Ancillary Content

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • List two providers of open ancillary content, such as assessment systems.
  • Explain why some content providers charge for access to OER-adjacent content.

In our first chapter, we explained that ancillary OER are less common than other types of open content. There are many open ancillary resources available in simple file formats such as PDF lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, and lecture notes, but interactive resources like those often included in publisher-provided content packages are less common. In this chapter, we will discuss the exceptions to that rule.

Open Ancillary Resources

OpenStax Hub

In 2017, one of the most popular open textbook publishers, OpenStax, teamed up with OER Commons, one of the most popular OER repositories. The OER Commons Hub is a venue for instructors to share ancillary materials that they have created to pair with OpenStax textbooks.

screenshot of OER Commons' OpenStax Hub.

In addition to the OER Commons’ OpenStax hub, instructors can also access ancillary content for OpenStax texts through the Instructor Resources tab on any OpenStax textbook. To use the instructor resources provided by OpenStax, you will need to verify your identity to ensure that students cannot get easy access to homework or review answers.

PhET Interactive Simulations (PhET Sims)

PhET provides free, interactive, research-based science and mathematics simulations. These simulations cover topics taught in K-12 and higher education contexts, with primary coverage for Physics, Biology, Mathematics, Chemistry, and Earth Science.


MyOpenMath, “a free, open source, online course management system for mathematics and other quantitative fields,” is an exceptional example of a tool for sharing open ancillary materials.[1] The site does require a login to ensure that only instructors can access the answers to exercises, but otherwise, its content is open and free to access.

What makes MyOpenMath stand out is that it is a program used to create and share problem sets with students in one easy place. It does not require copying homework sets into a Learning Management System or other product to make it work. This “plug-and-play” system has been lacking in many OER platforms because, since OER are free to access, supporting software updates and upkeep can be difficult.


Founded by UC Davis professor Delmar Larsen for Chemistry, LibreTexts has evolved into “a multi-institutional collaborative venture to develop the next generation of open-access texts to improve postsecondary education at all levels of higher learning.” The site now contains resources for thirteen subject areas and its content has been adopted for more than 150 courses.

Each subject area in LibreTexts contains a mix of content such as texts, homework exercises, interactive applications, visualizations and simulations, laboratory experiments, and worksheets. Although the resource still leans toward the physical sciences, it also carries materials for mathematics and statistics.

In 2018, LibreTexts received $5 million from the U.S. government to continue to develop OER and additional ancillary content. As they explain in their press release,

“this will involve going beyond adding new content to expanding the range of online services available to faculty developers and student users including a single sign on, interactive 3D visualizations, embedded executable source code, big data informatics, the ability to include personal and class wide annotations, and intelligent coupling into learning management systems.”[2]

See the LibreTexts advanced features list for more information about tools that have been implemented or are still in development.

Commercial Ancillary Resources (Not OER)

Over the last five years, some OER providers and traditional textbook publishers have begun offering paid ancillary content intended to pair with OER.[3] If you aren’t certain about using only open materials in your course, this option might be a good place to start, since it lets you test out open textbooks along with advanced, paid ancillary content. However, we recommend that you discuss your options with an instructional designer, OER expert, and the campus bookstore before choosing one of these platforms for your course.

Lumen Learning Online Homework Manager

Lumen Learning has been a major partner in the open education movement since the early 2000s. In fact, David Wiley, the author of the 5 Rs of open content, is also one of the founders for Lumen Learning. Besides offering comprehensive open textbooks, Lumen also offers 3 paid platforms that supplement their open content: Candela, Waymaker, and Online Homework Manager (OHM). For this section, we will focus on OHM.

Lumen OHM is a customizable, interactive homework manager for mathematics courses. It provides support for courses in Prealgebra, Algebra, Precalculus, Calculus, Chemistry, Finite Math, Math for Liberal Arts, Statistics, and Trigonometry. Lumen Ohm costs $25 per student per course.

Rover by OpenStax

OpenStax is a provider of both open and paid content. One of their newer content platforms is Rover by OpenStax, a tool that provides mathematics homework to supplement the OpenStax textbooks for Algebra and Trigonometry, Precalculus, and College Algebra.

Rover is designed to help students master mathematical problems in an interactive interface. The tool automatically grades assignments and provides feedback to students as they complete problems. Rover costs $22 per student per course.

Intellus Open Courses

Managed by Macmillan, Intellus Open Courses is a commercial tool that brings together open content and publisher-produced content into a curated set of course materials.[4] These curated courses include OER (usually OpenStax textbooks), primary source content, assessments, and interactive content such as quizzes and videos. Intellus Open Courses cost $15 per student per course.[5]

In this chapter, we looked into a few options for accessing ancillary content you can pair with OER online, including both open and commercial materials. In the next chapter, we’ll look into how your students can access your course’s OER in print, and why you might want to consider that option as well.

  1. MyOpenMath. "About Us." Accessed May 12, 2019.
  2. Larsen, Delmar. "LibreText Project Announced $5 Million Federal Award." October 2, 2018.
  3. Paid content created to accompany OER is not in itself OER, even if it is advertised as such. There are many nuances to this situation and we recommend reading the following article for additional information: Bell, Steven. "OER's Road Ahead is Paved with Publisher Platforms." Library Journal. 2017.
  4. Please note that although the word "open" is in Intellus' product name, this does not mean that their paid platform is an OER. Instead, the name is acknowledging that they include resources to supplement the OER they use, usually OpenStax textbooks.
  5. For additional information about paid platforms that include OER, check out the Commercial Platforms that Utilize OER Assessment Tool in Google Sheets.


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The OER Starter Kit Copyright © 2019 by Abbey K. Elder is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.