5 OER in Educational Leadership at UBC

Christina Hendricks and Will Engle

Case study writers:

  • Christina Hendricks PhD, Professor of Teaching, Philosophy; Academic Director, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology
  • Will Engle MLIS, Strategist, Open Education Initiatives, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology

Institution: University of British Columbia: University

Type of intervention: This chapter documents how a UBC faculty member weaved her OER work into her tenure dossier as evidence of educational leadership for tenure; additionally, based on interviews with UBC faculty members, it makes recommendations of how OER work could be considered more widely for tenure and promotion requirements in other academic streams.


The University of British Columbia (UBC) is a large Canadian research university with two main campuses located in Vancouver and Kelowna, British Columbia. Christina Hendricks is a tenured professor of teaching in philosophy at the UBC Vancouver Faculty of Arts and also the academic director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT). In these roles, she has been involved in the full spectrum of open education work, from creating and using OER and open practices in her teaching to leading and championing university strategies and support for open education. Will Engle is a strategist for Open Education Initiatives at the CTLT, where he supports university-wide open education initiatives as well as working directly with individual faculty members who wish to incorporate open resources or pedagogies into their teaching and learning.

At UBC, there are two types of tenurable faculty roles:

  1. 1. The research and teaching stream (assistant, associate, full professor), for which the tenure and promotion criteria are aligned with the DOERS3 scholarly activity framework of research, teaching, and service
  2. 2. The educational leadership stream (assistant, associate, full professor of teaching), for which the criteria are educational leadership, teaching, and service

Educational leadership is defined in the UBC Faculty Collective Agreement as “activity taken at UBC and elsewhere to advance innovation in teaching and learning with impact beyond one’s classroom.” Through advocacy by students, the creation of OER was added in 2017 as one example of work that can count as educational leadership in the UBC Senior Appointments Committee Guide to Promotion and Tenure.

The addition of OER language to the Senior Appointments Committee’s promotion and tenure (P&T) guidelines built upon the long history that UBC faculty, students, and staff have in engaging with open activities. A number of other open education efforts and initiatives have been undertaken to support the adoption of OER at UBC, including the following:

  • Student advocacy: UBC’s undergraduate student societies have been leaders within the UBC community in advocating for more equitable access to education through the use of OER (see An Open Letter to UBC). Their efforts have included an annual #textbookbroke campaign, which surfaces the costs that students pay for their learning resources, an annual OER Champions event, which celebrates faculty who have used OER in their teaching, and advocacy for OER funding and recognition.
  • Recognition for OER in the UBC strategic plan: In 2018, UBC published a strategic plan that spoke to the use of OER as a strategy for affordable learning resources.
  • Funding support for OER: In 2019, the University of British Columbia Vancouver (UBCV), in response to student advocacy, committed $1 million over four years to the UBCV OER Fund for the development and integration of OER into UBC credit courses.


As noted above, educational leadership means work done to advance teaching and learning “with impact beyond one’s own classroom,” and the creation of OER can have such an impact. I (Christina) included OER creation, research, training, and advocacy in my dossier for promotion to professor of teaching in philosophy at UBC, mostly under the educational leadership category.

For example, I included sharing most of my course materials with an open license on publicly available course websites and submitting some of these to OER repositories. In a first-year, interdisciplinary program called Arts One, for several years, we recorded most of the lectures and posted them—along with slides, essay questions, and student blog posts—on a website called Arts One Open (no longer actively updated), and for some of that time, I was responsible for that site and resources.

I also included some of my scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) activities under educational leadership, though they can also count as research. I included conference presentations and publications on OER, such as collaborating with others on a research project investigating faculty use of OER, presenting at several conferences, and producing a final report: “Exploring Faculty Use of Open Educational Resources in British Columbia Post-secondary Institutions [PDF].” In addition, I cofacilitated sessions on open education topics at numerous conferences and included one peer-reviewed journal article on OER as evidence of educational leadership.

I also discussed activities related to education and advocacy in open education in my promotion dossier as examples of educational leadership. I presented and cofacilitated workshops on open education several times at UBC on topics such as MOOCs, basics of OER, and involving students in OER. I also codesigned and cofacilitated several open online courses, one hosted through UBC (Teaching with WordPress) and others beyond the institution (such as “Why Open”).

Finally, fulfilling the criterion for educational leadership means showing that one’s work has an impact outside of one’s own teaching. As evidence of impact, I included examples of invitations to speak about open education, both at UBC and elsewhere. I also used the number of views of my course slides on the SlideShare platform, as well as of my course videos on YouTube, as a way to show that OER I have created have been at least accessed by others. Finally, I included letters of recommendation from others speaking about the value and impact of my work in open education.

Regarding advocating for the valuing of OER in reappointment, tenure, and promotion processes, in 2016, I worked with UBC student leaders to discuss how language about OER might be included in these processes. Through the UBC Open Working Group, UBC faculty, student leadership, and staff had been engaging in conversations and work related to OER. The students appreciated the value of recognizing instructor OER efforts and took the initiative to talk with the Senior Appointments Committee about adding language to the guide.


