How to Use OneNote for School: 10 Tips for Students and Teachers

Microsoft OneNote weighs just a few megabytes. Lugging around a satchel full of books pales a bit in comparison, doesn’t it? So, as you head back to school, let’s learn a bit more about how to use OneNote for school.

For enhanced collaboration features like Class Notebook and Staff Notebook, students and teachers can also get Office 365 Education for free with a valid school email address.

There are many unique ways to use OneNote for school. Try these OneNote tips if you are a teacher or student.

OneNote 2016 vs. OneNote for Windows 10

Choosing between OneNote for Windows 10 and OneNote 2016

The different versions of OneNote can cause you some confusion. There are two main versions of OneNote and you can use both on the same computer:

OneNote for Windows 10 (the Microsoft Store app)

OneNote 2016 (the Microsoft Office desktop app)

Then, you have the ecosystem of OneNote apps for iOS and Android. And, OneNote Online too which can be accessed with any modern web browser.

OneNote for Windows 10 gives you a seamless experience across all devices with either keyboard or touch input. Importantly, OneNote for Windows 10 is continuously updated with new features inspired by OneNote 2016.

Microsoft continues to support OneNote 2016 without bringing out a new version or adding new features. This will continue till October 14th, 2025 (in extended support).

Looking to the future and how your note-taking can build up over time, we recommend that you opt for OneNote for Windows 10 as new features rolled out to this version.

And follow our OneNote tips for teaching and studying at school, or even for personal notetaking.

1. Send Documents to OneNote With a Click

The first step of notetaking starts with capturing information. Students and teachers can send any document or webpage snippet to OneNote with several methods. These two below are native for OneNote.

Select OneNote as the default printer in Windows 10 Settings. Go to Windows Settings and choose OneNote as the default printer (or Send to OneNote 2016 if you are using it). You can then send any documents to any notebook or page via the Print dialog of the app.

Choose OneNote as the default printer in Windows 10

Thanks to this, the old Send to OneNote tool from Microsoft Store becomes redundant.

Use the OneNote Clipper extension on Chrome. Browsers are research tools and the OneNote Web Clipper can save, annotate, and organize anything you grab from the web.

Web Clipper for OneNote

And there are more ways to add anything to OneNote from anywhere. The tips work for both OneNote for Windows 10 and OneNote 2016.

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2. Embed Your Files as Cloud Attachments

Cloud Attachments in OneNote

OneNote for Windows 10 also has a flexible way to handle your attachments. They can be located on your desktop or on OneDrive.

Cloud attachments is a valuable addition for portability and teamwork as your file always stays updated. The embedded document will show up in your notebook as a live preview.

You can open and edit the files. Changes will show up in real time. and it will automatically update via OneDrive. Any changes you make will be saved to the original file and you don’t have to save and re-attach the files again.

It’s a pretty neat feature for students when they do group assignments and even teachers for collaborative learning.

3. Draw on Your Notes With Ink

Teachers can create richer instructions with the inking features on OneNote for Windows 10. Microsoft calls it “Think with Ink“. As the video above demonstrates, you can handwrite notes and draw or sketch things in your notebook.

Of course, it works best on a touch-enabled device like Microsoft Surface or an iPad, but the mouse too can handle some impromptu annotations.

4. Personalize Your Pages

Personalize your OneNote pages with rules and colors

OneNote pages can be scrolled horizontally and vertically. There are no limits. And there’s a way to make them at least appear like real paper.

Personalize your OneNote pages with different colors, rule lines, and grids for the type of content in them.

  • Go to View > Page Color.
  • Go to View > Rule Lines.

You can also give each Notebook and Section its own color to separate the type of notes more visually. Just right-click a Page or a Section name in your OneNote notebook, and then select a color.

Get faster at personalization by using these OneNote shortcuts for Windows and Mac.

5. Use Linked Audio Recordings as Notes

Create audio notes in OneNote for Windows 10

Typing speed cannot keep up with a teacher’s lecture. A better way is to just jot down the key point while you record the entire lecture.

The Audio feature in OneNote for Windows 10 lets you type the lecture notes while you record. The recording is linked to what you were typing when you started to record. This ensures you don’t miss out on any important information.

To begin an audio recording in your notes, do the following:

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  1. Click a location on the current page where you want to start the audio recording.
  2. On the Insert tab, click Audio.
  3. OneNote begins recording immediately.
  4. To end an audio recording, do the following:
  5. On the Recording tab, click Stop. OneNote ends the recording. If you want to continue recording later, click Record again.

