Podcasts Tool - OWL

What is the Podcasts Tool

The Podcasts tool in OWL allows you to upload files to your OWL site which students can then download in the form of a podcast.

What is the purpose of the Podcasts Tool

Uploading content as a podcast adds another form of access to course content that can be automatically downloaded using a podcatcher (a program used to download podcasts). You may also allow students to upload their own podcasts which can then be automatically distributed to the class: in effect, supporting student learning and engagement by encouraging students to evaluate their own levels of understanding and share that understanding with their peers.

How to use the Podcasts Tool

Upload your audio or video files by clicking 'Add' and filling in all of the information about the file, such as file title and when it will be released. Add the file to your course podcast by clicking 'Add'.

To subscribe to your class podcast, copy the URL given on the main page of the Podcasts tool into your selected podcatcher. You may configure your podcast to be publicly available or restrict access to the podcast by clicking 'Options'.

To enable students to upload their own podcast material, navigate to the Resources tool and edit permissions in that tool, enabling students to create new resources. The permissions settings in the Podcasts tool are linked to those in the Resources tool.

In order for your students to download your podcasts, they will need to use a podcatcher. Some options are linked below:

Where to find Support

This tool is centrally supported


For help, you can contact the WTS Helpdesk


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

Tool Evaluation

Functionality overall rating: 2 starsFunctionality

Rating Rationale
Scale rating: 2 stars


The Podcasts Tool can scaled to accommodate any size class but does not allow subgroups

Ease of use rating:2 stars

Ease of Use

The Podcasts Tool has a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate and personalize for instructors, i.e. in uploading podcasts. For students, the Podcasts tool offers a user-friendly interface for accessing the RSS feed URL and downloading podcasts. However, tracks cannot be played in OWL without download to the local computer. Further, if a link to a podcast track is provided in Lessons, students must download the track in order to play it.

Tech Support/ Help Availability rating: 3 stars

Tech Support/Help Availability

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

Hypermediality rating: 3 stars


The Podcasts Tool allows users to communicate through different audio and video podcasts. Enabling RSS subscriptions to podcatchers (i.e. iTunes) allows for increased flexible and non-sequential engagement with material

Accessibility overall rating: 2 starsAccessibility

Rating Rationale
AODA Friendly rating: 2 stars

AODA Friendly

The Podcasts Tool meets functional accessibility guidelines (AODA and the W3C WCAG 2.0 standards), however, the accessibility of podcast material largely depends on how it is created by the instructor. See this guide for making video and audio files more accessible .

User Foused Participation rating: 3 stars

User-focused participation

By enabling auditory forms of content engagement, use of the Podcasts Tool can be used to address the needs of diverse users, their various literacies, and capabilities, thereby widening opportunities for participation in learning

Required Equipment rating: 2 stars

Required Equipment

Proper use of the Podcasts Tool requires equipment that is common and/or purchased at a low cost (microphone, speakers, cell phone, etc.)

Technical overall rating: 3 starsTechnical

Rating Rationale
OWL Integration rating: 3 stars

OWL Integration

The Podcasts Tool is native to OWL (see Adding the Podcasting Tool to your OWL site in the OWL documentation)

Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

Operating Systems

Users can effectively utilize the Podcasts 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 Podcasts 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: 3 star Mobile Design

Rating Rationale
Mobile Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

Mobile Operating Systems

The Podcasts 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 between the Podcasts Tool via the WesternU app and the main tool

Offline Access rating: 3 star

Offline Access

With subscription to the RSS feed (i.e. in iTunes), a subscriber can access podcasts from the feed when they are offline. An internet connection is required for feed updates.

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 Podcasts 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 Podcasts Tool can be used free of charge to Western account holders

Archiving Saving and Exporting Data rating: 3 star

Archiving, Saving, and Exporting Data

Users can archive, save, or import and export content or activity data in a variety of formats

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: 3 stars


The Podcasts Tool has the capacity to support a community of learning through asynchronous opportunities for communication, interactivity, and transfer of meaning between users. Students can be granted the ability to upload and share their own recorded podcasts (see OWL documentation)

User Accountability rating: 3 stars

User Accountability

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

Diffusion rating: 2 star


Student familiarity with the Podcasts Tool is likely mixed, some will lack basic technical competence with its functions. Students may need some orientation as to how to use an rss feed on their mobile device.

Instructor Presence overall rating: 2 starsInstructor Presence

Rating Rationale
Facilitation rating:3 stars


The Podcasts Tool has easy-to-use features that would significantly improve an instructor’s ability to be present with students via active management, monitoring, and engagement. Podcasts could be recorded as a method of communicating with students.

Customization rating: 3 stars


Recording a podcast allows for great audio and visual customization. Podcasts can be uploaded to the Podcast Tool in a variety of formats. RSS subscription allows students to subscribe to and customize their experience with the instructor’s podcast channel. Podcast tracks can be accessed through the Podcast tool itself or embedded on a Lessons page.

Learning Analytics rating: 2 stars

Learning Analytics

Limited reports can be generated to show information about which users have downloaded or edited podcasts through the statistics tool in OWL.

Cognitive Presence overall rating: 2 starsCognitive Presence

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

Enhancement of Cognitive Task(s)

The Podcasts Tool enables functional improvement to engagement in the targeted cognitive task(s) by providing an audio-based method of communication.

Higher Order Thinking rating: 2 stars

Higher Order Thinking

The Podcasts Tool may engage students in higher order thinking skills (given significant consideration to design, facilitation, and direction from instructor)

Feedback on Learning rating:2 stars

Feedback on Learning

Given the ability for students to upload and share their own recorded podcasts, there may be opportunities for receiving formative feedback on learning

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: January 21, 2020


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