Oregon adaptation of Matrix for OER in Tenure and Promotion

By | November 29, 2022

This post was contributed by Stefanie Buck, Director of Open Educational Resources, Oregon State University. 

Short-list: Resources for OER in P&T

Faculty Recognition

Anyone who has moved from a commercial textbook to an open educational resource (OER) knows it’s a great deal of work, whether you are adopting, adapting or authoring. The rewards are numerous – better student engagement, more control over the content, open pedagogy, grant funding, to name a few – but anyone who has done it will agree that it is primarily a labor of love.

However, the OER work being done by our faculty needs to be recognized if faculty are going to continue to make the effort to create and adopt OER. Studies show that one reason faculty hesitate to move to OER is because they are unsure how this work will help them in the promotion and/or tenure process (for example: A Place for Policy: The Role of Policy in Supporting Open Educational Resources and Practices at Ontario’s Colleges and Universities). This is especially true of tenure-track faculty who are under a great deal of pressure to “publish or perish” and meet the requirements of their department’s promotion and tenure guidelines.

Why does recognition of OER in the promotion and tenure (P&T) process elude us? The reasons are complex – each institution varies greatly in their P&T requirements; faculty are unsure how to classify OER work within the standard P&T structure of teaching, service and research/scholarship; departments and promotion and tenure committees are likewise unsure how OER fits into these categories and if OER even have a place in the P&T process. Changing these reasons means not just changing the P&T guidelines, which is a process in itself, but changing the culture around P&T and what is considered acceptable work.

Frameworks for OER in P&T

This conversation has not gone unnoticed by the OER community. Driving OER Sustainability for Student Success (DOERS3) created a Tenure and Promotion Matrix which serves as an “adaptable advisory model to help guide faculty as they attempt to include their OER work in their tenure and promotion portfolios.” The DOERS3 model can suggest to a faculty member or instructor where and how to position their OER work in their P&T dossiers. In some cases an activity, such as revising an OER, could fit into multiple categories depending on the context. The DOERS3 matrix is designed to give faculty more confidence in how to represent their OER work in their dossiers by letting an individual know in which category the OER could fit.

Because the DOERS3 Matrix is licensed under the CC-BY 4.0 license, it is adaptable and can be localized to one’s institution or expanded upon. The Iowa Open Education Action Team (Iowa OER), led by Abbey Elder, Anne Marie Gruber, Mahrya Burnett and Terri Koch, revised the DOERS3 Matrix as Open Education in Promotion, Tenure, and Faculty Development. This resource includes talking points for stakeholders to help OER leaders and faculty advocate for representing OER in the P&T dossier. The Iowa OER also reorganizes the DOERS3 Matrix using the three traditional criteria of research, teaching and service as a framework with examples of the kind of evidence a faculty member could present to make their argument. The Iowa OER adds a great deal of context around the DOERS3 Matrix to help faculty, administrators and OER leaders with these difficult and sometimes complex situations.

Oregon’s P&T Matrix

In Oregon, we decided to take these documents and build upon them – after all, isn’t that the great thing about openly-licensed resources? Open Oregon Educational Resources, the statewide OER program, convened the OER representatives from Oregon’s seven public universities to discuss the DOERS3 document and the Iowa OER document and see how we might use these to assist our faculty and instructors who need support in showcasing their OER work in their promotion and /or tenure documentation.

While the DOERS3 matrix and the Iowa OER version indicate WHERE to potentially represent an OER work and WHAT evidence to present, they do not say HOW to do this; in other words, what language should a faculty member use to describe the impact that the OER has had on their students, in their teaching, service and research, and on others? To assist those going up for promotion, we decided to add into the matrix some actual examples of wording from successful promotion materials submitted by faculty and instructors at our institutions. If others could see that 1. OER can be represented in a dossier or promotion package and 2. It was successful, then we might be able to allay some of those concerns faculty have about OER not counting in the P&T file.

So, we set about gathering this information. We reached out to both tenure-track and non-tenure-track individuals to ask if they would share their dossiers or promotion materials with us and allow us to integrate their work into an Oregon version of the DOESR3 matrix. We would credit them unless they chose not to be named, in which case we would redact their language to retain anonymity.

As it turns out, it is not easy to get this information. Each representative reached out within their organization to see if any of their faculty had successfully submitted a dossier in which OER has been included. This turned out to be a challenge since we did not always know when faculty are going up for tenure or when an instructor might be seeking promotion. Many of us reached out to the individuals we had been working with on OER projects or whom we knew had switched to an OER to see if they might also be working on a dossier or have submitted one recently and successfully. Most faculty and instructors were very happy to share what they had but only a few of them were at that exact point where they had recently submitted a successful dossier. Indeed, many of the respondents already had tenure and therefore had a little more freedom to experiment in OER than someone going up for tenure and promotion. Nevertheless, we did receive useful responses from 5 of the 7 institutions.

Our next task was to connect the language faculty used in the dossiers with the DOERS3 Matrix. This was also harder than first appeared because we found that the language provided by our faculty could often work in several different categories. For example, presenting about an OER project at a conference could fall under the Community or the Research category. However, to keep the matrix from turning 3-dimensional or completely unreadable, we chose to place each example under only one category. This made for easier reading of the document, but it does not mean that the examples are set in stone and can only be applied to one category in the Matrix. We wanted the Matrix to remain as flexible as possible.

We hope this turned out to be a valuable undertaking and that others can draw inspiration from their colleagues. Our next step is to share this document across Oregon and hopefully to improve upon it by gathering more examples from across Oregon institutions. As more faculty add OER to their P&T dossier, this document will expand and provide even more examples of wording that can successfully be used to represent OER work in the P&T process.