16 Can California’s 2025 Compact Dreams Come True? Recognizing the Value of OER in Faculty RTP Criteria

Elaine Correa and Alexander Reid

Case study writers: Dr. Elaine Correa, Professor and Dr. Alexander Reid, Assistant Professor – Department of Human Development and Child, Adolescent, and Family Studies (HD-CAFS)

Institution: California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB): 4-year, Public

Type of intervention: With an Academic Senate resolution, we are identifying and promoting the value of OERs in the retention, tenure, and promotion (RTP) criteria at CSUB.


CSUB is a four-year public Hispanic Serving Institution with 11,745 students. Dr. Elaine Correa is the special assistant to the provost, working on reducing educational costs by 2025 (California Compact). Dr. Alexander Reid is the OER HD-CAFS department director. As fellows of the AAC&U OER Institute, we work with the Academic Senate to integrate OER into university-wide RTP criteria.

At CSUB, RTP files are evaluated based on contributions to pedagogy, scholarship, and service. RTP criteria is vetted by the department and approved by the dean. University-wide RTP criteria requires time-consuming/intensive levels of review. An RTP proposal is submitted to the Executive Academic Senate, then directed to a subcommittee. A decision is presented as a resolution and voted on the Senate floor. Presidential approval is required, and then changes to the academic handbook and RTP policies occur to ensure uniformity in the requirements across departments and disciplines.

We lead OER initiatives at CSUB (including meeting the California Compact), having presented at local, national, and international conferences, and published chapters/scholarly articles. Our award-winning department, HD-CAFS (2019, 2020 winners of Affordable Learning Solutions [AL$] competition), is the first and only OER program at CSUB, earning the distinction as one of three CSUs to have an entire OER program. As OER grant and award recipients, we continue to seek external funding. We are fellows of AAC&U Institute of OER, serve on CSUB’s Advisory Board for AL$, and are ambassadors for faculty and liaisons for the CSU Chancellor’s Office for AL$ initiatives.


Our approach reflects a combination of OER integration from the level of a tenure-track assistant professor actively participating in OER initiatives and a full professor who is serving to promote OER by shifting the campus culture (e.g., student resolution, department, administrative changes). The recent state policy changes mandated by Governor Newsom (California) focus on reducing equity gaps and increasing retention to graduation (California Compact requires the reduction in educational costs by 50 percent within the CSU system by 2025).

The Case of an Assistant Professor with OER and Tenure

Faculty retention, tenure, and promotion (RTP) files are assessed annually based on contributions to Teaching (pedagogy), Scholarship (research), and Service (service to the university, academic field, and community). As a fifth-year assistant professor faculty member at a comprehensive four-year university, I have submitted a total of four cases for RTP review by the RTP-Unit Committee, dean, University-wide Review Committee, provost, and Office of the President. Reviewers score each category on a four-point scale. Pedagogical items submitted in an RTP file include course syllabi, sample assignments, sample slideshows, student-feedback surveys, classroom observations conducted by colleagues, and teaching philosophy, research, and service statements. I also include evidence of my commitment to teaching my courses utilizing only OER and zero-cost course materials (ZCCM). I have adopted, adapted, and/or developed OER materials and made them available to students via the course learning management system (i.e., Canvas) and my colleagues via a shared cloud (i.e., Box). My department has committed to only utilizing OER/ZCCM; however, this is not an institutional requirement. At a university that prides itself on innovative teaching and creative contributions, the adoption of OER and OEP (open educational pedagogy) should be reflected in the RTP review process and worthy of merit. My pedagogy is informed by my scholarship as I have presented on OER at international, national, and regional conferences.

My department is the first and only department at my university to offer all OER-compliant courses. Our goal is to offer a zero-cost degree (Z-Degree). This work is recognized by the chancellor’s office as important; however, the internal university assessment processes (RTP) have yet to acknowledge their value. This contradiction is problematic because the CSU is heavily supporting the Affordable Learning Solutions Initiative (AL$), Graduation Initiative 2025 (GI 2025), and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives (DEI) that are targeting equity gaps and retention to graduation, and yet CSU institutional policies (RTP) do not come to fruition with university practices (OER/ZCCM).

