The University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union’s proposed Open Educational Resources Tenureship promotes moving away from commercial textbooks and homework systems to OERs that will give students free access to educational resources.
Open educational resources are educational materials found in the public domain or published under an open license. Anyone can use, redistribute or edit these resources free of charge and with minor restrictions. OERs can include syllabi, textbooks, notes, assignments and lecture materials.
Tauqeer Iftikhar, USSU vice president of academic affairs, is leading the initiative. The proposal will encourage professors to use OER homework systems that they, other faculty, or grad students design.
“[The] Open Educational Resource Tenureship is a way of promoting open educational resources, so that professors employ [OERs] in order to get points for their tenureship,” Iftikhar said.
A tenured faculty member’s position is permanent.
The proposal is in the development stage. Iftikhar says he is currently in discussion with Nancy Turner, director of teaching and learning enhancement, and Jay Wilson, vice-provost of teaching, learning and student experience, about how best to implement the program.
“Nothing has been set in stone,” Iftikhar says. “We’re trying to figure out how [to] incorporate this into the Standards of Promotion and Tenure.”
The U of S Standards for Promotion and Tenure are the official requirements for faculty to become tenured. The status is granted by peers who evaluate a faculty member based on their maintenance of knowledge within their field and the expectations of their future accomplishments.
Iftikhar explains that a program affecting tenureship will not be implemented overnight, as it requires coordination between various people and committees overseeing the tenureship process. He says it will take more than a single academic term for the proposal to be implemented.
According to a 2017 Maclean’s article, the average U of S student spends over $800 on books annually, a cost Iftikhar suggests adds up quickly.
“$50 [is a] burden on the students and if the professors could make their own exams, make their own homework systems … classes will be much easier for the students,” Iftikhar said.
According to Iftikhar, if professors make the switch, all students together “can save up to millions of dollars.”
Since the 2014-2015 school year, the U of S has adapted ancillary resources — supplementary materials such as videos, practice exams or example questions — as well as over a dozen open textbooks, which have collectively saved students over $2.9 million.
According to Iftikhar, the proposal has “quite a bit of support from the university as well as the professors.”
“They actually think it’s a good idea, because then they get a reward of some sort. From putting in the effort for making educational resources for students… it gives them a motivation to move away from paid homework systems.”
The proposed Open Education Resource Partnership is inspired by a similar program at the University of British Columbia. Iftikhar says he spoke about it with Christina Hendricks, academic director of the UBC Centre for Teaching, Learning, and Technology.
Hendricks provided Iftikhar with insight for the structure of their tenureship guidelines, suggesting that the program at UBC had received positive support.
The USSU’s proposal will likely incorporate aspects of UBC’s program, but edit it to meet the U of S’s Standards for Promotion and Tenure.
For students looking to access OERs, the U of S Library contains links to available OERs such as the open textbook library, ancillary resources and outside catalogues of open textbooks, which can be accessed at any time.