Lesson 1: Introduction to OWL


By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • describe what OWL is and who can use it
  • demonstrate how to log into OWL and navigate the main pages
  • describe the differences between courses sites and projects sites

Introduction to OWL video [3 minutes]

What is OWL

OWL is Western's learning management system, which is home to online versions of the undergraduate and graduate courses offered at Western as well as courses from Western Continuing Studies and required training from Human Resources. OWL is a customized version of Sakai, the open-source learning management system by Apereo.

How to log into OWL

OWL is available to all Western users by going to owl.uwo.ca. Here you can log into OWL with your Western Identity or WCS account or OWL account.

A screenshot of the OWL Gateway page

Overview of Home and the OWL interface

Once you have logged into OWL, you will be on your Home site. If it is your first time accessing OWL, a tutorial will appear to describe the OWL interface.

A screenshot of the OWL Home site displaying the tutorial

Across the top of OWL, you will see a list of your sites and additional sites will appear in the top right corner in what's called the Sites drawer. Here you can search for particular sites.

You can pin frequently-used sites to the top by clicking the star icon beside a site's title. Tools will appear on the left side of each site and each site can contain different tools. The content of the site appears in the main area of the page. Here is an example course site:

A screenshot of an example course site in OWL

What is a site

Each area in OWL is called a site and a site consists of tools, content, activities, and participants. There are two types of sites in OWL: course sites and project sites.

Differences between course sites and project sites

The two types of sites in OWL, course sites and project sites, are essentially the same except for two main differences: rosters and roles.

Comparing course sites and project sites
Course Sites Project Sites
Official rosters (from the Office of the Register or from Western Continuing Studies) No rosters


  • Instructor
  • Teaching Assistant
  • Student
  • Secondary Instructor
  • Grade Admin
  • Course Coordinator
  • Content Designer
  • Librarian


  • Maintain
  • Access

The Maintain role corresponds to the Instructor role in course sites and the Access role corresponds to the Student role in course sites.

Both of the site types can use the same tools available in OWL.

The following lessons will guide you through building a course site including creating the course site, uploading files, configuring site settings, creating student activities, creating lessons, building community interactions, communicating with students, grading students, and providing you with the next steps as you create your online courses in OWL.

Please note: The following lessons can be used for creating project sites as well. The only differences will be to references to roles and rosters.

Proceed to Lesson 2: Creating a Course Site