I was granted promotion to professor of teaching after submitting my dossier that had a significant focus on OER work. In order to show others how OER can be included in such processes (and encourage them to do so as well), I have shared my dossier and rationale for including OER with other educational leadership faculty at UBC. I created my dossier on a public website, and this has made sharing very easy. I have heard anecdotally from a few people who found it and have appreciated being able to review it when preparing their own dossiers. I have also shared with other faculty members through panel discussions at UBC about tenure and promotion processes for educational leadership stream faculty and through some one-on-one meetings.

Both of us (Christina and Will) have had discussions for several years about including OER in reappointment, tenure, and promotion dossiers. We have talked particularly about how this work could potentially be counted in areas beyond educational leadership, such as the three areas in the DOERS3 matrix: teaching, research, and service.

Beyond Educational Leadership

Including OER work as evidence of educational leadership can be a successful strategy, as it is well aligned with the goal of advancing teaching and learning by showing impact beyond one’s teaching; however, for faculty in other roles, the inclusion of such work for tenure and promotion can be a more ambiguous process. In preparation for this chapter, the authors held discussion sessions with 10 faculty members at UBC Vancouver across multiple faculty streams who had in-depth experience in creating and teaching with OER. Generally, faculty members reported that their academic departments had different levels of support or acceptance for OER work and that this was a reflection of, or scaffolded by, the level of acceptance of OER activities within their scholarly discipline.

Faculty from all streams included OER work within the teaching area of their dossiers, often as examples of curriculum development or course design. In cases where the OER improved the design or teaching of a course, this was reported as an example of innovation. The adaptability of OER often allowed faculty to extend its use beyond providing learners with content; it was integrated and improved in ways that enhanced the learning of their students. For example, some faculty adapted the material to be relevant to the diversity of experience of their students, integrated and aligned the open materials directly into course modules, and built out interactive functionality to allow for formative self-assessment.

Additionally, faculty from multiple streams reported including aspects of their OER work as scholarly outputs or research activities. Some evaluated the processes and impacts of their creation or use of OER and counted publishing and dissemination as part of the scholarship of teaching and learning. These efforts included presentations at academic conferences and university workshops, as well as research projects published in peer-reviewed journal articles.

A common theme when disseminating OER work was the value of connecting with the academic community beyond one’s department. Faculty described having their OER work be recognized within a broad scholarly community as professionally rewarding as well as impactful for validating that work for tenure and promotion purposes. While less commonly, faculty suggested that sharing OER or open practices could also be included within the service area of a tenure and promotion dossier, particularly as outreach within a community or academic discipline.

Overall, faculty in teaching and educational leadership streams generally felt supported in their OER efforts. In contrast, faculty in the research stream reported that OER work could sometimes backfire in terms of tenure and promotion. Research faculty reported that their OER work could be actively discouraged as something that took away from their primary research role. Such faculty reported that even SoTL research and dissemination could be seen as detrimental to one’s primary research focus. This pushback was described as linked to the larger issue of teaching being considered as secondary to research activities, and it represents a major obstacle in research stream faculty supporting OER efforts.

Most faculty, however, reported that the general level of acceptance for OER work has improved over the last five years as awareness, student advocacy, institutional policies, and support for open resources and practices have increased. When an instructor creates and uses OER or opens their educational practices, they are, in effect, publishing their teaching. Embracing open education practices takes time and energy and should be recognized as an important scholarly activity regardless of one’s tenure and promotion stream.


The following recommendations were drawn from the discussions and experiences of UBC faculty engaged in OER work; however, they are intended to be applicable to contexts outside of UBC and to many types of faculty roles.

  • Take a robust approach to OER work that includes not only using OER but also evaluating its use and impacts where possible and then disseminating findings. This strategy allows faculty members to position their OER work as both a teaching activity as well as an educational leadership or research activity. This holistic approach can help bring more research stream faculty into OER work and could help drive culture change toward aligning teaching with research. This may require more effort and time from faculty, and providing institutional support—such as OER grants with course releases, evaluation expertise, and student assistants—is important to help make this approach successful.
  • Find external opportunities and validation points within one’s broader institutional and disciplinary communities. External opportunities—such as presenting at conferences, publishing journal articles, or connecting with leaders and peers in one’s scholarly community—can help validate OER work for inclusion in tenure and promotion dossiers. It can also help drive cultural change within an academic or disciplinary community, which can help drive OER acceptance at the departmental level. Institutions can support this work by creating formal, adjudicated OER awards, grants, and presentation opportunities.
  • Partner with students and student leadership in advocacy around OER. Students are key stakeholders in teaching and learning and often recognize that OER, while free for use, requires significant effort on behalf of instructors. Students have institutional influence and can be effective in advocating for having OER work counted toward tenure and promotion policies and guidelines.
  • Develop better metrics and shared practices for reporting OER impacts. While most instructors have access to download statistics and web analytics, these metrics are not often seen as robust or understood enough by tenure and promotion committees to capture and communicate the impacts of their work in a way that a journal’s impact factors do. Being able to describe impact as well as metrics of use will help OER work be recognized for tenure and promotion. Individual and community information sharing may be an initial step; for example, communicating to the author of an OER how one has used it, and in what context, would allow them to have a better picture of the impact of their work.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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

Share This Book