Service is evaluated at the levels of department, school, university, and field/community. In an OER department, as the OER director, my role encompasses the following:

  • Manage the shared cloud, which entails updating the course folders (i.e., 22 courses)
  • Ensure that instructional materials are OER and Americans with Disability Act (ADA) compliant
  • Develop and disseminate an OER survey to students (measure feedback pertaining to OER usage)

I serve as a university fellow in the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Institute of OER for 2022–2023 in the capacity of

  • Drafting the institutional OER survey
  • Seeking IRB approval
  • Showcasing the survey results at conferences

We recognize that assistant professors are racing against the tenure-track time clock to showcase contributions to teaching, research, and service. OER contributions are overlooked, and the benefits are not fully valued sufficiently to justify equal status with traditional/conventional requirements for RTP. We argue that the magnitude and scope of such efforts should not be ignored as OER has a profound impact on students, educators, and the community we serve, advancing among others, AL$, GI 2025, and DEI Initiatives.

The Case of the Full Professor and OER Campus Culture Change

Governor Newsom’s 2022 Multi-Year Compact between the Newsom administration and the CSU system focused on reducing educational costs by 50 percent by 2025. The CSU system is the largest system of senior higher education in the USA with 23 campuses servicing 485,550 undergraduate and graduate students and 56,909 faculty and staff. It should be noted that of the 23 CSUs, 21 universities carry the Federal Department of Education designation of being a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). To receive an HSI designation, colleges or universities must have a Latino student enrollment of at least 25 percent. The HSI designation makes campuses eligible for federal grants and other programs aimed at strengthening Latino student success.

The CSU system has been working to reduce equity gaps for underrepresented groups, as well as improve retention to graduation rates with the GI 2025 directive. This initiative is aimed to ensure that all students—regardless of racial, ethnic, or financial background—have an equal opportunity to earn a college degree. The adoption of OER or ZCCM course materials reduces expenses for students. Materials are available in an electronic format, which means students no longer need to carry heavy textbooks, as all materials can be uploaded onto their devices (e.g., phones, computers, and/or tablets; Reid & Correa, 2021).

The cost savings from the various CSU initiatives has been impressive, starting with over $32,000,000 saved by students across the 23 campuses in 2010–2011 when the AL$ initiative commenced. Currently, $77,000,000 was saved in 2020–2021, with $45,000,000 saved by campus activities and $32,000,000 saved by bookstore activities for students across the CSU system.[1] These savings are significant for CSU students, given that of the 485,550 students enrolled in a CSU in 2020, nearly 50 percent of the students were classified as underrepresented minorities, a third first-generation college students, and half of the students receiving Pell grants (Federal Financial Aid).[2] The stark reality for many students today is that there are no real choices when it comes to either paying the rent and buying food to sustain themselves and/or their families versus purchasing a textbook (Correa & Bozarth, 2023). The AL$ initiative has very practical results in supporting student success when textbook costs are removed (Reid et al., 2022).

Faculty buy-in is critical for the AL$ to grow and expand. There has been skepticism by faculty as to the quality of the OER materials that are available, and thus some pushback has occurred (Green, 2018). Reluctance by faculty to move from textbook reliance to OER or ZCCM may be in part due to the increased workload involved in adopting OER and/or ZCCM for their courses, the limited support and appreciation, the additional time commitment, and no compensation and little, if any, recognition for their efforts (Doan, 2017).

In terms of culture change, the global pandemic highlighted one unanticipated benefit of the OER/ZCCM initiative. Faculty who participated in OER were well-prepared to pivot and change the modalities of courses from face-to-face instruction to online (Reid et al., 2022). With all course materials already organized for students to download, faculty were able to gear their attention to the development of an online course without having to worry about textbooks and access to course materials. This is an important achievement for the university that should include the recognition of faculty OER/ZCCM efforts in the RTP processes.

Inclusion of OER into Retention, Tenure, and Promotion Process

Student Resolution

In a presentation, we identified the impact of the OER initiative on our campus (environmentally sustainable, open licensed sources) and highlighted the benefits (reduction of stress and heavy books to carry, immediate availability of course materials) for students in terms of cost savings, reducing equity gaps, and increasing retention rates. Students quickly realized the importance of OER and willingly supported a resolution to work in partnership with the OER advisory board to raise awareness and increase adoption. This first step of securing student support was critical in the initial campaign to generate a buzz around ways the faculty could work to support our students (see appendix A).

