Messages Tool - OWL

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.

Where to find Support

This tool is centrally supported


For help, you can contact the WTS Helpdesk


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

Tool Evaluation

Functionality overall rating: 3 starsFunctionality

Rating Rationale
Scale rating: 3 stars


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

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

Tech Support/Help Availability

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

Hypermediality rating: 3 stars


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 starsAccessibility

Rating Rationale
AODA Friendly rating: 3 stars

AODA Friendly

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

User Foused Participation rating: 3 stars

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

Required Equipment

Proper use of the Messages Tool does not require specialized equipment

Technical overall rating: 3 starsTechnical

Rating Rationale
OWL Integration rating: 3 stars

OWL Integration

The Messages Tool is native to OWL

Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

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

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 Tech Requirements rating: 3 stars

Additional Tech Requirements

Users do not need to download additional software or browser extensions

Mobile Design overall rating: 1 star Mobile Design

Rating Rationale
Mobile Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

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

Mobile Functionality

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

Offline Access rating: 1 star

Offline Access

The Messages Tool cannot be used in any capacity offline

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

Rating Rationale
Sign Up/Sign In rating: 3 stars

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

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 star

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 star

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 starsSocial Presence

Rating Rationale
Collaboration rating: 2 stars


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

User Accountability

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

Diffusion rating: 2 star


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

Instructor Presence overall rating: 2 starsInstructor Presence

Rating Rationale
Facilitation rating:2 stars


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


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

Learning Analytics rating: na stars

Learning Analytics

The Messages Tool does not support the collection of learning analytics

Cognitive Presence overall rating: 2 starsCognitive Presence

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

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

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

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

Security and Privacy

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

Security and Privacy Flags

Information Collection

  • Application collects information that could identify the user specifically (email address, class schedule, etc..)


  • 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: January 21, 2020


The eLearning Toolkit Evaluations are made available under the terms of the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence


Leave feedback to comment or request that the tool be re-reviewed


Ratings icons are based off images made by authors on Freepik, Zurb, and Icomoon and licensed by CC BY 3.0