6. Make Information Easier to Find With Color Coding

Highlight Notes in OneNote for Windows 10

OneNote gives you multiple highlighter colors to choose from in different thicknesses. You can choose a different color to annotate or color code the learning material.

For instance, choose “Yellow” for key terms or definitions. Use “Orange” or “Red” to follow up on something. A consistent color code across your notes can help you scan and gather feedback on what you need to do next.

You can use highlighters with a right-click on the selected text, use the Home tab, or annotate with the choices on the Draw tab.

  • Use the right-click menu. Select the words and then right-click for the highlighter tool with a choice of colors.
  • From the Home tab. Select the words you want to highlight, and then click the Text Highlight Color button.
  • From the Draw tab. The highlighter here is freeform and doesn’t let you annotate in a neat straight line. It is more natural to use with a stylus.

7. Learn Math With OneNote

OneNote for Windows 10 Math Assistant

The Ink Math Assistant is one of OneNote’s best features. It’s a digital tutor that takes a handwritten math equation and solves it step by step. Use it to learn or teach everything from basic math to advanced Calculus.

The Math Assistant can even draw interactive graphs of your equations, thus helping you understand difficult math concepts. For instance, you can go to the interactive graph and change a few variables to see how they affect the final solution.

You can save a screenshot of the graph to your notebook and revise it later. This Microsoft Support article is a complete OneNote tutorial through this fantastic feature.

Note: The Math Assistant is only available with the Office 365 subscription.

8. Use Immersive Reader for Reading Comprehension

Immerssive Reader in OneNote for Windows 10

The Immersive Reader is a part of OneNote Learning Tools. The full screen reader makes it easy for students of all abilities to read and comprehend any document.

For OneNote for Windows 10, Mac, or iPad, open OneNote. Select View > Immersive Reader.

On the Immersive Reader, you can change text properties, line spacing, fonts, and background color. A feature called Parts of Speech helps readers understand complex sentences by highlighting nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. in a sentence.

Voice options read aloud sentences and improve accessibility. This includes a Picture Dictionary that explains a word with an picture and its audio pronunciation.

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It can even read out the step by step solutions from a math problem solved by the Math Assistant.

The Immersive Reader is available on OneNote for Windows 10 OneNote 2016, OneNote for the web, and OneNote for iOS.

9. Find School Homework Material With Researcher

Researcher in OneNote

The Researcher uses Bing to find relevant information for your homework or academic paper. But it is more than a simple search engine.

It is a serious time saver as you don’t have to jump back and forth between the web browser and OneNote. You can use the research tool to search for material with keywords, create outlines, and add sources without leaving the OneNote page you are working on.

  1. Go to Insert > Researcher and type in the keywords for your topic.
  2. The Results pane shows a list of sources from books, journals, and the web.
  3. Choose a topic in the Results pane to explore in detail. You can add the text or images to your notes by clicking the “+” sign in the upper-right corner.

The Researcher is part of the Office 365 subscription plan.

10. Teach With the Class Notebook in OneNote

The Class Notebook Tools for OneNote for Windows 10

The Class Notebook is the perfect online collaboration space for teaching. Educators can ask for a Teacher license with the Office 365 subscription. Teachers can use it to interact with one student or the entire class.

The OneNote Class Notebook is a part of OneNote for Windows 10. And it is available as an add-in for OneNote 2016.

You have to enable the Class Notebook from the Settings. Go to Settings > Options, and set Class Notebook tools to On.

Now, Class Notebook is visible with all its controls in a separate OneNote tab.

The Class Notebook can become the core digital folder for teachers that contains all their resources like lesson plans, class assignments, grading templates, etc. The Notebook also integrates with over 40 third-party services that include several learning management systems (LMS).

Get the Most Out of OneNote at School

We have scratched the surface. There are loads of OneNote tutorials, tips, and tricks you can learn from once you start using it in class.

For instance, we haven’t spoken about the OneNote Staff Notebook which is another collaborative workspace for teachers. We also haven’t seen how you can use polls to gauge feedback in OneNote.

Microsoft is adding features with every update and most of them are something you can’t duplicate on old-school paper and pen. For instance, try the utility of OneNote templates that can save you a lot of time with note-taking in school.

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