Faculty Stipends and OER Support

Within the CSU system through our AL$ Initiative, faculty were able to apply for funding support under three possible categories (review, use, or creation) identified on the CSUB Library web page. See appendix B for the application materials and requirements for stipends to support the (1) review of OER, low- or no-cost course materials; (2) use of OER or low-cost materials; (3) use and/or creation of OER; and (4) department adoption of OER for courses.

Senate Resolution

We proposed to the Academic Senate that OER/ZCCM be considered for integration into university-wide criteria for RTP. Our colleagues witnessed an increase in positive student feedback in course evaluations, with more active student engagement when integrating OER. We distributed a survey to teaching faculty across the campus to ascertain who was participating in OER/ZCCM and to raise awareness of OER/ZCCM on our campus. A resolution on reducing educational material costs has been introduced on the Academic Senate floor and is currently being deliberated.


The Case of an Assistant Professor with OER and Tenure

As a fifth-year assistant professor, I have submitted four RTP cases for review. I adopted and developed OER materials for all my courses, shared these materials to a cloud for other faculty members, and received positive end-of-the-year course evaluations from students. My RTP reviews have not earned value for my OER contributions. OER curation should merit additional recognition in the RTP process. To consider OER contributions as the minimum of what is expected of tenure-track faculty members speaks to the dissonance between policy and practice. Furthermore, the reviewers’ lack of understanding of OER and underappreciation of the time and effort exuded to create and incorporate OER materials into course curricula is apparent in their low evaluations.

Service contributions are a prime example where pioneering efforts only receive lip service and, in practice, no real benefits (release time, stipends, high assessments in RTP). Faculty members can write a rebuttal to address omissions and inaccuracies.

The Case of the Full Professor and OER Campus Culture Change

In tandem with the proposal to the Academic Senate, CSUB is also supporting an OER/ZCCM initiative for a “Z-Degree” (no textbook cost pathway). With greater faculty acceptance of OER/ZCCM along with possible changes to RTP criteria where OER/ZCCM is valued in tenure and advancement, the expectation for significant institutional changes is currently underway.

We presented to campus unit constituencies to generate interest and reinforce the value of OER/ZCCM. For example, we asked faculty whether they would support OER/ZCCM if the university-wide RTP criteria included OER/ZCCM for tenure and advancement. The feedback we received was inconclusive due to low response rates. There is pushback at various levels: (1) faculty unaware of OER, (2) faculty lack of familiarity with copyright and licensing agreements, (3) reluctance of faculty to share their original solo-authored materials, (4) faculty fear of losing intellectual property rights with distribution, (5) administration failing to recognize OER as legitimate academic scholarship, and (6) administrative resources to encourage and sustain OER adoptions.


We offer the following recommendations:

  • Students
    • Student government (e.g., clubs and campaigns) can help support (e.g., Textbook Broke Campaign, use of Rocketbook) the value of OER/ZCCM by reducing financial barriers.
  • Faculty
    • Institutional practices (e.g., release time, stipends, workshops/trainings) that are integrated into university-wide strategic planning are critical components that measure what counts and is deemed to have merit.
  • Administrators
    • Administrators should allocate release time, additional funding, recognition, or showcasing faculty contributions in research scholarship, service, and teaching.
  • Community
    • Community organizations, local businesses, clubs, and media can help showcase the value of OER/ZCCM, with universities (University Advancement) contacting and working with alumni.


CSU OER initiatives have been in place for well over two decades, yet they have only recently gained momentum because of the pandemic’s effects on student recruitment and enrollment. OER/ZCCM has increased in the CSU with the California Compact and the funding expectations based on a 50 percent reduction to educational costs for students within the CSU by 2025; faculty “buy-in” still requires a more aggressive campaign to move toward greater OER/ZCCM adoptions. The impetus for OER should extend beyond political expediency, with the larger vision encapsulating affordability and education for all. We must remain vigilant and focused on continuing to meet goals and move forward with OER initiatives at each level if OER is to be truly embraced within the RTP processes in higher education.


