How does Onenote Class Notebook enhance homework in teaching and learning?

I have been using Microsoft Onenote for more than 2 years now.  Initially it was simply a way of organising my Schemes of Work.  effectively, it was a way of organising my course planner so that it was in an easy to access and organised structure.

However, for a few months now, my company, Cognita, have allowed me to set up and use the add on for Onenote called ‘Onenote Class Notebook’.

It has many uses which I hope to gradually show on this blog. I would like to show you one of them here.  Effectively, this software allows me to ‘see’ and ‘mark’ all student homework as and when it is completed in real time, no waiting around for the deadline!  This basically allows the teacher to:

  • dip in and see real time progress of how their students are progressing through the work.  Just imagine if this was a large essay set over an extended number of weeks.  You can identify immediately those who are not making progress, without even waiting to see them next lesson!
  • carry out an initial ‘progress’ mark at any time, before the deadline hand in.  Using a stylus (I use a Windows tablet Surface 3) I can make annotations and give guidance.  This means they are far less likely to hand in a sub-standard piece of work, as the teacher hopefully would have dipped in to pre-empt below standard answers.

Case Study:

The piece of work below is a recent finished example from a year 8 student.

This homework was set on Thursday May 4th.

According to Onenote, they started working on this Saturday 6th at 8.55am.  This is what they produced:

They were then back on Onenote to finish their HW on Wednesday 10th May, 8.30pm and produced this:

Thursday 11th May was the deadline.  Before the lesson, I used the ‘Review student work’ tab

and marked each piece, printing out as well so that they had a paper copy in class.  See below for initial marking.

During this lesson, each student received their homework back with some light marking.  I then, with permission from the student, showed a small number of samples that I thought were good to highlight points of improvement.

-Students scribbled down and shared in a class discussion about what made answers hit the mark scheme. They then used this feedback to go back into their Onenote HW to edit and improve their inital answer from home.  This is below and was completed on Saturday 14th May at 3pm.

I am sure all teachers can see the value in the process above.  What Onenote effectively does  is allow the teacher to intervene quickly, efficiently, to raise the standard of homework in a way that was not really practical or possible before.

What is the potential impact?

  • The teacher can dip in before the deadline to identify and feedback early, to let the student know if there is a problem with their initial workings.  This means feedback is ongoing through the HW process, rather than being too late at hand in.  This encourages the student to succeed rather than fail.
  • The teacher can easily project HW in class, as it is already on their computer.  This allows for sharing of model answers in a super efficient, effortless way.
  • The teacher can see ‘page versions’ in Onenote.  Effectively, as shown above, I still have access to the ‘student process’ of Homework.  This means the teacher can see the timings for completion.  This has been useful in the past in identifying students who leave HW until the day before deadline.  This gives useful insight into how the student progresses as well.  If there is a pattern of slow starters, the teacher can find out why and try to resolve this through individual discussion.
  • The class feedback allows the student ‘another go’ to really bring out the examination technique in a way that was not previously possible (without a lot of time!).  This becomes increasingly important as they go through to their GCSE’s, but more importantly it makes it super simple for student or teacher to edit further.
  • The teacher now has a bank of really good answers that can be reused in Onenote the year after and even with other classes that are being taught the same course.  awesome!

Finally, how do I encourage students to let me show their HW to their peers in class?  Stickers!  Some of my students nag me to show their work, as they know I will give valuable and specific insights into how they can improve their work, they really want to do well and achieve and they value feedback.

Anyway, if that was not enough, I give any students who have their work shared with their peers….. stickers!


What am I trying to say?  That homework should not always be:

  •  set
  • do
  • hand in
  • mark
  • forget and move on

But rather:

  • Model answer (using previous student example)
  • set
  • progress made
  • teacher feedback
  • hand in
  • peer feedback with teacher/class guidance
  • improve
  • feeling of achievement through student-teacher communication

This is the 2 way relationship of teaching and learning.

Are there any other benefits I have missed?  Do let me know and I will add them!

Perhaps more importantly, are there any drawbacks to this system of HW?

I haven’t even mentioned the ability to record audio feedback on their homework page.  Incredibly powerful, especially for those students who struggle to make notes in class.

Finally,….Yes, finally, finally, much of what I write about here is echoed in a fantastic blog run by an educator called Cal, here it is….enjoy!

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