4 Significant Value Added to Tenure Application by Developing and Promoting OER Materials

James Dovel

Case study writer: James Dovel, DBA, Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Institution: Shepherd University is a four-year-and-above North American public university with a 2022 enrollment of 3,235 students. It is categorized as small program master’s colleges & universities with balanced arts and science/professions with some business-dominated graduate programs. The enrollment profile is very high undergraduate, four-year, and full-time

Type of intervention: OER Intervention Utilization: This case discusses the experience utilizing OER to improve course materials, increase student engagement, reduce student costs, while helping meet tenure and promotion requirements, and it outlines efforts to focus on cultural change at the university and department level.


After personal student experiences as a first-generation college student and my appointment as an assistant professor of business administration at Shepherd University, I became interested in developing open education resources (OER). My personal experience and education in innovation and entrepreneurship helped shape a vision where OER involvement could be used to fulfill multiple tenure requirements while improving class materials, research, and the ability to engage students. The experience started by applying for and receiving an OER grant application and led to multiple opportunities. The grant was utilized to convert a graduate entrepreneurship class to OER. This led to a formal presentation at a conference, a presentation at a webinar, the creation of a student-led textbook, the writing of this case study, applying for another OER grant, and converting an undergraduate class to OER.

This chapter explains my experience learning about, developing, and using OER materials and how this related to my pursuit of promotion and tenure (P&T). It also explains my experience from the institutional level in promoting and developing procedures to lower textbook costs.

Approach to Include OER Work in the Promotion and Tenure Process

Faculty tenure and promotion at Shepherd University are separate but intertwined (Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators). Promotion includes up to four possible ranks, including instructor, assistant, associate, and full professor. The tenure system includes a period of tenure track followed by tenure. Tenure and promotion are both largely based on three performance criteria, instructional performance, service, and professional development. The Shepherd University Faculty Manual [PDF] includes specific guidelines for each of these three categories. Instructional performance measurement is based on student evaluations, teaching strategies, course development, supervision, and assessment. Service includes professional organizations, in-service presentations, community service, program coordination, public service, and service on committees. Professional development includes publications, seminar and workshop attendance, consulting, grant activity, research, and academic presentations.

Utilizing OER in Tenure

The experience with OER significantly improved the tenure application in all three areas (see Figure 1). Instructional performance is a key measure for the achievement of tenure. One important project created a textbook with 14 MBA students as a class project through a unique learning opportunity in Entrepreneurship, MBA 501, a graduate-level business administration class. The subject and level are both suited to this project. Learning objectives for graduate studies include achieving in both research and writing. Entrepreneurship is also a vocational topic that rapidly changes. Concepts, examples, and content become outdated very quickly. Therefore, entrepreneurship courses provide an excellent opportunity for the development and use of OER materials. In addition to the positive financial effects of OER in entrepreneurship, class materials were improved and kept up to date while enhancing instructional performance.

The assignment details and directions for the student build-a-textbook project included the following. Historic, conceptual, and current reading were individually assigned to each student. Topics were guided by existing textbooks and current research and practice in entrepreneurship. The project utilized the discussion board tool within the learning management system. Each student after reading their required material created a weekly post with the following information:

  1. Title
  2. Subject
  3. Summary/description of an important concept or an example or application of an important concept
  4. Multiple choice question designed for a quiz
  5. Discussion question designed for an in-person discussion or a discussion forum
  6. PowerPoint slide(s) that someone could use to teach the concept or example
  7. In-person students presented their topic using the PowerPoint slide(s), while online students recorded a presentation; using PowerPoint is an easy way to do this
  8. Provide a reference(s) list in APA format

Content was created weekly, reviewed by fellow students, and provided with instructor feedback. After the completion of 11 posts, the posts were assigned to chapters. Each chapter was assigned to individual students to edit, combine, and create a finalized chapter with the instructor resources. Two graduate students edited and combined the chapters into a textbook and addressed copyright issues to enable the publishing of the final product for OER use.

This project improved my tenure application in several ways. A service component in the tenure application was enhanced through the involvement in OER by participation in a university-wide committee on textbook affordability. This assignment to a high-profile committee was a direct result of my extensive participation with OER. The committee was created by the 2022 West Virginia House Bill 4355. This gave me a role in promoting OER activities with my college. It also gave me access to course text and material costs across the university. My next yearly report and my upcoming P&T application will include an argument that my courses are less costly, more engaging, and contain better materials.

