OneNote Central Management

Using OneNote as a corner-stone for content delivery

Considerations Before Deploying OneNote

OneNote was introduced in 2017 as an alternative to hosting content on our Learning Management System that was able to make more effective use of other tech within our college. It took off like wild-fire leaving our incredibly expensive, and until that time, well utilised LMS, looking like a ghost town. The reason OneNote was able to get legs so quickly was due to a number of factors, including:

Our students and staff all have dedicated stylus enabled devices 

Our school uses PC’s but I am increasingly tempted to trial iPad Pros as an alternative for some students. Currently, our computer programming courses and other challenges mean student experiences would be inconsistent.

We have a 1 Gb link through Aarnet  

Synching around 6000 OneNotes can take its toll. OneNote can be a pipe heavy experience, particularly as teachers learn about what content should and shouldn’t not be added within a OneNote. If students are synchronising from home however, that pressure is significantly decreased.

School community members access to O365 licenses and 1 TB of OneDrive Storage each

Again with the 1 Gb link… But there are no excuses on offer for students who have access to document versioning and a terabyte of online space when it comes to ‘lost’ digital work.

The LMS was looking staid and was not as agile as our school community needed it to be 

It had served us very well, but our students and staff were excited to be doing more with tech than our feature rich LMS allowed. At a cost of over $AUD 50 per student/yr, we were finding it difficult to justify the expense. The support from our LMS provider was significant, but we still had no way to bridge the growing divide once OneNote was out of the bag.

Our LMS would not offer a mobile solution without significant additional cost 

We needed mobile but had no option that didn’t end up costing around another $AUD 10 per students/yr. Mobile from our LMS should have been included from the start.

OneNote enabled a pedagogically superior approach to using tech in the classroom 

The seamless transition within OneNote between teacher delivered content areas, student/student & teacher/students collaboration, individual (+teacher) spaces and teacher only spaces enables a freely adaptable and flowing online classroom space. No other environment seems to provide a comparable structure that allows for such effective teaching and learning experiences.

OneNote was not an LMS, it was far more effective at being a teaching and learning facilitator  

It doesn’t try to be an LMS. A class OneNote just enables connections and processes to happen that make new teaching and learning experiences easy and possible.

Teaching professional development plans were completed via a class enabled OneNotes 

The teachers in our school quickly got to experience OneNote from a ‘student’ point of view and understand the dynamics of synchronisation, collaboration sections, individual sections and read-only content. This helped considerably when they all began developing and deploying their individual OneNotes.


OneNote Management Difficulties

Encouraging widespread OneNote across the school was not difficult – it sells itself when you have stylus enabled devices. However, without a central system for managing and distributing OneNotes, there comes challenges of ownership with staff leaving part way through a course and new staff taking over. Transferring ownership of the class OneNotes is not always simple. Also, corruptions seemed to occur more frequently when OneNotes reached a particular number of users (~ 60 in team-taught classes) or a particular file size. Also, many of the course OneNotes were very large by the time PowerPoints, and various document resources were added in to the note. As there were often audio/video files embedded within the OneNote, coupled with staff not recognising the perils of just ‘distributing’ large amounts of content (making 60 copies of said audio and video files), some OneNotes grew to around 10 GB in size. It was no wonder corruptions were prevalent and often difficult to solve permanently. Also, staff and student management of enrolments within OneNote is far from ideal. It is much better if such things can be taken care of externally.

The primary attraction to Teams from an administration perspective was as a solution to sorting out the hassle of enrolments and the online storage location of OneNotes within staff and students’ OneDrives. We had to move them from teacher’s OneDrives in order for them to be secure and to retain ownership of the curriculum materials being developed. It is not effective to lose all relevant course materials simply because a staff member leaves the school and doesn’t spend the time transferring their OneNotes from their OneDrive location. Central management is an absolute requirement when so many hours can be invested in the creation of such resources.

Teams As a Solution

Each ‘Team’ within MS Teams for Education comes with its own Class OneNote. It is built in and easy to access. As Teams offers a ‘School Data Sync’ option to upload enrolment course data for both staff and students, Teams creation and enrolment and hence, OneNote creation and enrolment, is now taken out of staff and students hands (at least initially – more later). With a bundle of CSVs, classes (or Teams) are set up well before the staff or students begin the school year or semester. There are important considerations when setting this up and Teams brings with it its own challenges. It is a complete Organisational Communications System. We don’t want staff and students having to look through multiple places in search of information about the running of the school. To move to Teams, also means to leave most of the functionality of Outlook behind as well. No more internal email within the school – that’s a significant mind shift and one that a very good case needs to be built for before it can be undertaken. 


Building a case for the transition from internal email to a project-based communication model (Teams) and ensuring everyone understands and is on board…