amy: This is Amy, and it sounds like Oregon might potentially have a similar kind of state library as what you have. I know different people mean different things when they say state library. But it’s tricky because the state library in Oregon serves all types of libraries. And as you say, in this context we’re talking about academic libraries. But one thing that we have done is the state library is sending a rep to our statewide OER steering committee meetings now. 

So, that we can see what issues come up that the state library might want to be keeping an eye on or participating in. And the state library also makes, negotiates deals, we looked at whether it was possible to look at ebooks that academic monographs that could be used as textbooks in some types of courses where that’s appropriate. So, I know that Idaho has or does Cascade Alliance Libraries as well, which is another place for there is that purchasing power angle. 

It’s not OER, because it’s not open, but it does get at that textbook affordability issue that is a big part of OER. 

Karen: Thanks, Deana and Amy. And since we’re at the top of the hour, or at the end of the hour, however you care to look at the last two minutes, please join me in thanking our three guests: Mark Poepsel, Jackie Stewart and Jonathan Poritz for leading us in this lively conversation about tenure and promotion and OER. There are some final notes in the chat, Leigh wanted to say she meant KPIs earlier, not KPUs. It’s always easy to make those kind of acronym errors. 

Zoe: And KPU it’s on the brain when you’re talking about it, they’re doing such great stuff. (Laughter) 

Karen: There’s a lot going on in a video call, too. (Laughter) Thanks, everyone. 

Zoe: I’ll add my thanks, and a reminder we’re taking December off from Office Hours, but you’ll be hearing from us very soon with our January topic. You can keep an eye out on Twitter as always. We are @RebusCommunity, and OTN is @open_textbooks and we look forward to seeing you again very soon. Thank you again, everyone for being here. 

Karen: Bye.

