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Published April 7, 2017 | Multidisciplinary

OneNote: Office 365’s Virtual Notebook

Having had access to the Office 365 suite of applications for a few years now, I have slowly been exploring the potential uses of these tools. This semester I found myself searching for a way to organize and centralize information for the various projects and committees and I am involved in. A colleague at Champlain-St. Lawrence presented OneNote in a pedagogical activity in early March 2017, so I decided to give it a try. It is beginning to replace the paper notebook I usually carry with me to meetings, committee work, and interviews, giving me a virtual place to store and organize notes from daily life.

What is OneNote?

In an effort to learn more about this application, I attended an APOP webinar on March 2, 2017. The webinar was called: OneDrive, OneNote, Class Notebook: Exploiter les outils infonuagiques de la suite Office 365. The facilitator of the webinar, Jean-François Brebion, explained OneNote as a hybrid between a Word document and a post-it note. It has similar features and tools to those found in Word, but like a post-it note you can jot down information and then move it around and reorganize it. Text is automatically entered in text blocks, and images, web links, files and annotated notes can all be added to a page. OneNote creates sections, somewhat like the tabs of a notebook, and each section can have numerous pages that hold desired content. Sections can be given a title and are automatically colour-coded.

An example of OneNote sections and pages and the types of content that can be inserted into a page.

Being an online application, OneNote allows users to have access to information that is accessible from anywhere at any time. As a part of the Office suite of applications, OneNote can also be synchronized with a computer, allowing users to work offline or online and update versions through this option.

Professional Uses for OneNote

The personal uses for this application are many, but OneNote can also be a practical professional tool. OneNote pages can be shared within an institution, making it simple to work collectively or share information. As a collaboration tool it can be used with students or colleagues. For example, in the case of a class doing collective research, students could gather information on a specific topic and add the web links, images, quotes, references, statistics, etc. they find into the same page. All the information discovered for that topic would then be found in one place and each student would have access to the collective data. Other student collaboration ideas could be:

  • Team work assignments
  • Committees
  • Collaborative note-taking
  • Etc.

On the other hand, OneNote is also practical for students’ individual research. A page could be set up as a place to record and store research as they pursue a topic for a future assignment. Information found becomes easily accessible from home or school. Once the research is complete, students can reorganize the information within the page, creating an outline for their assignment.

Team-teaching a course with another teacher requires a great deal of collaboration and sharing of information and documents. OneNote could be used for:

  • Exchanging ideas
  • Outlines for class objectives
  • Updates on class progress
  • Links to web resources, etc.

OneDrive could also be used for storing and sharing PowerPoints or Word documents, replacing the never-ending back and forth of emails to share the latest version of a document.

OneNote has the potential to be used for course material, however Office 365 has a separate application called Class Notebook that is designed especially for this use. A recent Profweb article explains more about Class Notebook.

Here is how to get started with OneNote:

  1. Login and open OneDrive.
  2. Click “New” from the OneDrive banner.
  3. Select “OneNote notebook”.
  4. Enter a name for this new notebook and then click “Create”.
  5. You can either work online or select “Edit” in OneNote to work offline.

An example of a blank OneNote page.

OneNote Notebook

OneNote organizes itself into Notebooks, which is logical if you think of OneNote as an electronic version of the typical Hilroy notebook. It is simple to return to past Notebooks for consultation or to continue working. When you click on the OneNote icon from the list of online applications in Office 365 you are taken to a Notebooks summary page, where you can click on the notebook you wish to return to.

An example of how OneNote organizes Notebooks that have been created.

Additional Features

OneNote can also be used for organizing committee and meeting content. A Notebook, called Committees, could hold a different section for each committee the user participates in. Pages could contain the agenda for each meeting and notes can be taken directly on the same page during the meeting. If the notes from the meeting are pertinent to share with colleagues the page can be shared by email or a web link.

If the user and their college use Outlook’s calendar for posting meetings, then there is an additional advantage to using OneNote for meeting organization. Meeting information from the Outlook calendar can be automatically uploaded into a OneNote page. The meeting date, time and location are included, as well as participants in the meeting and a heading called “Notes” is built-in automatically.

An example of meeting information that is automatically generated into a page.

This is easily done by adding a new page and clicking on “Home”. You will see an icon called “Meeting details”. On the right-hand side of the page a list of meetings that appear in your Outlook calendar are displayed and you select the desired meeting. OneNote does the rest, as seen in the image above.

Notes taken in a meeting can also be tagged with various different markers, such as To do, Question, Website to visit, etc.

Examples of the types of tags that can be assigned to notes taken in a page.

Another interesting feature is the possibility to set pages as templates. If you wish to always have the same page format, OneNote allows you to save time by creating the page layout once and saving it to be reused as often as desired.

This application, which acts as a virtual notebook, is an interesting tool for teachers as a collaborative and organizational tool. Teachers who have access to Office 365 can explore the various other applications that OneNote can interact with, enhancing the potential of these tools.

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