OneNote Notebooks

Share this Teaching Tip
Reading Time: 4 minutes

OneNote notebooks are a new way to organize information and resources from Microsoft. Rather than collecting information in folders and files, compile them all together in a software that looks, feels and works like a binder. Or, use them as a digital whiteboard, capturing your drawings, solutions and diagrams in one organized place to share and record.

Get Started

To learn about OneNote Notebooks, visit Microsoft’s OneNote support site.

OneNote Notebooks and Learning

This is a type of content-neutral tech. Content neutral tech like virtual whiteboards or collaborative notebooks and documents “promote self-reflection and makes learning visible, has students sharing thinking processes and making connections, and are linked with higher level thinking” (Edutopia, 2018).

Diagram and Draw

Use the pens in the Draw tab to do whiteboard activities. Set it up so you have blue, black and orange pens to reach for. Use the black and dark blue to write, and the blue and orange to underline, highlight or asterisk important information.

Figure 1. A OneNote notebook, in the Draw tab. Screenshot by J. Wilkinson, November 2019.

In a Onenote notebook, you don’t have a fixed page width or length – you can span a working area as large as you like. Zoom in and out, as well, to focus on key areas, and use the space effectively.

Give yourself even more space to work by collapsing the side tabs. Click the Show Navigation icon to show or hide the tabs.

Figure 2. A OneNote notebook with the side tabs collapsed. Screenshot by J. Wilkinson, November 2019.

Collect Lesson and Activity Notes

Collect your classroom notes and whiteboard work in a OneNote notebook. Organize these the same way you have your online course – by week or topic. Make notes, drawings and diagrams in the notebook. Add new learning material in advance, to ensure learners can preview learning activities for the lesson.

Figure 3. Notebook organized into weekly tabs. Screenshot by J. Wilkinson, November 2019.

Use the Share option to get a link to post this in your course so that students can refer to your notes. They can add the OneNote app to their phone or tablet, and can download the software for free.

If the intention is for students to view the notes, then set the permissions to view the notebook. If the intention is for students to collaboratively add in notes, then set the permissions to edit.

Support Effective Note Taking

Make note-taking part of the learning process by incorporating student note taking spaces in a class notebook. This would help monitor whether students are taking notes, and give them the opportunity to share how notes support their learning process. Follow this up with activities that let learners compare their notes with a peer. This helps review and consolidate content and coaches learners on effective note taking strategies. Some learners may surprise with their creativity, insight and flexibility. There is also demonstrable value in showcasing examples of innovative note-taking approaches, with a student’s permission.

Notebook with pages set for several individual learners
Figure 4. Notebook with pages set for several individual learners. Screenshot by J. Wilkinson December 15th, 2019.

If you notice learners could use some support, encourage them to try strategies like Cornell notes. Start out with an exemplar you’ve created or a student from a previous semester has given consent for you to showcase.

Preview of Cornell note taking template.

Use or adapt this template for Cornell notes. Add this template directly to a notebook as a new page, by copying and pasting it into the notebook. Adjust it to make the format more functional for learners. You’re welcome to further adapt this template to better suit your teaching.

Once you have this note-taking template, you can even set it as the default for new pages in the notebook. This automatically generates a Cornell notes page format every time a new page is created.

On a formatted page, use the right click to set a page as a default template.
Figure 5. Right click on a page to set default templates. Screenshot by J. Wilkinson, December 19th, 2019.


Once you’re a notebook champion, try out sketchnoting yourself, or invite students to try sketchnoting instead of writing out notes. Presenting information in a variety of ways helps learners to recall and retain it better.

Video. “What is sketchnoting?” by Verbal to Visual on Retrieved December 4th, 2019.

Learn more about sketchnoting from Verbal to Visual.

Get Collaborative

If learners have used a notebook before, or seem comfortable with collaborative documents, introduce the option for collaborative notes. To facilitate this, set a notebook in your course as a link – use this as a collective note taking space. Try learning activities that incorporate an active learning approach, like Jigsaw. This approach lets learner groups be the experts, and share their knowledge.

Ask learners to use different resources, like the textbook, reliable websites, videos, or simulators to extend their learning about particular topics or units. This consolidates and enhances learning by getting students to re-read notes and interact with them again. As students collect and enhance their original notes, check in with them. Clarify any misunderstandings or support their learning with further connections to the course content. When they return to their home group, they will be re-teaching their peers content, and extending notes to study and review from.


Picha, G. (2018). Effective Technology Use in Math Class. Edutopia, March.

Jess Wilkinson

Jesslyn is the Educational Technology Officer at Conestoga. An Ontario Certified Teacher, and holding a B.A. and B.Ed., Jesslyn researches and promotes new technologies for faculty to enhance pedagogical practices. She brings to the role her experience as a Google and Microsoft certified technology trainer and as a classroom teacher in South Korea, Mongolia, and Ontario, focusing on special education and assistive learning technologies. She is available for workshops, consultations, and support with using technology in higher education contexts.

1 Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment