OWL Tool - Messages

What is the Messages tool?

The Messages tool in OWL is a communication tool that allows site participants to communicate using internal messages within OWL.

What is the purpose of the Messages tool?

The Messages tool allows worksite users to send email to specific users, site roles, or groups within the course. Messages can be labeled by priority and a copy of the message can be sent to the recipient's email. The Messages tool essentially functions as a regular webmail service within OWL, permitting two-way communication between members of a course or worksite.

How to use the Messages tool

Within your OWL worksite, enable the Messages tool using the 'Site Info' page by clicking on the 'Edit Tools' tab. Check the box next to 'Messages' and then click 'Continue,' and then 'Finish'. Once Messages has been enabled, find it on your left-side toolbar. Going to the tool, you should see four folders labeled 'Received', 'Sent', 'Deleted' and 'Draft'. The tabs at the top of the page will allow you to compose a new message, sort your messages into folders, and change your settings or permissions.  

Tool Evaluation

Evaluated: October 2016

Functionality overall rating: 3 stars (green)Functionality

Rating Rationale
Scale rating: 3 stars (green)


The Messages Tool can be scaled to accommodate any size class with the flexibility to send messages to specific students or sub-groups

Ease of use rating:3 stars (green)

Ease of Use

The Messages Tool has a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate and personalize

Tech Support/ Help Availability rating: 3 stars (green)

Tech Support/Help Availability

Western technical support/help documentation is readily available. See the Messages page in OWL Documentation Wiki or contact the ITS Help Desk

Hypermediality rating: 3 stars (green)


The Messages Tool allows users to communicate through different channels (audio, visual, textual) and allows for non-sequential, flexible/adaptive engagement with material

Accessibility overall rating: 3 stars (green)Accessibility

Rating Rationale
AODA Friendly rating:3 stars (green)

AODA Friendly

The Messages Tool meets accessibility guidelines (AODA and the W3C WCAG 2.0 standards)

Assistive Technology rating:3 stars (green)

User-focused participation

The Messages Tool is designed to address the needs of diverse users, their various literacies, and capabilities, thereby widening opportunities for participation in learning

Required Equipment rating:3 stars (green)

Required Equipment

Proper use of the Messages Tool does not require specialized equipment

Technical overall rating: 3 stars (green)Technical

Rating Rationale
Integration/Embedding within OWL rating: 3 stars (green)

Integration/Embedding within OWL

The Messages Tool is native to OWL

Operating Systems rating:3 stars (green)

Operating Systems

Users can effectively utilize the Messages Tool with any standard, up-to-date operating system (i.e. Windows 10, Apple OSX, etc.)

Web Browser rating:3 stars (green)

Web Browser

Users can effectively utilize the Messages Tool with any standard, up-to-date web browser (i.e. Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox, Explorer, etc.)

Additional Technical Requirements rating:3 stars (green)

Additional Technical Requirements

Users do not need to download additional software or browser extensions

Mobile Design overall rating: 1 star (red) Mobile Design

Rating Rationale
Mobile Operating Systems rating: 3 stars (green)

Mobile Operating Systems

The Messages Tool is accessible in OWL on all mobile devices through a browser. There is no native app for OWL, however you can access OWL through the WesternU app on both android and iOS devices.

Mobile Functionality rating:3 stars (green)

Mobile Functionality

There is little to no functional difference with the Messages Tool when accessed on mobile systems

Offline Access rating: 1 star (red)

Offline Access

The Messages Tool cannot be used in any capacity offline

Usage and account set up overall rating: 2 stars (yellow)Usage and Account Set Up

Rating Rationale
Sign Up/Sign In rating: 3 stars (green)

Sign Up/Sign In

Use of the Messages Tool does not require the creation of an external account or additional login beyond a Western Identity and access to OWL

Cost of Use rating: 3 stars (green)

Cost of Use

All aspects of the Messages Tool can be used free of charge to Western account holders

Archiving Saving and Exporting Data rating: 2 stars (yellow)

Archiving, Saving, and Exporting Data

Messages are saved and archived, however beyond that messages cannot be imported or exported

Data Privacy and Ownership rating: 3 stars (green)

Data Privacy and Ownership

Users maintain ownership and copyright of their intellectual property/data; the user can keep data private and decide if/how data is to be shared

Social Presence overall rating: 2 stars (yellow)Social Presence

Rating Rationale
Collaboration rating: 2 stars (yellow)


The Messages Tool has the capacity to support a community of learning through asynchronous but not synchronous opportunities for communication, interactivity, and transfer of meaning between users. Students can send messages to one another.

User Accountability rating: 3 stars (green)

User Accountability

Instructors can control student anonymity; The Messages Tool provides technical solutions for holding students accountable for their actions

Diffusion rating: 2 stars (yellow)


Student familiarity with the Messages Tool is likely mixed, some will lack basic technical competence with its functions

Instructor Presence overall rating: 2 star (yellow)Instructor Presence

Rating Rationale
Facilitation rating: 2 stars (yellow)


The Messages Tool has limited functionality to effectively support an instructor’s ability to be present with students via active management, monitoring, and engagement. Limitations relate to notification features that can result in messages being missed.

Customization rating: 3 stars (green)


The Messages Tool is adaptable to its environment: easily customized to suit the classroom context and targeted learning outcomes

Learning Analytics rating: N/A

Learning Analytics

The Messages Tool does not support the collection of learning analytics

Cognitive Presence overall rating: 2 stars (yellow)Cognitive Presence

Rating Rationale
Enhancement of Cognitive Task(s) rating: 2 stars (yellow)

Enhancement of Cognitive Task(s)

As communication tool, Messages Tool may be used to enable functional improvement to engagement in the targeted cognitive task(s) through one-on-one conversation (given consideration to design, facilitation, and direction from instructor)

Higher Order Thinking rating:3 stars (green)

Higher Order Thinking

As communication tool, Messages Tool may be used to facilitate students in exercising higher order thinking skills (given consideration to design, facilitation, and direction from instructor)

Feedback on Learning rating: 2 stars (yellow)

Feedback on Learning

As communication tool, Messages Tool may be used to provide formative feedback on learning but largely depends on design, facilitation, and direction from instructor

View the rubric for an explanation of this evaluation
Leave feedback to comment or request that the tool be re-reviewed

Related Information

Additional Resources