How do I effectively use groups in my OWL site?

Creating Groups in Online Courses

Creating groups in your online course is an effective way to manage your course and create a collaborative work environment for your students through tools such as the discussion forum, assignments, tests and quizzes, and announcements. This resource will assist you with setting up groups in your OWL site as well as provide information on how to effectively utilize these groups with different OWL tools.

The following resources from Sakai Documentation can also help you to set groups in your OWL course site.

Discussion Forums

It is good practice to break large classes into smaller groups for discussion purposes.

  • A teacher-student ratio of 20-30 students is an ideal number for pedagogical and workload reasons.
  • Large classes should be broken down into discussion groups (i.e. a class of 100 into 4 groups of 25).
  • Students can be further subdivided (i.e. groups of 5) to work on small group projects with their own discussion area.

In OWL, once you set up groups, you can create Discussion Forums or Topics for specific groups.

1. Go to Forums
2. Select New Forum (or New Topic)
3. Select Permissions

a. If you would like a specific group to contribute to a forum, assign their permission as an “Author”

b. Assign groups you do not want to have access to the forum a permission level of “None”

The newly created forum or topic will only be displayed to your selected groups.


  • Assignments can be created for specific groups of students to foster a collaborative and cooperative learning environment online.
  • Creating group assignments promotes communication between students and work can be done both synchronously and asynchronously.
  • Smaller groups (i.e. 3-4 students) are ideal for online group work.

To set up assignments for specific groups in OWL:

1. Go to Assignments
2. Select Add Assignment
3. Select Access
4. Select "Release only to selected groups" and select the specific group to which you would like to release the assignment

This will allow you to release an assignment to a specific group – however this function will only allow the students to work on the assignment independently.


5. If you want to create an assignment for group work, go to “Additional Assignment Options” and select "Group Submissions."

This will allow students to submit group assignments.

Tests and Quizzes

  • Once groups are created, tests and quizzes can be released to specific groups only.

This feature can be used to:

  • Create specific quizzes to accommodate students with disabilities.
  • Create multiple versions of a quiz and release to selected groups – for purposes of academic integrity.
  • Allow for collaborative quizzing where students work on problems together.

To release a quiz to specific groups in OWL:

1.  Create your quiz in OWL
2. Select Settings
3. Select Availability and Submissions
4. Under "Assessment released to," check your selected group

The quiz will now be released to the selected group only.


  • Once you have created groups in OWL, you can make announcements to specific groups only.
  • This is helpful if you have several different sections of the same course, or if you have split your class into groups for assignments, forums, tests, or discussions.

To release an announcement to a specific group in OWL:

1.  Go to Announcements
2. Select Add
3. Select Access
4. Check "Display this announcement to selected groups only"
5. Select the group that should receive your announcement

Your announcement will now be released to the selected group only.

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