Microsoft Office OneNote Helps Students Move to the Head of the Class

REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 23, 2004 — It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to realize that capturing and organizing information effectively is an important part of getting the most out of education. Whether students major in history, science, literature, philosophy, business or art, they need the right tools to manage the deluge of facts and figures they must absorb each semester. And in today’s digital world, good information organization means having the right technology to aid students in their quest for academic success.



Microsoft Office OneNote provides students with the freedom to customize notes, import images, use freehand drawing tools to diagram and illustrate, and organize the information using pages, tabs and folders.

Take it from Justin Lai, a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who plans to study mechanical engineering. Like other MIT students, Lai has discovered that Microsoft Office OneNote 2003, a digital note-taking application in the Microsoft Office System, has improved the way he studies. By replacing a paper notebook with OneNote, Lai is able to keep all his notes in one place, in essentially any format, from typed text and handwritten notes to audio and video recordings.

“I bring my laptop to classes and take notes directly into OneNote instead of a paper notebook,” Lai says. “The best thing is audio notes — I can record the lecture and it is automatically synchronized with the notes I took during class so it’s easy to find the right part of the recording without wasting a bunch of time listening to the whole thing.”

OneNote is designed to make notes and research easily searchable so they are more accessible and useful to students. Studying for exams, completing homework, writing term papers and publishing research papers require accurate and thorough notes. Paper notebooks can be difficult to organize, incomplete and difficult to understand. Finding relevant details quickly is like that old adage about the needle and the haystack. After a semester of lectures and reading countless books and papers, finding an important bit of information often means rifling through a stack of paper notebooks covering multiple classes or research projects.

To help more students realize OneNote’s benefits in an academic setting, Microsoft is giving away 1.7 million copies of the software on campuses this fall. Normally, OneNote is available at a special academic price to students and teachers of US$49, but students throughout the United States will find free CDs of the software in their dorm rooms or being handed out on campuses. When OneNote is paired with the Microsoft Office Student and Teacher Edition 2003, which includes all of the core Office applications for a special academic price of $149, the combination provides integrated learning tools that can become essential to college success and beyond.

Students have praised OneNote since the software’s launch last year, recognizing OneNote as a more effective replacement for the old spiral notebook. Like a notebook, OneNote allows users to create sections for specific categories of notes with the ability to add pages in those sections. But because the information stored in OneNote is digital, it is much more flexible than traditional paper notebooks.

“The primary benefit of OneNote is its organizational ability, being able to put your notes all together in one spot,” says Patrick Willoughby, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at MIT. “I can organize my notes the way I want so I know where to find information when I need it–this makes my notes more usable than they’ve ever been before.”

Technology That Fits Students’ Needs

Students at MIT and elsewhere give high grades to OneNote, both for the way it helps them capture, organize, reuse and share notes on a laptop, desktop or Tablet PC, and for how well it complements the productivity applications in Microsoft Office 2003. With OneNote, users can take handwritten or typed notes, sketch diagrams, capture Web page content and record audio and video notes in one place. But they also enjoy the flexibility of organizing or sharing the information they’ve gathered however they like. For example, the notes can be used with other Office programs such as Microsoft Office Word, and Microsoft Office PowerPoint to create research papers and other formal documents.

“A lot of teachers use [Microsoft] PowerPoint slides,” says Phillip Plummer, a Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) student who uses OneNote to take notes for himself and on behalf of deaf and hard-of-hearing students affiliated with the National Technical Institute of the Deaf (NTID), an RIT college. “With OneNote, you can import PowerPoint slides and write over them, rather than rewriting everything. So it’s a lot less redundant for me and for the students for whom I take notes.”

To collaborate more effectively with others, Plummer captures lecture content using OneNote on a Tablet PC instead of using the traditional pen and paper. Notes can be saved as HTML and posted to the Web as soon as lectures conclude, making them easier to share and instantly accessible to deaf students.

Better Notes, Better Collaboration

At MIT, research projects pose the mother of all note-taking challenges. Students need to accurately capture not only the words spoken in their classes and seminars, but also mathematical formulas, calculations, experiment data and diagrams from their labs and discussion groups. An even tougher challenge is organizing those notes and then figuring out how to share them efficiently with others in their research groups.

Willoughby has found that OneNote is just the ticket for collaborating on team projects. When all research group members use OneNote, the critical peer review process in which students review and comment on each others’ work becomes seamless.

“Whether students are using Tablet PCs or desktop PCs, now with OneNote, because they are all using the same program, they don’t have to worry about conversions or scanning,” says Willoughby. “This has made peer reviews so much more easy and effective.”

Willoughby shares OneNote pages — including references found during Web searches and meeting notes — with other students via e-mail. Students who use OneNote in conjunction with Microsoft Office 2003 can click a button that automatically opens a Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 e-mail window and attaches the OneNote file to the mail. It can also store the content as HTML in the body of the mail for recipients who don’t use OneNote.

Students and educators at MIT and other institutions see the benefits of OneNote and other Microsoft Office System technologies increasing over time. Willoughby’s only regret is that he wasn’t able to give up paper note-taking sooner.

“If I’d had OneNote in my undergrad classes, studying would be easier now,” Willoughby says. “It’s a real pain going through four years of notebooks to find one formula from a sophomore class. Searching through OneNote for that formula would be infinitely easier.”

Professors Taking Note, Too

Students aren’t the only campus dwellers noticing the impact of Microsoft software tools in academia. At Singapore Management University (SMU), an institution modeled after some of the world’s leading business schools, Microsoft Office 2003 and OneNote 2003 are at the heart of a new interactive learning environment.

“Software is an enabling tool,” says Associate Professor Leong Kwong Sin, chairman of the Faculty IT Advisory Board at SMU. “The more natural it is, the more it helps people to organize their thoughts and manage the volume of data that they have to deal with every day. That’s what [Microsoft] Office 2003 is doing for us.”

In a pilot project at SMU, Word, PowerPoint and Excel, along with OneNote, are being used in conjunction with Tablet PCs, wireless networks and projectors. In his classroom, Dr. Themin Suwardy, associate dean of the School of Accountancy, uses a Tablet PC running Microsoft Office 2003 to present lecture materials on top of which he can freely illustrate and annotate using pen input. Students have their own laptops running Microsoft Office 2003 Editions and OneNote 2003. They are also equipped with software that allows them to request control of the classroom’s projector to share their ideas and work with the class.

“Give someone OneNote 2003 and a pen, and they will know how to use it right away,” Suwardy says. “That’s the hallmark of good software, and that allows us to concentrate on the interaction.”