The third component of professional development (see Figure 1) was significantly enhanced by participation in OER activities. A successful OER grant application, funding, and administration from Open Learning West Virginia (WV) added value under grant activity for professional development. After grant acceptance, I presented “Using a Flipped Classroom to Develop OERs for a Graduate Entrepreneurship Class” at the 2022 West Virginia Open Learning Convening. The annual convening brought together experts in OER development. This presentation contributed to the professional development portion of the tenure application and helped provide foundation and feedback for the previously described build-a-textbook class project.

A graphic showing the connections between specific OER activities and the tenure application. Image description linked in caption.
Figure 1: Connecting OER to the Tenure Application [Figure 1 Image Description]

Another opportunity arose to present the build-a-textbook project concept to the West Virginia OER community of practice webinar. The webinar is a monthly meeting held by Open Learning West Virginia for developers and users of OER material. This added to professional development applications and created feedback to improve the project. Finally, the acceptance to write this case study added to professional development through publication activity.

Utilizing OER in Promotion

Promotion at Shepherd University contains many of the same requirements as tenure (Figure 2). The textbook project supports the requirement for assistant professors to emphasize student learning. All the components of this OER experience in turn directly support the promotion to associate professor in the three key areas of instructional performance, continuous service, and professional development. The same elements are then required for promotion to full professor.

Approach to and Involvement in Cultural Change at the Department and Institutional Level

I am also involved with an overall effort focusing on cultural and operational change at Shepherd University to track and lower textbook costs. The previously mentioned West Virginia House Bill 4355, which amended the West Virginia Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA) that required all state educational institutions to form an Educational Materials Affordability Committee by July 1, 2022. Shepherd University formed the committee with the main purpose of minimizing course material costs while encouraging the use of high-quality materials. I was assigned to this university-wide committee because of my participation in OER activities.

The OER activities contributed to a promotion from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor and then from Associate Professor to Full Professor.
Figure 2: OER Application to Faculty Promotion

The committee’s responsibility includes encouraging the limited the use of new textbook versions that are not substantially different, creating bookstore policies that reduce course material costs, adopting less expensive publisher e-text versions, supporting OER development and use, creating an efficient bookstore operation, monitoring faculty and staff compliance with the Higher Education Opportunities Act, ensuring the preservation of student confidentiality in course material transactions, and informing faculty of prohibited actions with respect to class materials. The committee is headed by the vice president of facilities, who oversees the bookstore. It includes representatives from faculty, faculty training, and the bookstore manager.

The committee is required to make sure the institution complies with the new law’s requirements. These include listing all required materials for each course prominently at the institution. The listing must include OER and if it is being provided at no cost. Any associated fees or costs must also be listed so that students can make informed decisions when registering for classes. Students must also be given the opportunity to withdraw from courses with a full refund of material costs if they are affected by new or increased charges. Additionally, all bookstore proceeds must be reinvested in student materials.

The committee worked in conjunction with the bookstore leadership to make sure that the university followed the new law. Policies and procedures were adopted to promote low-cost alternatives and provide a framework for properly reporting cost outcomes to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. The committee promoted its purposes and policy updates to the faculty senate. Committee members provide departmental communication reminders regarding course material adoption and cost-reporting requirements. This communication supports regular requests from the bookstore.

Messaging for these communications includes adopting early, why adoption matters, the need to adopt even if there are no student costs, not putting off adoption, and things to consider at adoption time. Faculty are asked to consider the following before adopting course materials:

  1. Is this textbook still in print?
  2. Can you use that old edition one more semester?
  3. Is the textbook available in digital and/or rentable formats?
  4. Does this textbook truly provide the best value for the student?
  5. Have new, innovative, and less expensive ways to convey the needed material to the students been considered?
  6. Is this really the best option for the students?

The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission also adopted categorization and reporting requirements to support the spirit of the new law. Categories included OER (no cost per HB 4355 definition), no textbook assigned, low cost ($1 to $75), and high cost (greater than $75). This report results in a student material cost profile by institution. The cost of materials by university is available to state policy and lawmakers.

