Lesson 3: Configuring the Site's Settings


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

  • adjust your course site's settings
  • add and remove participants from your course site
  • use the different available methods to create groups in your course site



  • An active Western Identity and login credentials
  • Be in a maintain role, such as the Instructor role, in a course site in OWL (created in Lesson 2)
  • Students listed in the roster (happens automatically within one month of the start of the course)


Adding and removing tools

In this lesson, we will look at OWL's SITE INFO tool. For instructors, SITE INFO is where you can control the settings of your course site. For students, SITE INFO displays information about the site.

We recommend completing the previous lessons, as we will be continuing using the course site that we created previously.

Updating Site Info and managing tools [4 minutes]

In your course site, click on SITE INFO from the Tools Menu on the left. Across the top of SITE INFO are a number of tabs linking to pages for adjusting settings in your site. All of the pages from the course site setup process (that we went through in Lesson 2) can be found and adjusted here in SITE INFO.

The main area of the first page of SITE INFO shows information about your site. The details here are similar to the details that students see when they use  SITE INFO.

The "Edit Site Information" page allows you to change the content that was listed on that first page of SITE INFO, including:

  • the site's language, which changes the words on OWL's interface to that language;
  • the site's description, which we edited from the OVERVIEW page in the previous lesson;
  • a short description of the site;
  • an icon URL, which can display an image for the site above the Tool Menu;
  • the primary contact name and email address for the site, which defaults to the person's information who set up the course site originally; and
  • whether to enable LaTeX, which allows for the display mathematical notation throughout the course site.

You can make changes to this page at anytime and then click the "Continue" button to save the changes. Confirm your changes on the next page and click the "Finish" button to save the changes.

Next, let's add some additional tools to our site. Click the "Manage Tools" tab to go to that page, which lists a similar page as we saw when we were creating the course site in Lesson 2. Here you can add and remove the tools that appear in your site.

Select or deselect the checkbox next to a tool's name to add or remove it. In later lessons, we'll use tools that we did not select during site creation, so we can add them now. Check the box next to TESTS & QUIZZES. Maybe at this time, we decided that we didn't want to use the MESSAGES tool that we selected during site creation, so let's uncheck the box next to it to remove it.

Next, click the "Plugin Tools" section to expand it. Plugin tools are third-party tools that connect into OWL seamlessly. Here we'll select VOICETHREAD, COLLABORATE, and ZOOM. Click the "Continue" button to make these changes. The next page will ask if we want to rename some of the plugin tools. We'll leave the default names and continue. The next page will confirm the tools that we have added and removed. Click the "Finish" button to to save our changes.

You'll notice on the left that the new tools have been added and the MESSAGES tool has been removed.

Reordering tools

Reordering tools with Tool Order [3 minutes]

You can rearrange the order tools appear on the left by going to the "Tool Order" page in SITE INFO. Here you can rearrange the order by clicking on and holding the three lines next to a tool's name and dragging the box up or down in the list.

You can also rename tools here by clicking the gear icon next to a particular tool and then clicking "Edit Tool Title" in the menu that appears. Make any changes to the tool's title and click the green checkmark icon to save the change.

Please note: We recommend not changing tools' names as it confuses students when they move between your course site and other courses. In surveys about OWL, students have expressed the need for consistency between their courses and having tool names remain the same in different course sites is one way to achieve this. However, now you know how to change a tool's name if absolutely required.

From the gear menu, you can also hide a tool, which removes the tool from students' left Tool Menu.

Please note: Hiding the RESOURCES tool will not prevent students from accessing the files it contains, since manipulating the file path address to any file that you have linked to in your course site may allow students to access other files in RESOURCES. The next lesson on uploading and organizing content will provide more details about controlling access to your files. This goes for most tools in OWL: hiding a tool will not restrict access to that tool, such as if it was previously available to students and they bookmarked a link to it.

Click the "Save" button at the bottom to save the changes.

Adding participants (e.g. Teaching Assistant, Secondary Instructor)

Adding and managing participants [6 minutes]

Next, we'll discuss managing who has access to your course site. The "Manage Participants" page lists all of the participants in your site. If you have been following along with the lessons in this series using the same settings, the members listed here should all be from the course roster you chose during course setup. However, you can manually add new participants to your site. Click the "Cancel" button on the "Manage Participants" page to return to the first page of SITE INFO and click the "Add Participants" tab.

(Alternatively, if you ever want to return to first page of a tool, click on the tool's name at the top of the page or click on the selected tool in the Tool Menu on the left to return to the first page of that tool.)

Here, on the "Add Participants page", you can add participants to your site who already have OWL accounts, such as people with Western IDs or with Western Continuing Studies accounts, by entering their usernames into the first text area. Alternatively, you can add external people to OWL by inviting them using their non-Western email addresses, such as a Gmail email address, by entering it in the second text area. External participants will receive an email to help them create an OWL account, if they don't already have one. You can invite multiple people at the same time by entering multiple email addresses or usernames into the boxes one per line. Also on this page, you can assign all participants the same role or assign them different roles by selecting the corresponding option. You can also set the participant's status as "active" or "inactive". Most of the time, "active" is the preferred option. Inactive participants will appear in your site's list, but they will not be able to access your site. Click the "Continue" button to proceed.

On the next page, you can select the role that the new participant will have in your site. If you are adding a teaching assistant, choose the Teaching Assistant role. If you are inviting a guest lecturer, you may want to add them as the Secondary Instructor role or the Teaching Assistant role. If you are working with Western Libraries, you may want to add them using the Librarian role. You can also add the participant to the Student role, although this will not add them to the official course roster, which needs to be done officially through Student Center or Western Continuing Studies. The roster in your site will automatically add and remove students as they update their enrolments through the system. OWL synchronizes with the systems twice a day so new enrolments will automatically be updated by the roster. This means you don't have to add and remove students manually throughout the term as they transfer into or drop from your course. Click the "Continue" button when you've selected the appropriate role for the participants that you're adding.

The next page allows you to select whether an email will be sent to them notifying that you've added them to the site. We'll select the "Send Now" option to send an email to them. Click the "Continue" button.

The last page confirms the people that you're adding, the roles you're adding them to, and their status in the site. Click the "Finish" button to add these participants to your site.

If you go back to the "Manage Participants" page now, you should now see the new participants listed as members of your site. If you decide to remove these participants from your course site later, you will use the "Manage Participants" page to check the "Remove" box in the row containing their name, and then click the "Update Participants" button at the top or bottom of the page. For now, click the "Cancel"button to return to the first page of SITE INFO.

You can use the "Edit Class Rosters" page to add and remove rosters from the site and you can use the "Manage Access" page to control who has access to your course site and to publish your site when you are ready for students to access it. We discussed these pages during the site creation process in Lesson 2 and more information is available on the OWL Help site. The "Import from Site" tab allows you to copy content from other OWL sites that you maintain. We will briefly cover importing from a site in Lesson 10.

Creating groups

Creating groups [6 minutes]

The last section of SITE INFO that we will cover in this lesson is the "Manage Groups" tab. From this area, you can create groups using three methods:

  1. create an individual group containing members that you've chosen manually;
  2. create a set of groups, which students can then choose which of they would like to be a member;
  3. create groups automatically by having members of your site evenly distributed based on the number of members in each group or number of groups.

Let's look at each one of these methods individually.

First will create an individual group. Click the "Create New Group" tab. Enter the name of this new group into the "Group Title" field. The "Description" field is optional. You can choose whether to allow members to see other members in this group.

Now we'll select who will be in our group. The "Site Member List" is a list of all of the available rosters, roles, and people in your site that can be added to this group. The "Group Member List" is a list of members of this group, which is currently empty for this new group. To add members to our group, click on a name in the "Site Member List" and then click the arrow pointing to the "Group Member List" to move them into the group. Repeat for each additional member. You can select multiple items in the list using the "CTRL" key on a Windows keyboard or the "command" key on a Mac keyboard or by using the "Shift" key as you select names. Click the "Add" button at the bottom to create this group.

The new group will be listed in the Group List. You can edit a group by clicking on its title in the table.

Next, we will create a set of joinable groups. Click the "Create New Joinable Set" tab. Here you will enter the name of the set and each group in the set will start with this name. Enter the number of groups and the max number of members per group. Set the options for whether people can see the group membership before joining a group in this set, whether members can see the group membership after joining, and whether members can leave the group after joining. Click the "Add" button to create this set of groups. The number of groups that you specified for the size of the set will have been added to the group list.

Students can then go to the SITE INFO tool in your course site to join the group of their choosing from this set.

Lastly, we'll create groups by having OWL automatically distribute people into certain groups. This is a one-time, point-in-time action and it will not add new members of your site to existing groups in the future. So if you don't have students in your site yet, please wait until there are some before using this create-group option. Click the "Auto Groups" tab.

First decide if you want to generate groups from all participants of a particular roster or from all participants in a particular role. Then select the rosters or roles that you want these groups to be generated from. For this example, we'll select the student role to select all students in this course site. Now select "Create random groups from members with the selected role". Choose whether to automatically create a certain number of groups or to automatically create groups of a certain size. Enter the title that'll appear at the beginning of each group name and enter the required number for your choice. Click the "Add" button to create these groups. Participants from the rosters or roles that you chose will be evenly distributed among the new groups.

If necessary, you can manually edit groups after by clicking on the group's title. You can remove groups by clicking on the checkbox to the right and clicking the "Removed Checked" button at the bottom.

There is technically a fourth option to create groups, which is to import them from a file that you create yourself. Follow the instructions on the "Import from file" page to create a file outside of OWL and then select the file to upload it to OWL to generate the groups.

Groups can be useful throughout your course site to release items to certain subsets of your course participants.

In our next lesson, we'll upload content to your new course site.

Proceed to Lesson 4: Uploading and Organizing Content Files