Chat Transcript

00:18:26 Apurva Ashok: We’re recording!
00:18:27 Justin White: It worked
00:18:32 Mark Poepsel: I do.
00:18:36 Mark Poepsel: Now we’re all married.
00:18:45 Justin White: This was a long con
00:18:49 Mark Poepsel: Ha! LOL
00:18:51 Apurva Ashok: haha!
00:19:41 Apurva Ashok: Thank you everyone for joining us today! We’re very excited for this topic, and to hear from you all and our wonderful speakers.
00:21:18 Amanda Larson: Yay!
00:21:21 Deana Brown: Congrats!
00:21:21 Apurva Ashok: Woohoo! Congrats, Mark!
00:21:22 Karen Lauritsen: Congrats!
00:21:26 Amy Hofer: yes!!! 🙂
00:21:30 Cindy Kristof: Congratulations!
00:22:06 Zoe Wake Hyde: The project Mark mentioned:
00:25:08 Apurva Ashok: This second book that Mark is talking about, Media, Society, Culture, and You:
00:27:57 Apurva Ashok: Here is a link to the Senior Appointments Guide to Tenure and Promotion at UBC. The line about OER counting as evidence of “educational leadership” is on p. 16.
00:28:12 Apurva Ashok: Links courtesy Christina Hendricks, Jackie’s colleague at UBC!
00:28:42 Zoe Wake Hyde: Yay students!!
00:29:14 Kristin L: That’s awesome! Were these graduate students, undergraduates and/or student leaders?
00:29:55 Colby Moorberg: Question for Mark for later – you mentioned different types (typos, broader content, etc.) of peer review. How were those different types of peer reviews perceived by your institutuion? Does the peer review need to be peers from your own discipline to be perceived as a legitimate peer review process?
00:30:32 Apurva Ashok: Great questions, Kristin & Colby. We’ll ask our speakers right after Jonathan is done presenting his portion 🙂
00:30:53 Brenna Clarke Gray: I had the pleasure of working on an OER housed at UBC that was really made possible at least in part by this work. Just wanted to share what is imaginable with good leadership:
00:31:09 Anita Walz: Question for Mark it would be interesting to see if/how you documented the peer review processes in the book. (It may be helpful for potential users to know this.)
00:31:47 Anita Walz: Question for Jackie (for later) will you also post the language/link from the collective agreement?
00:31:51 Amy Hofer: Another followup Q for later: do speakers have experience with top-down institution-wide changes vs changing guidelines one dept at a time?
00:32:14 Mark Poepsel: I don’t think that the public peer review focusing on typos and such made much difference, but it did enable me to call my peer review peer-to-peer and public. I’ve revised the chapter ( a little ) and amended it in part with public input, so that’s the most important moving forward. But I wouldn’t say public peer review online is enough for something OER to “count”.
00:34:48 Apurva Ashok: Thanks Brenna! These guides look great. It’s nice to not only imagine what can happen with good leadership, but to actually see it play out! And for others with questions, keep them coming. We’re making note of each and will turn it over to the speakers to respond very soon.
00:35:57 Amy Hofer: Re Jonathan’s comment on the slow pace of change – I think that’s really important and highlights the need to get started!
00:36:46 Amy Hofer: Also can Jonathan talk about his OER apron pls?
00:37:14 Justin White: There could be an OER/OEP equivalent of DORA to get a foot in the door
00:37:22 Mark Poepsel: Yes! Definitely want to know what’s up with that. And I’m hearing the Home Depot music when I look at it.
00:38:59 Sherry Jones: Good point about changing the culture to change perspective on OER. What about publishing articles in OA journals? Would OA articles be considered advancing discipline’s scholarship?
00:40:40 Amy Hofer: The point about adjunct/part-time faculty is well taken. Default adoptions, especially for high enrollment courses, is something that I think about regarding that issue. However, that is not related towards tenure, promotion, or moving from part-time to full-time positions for those faculty members. Is there a P&T angle on improving work stability for that faculty population?
00:41:15 Amy Hofer: Sorry, typing and listening at the same time – *an OER angle
00:41:49 Apurva Ashok: No worries Amy. We don’t care about grammar and typos in this chat!
00:42:01 Amy Hofer: whew!
00:42:39 Apurva Ashok: Mark has a review statement in the book that describes the process in some detail:
00:43:09 Sherry Jones: On the adjunct angle: It is possible to create peer review system of OER materials in which both full time and adjuncts collaborate and review the OER materials.
00:43:13 Anita Walz: I’d love to hear (anyone’s) perceptions of OER and P&T in Research Universities and “what counts” there. It seems that departmental P&T is very influenced by disciplinary bodies.
00:43:28 Stephanie Hallam: Are there any platforms for faculty to submit OER where materials could be peer reviewed?
00:43:53 Brenna Clarke Gray: Lumen Learning is providing T&P letters for those who participate in their continuous improvement OER project.
00:44:05 Amy Hofer: @Stephanie, one of my grantees just had a great experience posting his prepub OER to Rebus and finding a peer reviewer there
00:44:59 Apurva Ashok: Here is a link to the Senior Appointments Guide to Tenure and Promotion at UBC. The line about OER counting as evidence of “educational leadership” is on p. 16.

And here are two posts/articles about OER being connected to tenure and promotion at UBC:

