11 OER Projects and the Community College Tenure Process

Angela Spires

Case study writer: Angela Spires, English Professor

Institution: College of Southern Nevada

Type of intervention: OER Survey and Master Course Creation for use in Tenure Packet.


The College of Southern Nevada (CSN) is located across three campuses and additional off-site locations in Southern Nevada and has a student enrollment of around 30,000 students. The English Department is the largest department at the college. As a full-time faculty member, I teach a minimum of 15 credits in the spring and 15 credits in the fall as well as serve on multiple committees.

The tenure process begins the fourth year as a full-time faculty tenure-track member and starts with the formation of a three-person tenure committee. The tenure application is based on three areas: teaching, service, and professional development. The tenure committee reviews and evaluates the information and makes a recommendation to the faculty member’s chair. The approval process then moves from the chair of the department through the ranks, finishing with the president of the university and then the board of regents.

The OER program is a committee of faculty members from the E-Learning department, libraries, and educational faculty. The college partners with OpenStax and is trying out Libretexts as a platform to host free resources. In addition, the CSN OER committee offers grants for the creation of core courses using OER textbooks. I applied for and received the funding and created an English 100 Master Course that is housed in Canvas Commons with these funds. In addition, I run the OER subcommittee within the English Composition Committee. I have also helped adapt an OER textbook to CSN for our faculty to use.


For tenure, our college requires three areas: teaching, service, and professional development. My work with OER was present in all of these areas in my tenure binder when I submitted it for review.

When I started at the college, I immediately joined the English E-Learning Committee because I had worked with Quality Matters (QM) since 2014 and had completed multiple online development courses through other institutions. The English E-Learning Committee was charged with evaluating online courses every five years, just like QM, and had created a rubric based on some of the fundamental elements of QM, but less extensive. After a year, I took over as chair of this committee. The pandemic happened in my second year of teaching at CSN, forcing everyone to go online. This is when I began looking closer at OER as a resource for students. I had used some OER in classes before but never as the primary resource. After some initial research, I found some OER materials. Then I looked for opportunities to use that material to make a larger impact in my department.


I applied for an OER grant to create a master course in English 100, our department corequisite course, which is five credits and is now the starting point for many students. The grant was an OER STEM grant for courses students are required to take. As students in Nevada no longer have a standardized required placement test for English (only a self-placement assessment) and no remedial courses for English are in place, English 100 is a course that needs a strong curriculum but also a course that many students take. To even the playing field for all students, as the university has a large minority student population, I felt creating a course with an OER was needed. Even though the grants were STEM-based, English 100 or English 101 is required for almost every degree the college offers. Since there are no more remedial courses, the number of English 100 courses had increased significantly as the lowest-level required English courses. The course was created to help students all start the semester at the same point, with all the resources online, including their textbook. As part of the grant, I chose the OER textbook, created the course, and then offered training for adjunct faculty interested in teaching the course. Two adjunct faculty chose to teach the course I created along with me that first semester. The students in all of the classes were surveyed after the course. I was surveyed, and the two adjunct instructors were surveyed as well. After the successful completion of the English 100 course, and after reviewing survey results and implementing changes based on them, the course was polished and published in Canvas Commons so that anyone could use the course. After completing the grant and transitioning to OER in English 100, I began transitioning to OER in all my other courses. As I did this, I surveyed students to learn what they thought about OER. I began with an additional survey in my English 100 courses that were created for the master course. Then I moved all the courses I taught to OER except for one literature course that uses modern novels. So of the five English courses I teach, four of them are now OER every semester. I received 147 student responses to the OER survey in one semester and presented that information to the composition committee (see below). The CSN OER Committee even sent me a poster to hang in my office that states I saved students over $7,500 in the 2021–2022 school year.


