13 Supporting OER in Tenure and Promotion Documentation: Lessons from the University of Hawaiʻi

Carina Chernisky; Junie Hayashi; Soledad Lencinas; Beth Tillinghast; and Jason Yamashita

Case study writers:

  • Carina Chernisky, Public Services Librarian
  • Junie Hayashi, Public Services Librarian
  • Soledad Lencinas, Public Services Librarian
  • Beth Tillinghast, Retired Scholarly Communications Librarian
  • Jason Yamashita, Open Educational Resources Librarian

Institution: University of Hawai‘i

Type of intervention: In an effort to proactively support faculty at the University of Hawai‘i, the University of Hawai‘i OER Committee developed a set of resources to help faculty showcase the impact of their OER efforts throughout their tenure and promotion dossiers and to streamline their overall workflow on future open projects.


The University of Hawaiʻi (UH) is a public college and university system offering associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees through three universities, seven community colleges, three university centers, four education centers, and various other research facilities across six islands in the State of Hawaiʻi.

The emergent interest in OERs among UH System campuses prompted the creation of the UH OER Committee in 2015. The committee was formed with OER promotion and education efforts in mind. Since its inception, the committee has met monthly to share updates from OER campus leads[1] and other OER champions[2] across the system, as well as support faculty working with or interested in OER through workshops, events, and other activities. With a growing number of faculty using or creating OER, the UH OER Committee recently formed a Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) to undertake collective projects that could efficiently support OER efforts across UH campuses.

The author group for this case study is composed of UH OER Committee members who are librarians from Leeward Community College and the University of Hawaiʻi—West Oʻahu, as well as a retired librarian from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

The tenure and promotion process at the UH System may vary depending on the specific institution, though one common factor is that the process does not formally recognize OER even though there are a significant number of faculty involved with OER. Until recently, no official guidelines or guidance have been provided regarding OER in review dossiers.


Since the formation of the UH OER Committee, its members realized the need to clarify the relationship between OER and the tenure and promotion process. At committee meetings, members occasionally and informally discussed the absence of information about incorporating OER into review dossiers. The need for guidance became clear after instructional faculty members, who had recently submitted their tenure and promotion applications, shared their struggles in documenting their OER activities through casual discussions with their OER campus leads. Ultimately, the need to create a resource to assist them arose from the lack of comparable materials that could help faculty working on their contract renewal, tenure, and promotion dossiers. The UH OER Committee determined that a collaborative approach was necessary in order to create a unified action plan applicable to faculty throughout the system.

Therefore, in April 2021, a subcommittee of volunteers from the UH OER Committee was formed. The UH OER Tenure & Promotion Subcommittee (T&P Subcommittee) initiated the development of a resource that would offer more substantial direction and support to faculty working on contract review dossiers. In addition to exploring if other higher education institutions provided similar support, the subcommittee also reviewed each campus’s official tenure and promotion guidelines and determined that it should create a guiding document for faculty. The goal of the document was to prompt reflection and provide suggestions that might be useful in detailing the nature and value of OER work.

The resulting document, Tenure & Promotion Guidelines (T&P Guidelines),[3] is divided into separate sections depending on the type of faculty one might be (e.g., instructional vs. specialist). Each section is then divided into subsections for teaching, research, and service activities, which align with general UH tenure and promotion structural suggestions. Subsections offer practical considerations and tips, identifying suggestions and reflection questions to stimulate thinking and inspire next-step actions. Overall, the content in the guide does not intend to be comprehensive, but it does aim to help faculty conceptualize and describe the varied tasks, roles, and duties that are unique to their OER initiatives. Also included in the guide are FAQs for clarification, a table of contents, campus-specific resources, and appendixes with links to additional resources.

The T&P Subcommittee introduced the first draft of the document to the UH OER Committee in August 2021 to solicit feedback. In spring 2022, the subcommittee shared the second draft with OER champions at Leeward CC and UH West Oʻahu, prompting another round of review and editing. After completing additional revisions, the subcommittee presented the final document to the UH OER Committee and implemented plans to release it widely.

While working on the T&P Guidelines, the T&P Subcommittee identified the need for additional resources, which were then developed through separate projects. Each of those projects resulted in resources that are briefly described below.

The OER Survey Templates enables faculty to gauge the effectiveness of their various OER efforts and to obtain crucial qualitative and quantitative feedback from students. Three customizable templates—OER Materials, Open Pedagogy, Textbook Cost: $0 (TXT0)—are available for faculty to make copies of and use. By prompting faculty to collect data regularly, they will be able to more effectively detail their value in review dossiers and advocate for funding to support their OER initiatives. An introductory guide to this set of surveys lets faculty know that they can tailor the survey to their specific needs: consider which questions should be required versus optional, obtain approval from UH’s Institutional Review Board if the data will be published in some capacity, and review the demographic questions to ensure that they are only collecting data that they are interested in analyzing and using.

The Open Pedagogy MOU (memorandum of understanding) outlines the understanding made between student and instructor when embarking on open pedagogical projects. UH OER Committee members had noticed that faculty experimenting with the open movement were interested in open pedagogy but needed clarification on the legal and ethical implications. While many templates to protect students’ intellectual property exist on the World Wide Web, a standard template for UH faculty did not exist. The UH’s Office of General Counsel was consulted to ensure that the contract was legally acceptable. An introductory guide to the MOU clearly outlines how faculty should use the resource and urges them to obtain informed consent by having a clear and open discussion with students about the project, Creative Commons licenses, and their goal of having students engage in open pedagogy. The guide also provides suggestions so as to avoid situations wherein a student complains that they received a poor grade because they opted out of the open assignment and what to do if a former student later contacts the faculty to try to rescind their license.

