OWL updates will land by week’s end

Western’s OWL will land later this week with a fresh look and a host of new features for users from veteran faculty members to first-year students, Western Technology Services (WTS) representatives announced today.

Between midnight and 10 a.m. Thursday, WTS will update the online learning management system to Sakai version 11.3. OWL is powered by Sakai, an open-source set of software tools.

During the upgrade, the system will be unavailable for use.

“OWL is such an important part of Western’s learning process. So having it be the best it can be is important to us,” said Deanna Grogan, eLearning Technology Manager in WTS. “Fall is always an exciting time on our campus; we’re excited to be part of that energy by having these new features up and ready for the new school year.”

When logging in, users will notice an updated, more modern look and feel with all the familiar OWL tools still available. There is a new ability to ‘favourite’ frequently used OWL sites, and all users will benefit from the updated Help which allows Western-specific documentation to be accessed from any Help link.

Among the new features are:

  • Spreadsheet-like Gradebook interface, that includes automatic saving and course grade calculation, as well as an individual student grade summary screen to see all grades for a specific student in one location;
  • Responsive design to adapt to different screen sizes, no longer requiring a mobile app or a specific mobile view;
  • Layout options in Lessons including columns, collapsing sections and colour themes;
  • Checklist features in Lessons that allow students see tasks assigned for a module and then ‘check them off’ as they work through this unit, as well as an instructor view that allows instructors to view students’ progress through the modules;
  • Question progress panel for students in Tests & Quizzes that allows students a quick view of questions completed, remaining and marked for review while taking a quiz; and
  • An updated Help site with Western-specific help that was previously hosted in the OWL Documentation site.

Led by Paul Lukasewych, WTS Application Developer, work on the upgrade began in January. The project was managed by Shawn Foster, WTS eLearning Technology Specialist, and the eLearning Technology Team, alongside the Application Support Team, the Instructional Technology Resource Centre and the Western Technology Services Helpdesk.

“Since 2012, OWL has provided Western with a robust, stable and flexible learning management system,” said Jeff Grieve, WTS Executive Director. “This upgrade will enhance OWL with a more modern interface and some exciting new features that instructors and students have requested.”

Screenshot of the OWL homepage