15 Leveraging the Dual Role of the OER Practitioner/Administrator: ‘Making it Count’ at an Individual and Institutional Level

Cailean Cooney

Case study writer: Cailean Cooney, Assistant Professor and OER Librarian

Institution: CUNY New York City College of Technology

Type of intervention: This case shares activities the author has engaged in through their dual role as faculty member and administrator of the college’s OER initiative. Topics will include how the author has leveraged their OER work to amplify the documents and activities required in their own tenure and promotion process and how they have approached this subject in faculty development programming. Practical models will be offered for faculty, librarians, and OER coordinators to adapt to their own contexts.


New York City College of Technology, known as City Tech, is the comprehensive college of technology of the City University of New York (CUNY), the city’s public university system. The college is distinct within and beyond CUNY for its unique range of associate and baccalaureate programs offered in professional studies and technology and design, in addition to the liberal arts and sciences.

The tenure and promotion process for faculty at the college follows a routine structure. Faculty are responsible for contributing a strong record of accomplishments across three areas: teaching, service, and scholarly and/or creative accomplishments (Flores & Olcott, 2020, 5). Faculty document this work by preparing an annual professional activity report and self-evaluation. This becomes the basis of review for reappointment at the department and college level. The faculty member must also write a cumulative self-evaluation to synthesize their accomplishments upon eligibility for tenure review. The “teaching portfolio,” a reflective exercise that structures and documents a faculty member’s teaching contributions, is a required submission for any promotion applicant (New York City College of Technology, 2021, 12).[1] The portfolio consists of eight components: faculty biography, description of teaching responsibilities, statement of teaching philosophy, description of teaching methodologies, course syllabi, student learning and assignments, teaching improvement activities, and future teaching goals.[2]

College faculty have been active in developing OER and engaging in open educational practices (OEP) since 2010: mathematics faculty have authored open textbooks, and the college also developed open digital pedagogy infrastructure, the City Tech OpenLab platform, through a Title V Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) grant.[3] In 2014, the college library department created a professional development program that funded faculty to convert course materials to zero-cost OER in place of publisher textbooks. Three courses were converted to OER in the 2015 pilot initiative, and the program has since expanded to create OER for 147-plus courses with the help of state tax levy funding starting from 2017 to the present.

In my role as OER librarian and coordinator of the college’s OER initiative funding, I design and deliver professional development programs, develop resources, conduct outreach, run workshops, and supervise part-time librarians who also work on the initiative.


Engaging in the Teaching Portfolio Process

As a tenure-track library faculty member preparing for promotion, the teaching portfolio was an opportunity to infuse my OER work into a narrative and show evidence demonstrating the prominent teaching focus of this work (Clyde, Cooney, & Tidal, 2021). This was especially important to me because the teaching portfolio process requires rethinking the template—designed for faculty teaching credit-bearing courses—to my own professional context. A secondary goal was creating a compelling package that would double as a cohesive promotional tool to demonstrate the value of OER work in higher education at large.

The first three sections of the teaching portfolio—the biography, description of teaching responsibilities, and teaching philosophy statement—can be likened to bite-sized versions of a foreword and introduction to the rest of the portfolio. Altogether, this content can set the stage for reviewers to engage with the faculty member’s teaching exhibits—the evidence that demonstrates teaching proficiency. In the biography section, I took the opportunity to make clear the duration of my OER work at the college and specifically state that the initiative I manage receives funds through a competitive university-wide application process, which is akin to applying for and managing an external grant. OER program coordination requires high-level project coordination and completing work on tight deadlines according to fiscal year budget cycles. Furthermore, the amount of commitment required in this work can necessarily exclude one from taking on additional grant-funded projects that may carry a higher imprimatur and are traditionally judged as more competitive by tenure and promotion reviewers.

In the teaching responsibilities section, I provided a concise summary of my primary teaching responsibilities, including designing and teaching OER faculty professional development programs, creating accompanying textual and multimodal resources, and conducting program outreach across the college community. I developed my statement of teaching philosophy around principles that drive my approach to professional development with faculty. For example, much of the professional development I lead entails faculty creation and curation of open teaching materials, which is chiefly achieved by independent project-based work. To account for this, I have organized the programming to foster a strong community of practice such that faculty can reflect and learn from one another and ensure that there is individual and collective engagement to privilege access and inclusion in teaching and (re)designing curriculum. This framing bridged well into the second phase of the teaching portfolio that focuses on documenting teaching impact. These sections include the description of teaching methodologies, course syllabi, student learning and assignments, and teaching effectiveness.

