Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a specific question about the OWL Migration Plan or migration not answered below, please submit a ticket to the WTS Helpdesk.

About the OWL Migration Plan

Why is Western implementing a new learning management system (LMS) and why now?

Sakai has done an excellent job meeting the needs of the Western community for the last 10 years. We expanded our LMS usage significantly during the quick pivots to emergency remote learning.

We're elevating the teaching and learning experience with a platform that will provide better support for flexible learning models and improved capacity for the increased usage OWL has seen. It will also better meet the needs of the community identified during the Community Engagement phase of the OWL Migration Plan by providing a more modern interface and better support for mobile usage.

Finally, a new LMS will support Western’s strategic plan in the areas of enriching student experience, promoting teaching and learning for the future and better supporting future enrollment growth.

What’s happening to OWL?

“OWL” isn't going anywhere! You might see us reference both OWL Brightspace and OWL Sakai in documentation and in communications.

OWL (Online Western Learning) is Western's name for our online learning platform. We will be keeping the name OWL but replacing the underlying learning platform with Brightspace. The current version of OWL (which is powered by learning management system Sakai) will be phased out at a date yet to be determined.

Who picked Brightspace?

OWL Brightspace was chosen through a Request for Proposal process and a team of evaluators that included a student, instructor, academic lead, and technical lead. The criteria for the Request for Proposal was developed using feedback from over 5,000 Western community members (students, instructors, faculty, and staff) who provided their feedback through surveys, listening sessions, demos, sandbox testing, and more. 

Learn more about our community engagement process.

What other universities use D2L’s Brightspace?

Brightspace is currently used by 570 universities and colleges, including Carleton University, Brock University, Toronto Metropolitan University, University of Ottawa, Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Windsor, University of Victoria, and many more.  

Using OWL Brightspace

When will OWL Brightspace be ready to use?

OWL Brightspace is available now for all Western users to log in to, but only those teaching, supporting, or learning in a course will be able to see courses!

All* Intersession, Summer, Fall, and Winter academic courses for 2024 will be taught in OWL Brightspace.
*Note: This does not include Western Continuing Studies.

How do I access OWL Brightspace?

  1. Visit
  2. Log in with your Western ID.
  3. You will be prompted for DUO multifactor authentication.

About Migration

What's migrating to OWL Brightspace?

What will migrate to OWL Brightspace

Academic course sites and Sakai project sites that:

  • Are academic in nature and/or are used for training
  • Include guided training modules AND use tools like Gradebook, Assessments, Tests & Quizzes, Certificates, and Lessons. 

What won't migrate to OWL Brightspace

Project sites which do not use guided training modules AND tools like Gradebook, Assessments, Test & Quizzes, Certificates, and Lessons, and are used for:

  • file storage/transfer
  • committee work
  • research sites
  • sites in place for non-Western users

These sites will be required to move to alternate solutions such as (but not limited to) Office 365 (Microsoft Teams, OneDrive) or Qualtrics.

Learn more on the Migration Info page.

When does my content migrate to OWL Brightspace?

You must REQUEST MIGRATION in order for your course content to migrate from OWL Sakai to OWL Brightspace. Courses are being migrated in the order they are being taught.

  • Spring/Summer 2024 academic courses will be migrated by April 2024.
  • Fall 2024 academic courses will migrate throughout Spring/Summer 2024 in the order they are requested.
  • Winter 2025 academic courses will migrate in September 2024 (date to be confirmed).
  • HR and other required training courses will migrate by Spring 2025 (date to be confirmed).
Western Continuing Studies course migration dates are still under review due to unique requirements for the migration. More information will be shared in Spring 2024.


Do I have to migrate all my courses and course content by myself?

No! You can choose to self-migrate or have an assisted migration. More information about each option is available here.

If I choose Assisted Migration, will my course be ready for students?

Courses migrated using the assisted migration option will still need adjustments and review before they are ready for students.

I am teaching this summer, but haven't received the Migration Request Survey.

Learn how to request migration if you are teaching this summer.

Will my Question Pools be migrated?

OWL Sakai Question Pools can be migrated to the OWL Brightspace Question Library. If you are using a Question Pool(s) that you would like migrated to OWL Brightspace please indicate the name of the pool(s) on the Migration Request Survey.

Does student data migrate?

Student data including grades, forum posts, and assignments will not be migrated to OWL Brightspace. Content stored in OWL Sakai will be retained until at least the end of 2025 and can continue to be accessed until that time.

By the end of 2025, a retention policy will be in place for OWL Brightspace and a plan for remaining content in OWL Sakai will be addressed.  Consultations will take place in Fall 2024 and more information will be shared thereafter.

Please be aware that Western has a Data Classification and Handling Standard regarding the use and sharing of data, including student data.  



What about 3rd party eLearning (LTI) tools? How do they get added to my course?

Core LTI tools are already integrated in OWL Brightspace, including Zoom, Gradescope, iClicker, and more.

To streamline the assessment of eLearning tools, enhance data security, and protect student information and university assets within OWL Brightspace, a new assessment process for integrating eLearning tools has been developed.

For more information, visit the LTI Tools page on the eLearning Toolkit.

What is a Reference Course?

A Reference Course is a staging area for instructors to use during Western’s transition from OWL Sakai to OWL Brightspace.  During the migration, an Instructor can request one Reference Course for each Official Course being taught in OWL Brightspace by completing the Migration Request Survey.

A Reference course can be blank, if the Instructor chooses Build New/Self-Migration, or can contain content from one recently taught course in OWL Sakai, if the Instructor chooses Assisted Migration. Within a Reference Course, an Instructor can design and organize the course's content before copying to the Official Course.

Can I enroll my Instructional Designer or other Course Support person into my Reference Course?

Yes, you can enroll anyone with a Western identity as a Facilitator or Participant in your course. Visit OWL Brightspace Help for more information.

Can/will my students be enrolled in my Reference Course?

No, students will not be enrolled into your Reference course. Students will only be enrolled into your Official course once it is ready.

How can I copy content from my Reference Course to my Official Course?

From within the official course, navigate to:

Manage Course > Course Admin > Import/Export/Copy Components.

Visit the D2L Brightspace Community for more detailed instructions

Help and Support

Where can I get help with migration?

Using OWL Brightspace:

Technical Assistance and Migration Support: 
WTS Helpdesk

What course features are different in OWL Brightspace than in the current version of OWL?

To compare features and tools, log in to OWL Brightspace and navigate to the "Instructor Training" course in the “Help” tab of the "My Home" navigation bar. The "Welcome" module topic "Flight Path" will provide an overview of similarities and differences between OWL Sakai and OWL Brightspace.

For assistance accessing the Instructor Training, please contact the WTS Helpdesk.

Will there be opportunities for staff and instructors to participate in training?

Absolutely! Training and support resources are available through the Centre for Teaching and Learning. An OWL Brightspace training course, developed with user feedback from the EAP, will allow users to learn about the platform’s tools and functionalities.

Self-directed resources and foundational sandbox-based learning will be followed by drop-in sessions and workshops that take a deeper look at functionalities and provide an opportunity to discuss in a community of practice.

Published on  and maintained in Cascade.