Using Chat/Whiteboard in OWL

The following guide will help you create a Chat and/or Whiteboard room in OWL. It will cover:

Creating a Chat or Whiteboard Room

There are two ways that you can add a Chat/Whiteboard room to your OWL course. First, make sure that you are under the BUILD tab, and then follow one of the two steps below.

  1. Select CHAT from the left-hand navigation bar and then click on the CREATE CHAT OR WHITEBOARD ROOM link found at the top of the Chat inventory page.

  3. On your Course Content page, click on ADD CONTENT LINK and then CHAT. A list of the previously created Chat/Whiteboard rooms will appear. You can choose to add one of these to your page, or select CREATE CHAT WHITEBOARD ROOM to create a new room.

Once you have created your Chat room, a new page with all of the available Chat parameters will appear.



Enter a title for your Chat/Whiteboard room in the Title field. You may also add a description, but this is optional. Set the visibility for the room. Remember, you can always unhide your room in the future if you wish to keep it hidden at this time.

You must then specify the maximum number of users allowed in the room at one time. If you do not want to limit the number of students allowed in the chat room, simply put in 1000 or a number greater than the number of students you expect to have in your course.

Lastly, specify the type of room you wish to create. You are provided with three options: Chat and Whiteboard, Chat only and Whiteboard only. Choose the type that is appropriate to your needs.



Clicking on the DROP-DOWN ARROW beside More Options reveals additional parameters. Here you can set user permissions, such as whether to allow private messages or to allow the use of aliases (otherwise everyone is identified by their real names). You may also select the option to maintain a log of the chat, which can then be reviewed at a later date. Click SAVE when you have finished entering the parameters.


Note: To view the chat room log, make sure you are under the TEACH tab and simply click on the GRAY DROP-DOWN ARROW beside the Chat/Whiteboard room and select VIEW LOG.





Chat and Whiteboard Display

The Instructor Chat/Whiteboard display is shown in the image to the right. You will notice that there are separate Chat and Whiteboard display boxes, a chat text input field and a Whiteboard toolbar with a variety of illustration tools.

Below this toolbar there is a handraise tool in order to gauge speaking order, a list of the participants, options to deny or grant access to the chat, as well as a microphone/pen input option.





Managing Chat Room Participation

There are a number of ways available to you to manage student participation in the chat room.

  1. Students can be prevented or granted access to a Chat/Whiteboard room by clicking the student name in the participant list. To select multiple students, hold down the CTRL or CMD (for Mac) key while clicking student names. Then select either DENY ACCESS or GRANT ACCESS. The student's name will appear in the Denied Access or Active Participant list. A message will appear in the student's chat window informing him/her that he/she is denied or granted access.

  3. If you would like to give permission to one student at a time to participate in a Chat/Whiteboard room, click START HANDRAISE MODE. The Handraise icon appears and a message is sent to all students in the chat window informing them that they must "raise their hand" to participate. When Handraise Mode is in use, students must click a button to indicate that they wish to speak. A number appears next to each student's name to indicate the order in which the students have raised their hands.

  5. When Handraise Mode is enabled, you use the microphone/pen feature to grant a student their turn to participate. From the Active Participant list, select the student that you wish to grant permission to speak and click on PASS MICROPHONE/PEN. An icon will appear next to the student's name and that student is then allowed to use the Chat or Whiteboard features. A message is sent to all the student in the chat window informing them that the selected student has the microphone/pen.

Holding Virtual Office Hours

The Chat/Whiteboard tool is a great way to hold office hours online. Simply create a Chat/Whiteboard room titled Office Hours, and using the method of your choice (e.g. Announcements, Mail, Syllabus), inform your students that there will be a set time in which you will be available in your virtual office. Enter the Chat/Whiteboard room at the time specified in order to monitor participation and/or answer questions.

When setting up virtual office hours, you may wish to consider limiting the number of students that can enter the chat room at a given time, in order to manage your online time effectively. You can set the limit in the Chat/Whiteboard room parameters (see above).

Advanced Tools and Permissions

The Chat Tools menu lets you grant permission to Teaching Assistants, Students and Auditors to view chat logs, as well as allows you to give Teaching Assistants permission to create rooms or clear chat logs. You can also set whether new chat rooms create logs by default, among other options.


To access the Chat Tools menu, make sure you are under the BUILD tab and select MANAGE COURSE from the Designer Tools menu on the left-hand navigation bar. Similarly, you can access the Manage Course area from the TEACH tab by clicking on MANAGE COURSE from the Instructor tools menu.



From the Manage Course area, select SETTINGS MANAGEMENT. From the available links, select CHAT, found under the Tools heading. A new window will appear with the available chat parameters and settings that you can change (see below). Here you can enable or disable certain settings by simply selecting true or false. Be sure to click SAVE VALUES when you are finished.