University of British Columbia: Recognizing Open in Promotion and Tenure (Educause Review, July 2018)
Recognizing Open in Tenure and Promotion at UBC (SPARC, April 2017)
00:45:15 Amy Hofer: Thanks Jackie, that’s super helpful. So each dept still needs to make the changes, but the top down pieces makes clear that it’s going to be viable if it’s added.
00:45:58 Jackie Stewart: Thanks Apurva! Also our collective agreement with vague wording:
00:45:59 Apurva Ashok: Nice to hear about Lumen, Brenna, and your colleague, Amy!
00:46:13 Deana Brown: I’m a consultant at a state library and I’m wondering what role, if any, you can see state libraries playing in spreading awareness about OER and increasing adoption.
00:46:26 Apurva Ashok: Thanks to Christina Hendricks for making the UBC links easy for me to share 🙂
00:48:36 Jackie Stewart: To clarify, none of the UBC policies mandate using OER. They just recognize creating/using/etc. OER as a sign of educational leadership.
00:51:19 Tonya Ferrell: I’ve heard that from admin too… no! yikes!
00:52:09 Sherry Jones: Just a heads up. US DOE is hiring contractors to create “news desk” platform in which educators can contribute OER to the platform, and all OER materials can be evaluated by scholars in respective discipline. I attendee the US DOE Educational Blockchain conference in June 2019.
00:52:54 Apurva Ashok: PLOS ONE journals:
00:53:04 Anita Walz: PLoS Science
00:53:17 Justin White: @Sherry do you have a link to more info?
00:54:14 Sherry Jones: US DOE did not create a public link to the summit, but here is a link that document the summit
00:55:13 Sherry Jones: the summit was open to developers and heads of MIT, Harvard, Stanford, etc. It was a “closed door” discussion in D.C.
00:55:26 Zoe Wake Hyde: That’s a great tactic – namecheck other people doing OER work
00:55:48 Sherry Jones: Spencer Ellis might have more info on the Summit of Educational Blockchains. He attended the summit with me.
00:59:15 Amy Hofer: Hah!!!
01:00:16 Rick Stoddart LCC: Do any potential metrics associated with OER such as students savings, greater enrollment in courses (because of low cost), greater retention of students in courses (don’t have to drop course because of high textbook cost), perhaps more? — Would these metrics have any value in a tenure portfolio or tenure narrative? My teaching saves money, increases retention…etc. Or even with adjunct folks trying to argue for a tenure gig?
01:01:16 Sherry Jones: @justin My own work in promoting OER as scholarship is here
01:01:46 Apurva Ashok: Create a project homepage here: & post your Call for Participation/reviewers in the Contributor Marketplace: We’ve also documented how we do peer review in our guide:
01:02:18 Apurva Ashok: It also includes a sample template to write a Review Statement, which is what we used on Mark’s book!
01:02:36 Sherry Jones: thx Apurva for the links
01:03:34 Karen Lauritsen: More on peer review:
01:04:51 Apurva Ashok: Thanks Karen and Sherry for dropping in your links too!
01:05:50 Anita Walz: More on peer review (and other types of review): Gall, M. D. (1981) Handbook for Evaluating and Selecting Curriculum Materials. Allyn and Bacon: Boston. Retrieved from
iRubric: Evaluating OER rubric. Retrieved from
Open SUNY Textbook Peer Review Guidelines. Retrieved
Open Textbooks Review Criteria. Open Textbook Library. Retrieved from
01:06:04 Apurva Ashok: FYI for folks who have to head early, we’ll share all of these links and conversation in the chat along with the recording, once it is captioned and transcribed.
01:06:35 Sherry Jones: thx Anita for the links.
01:07:12 Apurva Ashok: Virginia’s study:
01:10:00 Anita Walz: Thanks Jackie
01:11:59 Anita Walz: The State library, I believe in Washington State oriented their LTSA grant toward OER.
01:12:22 Zoe Wake Hyde: This sounds like a topic for a future Office Hours!
01:12:47 Apurva Ashok: As the conversation is winding up, know that any follow-up conversation, reflection, questions, etc. is welcome in our discussion space: This is also where we’ll be posting the recording, chat transcript, audio transcript.
01:13:21 Deana Brown: Thank you!
01:13:27 Zoe Wake Hyde: Leigh wanted to say that she meant KPIs earlier, not KPUs! (Easy mistake to make in an OER convo)
01:13:38 Apurva Ashok: Thank you so much Jackie, Jonathan, and Mark!
01:13:39 Stephanie Hallam: Thank you!
01:13:41 Marian Smith: Thank you!
01:13:43 Amy Hofer: Yes thank you!
01:13:45 Apurva Ashok: And everyone else for joining us today!
01:13:48 Jackie Stewart: Thank you – this was fun and interesting!
01:13:49 Mark Poepsel: Thank you for the opportunities!
01:13:52 Mark Poepsel: Key Performance Indicators
01:13:53 Ann Obermann: Thanks much – super helpful.
01:14:14 Sherry Jones: thanks everyone!
01:14:22 Anita Walz: More info about how WA used their LSTA grant:
01:14:27 Apurva Ashok: Thanks Anita!

Thanks to Mei Lin for preparing the audio transcript and video captions!

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