These institutional- and state-level initiatives are continuing the conversation about the importance of student costs and encouraging the adoption of lower- or no-cost course materials while still maintaining quality. In addition to these policies and communications, there are initial discussions about making OER lessons part of new faculty training. One of the members of the committee is responsible for new faculty training and an OER grant recipient and advocate. In addition to developing plans for new faculty, I will present information from this case as part of Shepherd University’s Focus on Student Learning Series in the fall of 2023. Leading this training will also add value to my tenure application.


Tenure and Promotion

During the time frame of this case study, I experienced one annual faculty evaluation and a pretenure review. The OER activities described above were a very significant portion of the support for both. During the annual faculty evaluation, merit was approved with a meritorious rating in professional development. This rating was based in part on presenting “Using a Flipped Classroom to Develop OERs for a Graduate Entrepreneurship Class” at the Open Learning Statewide Convening, presenting “Creating OER Using a Create a Textbook Assignment Using the Discussion Board Tool” at the Open Learning WV Webinar, attending the two previously mentioned conferences, attending a training on open licensing and Creative Commons, being selected to write this case study, creating the entrepreneurship textbook mentioned above, and engaging in ongoing OER in entrepreneurship education research.

During my pretenure review, the P&T committee stated, “You are making good progress toward attaining tenure.” The chair stated, “I am very confident that you are making excellent progress toward tenure.” And the dean stated, “You are making excellent progress toward tenure and promotion.” The previously mentioned activities also played a significant role in these favorable pretenure review ratings.

In addition to these formal reviews, evidence is being collected for my upcoming annual report and tenure application. Classroom results from the development and use of OER materials will play a central role. The graduate students who participate in the create-a-textbook assignment are excited to receive a book with themselves as contributors. Significant new course material—with dozens of up-to-date concepts, examples, and business practices—is now available for future classes. The student course evaluations for the previously mentioned graduate entrepreneurship class included 100 percent agreeing that (1) course materials supported learning, (2) the course enhanced my understanding of the subject, and (3) the instructor was effective at teaching the course. I received another WV OER grant to produce OER class materials for Exploring Entrepreneurship, BADM 301, an undergraduate course, saving even more for students while maintaining interesting and high-quality materials. The textbook created in the graduate course is being adopted for the undergraduate course. The previous OER activities combined with new OER activities will be a significant part of my upcoming tenure application.

Departmental and Institutional Culture

The previously described approach from the state, university, committee, and individual levels to decrease student material costs and adopt OER and other valuable practices is in its beginning stages. However, significant incentive to not develop and adopt OER exists. Textbook vendors continually offer newer, often higher-cost resources with the promise of making adoption and delivery easier. Publishers also offer training with class setup and course design. The easiest way to create a course is to adopt existing publisher resources. Both full-time and adjunct faculty have significant incentive to partner with existing textbook publishers rather than create OER material There is also a significant number of online and hybrid courses being taught because of the pandemic and the changing landscape. Online course offerings increase this incentive to work with established publisher relationships.

The steps implemented so far have merely started the discussion about reducing course material costs and OER. Individual faculty and departments are making efforts to improve course material affordability. Examples include several OER projects, the adoption of OER textbook platforms such as OpenStax, and examples of adopting low-cost materials. There is no institutional pushback against OER. The administration is very supportive of OER. The resistance is more individualized coming from hard-working full-time and adjunct faculty with their short-term success tied to already developed content and platforms.


  • Instructors should overcome their concerns and strongly consider creating and adopting OER. It improved my teaching, excited the students, created new materials, fulfilled numerous tenure requirements, and provided experiential learning opportunities.
  • Instructors should design and develop projects with multiple goals that create materials while improving student research, student writing, student presentations, student engagement, and experiential learning and address P&T requirements. Your research will be aimed at the classroom, and the classroom will improve your research.
  • Institutions should formalize OER as part of faculty training and include course material cost and quality in faculty, chair, and dean evaluations.
  • Institutions should target highly enrolled classes for OER development at department, institutional, state, and even the national level with OER projects that can be used across a large number of course sections.

Image Description

Figure 1 Image Description: Connecting OER to the Tenure Application
OER Activity Connection to Tenure Application
Create a Textbook Class Project Instructional Performance
Textbook Affordability Committee Professional/Institutional Service
  • Written Case Study
  • Webinar Presentation
  • Conference Presentation
  • OER Grant
Professional Development

[Return to Figure 1]


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

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