I chair the OER Committee, a subcommittee of the English Department Composition Committee. This committee came into being after the composition committee was reviewing textbooks, and I, along with a few others on the committee, suggested offering OER options to adjuncts and faculty. We talked to the chair about this, and we suggested OER options be reviewed. I, along with a few of my colleagues, reviewed all the options and suggested the top two for each composition course to be offered to faculty, including adjuncts as an option for the three composition courses offered. I presented information on the surveys from students who had used OER in the classroom. The results from the survey showed that students liked having a free option, found OER easy to use, and even preferred it over printed materials and e-books or were indifferent to which format their textbooks came in. Students also found that the integration of OER materials was easy to access and use, as it was listed in the Canvas modules with clear pages and links to readings. Seventy-five percent of students said they would like this option in more of their courses. With the main factors of cost, ease of use, quality of information, and integration into Canvas, the choice to use OER was clearly a desire for the students to have as an option. After the presentation of information and having OER textbook recommendations for faculty to use in classes, the idea was presented for an OER committee to be formed. I volunteered and became chair of that committee.

As chair, I had members find new resources each semester and write a review of those resources to share with our department. In addition, we found an OER textbook that was open for adaptation, and we adapted the text to CSN. This adaptation included incorporating CSN links and information about student resources, changing references to align with CSN’s location, and adding additional materials on synthesis, which I cowrote. We then made the textbook available to all faculty and set it as the primary OER for our English 102 courses. Students are able to access CSN resources within their own textbooks now in that class. Based on information from the department on our composition courses, we then moved forward with finding additional resources for English 100. Each semester, the committee finds new resources and supplies the department with OER choices for all faculty.

Professional Development

To be an effective leader as the OER Committee chair and to continue to find OER resources, I wanted to resume learning about OER. I attended the Arizona Regional OER Conference in 2022. I attended multiple sessions and learned about what other colleges were doing with OER at their institutes. This helped me add ideas for the OER committee I chaired. The conference also offered information on licensing and housing of OER materials that I used to more fully understand how to know what was available for adaptation and what was not. The conference also gave me new places to look for OER materials.

I also completed a nine-week Lumen Circles course on “Teaching with OER & OER Pedagogies,” which offered examples and ideas of evidence-based practices and how to implement OER with those practices. In addition, it offered numerous links to find additional OER resources for all types of courses. It was an open course that required discussion and feedback with colleagues from across the country in different fields of study. This gave me the opportunity to see how they were using OER in the classroom and how I might use some of those ideas with how I currently use OER. Both of these professional development opportunities were shared with the OER committee, and the resources found were shared with them and other faculty within my department.


An OER committee is now in place, and more of our faculty are using OER in their classes. The OER committee gives updates at all faculty meetings and is now a regular part of planning in the composition committee within our department. In addition, there is now an OER option for adjuncts to use, which they did not have before. New OERs are now reviewed every semester and work to adapt texts and even write and publish texts for department use is in the works. There is an English 100 course in Canvas Commons that can be accessed and used by any adjunct faculty. In addition, more master courses using the approved OER texts are in the process of being created.

I was able to use work with OERs for all three areas that our college requires for tenure. When my tenure chair viewed my packet, she highlighted “Received a STEM Master Course grant, which allowed her to create an online English 100 course using OER resources, which she then offered to our adjuncts” to the school when requesting letters of support. I also had quotes and evaluations from students that mentioned my use of OER. An online course evaluation was completed for my tenure committee, and my use of OER was noted in this evaluation. In addition, my committee work was highlighted in recommendation letters for the approval process with my tenure application—especially the adaption of the textbook to make it specific to CSN and include CSN resources, links, and local information—and being chair of the OER committee, which continues to supply the department with updates and reviews of materials as we find them. It also helped me procure letters of recommendation from outside of my department from the head of the E-Learning committee, which serves on the college OER Committee. Outside letters helped showcase my service to the entire college and not just my department. My tenure was recommended by the president in February 2023 and approved by the Board of Regents in March 2023 to go into effect on July 1, 2023.


  • Be active on service committees that use/explore OER and make recommendations to help change current policies or benefit students.
  • Network with other OER users to gather outside support for your tenure application.
  • Gather student data from surveys or other research methods to support initiatives to bring OER into the forefront of the educational experience.
  • Learn about OER procedures, licensing, best practices, and how others use OER in their fields and on their campuses to help expand it within your department.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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

Share This Book