In the description of the teaching methodologies section, I presented teaching activities, assignments, and learning objects I designed to model access and inclusion and focus on these topics and how they relate to OER and teaching. For instance, I have assigned readings, including “Crips Visiting Detroit,” (2010) for faculty to learn from disabled people creating their own access and to challenge their existing notions of ability in the classroom. Faculty shared reflections through discussion prompt responses. In lieu of course syllabi, I included a selection of curriculum designed and taught. For reviewers, I provided an explanation of the OER Fellowship program before sharing its accompanying cohort curriculum. Here I pointed out that professional development program design also includes steps such as drafting an application form for faculty to fill out to be considered for the fellowship, followed by the development of a cohort syllabus to accompany the duration of the program. In place of student learning and assignments, I included anonymous feedback from a postprogram survey with responses from faculty to the following prompt: “The most helpful thing I learned in this program was…” I also mentioned that sharing my feedback with faculty on OER project submissions is an important part of the process, and described various ways I engage faculty throughout their projects. I concluded by sharing an anonymous example of the semistructured feedback I send to each faculty member for the OER they have created that includes suggestions and questions for them to address in advance of teaching. In my context, I demonstrated teaching effectiveness by including anonymous positive feedback from faculty in past programs, exhibits of instructional materials I have developed that were adopted or adapted by other higher education institutions, the number of courses that developed OER through the initiative, and statistics compiled of student textbook cost savings for each academic year since the initiative began.

Bringing the Tenure and Promotion Topic into Faculty Programming and Initiative Assessment

I have started introducing the topic of featuring OER work in tenure and promotion considerations during conversations with faculty by sharing examples of research conducted on the impacts of OER in higher education and introducing the cohort to the DOERS3 OER Contributions Matrix [PDF] (Coolidge, McKinney, & Shenoy), a model for helping faculty represent OER work in these actions. With the 2021–2022 faculty cohort, the group came together for several semistructured two-hour sessions, and myself and coteachers asked the cohort to review an excerpt from “OER at Scale: The Academic and Economic Outcomes of Achieving the Dream’s OER Degree Initiative” (Griffiths et al., 2020). The purpose was to give the group exposure to some of the research findings from large longitudinal samples using rigorous statistical analysis relating to the impact of OER in higher education and student success metrics. We asked faculty to review the introduction, executive summary, and the results related to student academic outcomes. Beyond gaining exposure, I also wanted faculty to review these results in case it might spark interest in pursuing OER impact research on student learning and perceptions, or whether they might consider requesting student success metrics from the college’s office of institutional research. Since most of the group was composed of full-time faculty, the potential for expanding this work into their scholarship and the scholarship of teaching and learning could be an interesting way to develop their professional profile to support future tenure and promotion actions.

In the same cohort session, we discussed the OER Contributions Matrix. Faculty were also asked to read the OER matrix in advance of the cohort meeting, which led to workshopping the matrix collectively in session. Faculty were first asked to respond to the following prompt with an anonymous comment via Padlet: What categories in the OER Contributions Matrix (teaching, service, scholarship) does your work fall into? Most of the responses indicated a mixture of this work counting toward teaching and service. Some specified it as a department-level service. A couple of comments shared curiosity over the potential for original authorship of OER counting toward scholarship. As we workshopped the matrix through active discussion, other themes emerged, including parallels between OER work and curriculum design, and that this work may also warrant college-level service. During the conversation, I also asked faculty to keep the following in mind: Would this document be helpful in describing your work in the annual professional activity report and tenure and promotion actions? Are there effective ways you’ve already highlighted your OER work in these venues? The aim here was to plant seeds for faculty to consider documenting their OER projects and perhaps expanding them in terms of research and assessment, a step toward building will and awareness to make OER work count.


The teaching portfolio process helped me hone my skills at conveying the teaching characteristics of librarians and libraries to an audience that may not be familiar with the professional domain and the operational functions of the academic library. In this sense, the teaching portfolio can be used to demonstrate the evolving nature of professional responsibilities and expertise that librarians take on, which often distinguishes us from other academic departments. For example, OER librarian positions and responsibilities are a new phenomenon in librarianship and higher education. Preparing my teaching portfolio was an opportunity to declare that OER is an important activity to teaching and learning at the college broadly and that teaching skills and exchange of teaching practices are central to OER professional development programs. After completing the promotion application process, I am more confident in advising tenure-track faculty about featuring their OER work in the teaching portfolio. I also have more genuine encouragement to offer along with substantive advice. This is an advantage given my positioning outside of colleagues’ departments and administrative hierarchies such that I can act foremost as a peer. The opportunity to reflect and assemble evidence of teaching accomplishments and cumulative progress has also strengthened my own teacher identity. Engaging in the process made me more in tune with how OER activities can be featured in the teaching portfolio and can support faculty in building evidence toward tenure and promotion.

