OneNote is often the outlier service users mention when discussing the Microsoft ecosystem. Windows may have left a bad taste in some users mouths, Office is often viewed as the soul-sucking office suite of enterprise, and Microsoft may never be more than the convicted antitrust company to many. However, when it comes to the Microsoft-developed note-taking app OneNote, the brand stands positively on its own more often than not. Most users of OneNote are genuinely pleased to use the app and speak highly of its versatility and functionality.
Schools, universities, teachers and students are particularly keen on OneNote as an interactive collaboration tool. “OneNote has truly changed and evolved my classroom…adapting to the students’ needs on a quicker and more individualized basis,” - Michael Williams, teacher, and technology 'champion' at Weston Ranch High School, Manteca USD. As more schools and education institutions gravitate towards OneNote, the development team behind OneNote race to keep up with the unique request cropping up.
Today, the Office team is reporting that they have included some top requested features in updates to OneNote Class Notebooks and OneNote Staff Notebooks. While the Office team is very eager to get the new features out to educators and students, they realize that IT administrators may proceed with caution. The updates will be made available worldwide later this month and through until mid-June. The elongated update cycle gives IT some time to prepare for changes in the automatic installation of the OneNote Class Notebook app for Office 365. Another benefit of the new update cycle is that it will still show up for Educators in their summer planning technology for next school year.
With OneNote Class Notebooks, the new update removes the complicated mess of permissions and setup processes that teachers of K-12 programs would run into when trying to implement the use of OneNote without the help of IT Pros. Prior to today’s update, eager OneNote using teachers would have to get their IT staff to install the app on Office 365 in order to use it. Now, those same teachers can make use of the OneNote Class Notebook ‘wizard’ install that’s available to all teachers and faculty with Office 365 Education. The Office team is are also making Class Notebooks easier to discover for faculty by adding their My Apps page in the App Launcher available through a URL search.
As for OneNote Staff Notebooks, the office team has been rolling out that option recently to new and existing Office 365 Education customers with E1 or E3 plans. The hopes of this update will be to increase the ease of use for users. Now users can create a OneNote Staff Notebook with the same amount of ease as it takes to log into Office 365. OneNote Staff Notebooks user will also have their languages broadening as well. The Office team is reporting that they plan to start rolling out the Staff Notebook in 45 more languages in 60 new markets. As some of the language adoptions reach out to the Middle East, the Office team will also be adding support in Staff Notebooks for languages that read and write right-to-left, such as Arabic and Hebrew.
Similar to the Insider programs for Windows, Office, and other Microsoft offerings, the Office team is actively listening to feedback. The features in today’s updates are implemented to address some of the top requested pieces of feedback given by staff. Features like support for Active Directory security group lists when adding students and the ability to remove students and co-teachers from class notebooks, will be rolling out in the coming weeks. The Office team will also be adding to their April release of OneNote APIs on Office 365 with some new ones rolling out in the next few weeks. The new REST APIs will now allow IT admins to automate the Class and Staff Notebooks administrative processes. Specifically, REST APIs will address:
- Creating Class and Staff Notebooks
- Adding & removing students and teachers (for roster synchronization with Student Information Systems)
- Copying OneNote pages (for integration into Learning Management System assignment distribution and collection workflows)
- Replicating notebooks (for end of year archival scenarios)
Faculty might also appreciate Class Notebook support for Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) coming up soon. Support for LTI means that Class Notebook Creator will integrate easily with all major Learning Management Systems (LMS) according to the Office team. All of this is done without a teacher having to train in all new learning environments.
While most of these updates are great additions for faculty, students were not left out by the Office team. For students toting around MacBooks or for schools who have invested in Macs, there have been improvements made for OneNote for Mac like audio recording, viewable math equations, and recovery of deleted pages. There has also been the addition of Handwriting Search Across all platforms and copy/paste movement between OneNote pages for the iPad.
The summer updates for OneNote in education look to make next years school year a bit easier for both students and faculty.