OWL Tool - News

What is the News tool?

The News tool is a tool in OWL which displays an RSS news feed within your OWL site.

What is the purpose of the News tool?

The News tool can be used to encourage students to keep up to date on news in their particular field of study by offering a feed of stories they can view alongside their course material.

How to use the News tool

Enable the News tool in your OWL site by clicking 'Site Info' and then 'Edit Tools.' Give your tool a name based on what feed you are using.  In the URL Channel form, paste the url of the news feed you wish to link to. You may add multiple news feeds at once by clicking on the More News Tools drop-down.  Click 'Continue' to create your new tool.  You can change the name and url of your tool at any time by clicking 'Options' in the tool.

Tool Evaluation

Evaluated: October 2016

Functionality overall rating: 3 starsFunctionality

Rating Rationale
Scale rating: 2 stars


The News Tool can be scaled to accommodate any size class, however news feeds cannot be created specifically for smaller sub-groups

Ease of use rating: 2 stars

Ease of Use

The News Tool  has a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate and personalize. Use of the tool requires familiarity with RSS feeds and the ability to source a feed of your choosing.  

Tech Support/ Help Availability rating: 3 stars

Tech Support/Help Availability

Western technical support/help documentation is readily available. See the News page in OWL Documentation Wiki or contact the Helpdesk

Hypermediality rating: 3 stars


News feeds include visual and textual information and allow for non-sequential, flexible/adaptive engagement with material

Accessibility overall rating: 3 starsAccessibility

Rating Rationale
AODA Friendly rating: 3 stars

AODA Friendly

The News Tool meets accessibility guidelines (AODA and the W3C WCAG 2.0 standards)
Assistive Technology rating: 3 stars

User-focused participation

By connecting learners to various RSS feeds, the News Tool widens opportunities for participation in learning

Required Equipment rating: 3 stars

Required Equipment

Proper use of the News Tool does not require specialized equipment

Technical overall rating: 3 starsTechnical

Rating Rationale
Integration/Embedding within OWL rating: 3 stars

Integration/Embedding within OWL

The News Tool is native to OWL

Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

Operating Systems

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

Web Browser rating:3 stars

Web Browser

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

Additional Technical Requirements rating:3 stars

Additional Technical Requirements

Users do not need to download additional software or browser extensions. Use of the News Tool requires an RSS feed link which can be sourced from the internet.

Mobile Design overall rating: 1 starMobile Design

Rating Rationale
Mobile Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

Mobile Operating Systems

The News 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

Mobile Functionality

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

Offline Access rating: 1 star

Offline Access

The News Tool cannot be used in any capacity offline

Usage and account set up overall rating: 2 starUsage and Account Set Up

Rating Rationale
Sign Up/Sign In rating: 3 stars

Sign Up/Sign In

Use of the News 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

Cost of Use

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

Archiving Saving and Exporting Data rating: 2 stars

Archiving, Saving, and Exporting Data

The News Tool works via an RSS feed, which updates based on the syndication. The feed is back-dated but not archived. It cannot be saved. The feed can be utilized elsewhere where RSS feed is supported.

Data Privacy and Ownership rating:3 stars

Data Privacy and Ownership

Feed content is the copyright of the publishing author who maintains intellectual property of the material. Availability of an RSS feed presumes the author's willingness to share their material with others. Feeds may be marked with a copyright stipulation.

Social Presence overall rating: 1 starSocial Presence

Rating Rationale
Collaboration rating: 1 star


Learners cannot contribute to the News feed; the tool does not support communication, interactivity, and transfer of meaning between learners

User Accountability rating: 3 stars

User Accountability

There is little concern regarding user accountability with regard to use of the News Tool

Diffusion rating: 3 stars


The News Tool is a straightforward collection of articles from an online publication. Most students will be familiar with its structure.

Instructor Presence overall rating:2 starsInstructor Presence

Rating Rationale
Facilitation rating:N/A


The News Tool has not been designed to support an instructor’s ability to be present with students via active management, monitoring, and engagement

Customization rating: 3 stars


The News Tool is adaptable to its environment: easily customized to suit the classroom context and targeted learning outcomes. RSS feeds are available for a wide plethora of information and instructors can customize their feed by using an RSS address of their choosing.

Learning Analytics rating: 2 stars

Learning Analytics

Limited analytics are available on the use of the News Tool.

Cognitive Presence overall rating:1 starCognitive Presence

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

Enhancement of Cognitive Task(s)

Given the way the News Tool supports tailored access to information, the tool has the potential to improve engagement in targeted cognitive task(s), however this is largely dependent on application of the tool.

Higher Order Thinking rating: 2 stars

Higher Order Thinking

Given the way the News Tool tailored access to information, the tool has the potential to improve engagement in higher order thinking skills, however this is largely dependent on application and quality of feedback provided

Feedback on Learning rating: 1 star

Feedback on Learning

There are no opportunities for formative feedback on learning (i.e. lacking opportunities for tracking performance, monitoring improvement, testing knowledge on a regular basis)

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