BETT 2016 Roundup – Microsoft Class Notebook and OneNote in Education

thI’ve always loved OneNote – in fact all my blog notes; and day to day work notes are all kept in OneNote Notebooks. I’ve got at least 6 different Notebooks syncing for different things – and that’s even before I consider the personal ones too. The reason why…its so simple; and flexible – you can store anything in them; and when you combine them with the power of mobile and inking (via tablets such as the Surface, or even non Microsoft ones with a pen) – they come into their own. Text, images, tables, links, images, videos…the full works. Oh, and yes, formatting is in there too. Some of you who saw me at BETT may have noticed that myself and a colleague were both sporting rather fetching purple “OneNote Avenger” capes…!

So, I guess it was about time that Education woke up to how useful and powerful OneNote is; and finally, it is now easy to do. For far too long, OneNote was the one application in the Office Suite that IT Admins would either not install, or hide from the managed start menu as neither staff or students used them. In this age of e-portfolios and digital ring binders (and for the green conscious amongst you, paper saving), they come into their own. OneNote is a ready to go personal digital ring binder – right out of the box (complete with handy getting started and how to use notes).

Enter Class Notebooks

So what is the difference between a Notebook and a Class Notebook? With your normal notebooks, the storage is all disparate – wherever the user has chosen to save their particular Notebook file. Add into that that everyone can then build the sections and pages exactly as they want – so no consistency.

The OneNote Class Notebook is an app for SharePoint Online that helps you set up OneNote in your class. This app will create a class notebook, which includes three types of sub-notebooks:

  • Student Notebooks – private notebooks that are shared between each teacher and their individual students. Teachers can access these notebooks at any time, but students cannot see other students’ notebooks.
  • Content Library – a notebook for teachers to share course materials with students. Teachers can add and edit its materials, but for students, the notebook is read-only.
  • Collaboration Space – a notebook for all students and the teacher in the class to share, organize, and collaborate.

Class Notebooks can be stored either in a OneDrive location (usually either the Teachers, or a specific one for this purpose) or a SharePoint site (usually a Class site). The key is they are stored centrally – and that at its heart is the content combined with collaboration specific to the class. Then the clever bit – private notebooks based on the pupils in that class, where they can only see their own. The teacher (and any additional teachers) can see and edit them all. Handy, at a glance progress reporting.

Getting up and running

To get going with this nice tech is a lot simpler than you might think – particularly as it is free. Yes, free.

  • An Office 365 subscription for Education that includes SharePoint Online – Office 365 Education for Students/Faculty will do nicely here
  • An organizational account for yourself (the teacher), and your students must have an Office 365 organizational account. For this, you are likely using DirSync – now known as Azure AD Connect to provision users from your local network to Office 365; although you may be using 3rd party products for this also
  • Your IT admin to have “installed” the OneNote Class Notebook app to enable the creation of the class notebooks.
  • Class lists – either in the form of Groups already on Office 365, CSV (Comma Separated Value) lists or lists that you can directly type

Finally, you’ll need Internet Explorer 10 or Internet Explorer 11 to use the OneNote Class Notebook app, although other modern browsers should also work – such as Chrome, Safari etc (your mileage may vary with other browsers).

Putting the App in the App

This desktop add-in (for OneNote 2013 or 2016) enables teachers to save time and work even more efficiently with their Class Notebooks by meaning that the Teacher doesn’t need to leave the OneNote App(lication) to use the Class OneNote App. Microsoft have been busy, and only months after the Class Notebooks process became a reality – the desktop add-in appears. Nice.

Top requested features from teachers (and I suspect IT Admins too) were built into the first version (shown below), and I expect further developments and enhancements won’t be far behind

  • Easy and quick distribution of pages or new sections to students in one or more classes.
  • Individualization through distribution of pages to specified students or student groups.
  • Ability to distribute a single chunk of text, an image or an ink selection to all or specified students in a Class Notebook.
  • Easy and quick copying of sections to the Content Library of one or more Class Notebooks.
  • Rapid sequential reviewing of student work (homework, assignments, quizzes, etc.) in one or more classes.
  • One-click launch of the Class Notebook app, including Create Class Notebook, Invite/Remove Students, Add/Remove Teachers and Get Notebook links.
  • Quick links to useful Professional Development and community resources.

For more detailed instructions and guidance on these features, you can visit the Class Notebook add-in user guide or watch this Office Mix by a teacher showing the walkthough.


And it keeps getting better

Just as I was finishing off this post – Microsoft went and announced a load of changes coming in Summer 2016. There is now going to be a full “Classroom” suite of products – which is exciting (see and also a Form creation…testing product. I wonder if there is a tie in to the Windows 10 app “TestTaker” which has appeared in recent Insider builds. For full details on all the forthcoming changes, see

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