  • Correa, E., & Bozarth, S. (2023). To eat or to learn? Wagering the price tag of learning: Zero cost textbook degree. Equity in Education & Society, 0(0), https://doi.org/10.1177/27526461231154013

  • Doan, T. (2017). Why not OER? Libraries and the Academy, 17(4), 665–669. https://doi.org/10.1353/pla.2017.0039

  • Green, K. C. (2018). Campus computing 2018: The 29th national survey of computing and information technology in American higher education. Campus Computing Project. Encino, CA.

  • Reid, A. J., & Correa, E. (2021). Keep me connected: No cost solutions for access to remote instruction. In L. Kyei-Blankson, J. Blankson, & E. Ntuli (eds.), Handbook of research on inequities in online education during global crises (pp. 224–239). IGI Global. https://www.igi-global.com/chapter/keep-me-connected/278477

  • Reid, A. J., Correa, E., Hur, J., Bozarth, S., & Chang, T. (2022). Teaching without PANTS! (Pandemic accelerated, novel technology symptoms): How affordable learning solutions enabled rapid response instruction. In I. Fayed & J. Cummings (eds.), Teaching in the post COVID-19 era: World education dilemmas, teaching innovations and solutions in the age of crisis.

Appendix A

SB 101

Resolution in Support of Open Educational Resources (OER)

  • WHEREAS: The Associated Students, Incorporated of California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB) is the official representative body and the voice of CSUB’s more than 10,000 students and is entrusted to represent the best interests of their constituencies; AND
  • WHEREAS: It is the mission of Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) of California State University, Bakersfield to provide an official voice through which students’ opinions and issues may be expressed regarding university and statewide affairs: ASI aids and supports educational events that enhance student’s knowledge; AND
  • WHEREAS: It is the responsibility of all ASI Board members to advocate for all students to have access to an equitable education; AND
  • WHEREAS: It is evident in the rise of cost in higher education, which has resulted in students having to carry the financial burden, specifically the rise of cost relating to textbook, affecting CSUB students’ academic and professional success; AND
  • WHEREAS: Open Educational Resources (OER) offer courses at a low or no cost for students, consisting of openly licensed and distributed learning materials free of charge for students; AND
  • WHEREAS: Affordable Learning Solutions, which was initiated at CSUB in 2013, has saved students more than $1,500,000; AND
  • WHEREAS: Open educational resources (OER) help CSUB reach its goal of striving to “Strengthen and Inspire Student Success and Lifelong Learning”; AND
  • WHEREAS: Open educational resources (OER) have been shown to reduce cost, at the system-wide level and at CSUB, for students, and our institution is encouraged to solve the issue of high-cost textbooks; THEREFORE LET IT BE
  • RESOLVED: Associated Students, Inc. Board of Directors urges,
    1. 1. California State University’s Office of Academic Affairs to explore high-quality affordable learning alternatives, specifically open educational resources (OER); and
    2. 2. CSUB School Deans and Department Chairs to explore and seek grants and other funding opportunities pertaining to open educational resources (OER); and
    3. 3. Office of Registrar to make it known upon class registration if courses include open educational resources (OER) resources or are Z majors; and
    4. 4. Academic Affairs to provide workshops for faculty to learn about open educational resources (OER) and its benefit to students; and
    5. 5. Faculty to provide within their syllabus more cost-effective alternatives, such as open educational resources (OER), in order to lower the cost of course materials; AND BE IT FURTHER
  • RESOLVED: Associated Students, Inc. Board of Directors commit to do the following:
    1. 1. Work on creating a survey to include all CSUB students in the discussion about open educational resources (OER) and student struggle relating to course expenses; AND
    2. 2. Educate students on open educational resources (OER) so CSUB students are empowered to communicate with their professors about this option; AND IT BE FINALLY
  • RESOLVED: Copies of this resolution will be distributed widely, including, but not limited to, CSUB President Dr. Lynnette Zelezny, CSUB Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Dr. Vernon Harper, CSUB Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Thomas Wallace, and CSUB School Deans, Department Chairs, CSUB Academic Senate, CSUB Bookstore, and CSUB OER Committee.