The Mentor-Mentee Framework nurtures relationships in which mentees work with mentors to effectively demonstrate their OER accomplishments for their contract renewal, tenure, and promotion dossiers. It also builds a network of potential collaborators for OER initiatives. The framework includes two separate sets of opportunities for faculty: for mentors to be listed on an OER Mentor Directory or to join a more structured Mentor-Mentee Program. The directory, less structured in nature, functions as a digital bulletin board of UH faculty with extensive OER experience in self-identified areas. It enables junior faculty to connect with mentors who can help them in a specific way, and the interactions may be substantial or more casual. The program is more robust in nature and makes the terms of the mentorship more clearly identifiable. Mentors and mentees must meet to complete a contract defining the expectations of both parties. By participating in the program, parties will receive formal professional development acknowledgment letters that they can use in their dossiers for contract review.

Various UH OER Committee members assisted with the development and evaluation of the suite of OER resources, incorporating diverse perspectives. To conclude the work on each resource, supplemental materials were developed to support/maximize their use. For example, resource user guides and FAQs were created to answer commonly asked questions.


Access to the completed resources was made available through the UH OER website. While this provided public access to the resources, marketing was necessary to increase awareness and, therefore, promote usage. To publicize the resources and the efforts of the T&P Subcommittee, this author group delivered presentations at local professional development events—the 2022 Hawaiʻi Library Association Annual Conference and the 2023 Hawaiʻi Student Success Institute. While these venues were helpful to promote the resources, this author group realized there was a need to create a more sustainable vehicle to achieve far-reaching awareness at the individual campus level. It became evident that showcasing those resources in a single, overarching resource would be beneficial. The idea of an informational toolkit was envisioned, and the T&P Subcommittee was tasked with creating it.

The UH OER Toolkit [PDF] introduces the suite of resources, shows the relationships among them, and suggests practical approaches for dynamic and enduring engagement with and between the resources.

Described in caption.
This graphic from the toolkit illustrates how the Survey Templates, Open Pedagogy MOU, and Mentor-Mentee Framework support the T&P Guidelines, while working in tandem with one another.

The toolkit is meant for use by individual faculty and others to share and promote these resources at their system campuses.

In the toolkit, each resource includes an action plan checklist with specific and realistic next steps. An additional action plan checklist is available for those promoting the resource, which offers organizational recommendations. The toolkit contains a few additional elements: a glossary of terms to clarify key concepts and a Promotional Slides Template to provide a ready-made presentation.

The creation of the toolkit and the recent presentations have helped bring attention to these materials. The T&P Subcommittee is optimistic that new faculty interest in OER has been generated. The subcommittee has received favorable reviews from faculty who were invited to provide feedback, and it will continue to incorporate feedback in future iterations of the resources.

Institutional policies and programs that promote the use of OER are critical to the long-term sustainability of OER initiatives. The development of the suite of resources ultimately sparked the formation of the UH OER Committee’s SAG, forging a synergistic relationship that has strengthened the direction and purpose of the committee’s mission, vision, and resource-building objectives. One key outcome of SAG discussions has been a commitment to sustainability to ensure that all created materials adapt to the varying needs of faculty across the system campuses now and in the future. Through SAG’s leadership and advocacy, this author group envisions the development of formal guidelines at a system level.


The increased usage and development of OER in UH campuses highlighted the need to provide guidance to faculty engaged with open materials. In OER-related training and learning venues, it is convenient and beneficial to present and share customized resources that are vetted, current, and include localized content. The suite of resources described in this case study aims to mobilize OER support in the tenure and promotion process. By creating and disseminating these practical resources, the T&P Subcommittee hopes that faculty have the support they need to assert the value of their OER efforts, ultimately reducing barriers to learning and empowering students on their path to academic success.


Some recommendations for the successful development of resources, their longevity, and their continued usability are listed below:

  • Establish a formal body (like the SAG) that will be committed to helping the project reach its goals and to sustain it year to year. Tasking the formal body to oversee the created materials and make any needed updates will ensure they remain relevant and useful.
  • Periodically seek feedback to improve the materials and ensure they are meeting needs. Create a plan to consistently assess the materials to ascertain whether they need to be revised or expanded. The plan should include scheduling annual meetings with campus leads and creating surveys or conducting interviews to gauge faculty usage and experience with the resources.
  • Immerse yourself in the collaborative process. Each person’s contribution and unique thought process produce results that are stronger and more representative.


This author group would like to acknowledge the work of faculty, staff, and students who contributed to and supported the development of these resources.

Please contact the UH System OER Committee at oer@hawaii.edu if you have questions or comments.

  1. OER campus leads are individuals who lead OER campus efforts and represent their campus on the UH OER Committee.
  2. OER champions are individuals who are familiar with OER, using or making them, and consider them an ally of the open movement.
  3. Formally titled Incorporating OER Efforts into Review Dossiers.


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Valuing OER in the Tenure, Promotion, and Reappointment Process Copyright © 2024 by Carina Chernisky; Junie Hayashi; Soledad Lencinas; Beth Tillinghast; and Jason Yamashita is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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