Microsoft may seem devotedly focused on business productivity lately, but the Redmond, Wash., software giant is still finding ways to go back to school.
The company has released a beta version of its new Class Notebook add-in for OneNote, simultaneously arriving in 61 markets and localized into 43 languages. Class Notebooks first arrived in 2014 after Microsoft launched the OneNote Class Notebook Creator app for SharePoint, a tool that allowed schools to configure OneNote into a collaborative teaching, test-taking and progress tracking tool for classrooms.
Now, with a new add-in for the OneNote 2013 and 2016 desktop note-taking apps, teachers can streamline several common tasks and activities.
For example, with two mouse clicks, teachers can now distribute Class Notebook pages to all students. Previously, students were required to individually visit a Content Library to copy pages. The add-in also now allows teachers to send pages to individual students or specified groups.
Similarly, teachers can distribute text, images or inked items by right-clicking on selected on-screen content and choosing the Distribute Content option. According to Microsoft, the feature can help educators provide more impromptu and interactive learning experiences.
"For example, a teacher can be writing notes in the Content Library for all the class to see, and then write down a specific problem, either in text or ink," said Microsoft in online support documentation. "By selecting and right-clicking the specific piece of content, then choosing Distribute Content, the teacher can quickly send just that piece of content to the specific section of each student in the class."
Microsoft's OneNote team has also streamlined the process of grading assignments and quizzes.
Rather than access each student's private notebook individually and then backing out to access another one, teachers can review work and leave feedback sequentially. A new Review Student Work pane and Cross Notebook Review feature enables teachers to click on a student name, check the relevant items and move onto the next student.
The add-in software includes shortcuts that launch frequently used Class Notebook app actions, including Class Notebook creation, adding and removing teachers and students. A Professional Development button points to online training and other resources.
Microsoft's efforts to turn OneNote into an educational tool seems to be paying off.
In a March 7 blog post, Tony Prophet, corporate vice president of Education Marketing for Microsoft, revealed that since June of last year, 400,000 teachers and 3.5 million students have been added to OneNote Class Notebooks. The software also appears to be convincing a growing number of students and teachers to drop their paper and pencils and pick up a stylus instead.
"Digital ink is gaining traction and we've seen twice the number of OneNote users leveraging it this school year in the US—especially relevant as more schools move from paper-based environments to using 1:1 devices in the classroom," Prophet stated. "And just in education, we have seen triple the number of monthly active OneNote users over the past year."