Instructor Quick-Start Guide


OWL Display Layout

  1. Active Site - This tab will be outlined in white.
    • My Workspace is the default active site when first logging in, and its content will appear in the main display area. It displays a congregation of all your notifications (Announcements, Calendar Events, Forum messages) across all enrolled courses/sites, as well as a site message set by the OWL Administration.
  2. Enrolled Sites - Lists other enrolled courses that are available to explore. Your Active Site will switch to the one you've clicked.
    • Most site enrollments are managed by the Registrar, and so most site changes are automatic.
  3. More Sites - Opens your site drawer.
    • You will find a list of work sites you have access to here, which will be organized by category and term.quickstart01-a.png
  4. Account Menu
    • Displays the user id and name of the account you are currently using.
    • Contains quick links to change your preferences, create a new worksite, and view an introductory OWL tutorial.
  5. Logout Button - exit your current OWL session from the computer you're using.
    • We recommend that you log out of your account every time you are finished with your OWL session, especially when using OWL in a public space (including library computers, computers in classrooms connected to a projector, and off-campus computers in public places).quickstart01b-a.png
  6. Current Menu - the tool you are currently viewing will be bolded and highlighted in grey.
  7. Tool Menu - the left-hand navigation menu lists all the tools that you can access in the current worksite.
    • The Home page is usually the top-most tool. Clicking Home will take you back to the starting page of that worksite.
    • You can mouse over a tool name to reveal a short description of the tool.quickstart01c-a.png
  8. Tool Headers - The title of the tool
    • My Workspace displays several helpful tools to keep you up to date on your course sites and schedule.
    • Tool Navigation Every tool has navigation links below the title (8a.). Please refer to OWL Tools for more information on each tool.
  9. Reset (Refresh) Button - Return the current tool to its initial state.
    • If you entered content and did not save or submit it, it will be discarded if you reset the tool.
  10. Tool Controls - Use these to edit the display, get a permanent link to the tool, or find more information about the specific tool.quickstart01d-a.png

Configuring your Course Sites

Sakai worksites for your courses are available for you based on the registrar’s information. Students are automatically enrolled into the course site via a course roster. Students will not be able to see the course site until it is created by the instructor.

If at any point during site setup you find an error and would like to go back to the previous screen, a Back button will be available (in most cases) at the bottom of the current setup page next to the purple button. If you see this button, please use it instead of the back arrow in your browser to avoid errors.

Creating your Course Site - Introduction

You can create a course site based on the course rosters available to you as an Instructor. Course rosters contain the course section, student enrolments, and term information. They are assigned to you through the Office of the Registrar. For each term and section (if additional), there is a separate course roster assigned.

This section is a step-by-step guide on how to create your course site. Please view Creating a Course Site for troubleshooting information and more in-depth documentation.

If your course site already exists, you can skip to the next section on Adding and Removing Tools.

  1. From My Workspace, select Worksite Setup from the left hand menu.
  2. Click the New option in the top menu, as shown in the image below: quickstart02a-a.png
  3. Select "course site" and the corresponding Academic Term for your course. quickstart02b-a.png
  4. If your department has enrolled you as the approved instructor of the course, you will see the section(s) listed.
    • Select the course you want to set up and click continue. If your course is not available, contact your department to ensure you are listed as the approved instructor. Allow 24 hours within contact for the approval to go through. If you are teaching multiple courses, do not select all the course rosters in the list! Selecting every course in the list will merge the rosters into one site. Set up only one course at a time. Only select multiple course rosters if you plan on merging them in one site; for example, if you are teaching a course with multiple lab or tutorial sections, or if you are teaching a cross-listed course.
  5. Select the tools you want to include in the course (you can edit and add to these later).
    • By default, Home and Site Info are enabled, the latter which must always be enabled for site controls.
    • A good starting template for a course site: quickstart02_template-a.png
      • Announcements is for giving your students quick updates about assignments or class schedules, alerting the students with an e-mail message. It can also work in conjunction with other tools, such as the Assignments and Schedule tools.
      • Gradebook allows you to release grades to students, weight and organize graded items, and submit grades to the registrar for approval. Most faculties require submission of final grades through OWL using the Gradebook tool; thus, it is recommended that you always have this tool enabled in your site.
      • Lessons allows for easy course content organization, and works in conjunction with the Resources tool. We recommend that you enable either just Resources or both Lessons and Resources.
    • You can read more about the various OWL Tools in the documentation page. Once you choose all your tools, click on Continue.
  6. Select whether to Publish your site or leave as draft.
    • Course sites are by default set to Public and the description appears on the Site Browser. For a course site, Global Access will generally be "Limited to whom I add manually" and through automatic roster updates.
    • See Managing Access to your Site for more information.
  7. Click Create Site

Adding and Removing Tools

Navigate to the course site you would like to add or remove tools in. A default set of Sakai tools has been installed in all courses. You can add or remove tools depending on your pedagogical approach to the course.

If you would like to know more in-depth information on the functionality of the various available tools OWL offers, please navigate to the OWL Tools page.

  1. Click on the Site Info tool on the left-hand tool menu.
  2. Below the tool header, click on the Edit Tools option.quickstart03a-a.png
  3. From this page, you can add or remove tools by selecting or deselecting the adjacent checkboxes respectively.
    • a. The "General" menu includes core Sakai tools. The number of activated tools appears on the title bar (shown below).
    • b. You can also remove tools by clicking the red box with an "X" on the right-hand menu.quickstart03b-a.png
    • Plugin Tools are third party tools integrated in OWL. This menu is hidden by default, but you can view it by clicking the drop-down arrow beside the title.quickstart03c-a.png
  4. Remember to click Save when you are satisfied with the selected tools.
    • Certain tools such as the Lessons tool will prompt you to configure additional settings (such as adding more instances of the tool). You can find more information on specific tools in the OWL Tools page.
  5. You will see a summary of the changes you've made in the next page.
    • a. A list of removed tools will appear on the top.
    • b. The active tools will be listed below, with the added tools highlighted in red.quickstart03d-a.png
    • Click Finish when you are satisfied with the tools you are adding or removing.

A great framework of tools include the Announcements, Forums, Gradebook, Lessons, Messages, Resources, Schedule, and Syllabus tools. Remember that you can add and remove tools at any time.

Rename tools or reorder the menu

  1. Navigate again to the Site Info tool and click on Page Order at the top of the display.
    • You can click then drag‐and‐drop each of the menu items (tools) in this list to reorder the left‐ hand menu for the course.
    • For each tool, you can click on the icons to (1) Rename, (2) Hide/Unhide, (3) Disable/Enable or (4) Remove the tool. quickstart03-a.png
  2. Don’t forget to click Save

Student Configurations

Navigate again to the Site Info tool. The lower half of the display will show a list of students/participants in this course and their roles. Do not change the roles of your students, unless you want them to have greater access in your site.

Adding or Removing Students

Student enrollments in your courses are updated automatically from information provided by the registrar’s office. Any changes in additions or removals will be automatic.

Managing Access to your course

Oftentimes, you may want to work on your course site without students seeing or participating in your site. In this case, you will want to leave your site as an Draft and publish it when you're completed.

  1. Navigate again to the Site Info tool and click on Manage Access at the top of the display.
  2. Check or uncheck the box adjacent to Publish site to make it accessible to the students enrolled in the course once you have set up the course for their use.
  3. Click on Update.

You can unpublish & republish a course at any time through this checkbox. Always remember to Publish your site once you begin teaching, so that students have access to your course.

quickstart04-a.png The red Unpublished Site signals that this course is a draft site and is currently hidden from students. You will have to Manage Access -> Publish site for it to be viewable

Adding Content to your Courses

Adding to the Resources Tool

Basic elements of content may be stored within many Sakai tools, but the primary repository for course content is the Resources tool. You will see a hierarchical display of folders.

"Add" Menu

Adding content to the resources tool will be mainly done through the "Add" menu.


Its functions include:

To add multiple files on a larger scale, view site for details

"Action" Menu

The Action menu provides a list of functions to perform on an object (file or folder) in the Resources tool.


Its functions include:

You can also expand the folder views by clicking on the small “+” symbol (indicating that a folder has content). Clicking on the item link itself will cause the item to be displayed. Clicking on the “Actions” drop down associated with a folder or item offers the opportunity to copy, move, remove, reorder items, edit the details of an item or change access permissions on the item.

Creating an Assignment

  1. Login and click on the tab for the selected course. Click on Assignments in the menu, then on “Add.” You must enter a title for the assignment. Default values are present for Open, Due and Accept dates – edit these as preferred.
  2. Under Student Submissions, select “inline only” if you want students to type their assignment responses into the assignment’s web editor. Select attachments if you want students to attach files as their submission to the assignment. Select “Inline and Attachments” to enable both forms of submission (at least one will be required). Select “Non‐electronic” for assignments such as in‐class presentations, etc.
  3. Select a grade scale. Only “point” grade scales integrate with the gradebook.
  4. Check off the desired options for announcing, grading and accessing the assignment. “Display to site” allows students enrolled in this course (site) to access the assignment. “Display to selected groups” applies only if groups of participants within the site have been created (see Site Info, Manage Groups).
  5. Add attachments to the assignment as needed.
  6. Don’t forget to click on Post, Preview (then post) or Save Draft.

Create an Online Test or Quiz

  1. Login and click on the tab for the selected course. Click on Tests & Quizzes in the menu. There are two general methods for creating a new assessment. You can create from scratch by selecting “Create using assessment builder” or “Create using markup text.” The other option is to select “Import from file.” If creating from scratch provide a title then click on “Create.” Depending on your method you will now choose the format of your assessment (quiz, survey, test, etc.).
  2. Click on “select a question type” to add a question (or under “Part” click on “select a question type” to break the assessment into parts).
  3. Fill out the question form (point value, question text, optional attachments and answers) along with the options that are appropriate for the type of question you are creating.You can assign each question to a question pool (if they exist) for later use such as random drawing.
  4. Enter the answer feedback sections.
  5. Click on “Save” then repeat the steps 2‐5 to create additional questions.
  6. When you have created all the assessment questions, click on “Settings.” Click on “Open” in order to view all the options available for this assessment.
  7. When the settings are completed (some are required), click on “Save Settings and Publish.”Once an assessment has been published and students can access it, it cannot be modified (only republished under a new name). This prevents assessments from changing once results have been posted.

Set Up a Discussion Forum

The Forum tool provides a hierarchy of Forums, Topics, Threads and Posts/Replies to organize discussions. This hierarchy is arbitrary and may be defined as you see fit. Note that forums and topics may be associated with a grade book item allowing forum participation to be reviewed by the instructor and recorded.

  1. Login and click on “Forums” in the menu (or on Site Info then “Edit Tools” to add Forums if they weren’t already in the menu).
  2. Click on “New Forum” at the top of the display. This creates a “container” for your forum topics. A title is required. Use the Sakai web editor to enter a description of the forums that will be held in this “container” and set the Forum Posting options.