Passed unanimously by the Associated Students Inc, Board of Directors on Friday, November 18, 2022

Appendix B

Here are the application materials and requirements posted on CSUB Website: Affordable Learning Sslutions: AL$ Day & Faculty Recognition

Review of Open Educational Resources (OER) or Open Access Resources

Stipends: $150

Agreement: Review of OER, low-, or no-cost course materials – Memorandum of Understanding [Word]


  1. Apply online at AL$ Faculty Stipend Application [Google Form].
  2. Review material that is more affordable, low, or at no cost to students. The savings to your students must be 30 percent or more off the previously used textbook via the campus bookstore pricing. If this is the first time the class is being taught, the savings can be compared to a standard textbook that would be used for this course.
  3. Provide a list of all reviewed materials that would be used in place of typical textbooks. Include links and/or PDF versions of all material reviewed along with the cost of the materials or indicate that they are free.
  4. Provide the title, author, edition, and cost of the textbooks that your reviewed material would replace.
  5. You may use the following guides and rubric to complete your review. Please include a one-page, typed summary of your review, suggestions, and findings. Use Microsoft Word or something similar for the summary and items 2–4. Items 2–4 can be included in your online application or in the summary.
  6. MOU for reviewing open educational resources; low- or no-cost materials will be issued.

Use of Open Educational Resources (OER) or Open Access Resources

Stipends: $150

Agreement: Use of OER, low-, or no-cost course materials – Memorandum of Understanding [Word]


  1. Apply online.
  2. Select or create more affordable, low-, or no-cost course materials. This includes creating readers and/or course materials/packets for your students at CSUB. The savings to your students must be 30 percent or more from the previously used textbook via the campus bookstore. If this is the first time the class is being taught, the savings can be compared to a standard textbook that would be used for this course.
  3. Utilize the selected textbook for at least one semester.
  4. Data to be collected and submitted online:
    1. Course number and the number of sections you will teach.
    2. Enrollment total (projected total).
    3. Student cost of a previous textbook or something that could be used if it has never been taught before.
    4. Student cost of newly selected or created course materials (printing costs if being printed at the bookstore or print shop).
  5. MOU for reviewing open educational resources; low- or no-cost materials will be issued.

Creation of Open Educational Resources (OER) or Open Access Resources

Stipends: $1,000

Agreement: Use and/or Creation of OER – Memorandum of Understanding [Word] (must be OER)


  1. Select an open access textbook and apply online.
  2. Utilize the selected textbook for at least one semester.
  3. Provide an e-portfolio reporting on the textbook adoption/implementation experience.
  4. Create an account in MERLOT.org and then click on Access the Content Builder from the drop-down menu in the top right-hand corner of the web page > Create Web Page. Then select from the template list the “CSU Course Redesign e-Portfolio.” Give the template a name and you are ready to create your e-portfolio.
  5. Explain how you shared your experience with colleagues in your department and/or discipline-based organizations (provide a brief description in your e-portfolio).
  6. MOU for use and/or creation of open education resources (OER). An e-portfolio must be submitted upon completion.

For departments interested in the $5,000 prize for most adoptions, a collective effort was also available in the form of a friendly university competition. It should be noted that in the early years of CSUB’s participation in the AL$ initiative, the departmental award was $10,000. Due to funding decreases, the award in 2023 is $5,000.

Departmental Award—$5,000

As a part of this initiative, the department or school with the largest number of adoptions (within one academic year) of open-source textbooks or other low/no-cost options—that save at least 30 percent off the previously used textbooks—will be awarded $5,000 from Affordable Learning Solutions funding. The funds should be used to make textbooks more affordable and may include resources, software, and other items and/or professional development opportunities.

  1. Course name, ID number, and the number of sections taught per semester.
  2. Enrollment total for each section.
  3. Title of previous textbook used for this course. Remember to include all course materials/supplies (workbooks, notebooks, homework software, or tools).
  4. CSUB Bookstore cost of previous textbook or something that could be used if it has never been taught before.
  5. Title of newly selected textbook/materials. If no textbook/material is being used, please indicate that. Remember to include all course materials (workbooks, notebooks, homework software, or tools). Provide link or access location if applicable.
  6. Student cost of newly selected or created course materials (printing costs if being printed by the bookstore or print shop).
  7.  Please enter this data on or before March 2, 2022.
  8. MOU for most adoptions by a department will be issued.

  1. The California State Univeristy. (n.d.). Reports and research.
  2. The California State University. (n.d.). Fact book 2021 [PDF].


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Valuing OER in the Tenure, Promotion, and Reappointment Process Copyright © 2024 by Elaine Correa and Alexander Reid is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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