Lessons Tool - OWL

What is the Lessons Tool

The Lessons tool allows instructors to present their course content in an organized and interactive layout, which students can navigate through independently.

What is the purpose of the Lessons Tool

Lessons allows instructors to plan and structure their course content and make it accessible to their students online, which can serve as the framework for an online or distance studies course or simply provide additional resources for an on-campus course. The Lessons tool is highly flexible and customizable, allowing you to create multiple lessons, sort them into modules and sub-pages, and then add resources, assignments, quizzes or multi-media within the tool itself.

How to use the Lessons Tool

Within your OWL worksite, enable the Lessons tool using the 'Site Info' page and clicking on the 'Edit Tools' link. You will be asked to provide a name for this Lesson. The Lessons tool is added to the left side of your OWL worksite.

    • NOTE: Lessons is an instance-based tool, which means it can be added multiple times within a single site, creating multiple 'Lessons'.
  • Select the Lessons tool. You should see a Getting Started page containing instructions on how to add content to your Lesson.
  • Build your Lesson according to your course's format.
    • NOTE: A popular structure for Lessons is to create a main directory-type page containing sub-pages arranged into modules or units. However you can arrange your lessons to suit your course's structure.
  • You can add text, multimedia, resources, sub-pages, assignments and test & quizzes using the buttons at the top of the page. 
    • NOTE: Make sure any resources you add are either being uploaded for the first time or are already uploaded in your Resources for that site. If you add resources from a different OWL site your students may not have permission to view them.
  • The 'More Tools' button enables you to add additional content, including forums, Websites, Comments and Student Content, as well as modify your Settings and Permissions for the pages.
    • NOTE: Pages can be hidden from users until a specified date using the 'Settings' option in 'More Tools'.


Where to find Support

This tool is centrally supported


For help, you can contact the WTS Helpdesk


Additional information on OWL Lessons can be found on the OWL Help - Lessons page.

Tool Evaluation

Functionality overall rating: 3 starsFunctionality

Rating Rationale
Scale rating: 3 stars


Instructors can selectively release individual lessons items (i.e. links to assignments, quizzes, and forum topics) to specific groups of students. See Selectively releasing content section of OWL Documentation Lessons Page

Ease of use rating:3 stars

Ease of Use

Given proper set up, the Lessons Tool can have a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate and personalize (i.e. use of sub-pages)

Tech Support/ Help Availability rating: 3 stars

Tech Support/Help Availability

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

Hypermediality rating: 3 stars


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

Accessibility overall rating: 2 starsAccessibility

Rating Rationale
AODA Friendly rating: 2 stars

AODA Friendly

The Lessons Tool meets functional accessibility guidelines (AODA and the W3C WCAG 2.0 standards), however the accessibility of lessons material largely depends on how it is created by the instructor. For guidance on making lessons pages more accessible, check out this Accessibility Guide for Sakai.

User Foused Participation rating: 2 stars

User-focused participation

To address the needs of diverse users, their various literacies, and capabilities, Lessons must extend beyond the basic use of text. See the Adding Multimedia and resources section of OWL Documentation Lessons Page

Required Equipment rating: 3 stars

Required Equipment

Proper use of the Lessons Tool does not require specialized equipment

Technical overall rating: 2 starsTechnical

Rating Rationale
OWL Integration rating: 3 stars

OWL Integration

The Lessons Tool is a native OWL tool

Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

Operating Systems

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

Additional Tech Requirements rating: 2 stars

Additional Tech Requirements

In most cases the Lessons Tool does not have additional technical requirements. Content such as text, videos, and embedded video from YouTube does not require additional downloads or installations. However exceptions exist. For example, if flash module is embedded in a lesson, flash player is required. If a .mov video is embedded, quicktime will be required.

Mobile Design overall rating: 1 star Mobile Design

Rating Rationale
Mobile Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

Mobile Operating Systems

The Lessons 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: 2 stars

Mobile Functionality

Basic features of the Lessons Tool are functional on the mobile app but advanced features (i.e. links to resources, navigation) are limited. Content formatting may not be appropriate for a mobile device.

Offline Access rating: 1 star

Offline Access

The Lessons Tool cannot be used in any capacity offline

Usage and account set up overall rating: 3 starsUsage and Account Set Up

Rating Rationale
Sign Up/Sign In rating: 3 stars

Sign Up/Sign In

Use of the Lessons 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 Lessons Tool can be used free of charge to Western account holders

Archiving Saving and Exporting Data rating: 3 star

Archiving, Saving, and Exporting Data

Students and instructors can save Lessons pages as a PDF or print pages. Instructors can import Lessons material from one OWL site to another. See the Importing Content from Existing Site section on the Instructor Information page of the OWL Documentation.

Data Privacy and Ownership rating: 3 star

Data Privacy and Ownership

Instructors maintain ownership and copyright of their intellectual property/data produced within the Lessons Tool; Instructors can keep Lessons pages private and decide if/how data is to be shared - see the Hiding and setting release dates of subpages section of the OWL Documentation Lessons Page

Social Presence overall rating: 2 starsSocial Presence

Rating Rationale
Collaboration rating: 2 stars


The Lessons Tool itself does not enable collaboration between users. However, the Lessons Tool allows for other tools to be embedded in lessons pages to allow for achievement of this. Consider embedding elements such as the Forums Tool, Assignments Tool, VoiceThread, etc.

User Accountability rating: 3 stars

User Accountability

Users engage with Lessons Tool through their OWL account. Engagement is monitored by the system such that students can be held accountable for completion/non-completion of Lessons pages. For example, lessons pages can be set up such that a Gradebook entry is created upon a student’s completion of the page.

Diffusion rating: 2 star


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

Instructor Presence overall rating: 2 starsInstructor Presence

Rating Rationale
Facilitation rating:3 stars


Depending on how the Lessons Tool is configured, its features that could significantly improve an instructor’s ability to engage in aspects of pedagogical, managerial, and/or technical, facilitation of students’ learning

Customization rating: 3 stars


With the various tools that can be added or removed, Lessons pages are customizable to suit the classroom context and targeted learning outcomes

Learning Analytics rating: 2 stars

Learning Analytics

Instructor can monitor/control students’ engagement in Lessons on limited measures by specifying that some items are required before further content is released. See Requiring Items for Students in OWL Documentation Lessons Page

Cognitive Presence overall rating: 2 starsCognitive Presence

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

Enhancement of Cognitive Task(s)

Depending on how Lessons pages are configured (giving consideration to design, facilitation, and direction from instructor), the Lessons tool could enable functional improvement to engagement in the targeted cognitive task(s) due to the way in which information can be organized and accessed.

Higher Order Thinking rating: 3 stars

Higher Order Thinking

Depending on how Lessons pages are configured, the tool has the potential to evoke higher order thinking skills. For more, read A Three-Pronged Approach to Improving Online Student Engagement and Critical Thinking

Feedback on Learning rating:2 stars

Feedback on Learning

The Lessons tool itself does not enable feedback on learning. However, the Lessons tool allows for other tools to be embedded in lessons pages to allow for achievement of this. Consider embedding elements such as the Assignments Tool, VoiceThread, etc

Security and Privacy

This tool has been formally reviewed by Western’s Technology Risk Assessment Committee

Security and Privacy Flags


  • Application's Terms of Conditions or End User License Agreement poses a risk of binding the institution to an agreement thereby requiring legal counsel to review the application. However, this is mitigated as it has undergone legal review during the Technology Risk Assessment process.

Last Updated: September 16, 2020


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