Microsoft OneNote (for PC only) and Online Courses

I wanted to document how I’ve been using Microsoft OneNote in my online course.  Note that this post is on relevant experience during my first online course, so I may be refining my approach further, but here’s where it stands at the current time.

OneNote is a full member of all Office 2010 suites and is billed to be “one centralized resource for all of your ideas”.  Think of it as an electronic notebook, where you can jot down notes, scribble ideas/drawings, and insert other media.

OneNote is best used these days with a Windows Live ID, so that notebooks you create on one computer can be saved online.  This allows you to see one notebook on two or more PCs.  For me I have my online course notebook synchronized on both my home PC and my laptop at all times.  For example, here’s how my course looks right now for my EDSP6644 Notebook with tabs for every week, and the green sync indicator says this whole Notebook is “Up-to-date”


I should also say that if my PCs crash, that there is a copy of my notebook on the web, that I can get to if I need it.  For those of you familiar with Google docs, this is similar, except OneNote is a rich client that is storing a web version all the time.  Of course, since my notebook is synchronized across PCs there is also a version on the web.  And Microsoft also has a web-client version of OneNote, so here’s how my notebook looks on my Skydrive (


All that to say that the notes or documents you are studying can be available from any PC you are working on, and especially on the internet via a browser.

But let’s dig into how I am using OneNote for EDSP6644, an online course in the Autumn 2010 quarter at Seattle Pacific University.  SPU uses a system called Blackboard for online courses.  Each course has weekly activities that must be completed online.  Blackboard does *not* have a rich client, so you must be online and signed into the Blackboard web site to interact, however, you can use OneNote to store and stage the information you are respectively receiving and sending to Blackboard.

Let’s do an overview of OneNote and Blackboard high level concepts in this post and in a follow-up post I will dig into a module and do some detailed interaction.

Concept #1 Get It From Blackboard Into OneNote

OneNote has the ability to insert screen shots, web pages, documents, and printouts of documents into your virtual notebook on OneNote.  In the picture above, for instance, I capture a screenshot of the course documents page in BlackBoard each week to make sure nothing has been added to that page that I have missed since last time.

In the following picture, I have inserted the syllabus from the course as a file, and also a printout of the file to this page in my OneNote notebook.  Also note that there is a virtual highlighter in OneNote so that yellow scribble is some information which I have highlighted on this page.


The same can be done with PowerPoint files, PDFs of papers, etc.

Concept #2 Work On The Documents in OneNote

Each week for this course there is a quiz.  Since you can view the quiz in BlackBoard before committing or saving your answers, I can print the quiz to OneNote and work on it at my own pace taking notes before I go back to BlackBoard and enter my answers.  Here’s a sample below, where I have highlighted my answers, circled my choice or entered the letters for a matching question that I think are right.


Concept #3 Get the Information from OneNote back to BlackBoard

For a recent mid-term I copied and pasted the question into a OneNote page, and then was able to draft up my answer in OneNote and fine-tune until I was ready to paste it back to BlackBoard.  The benefit of this approach is that you don’t need to be on the internet signed in to BlackBoard during the creative or authoring process.  However, you notes are there and being saved across your machines for future reference.  Here’s a screenshot of what this might look like.


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  • Kiley  On September 3, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    I also use Onenote to enhance my blackboard courses, although not as in depth as you! I would love more tips. I think we’re on to something here…

    • John Weisenfeld  On September 22, 2012 at 11:48 am

      Hi Kiley, sorry for not approving your comment sooner. I see OneNote as a Swiss Army Knife (R) type of tool.

      For instance I use OneNote as my default printer so that I can always proof what I send first before I waste paper.

      Next I use OneNote to mock up Homework answer keys. I find the screen snipping feature particularly powerful for providing a rich homework solution experience, check this out:

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