19 The Role of Creation and Utilization of OERs in Appointment and Promotion of Lecturers at the National Open University of Nigeria

Felix Kayode Olakulehin

Case study writer: Felix Kayode Olakulehin, Research Fellow/Lecturer

Institution: National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN): Public Higher Education Institution

Type of intervention: This chapter reviews the place of creation and utilization of OERs on appointment and promotion of academic staff at the National Open University of Nigeria. Academic staff at the NOUN are lecturers who have responsibility for course design, program coordination, and assessment.


The National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) was established in 2002 to provide educational opportunities through open, distance, and e-learning (ODeL). NOUN’s vision is to be regarded as the foremost university providing highly accessible and enhanced quality education anchored by social justice, equity, equality, and national cohesion through a comprehensive reach that transcends all barriers. I am a lecturer in the Department of Educational Foundations, with a concurrent appointment as Research Fellow at the Regional Training and Research Institute for Open and Distance Learning (RETRIDOL). I develop instructional materials in educational administration and planning and action research projects on different aspects of ODeL, including OER, and I facilitate training for different categories of staff on the principles and practices of ODeL.

According to the university’s conditions of service, appointment to an academic position in the university is based on distinguished and continuing contributions to research and scholarship, mainly in the form of publications as well as evidence of the ability to provide academic leadership. The promotion of an academic member of staff from one grade to the other is based on the following criteria: qualifications, promotion experience / waiting period, annual performance evaluation report, and publications.

NOUN has an OER policy that is inspired by the recommendations of UNESCO at the World OER Congress in 2012. The purpose of the policy is to guide the development and review of OER materials (NOUN, 2016). The policy clarifies licensing issues and publication rights for OER developed by NOUN staff; provides guidelines on the creation, use, and review of OER; and identifies human and other resources required for this process. While most NOUN course materials made available on the NOUN courseware platform are publicly accessible, they are subject to copyright laws. However, only a portion of NOUN course materials is licensed as OER or available on the OER courseware. I am one of the core staff responsible for training and capacity building of other staff on OER issues, in addition to developing OER-based course materials. I am also a member of one of the teams responsible for action research into OER applications across the university.


As an academic, I have incorporated OER into my course design and development process. I have also used OER for creating ODeL training resources, which I used in faculty and staff development. As someone who had been involved in institutional transformation through the use of OER at NOUN from its inception, I have been involved at every stage of the evolution of OER at the institution. This has totally transformed the ways in which the content is presented and received by learners and training participants. Faculty are now more receptive to reusing OER when they learn that the training materials that they fully engaged with, in their training interaction and participant activities, were developed using OER and that full attribution has been provided in line with the institution’s adopted Creative Commons license, which is the CC-BY-SA—that is Attribution-ShareAlike—recently updated to 4.0.

Historically, this was not the case at NOUN. The development of learning and instructional resources, otherwise referred to as course materials, is an integral part of academic staff functions at NOUN. However, faculty understand from their employment contracts that they retain aspects of the copyright for the materials developed. Thus, there was strong resistance to the creation of OER course materials that could be made freely accessible to learners and other users elsewhere from academics who are opposed to the OER philosophy.

However, the argument of the university management and policymakers is that academics had been financially compensated for developing the course materials, and indeed course materials development is the means by which they carry out their teaching and lecturing. The university management therefore embarked on a series of sensitization training and workshops to ensure that faculty who develop course materials are aware that they retain control of their work via the Creative Commons license. Therefore, it is inconsequential whether the resources are restricted or made available as OER. At the time, the use of course materials developed as a part of promotion criteria, along with publication and grant requirements, had not been established. Further along in the part of the historical evolution of NOUN and in its quest to embrace the philosophy of OER, the university established the NOUN OER unit with the following mandate:

  • To stimulate the awareness of OERs in NOUN and beyond
  • To establish an open licensing framework in NOUN
  • To contribute to the global OER repository of resources
  • To stimulate research and exchange activities in OER
  • To provide capacity building in OER
  • To offer high-quality open licensed massive open online courses (MOOCs) to the global community
  • To collaborate with national and international organizations in OER-related activities

I became one of the task team members identified to support the OER unit in the pursuit of its mandate. This led to the creation of several OER resources that were uploaded to the NOUN OER courseware. However, at inception, NOUN faculty found themselves in a situation where the university did not recognize the creation of learning materials either under the copyright or under the Creative Commons license (CC-BY-SA) as inputs for appointments and promotion. Consequently, there was a reluctance by full-time faculty to create distance-learning courseware generally and OER-based course materials specifically. The university had to outsource the writing and development of almost 100 percent of its course materials. This is evidently a drain on the limited financial resources of the university. Consequently, members of the OER task team recommended to the university management that the course materials development activity is indeed an integral part of the academic function, more so when done using the vast store of global resources of high-quality content already available as OER. The committee also pointed out the time and cost savings that are associated with the adaptation and/or adoption of OER. Although, it is important to note that the OER task team is more focused on policy rather than OER creation; however, several members of the task team have a basic responsibility for OER creation in their departments.

One of the key strategies that the university adopted to enhance the skills of its academic staff in the development and expansion of OER is to offer a massive online open course titled “Open Educational Resources for Online Learning.” It is a four-week proficiency certificate course designed to strengthen the skills of academics in the integration of OER in their course materials development process. As one of the instructors leading the training, I am able to confirm that many academics increased confidence in the application of OER and enhanced their knowledge and skills of various aspects of OER operations. The university management eventually acquiesced and approved the use of OER for course materials development. As a result, academics are allowed to submit course materials developed using OER or, as OER is also known as, OER courseware for consideration for promotion. The weight of OER courseware submitted can carry up to 40 percent of scores obtainable for promotion; other considerations include evidence of publication in refereed journals, research grants obtained, academic qualifications, and community service.

However, there was a stipulation that academic staff cannot submit OER courseware for consideration for promotion beyond the rank of senior lecturer. The implication of this is that for promotion from any of the three levels before senior lectureship—that is, assistant lecturer to lecturer II to lecturer I to senior lecturer—an individual can submit OER courseware. However, beyond senior lectureship to associate professorship and full professorial chair, the creation of OER courseware shall not be considered. The university management requires further evidence of original contribution to the field in the area of externally funded research; this is a possible reason for the non-inclusion of a requirement to publish OER in the criteria for promotion to the professorial cadre. An interesting observation is that there is presently no stipulation regarding the consideration of OER courseware development for the appointment of a new academic staff of any category. Thus, if a person is being appointed from another university that does not place a premium on OER development to the position of senior lecturer, for instance, such a person is not required to submit evidence of contribution to OER, which peers already in the same role have had to provide.


The decision of the university management to start recognizing OER courseware was well received by many budding scholars across disciplines, who heaved a sigh of relief that at last, recognition is being given to their academic productivity in the form of OER courseware. Thus, early career and midcareer scholars were able to gain the desired acceleration in their careers because of the weight that is now been given to the creation of OER materials. However, senior academics in the form of senior lecturers, associate professors, and even full professors no longer see a reason to exert themselves in creating OER courseware, since there is no weight assigned to the development of such resources in the university’s promotion process. This is a predictable human response from a utilitarian point of view. The only aspect of the courseware that has relevance to senior academics, such as readers and professors, is the stipulation that inaugural lectures, public speeches, monographs, and related publications are made as OER. One may infer that while this does not offer inducement in the form of promotion, the recognition gained from the display of such publications in the institution’s OER repository contributes to the growth of OER development across the university.


  • OER development and creation should be expressly stipulated as consideration for appointment into the faculty/academic staff category of higher education institutions.
  • OER development and creation should be included in the criteria for promotion to all academic staff categories, including associate professors and full professors. This is because it is important for professors as senior academics to continue to show leadership in the promotion of the development and utilization of OER irrespective of their earlier contributions in this area.
  • OER development and creation is presently optional across the university; however, regulations can ensure that all academic staff contribute to the expansion of the institution’s OER courseware. It is proposed that academic staff are given incentives beyond promotion points for those who contribute to OER development so as to ensure a broad acceptance of the ethos of OER.
  • All NOUN course materials are to be made available as OERs and use the license as stipulated in the university’s OER policy OER Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA 4.0).


National Open University of Nigeria. (2016). Policy on open educational resources. NOUN. Retrieved May 21, 2023. http://www.oer.nou.edu.ng/oer/#


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

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