Finding Comfort: Ancillary Resources in Digital Teaching and Learning

Dylan WoodcockBlogs

By now, you have probably settled into the idea of working remotely. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Ancillary resources are important tools to ‘bridge the learning gap.’

Working from the comfort of home might be downright uncomfortable. Perhaps you’re battling an unstable internet connection, a child who can’t find her ‘ice cream pants,’ a dog that won’t stop barking, or a spouse who made you some hot lunch even though you’re right in the middle of a three-hour lecture. If so, you’re certainly not alone.

But it goes deeper than just ‘human’ distractions. You might be struggling because you miss being on campus. Maybe you miss the in-person rapport you share with students and colleagues. You might feel strange talking to a screen or camera. Simply, you might just feel like you’re not doing as well as you’d like to because you’re out of touch with your ‘usual way’ of doing things.

We’re here to help. Our dedicated resource page highlights resources from across the province for teaching remotely and health/wellness. We also recently shared the innovative work of the Manitoba Flexible Learning HUB.

This time around, we focus on ancillary resources, a welcome addition to your virtual classroom.     

Ancillary Action

Simply, ancillary resources are any materials that exist and are used alongside Open Educational Resources (OERs) as a supplement to student learning. They can take on many, many forms, including:

  • Interactive content, especially lecture videos
  • Practice quiz, test, and exam banks and keys
  • Lecture slides
  • Case studies
  • Audio files

Anyone can create ancillary resources. The author of an OER may choose to create some to live alongside an Open textbook. An OER adopter might choose to share some ancillaries created while teaching. And, if you’re a faculty member with some downtime, you can make ancillaries for any OER, too.

When creating this type of learning material, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it encourage students to engage with information in new or interactive ways?
  • Does it provide additional practice or guidance for students as they explore core concepts?
  • If I were learning this information for the first time, would it help me to better understand?
  • Does it cater to a wide range of learning styles and preferences?
Young woman in an interactive environment.
Ancillary resources make learning more interactive (Unsplash).

Digital Distribution & Development

Ancillary resources are easily shared with students through digital avenues. They are compatible with a Learning Management System or faculty website. Otherwise, they are readily available for online access or download.

Similar to OERs, they are free for students to use. They also exist under open licences, so you have the same freedom to adapt an ancillary resource to better suit your teaching and learning needs, as you do with a full-scale OER.

In the Manitoba Open Textbook Repository, OERs that have available ancillaries are marked with a clear ‘Ancillary Resources’ tag, below the title of the text. About half the OERs in our collection have ancillaries.

In some cases – like with test banks – ancillary resources are restricted to faculty only. If this is the case, it will be clear when you click on the title of an OER in our collection. All you have to do to access these materials is fill out a request. This screening ensures academic integrity – after all, test banks are for honest learning and assessment purposes only, and not for students to engage in academic misconduct. This ‘middle step’ gives faculty access to materials with the understanding that they are not made widely available to students. Thus, they are meaningful, relevant assessment tools.

Keeping Engaged & Moving Forward

Much like with OERs, the creation of ancillary resources allows students to have a more active role in their learning. Because ancillary resources are ‘living documents’, students can have direct input into their effectiveness, style, and structure. Instructors can shape their resources to best suit student learning as a direct result of this engagement. What results is a community-driven approach to education.

A group of people in a circle with their hands stretched into the middle.
The learning community is enhanced through the use of ancillary resources (Unsplash).

In addition, ancillary resources breathe some life into online lectures on both sides of teaching and learning. For instructors, they are a way to differentiate course delivery through a virtual platform: it’s more than just talking to a camera. For students, they are tools to engage with and consolidate knowledge and information in more interactive ways.

Lastly, post-secondary institutions across Manitoba are grappling with the reality of widespread digital course delivery with, in some cases, limited means or comfort. The use of ancillary resources mitigates some of the inherent challenges in this transition by requiring minimal technology and no cost to students or schools.

Sharing Practices

Collaboration is at the heart of Open Education. Ancillary resources are, in a sense, a conversational tool for faculty from many academic walks of life, with many broad benefits to post-secondary education:

  • Increased faculty awareness of teaching and learning supplements;
  • Ongoing ‘dialogue’ between subject-area experts across North America about curricular goals and teaching/learning strategies through resource engagement;
  • Tangible commitment to expanding curriculum development with Open materials;
  • Accountability for best-practice teaching, particularly in digital classrooms, with iterative and interactive content.

While it takes time to adjust to new learning resources, ancillaries are sure to be a welcome addition to your digital teaching and learning. Whether you’re an Open rookie or a seasoned champion, know that you are on an important mission to advance teaching and learning in the province. Selecting an Open Educational Resource and accompanying ancillary materials will be beneficial for you as well as your students. Most importantly, moving to Open will bring you closer to that elbow-deep engagement with your work that you may be missing during these extraordinary times.


Campus Manitoba is a consortium of Manitoba’s public universities and colleges. Through collaborative projects and shared services, we facilitate student mobility and expand access to post-secondary programs for students in Manitoba. In addition to campusmanitoba.ca, our websites include ecoursesmb.casetyourcourse.ca, and openedmb.ca.