While the conversations introduced in the faculty cohort sessions around OER in scholarship and tenure and promotion actions did not translate to tangible outcomes, it was nonetheless an important first step in bringing these topics to the faculty community of practice. Developing some shared knowledge among faculty might have an impact on evolving values and attitudes in individual faculty professional actions and for faculty on appointments and tenure and promotion committees. A theme that came up in the cohort discussion about OER work and getting credit was a sense that faculty not involved in developing OER may be unlikely to recognize the amount of labor and intellectual work involved in authoring resources, researching and identifying strong course materials, and substantively adapting resources to be relevant to students and the curriculum. Perhaps some of the documentation already required for professional documentation, including the teaching portfolio, can be leveraged by faculty members to demonstrate evidence and connect with the groupings offered in the DOERS3 OER Contributions Matrix. This would represent a step toward establishing recognition and credit for OER work at the level of institutional policy and personnel actions.


For OER practitioners working with instructors and taking a leadership role, particularly in libraries or other administrative support roles distinct from teaching faculty:

  • Advocate for professional development resources and support for yourself before or along with advocating for resources to support faculty developing OER. Share examples of resources and support structures that are available to other populations in the academy that would benefit you. Point out these discrepancies in the allocation of resources and support and frame it in terms of professional advancement that aligns with institutional goals and high-impact initiatives that support student success.
  • Convey that OER contributions align with institutional missions and goals. Utilize the DOERS OER Contribution Matrix to start conversations. For instance, higher education institutions often seek external funding that inevitably runs out. In contrast, when OER funding is received through state budget allocations, the work has a better chance of continuing on a long-term basis and addressing sustainability and institutionalization unlike short-term external grants.
  • Research opportunities to join a peer group to develop a teaching portfolio, and/or adopt elements of the teaching portfolio process as an evaluative and reflective exercise that supports individual and programmatic assessment (Sterling et al., 2022).
  • Design multiple opportunities for cohort-based work to start building a community of practice that supports engaged faculty. Connected faculty who are committed will be the strongest advocates and best chance at sustaining efforts and elevating the work of everyone involved in OER efforts.
  • Approach faculty professional development as a teaching and learning relationship.
  • Learn as much as possible about the college curriculum from various perspectives, particularly faculty, program development, curricular initiatives, and how the curriculum relates to college and institutional governance.
  • Cultivate relationships that help you be in tune with the college population and its goals and challenges.


  • Anonymous. (2010). “Crips Visiting Detroit!Creating Collective Access. Retrieved from https://creatingcollectiveaccess.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/crips-visiting-detroit/

  • Clyde, W., Cooney, C., & Tidal, J. (2021). Opening teaching beyond traditional instructional settings: A teaching portfolio program for noninstructional librarians. Presentation at the Association of College and Research Libraries National Conference, virtual.

  • Coolidge, A., McKinney, A., & Shenoy, D. (n.d.). OER Contributions Matrix. DOERS3. Retrieved from https://www.doers3.org/tenure-and-promotion.html

  • Flores, L., & Olcott, J. (Eds.). (2020). The academic’s handbook: Revised and expanded. Duke University Press.

  • Griffiths, R., Mislevy, J., Wang, S., Ball, A., Shear, L., & Desrochers, D. (2020). OER at scale: The academic and economic outcomes of Achieving the Dream’s OER degree initiative. SRI International, Menlo Park, California, USA.

  • New York City College of Technology. (2021). Guidelines for faculty personnel process. Retrieved from https://facultycommons.citytech.cuny.edu/parse/parse-annual-evaluation-process/

  • New York City College of Technology. (n.d.). Teaching portfolio resources. Retrieved from https://facultycommons.citytech.cuny.edu/parse/parse-teaching-portfolio/

  • Sterling, B., Burns, H., Corn, M., Culley, J., Fell, S., Jones, S., Miskey, C., Nugent, R., Orozco, R., & Weeks, A. (April 20, 2022). Working towards tenure together: Creating an intersectional peer supported cohort model. In the Library with the Lead Pipe. Retrieved from https://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2022/tenured-together/

  1. City Tech faculty academic personnel policies and procedures are approved by the college’s faculty governing body. More information is available via Guidelines for Faculty Personnel Process [PDF], maintained by the college’s Office of Faculty and Staff Relations department.
  2. The City Tech teaching portfolio template is available via the college’s Faculty Commons, Center for Teaching, Scholarship, Learning and Service.
  3. The U.S. Department of Education runs a Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program “to expand educational opportunities for, and improve the attainment of, Hispanic students.”.


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

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