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C2C Lantern (Fall 2014/ Winter 2015)

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MS OneNote, A Powerful Free Tool for Instructional Designers

By Hattie Wiley, IT, Distance Learning Developer at the National Weather Service Training Center

MS OneNote is one of Microsoft’s best kept secrets, although I am not sure why. Everyone should be using it, especially instructional designers. It is a very convenient, easy to use, multi-author, multi-platform, multi-device compatible, and best of all… free tool.

MS OneNote is often described as a “note-taking” application or “notebook”; however, I am not really sure that that gets to the heart of the matter. MS OneNote is more like a bookshelf for multiple, multi-subject notebooks, and/or binders. Consider the image below.

The image above displays several of my current notebooks in progress. Linux Essentials Detailed Design is currently displayed opened to the LAST Outline page in the General tab. Next to the General tab you see 1 Linux Concepts and 2 Command Line Entry, two section groups. Since I made the screen size smaller to fit in the image, the last two section groups are accessible by clicking the down arrow after 2 Command Line Entry.

Track Multi-File Projects with Ease

In this instance, I used MS OneNote to design an entire four-course curriculum for Linux. In the past, this would have taken multiple word documents, at least four or five per course. So, that would be about twenty word documents plus project plan documents and outlines! 

Designed for Multiple Users

MS OneNote not only offers a way to keep all of these files together, but also tracks edits from multiple users when stored in accessible location such as on a network server, in Microsoft SharePoint, or through the cloud. Every entry is marked with a user’s initials. 

Includes Time-Saving Tools 

MS OneNote includes a host of tools to make note taking and writing even faster including free templates, drawing tools, quick tags, and more.

Use and Track Multiple Sources

I also find it handy how this tool allows me to either link to or import from other MS Office products and the Internet easily, even automatically adding a hyperlinked path that reminds me where I found the content.

Export Options

The full version (installed on my computer) allows me to export entire notebooks, sections, or pages to PDF, MS Word formats, or single web page format, which is helpful when collaborators do not have or do not want to use MS OneNote. 


Again, this one is free! Just go to the OneNote site and click your device or operating system to give it a try.

About the Author 

Hattie Wiley works as a Distance Learning Developer at the National Weather Service Training Center.  

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