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OneNote – A Learning Tool

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If your organisation has invested in Microsoft Office, especially the 2010 suite, the chances are you are not making full use of the programs. I would go further and say that there is probably one program that you have hardly looked at or used. You may be surprised to learn that I am not talking about either MS Access or Publisher. The program I am talking about is called OneNote.

OneNote is, essentially, a note taking program. As such, it is perfectly placed for the training sector and is potentially an important tool for learners. Thus, it would be a great shame, having invested time and money in the Microsoft Office Suite, for this program to be overlooked.

Using OneNote, each learner can create a 'notebook' into which they can add sections, pages or even additional notebooks. On each page, the learner can create notes; these notes can consist of;

  • Typed notes
  • Pasted text
  • Images
  • Audio notes
  • Video notes
  • Attached files

Furthermore, if the pasted text or image has been copied from a website, the URL of the page can also be copied across automatically. This is useful when it comes to revision as the learner can check back with the site for updates or further information, it is also useful for essay writing as the URL can be used in any reference section.

The ability to add audio and/or video notes is a very useful feature. It obviously has uses for SEN learners who may lack the ability to type and also those learners for whom text or language may be a barrier.

The ability to integrate with Internet Explorer (a third-party addon is available for FireFox) means that information from websites can easily be copied and referenced within a user's notes.

Notes (pages, sections or whole notebooks) can be exported in a variety of formats, noteably Word and PDF formats. Sections or pages can also be exported in OneNotes own format, meaning that they could be created by students or by teachers and then made available to learners to share or add into their own notebooks. In this way, a teacher could create learning plans, guidelines or a page of resources for the learners to add and use in their own OneNote notebooks.

Each learner's OneNote notebook appears to be linked to their login or username. Hence, their own notebook can be immediately available when they login to the system from any computer. However, notebooks can be saved almost anywhere, such as on the web, on a SharePoint server or locally on 'My Computer'. Using the web or SharePoint can enable a notebook to be shared with other users and/or used collaboratively among a group of learners.

Although a user can create many notebooks, essentially they need only create one and add sections for each subject, topic or project area. If they do create additional notebooks, then these are usually appended to their main notebook and can be easily accessed and notes linked or cross-referenced.

It has long been recognised that note-taking is an important part of both learning and revision. It has only been quite recent that computer software has become readily available to aid learners in making notes. While there are now a number of applications on the market for making notes, the position of OneNote within the MS Office suite puts it in a good position, especially where an institution has already invested in the Microsoft product.

In use, I do find some aspects of OneNote to be a bit 'clunky' and it is to be hoped that updates toi the program will make it a bit more easy or 'fluid' in its use. It is, however, a program that has a lot of potential to support learners and I would recommend trainers and organisations to investigate its use.

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