Skip to main content
Skip to main content
Microsoft 365

Global learning and collaboration with OneNote

Today’s post was written by Koen Timmers, an adult education teacher in Belgium.

I teach computer science and web design to adults in Belgium. My teaching goals are to create a paperless classroom and motivate students. By implementing collaboration during my lessons and offering project based learning, I am able to help students meet their needs and interests. In addition, I’m in a blended learning project, meaning that my students attend half of my lessons at home via Skype for Business.

OneNote meets the needs for both me and my students, and today I am pleased to share some insights into how I use OneNote in my classroom.

The need for a paperless classroom

I strive for a paperless classroom because paper documents become quickly outdated; they are not eco-friendly and lack interactivity. To move to a paperless classroom there were some issues I needed to overcome, such as working with outdated courseware and difficulty sharing courseware. Since I offer project based learning, my courseware needs to be on point at all times. From the moment a student requested some extra information, I needed to offer appendices. In addition, I had lots of documents and my digital textbook didn’t include my agenda and other important information. Students had to search through 20 different files to find information they needed. Finally, some students prefer to watch a quick-tip video or listen to audio.

I decided to implement OneNote in my classroom. I use one OneNote Class Notebook, shared with three different classes, and I create my digital textbook as I teach.

My students collaborate in the OneNote Class Notebook, allowing them to share resources, comments, requests, remarks, feedback and questions. While Danny posts a question, Stefan is adding some great sources of inspiration and Vanessa is solving Danny’s question.

Global learning and collaboration with OneNote 1

The OneNote Class Notebook replaced an outdated print textbook.

But that was only the start of a whole new process. My students began to spontaneously create and share tutorials. So now the OneNote Class Notebook contains both the theory, which I add, as well as insights and sources of knowledge from students. My students are learning from each other and even I’m discovering new ideas in their notes.

Global learning and collaboration with OneNote 2

In a recent student survey given at the end of the semester, where students were asked for feedback about the digital textbook and the use of OneNote, 55 percent marked OneNote as “very good” and 32 percent as “good.” Nobody disliked OneNote.

Some of the OneNote Class Notebook benefits my students listed include:

  • OneNote is structured, contains all the needed information and is easy to search for information.
  • The full color in OneNote makes OneNote Class Notebook easy to view code snippets.
  • OneNote Class Notebook is always completely up to date and to the point.
  • The OneNote Class Notebook can be accessed from anywhere, anytime and allows students to add requests and notes.

One of my students, Grace, went to Hong Kong for six weeks and thanks to Skype she was able to attend my class live. Using OneNote she had access to the assignments and all information.

Feel free to take a look at our OneNote Class Notebook.

OneNote for all ages

Meet Fred, my oldest student (81), who lives in Holland and travels 1.5 hours to attend my class. He is a retired Air Force pilot who now fills his free time creating websites. Thanks to OneNote he managed to increase his HTML and CSS skills during school holidays.

Global learning and collaboration with OneNote 3

Fred’s reflections about OneNote:

“OneNote works for me since I’m able to gather information in one place. I collect links to books that I’ll read later. I’d rather use OneNote than PDFs. I also introduced OneNote in my golf club to take notes during meetings. I love the ability to collaborate in a OneNote Class Notebook. My teacher explains every part of our web project by adding text and screenshots. This allows me to rehearse while at home. One time he recorded some videos when I was unable to attend the class. In the end, OneNote is a modern replacement for the classic chalkboard that offers me more comfort. I remember me taking notes while the teacher was writing on the chalkboard, so there was very little time for hands-on moments. Today, I have more time to process the knowledge and to practice.”

Digital inking

Before OneNote, some students were taking pictures of my notes on the blackboard. This made me realize something had to change. I started to use OneNote and made the same notes using a digital pen on a Microsoft Surface and was able to retire the blackboard, chalk and eraser.

Some of the benefits of digital ink I have found include the ability to:

  • Save and reuse notes in other classes and share via email, cloud or shared documents.
  • Scale and move notes within the OneNote Class Notebook.
  • Create clear notes that are easy to update and erase.
  • Use color and background pictures.

Global learning and collaboration with OneNote 4

No need for chalk anymore; the blackboard is inside my OneNote textbook.

In addition, digital ink offers a lot more educational opportunities:

  • Correct homework—Using a digital pen, you’re able to correct homework or assignments. The student can even get live feedback in a shared OneNote document accompanied by a sound clip or a video.
  • Annotate while creating screencasts—New tools like Office MixSnip and Edge browser allow annotating while creating screencasts or saving notes on a webpage. These annotations will bring clarity and more focus on the subject.
  • Brainstorm on a whiteboard—Using the whiteboard allows students to be involved, organize thoughts and to brainstorm.

Personal assistant and global collaboration

Some weeks ago, I created a video game. I first created a flowchart of the levels. Next, I sketched the visuals—the hero, sea, platforms, clouds, mountains, etc. While I created this game, I got help from fellow Microsoft Innovative Experts. Francisco, in Brazil, helped me design the levels and Miriam, in Germany, tested the game.

Global learning and collaboration with OneNote 5

The goal of creating this game was to collect funds for Project Kakuma. During this project, a group of 20 Microsoft Expert Educators offered support via Skype to hundreds of African refugees in Kakuma camp. While coordinating this project, we used OneNote to collect data and keep each other up to date. The project is ongoing and resulted in the first OneNote Avenger in Kakuma Refugee Camp: Abdul.

Global learning and collaboration with OneNote 6

You can sponsor our project by acquiring our game that works on Windows 10 and Windows 8 devices. Visit for more information.

Using OneNote in my classrooms daily inspires me.

—Koen Timmers

You may also like these articles

Image for: Small business professional working on designs using devices running PowerPoint and Microsoft Teams.

Power your digital transformation with insights from Microsoft Productivity Score

Editor’s Note: The Mechanics video embedded in this blog post has been updated to reflect some of the product changes announced on December 1, 2020. For some time now, business leaders have made digital transformation a priority. But when the pandemic hit this spring, adopting and embracing digital technology went from being a matter of…

Image for: A man is using his Lenovo laptop like a tablet while sitting in a comfortable chair in a Modern office setting

Microsoft Productivity Score and personalized experiences—here’s what’s new to Microsoft 365 in October

As I reflect on an action-packed few weeks, I’m struck by how much work has evolved in these past months. And I know our customers feel it too. After quickly moving to remote and hybrid work models this spring, organizations are now seeking sustainable ways to help people collaborate, be productive, and prioritize their wellbeing…

Image for: Microsoft employees working remotely.

Working remotely during challenging times

A Shanghai-based Microsoft employee shares lessons of working remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak.