Moodle Versus OneNote Part 1 of 2

Moodle v OneNoteSt Andrew’s College is a school that is committed to delivering first class technology to students and staff to use in supporting their teaching and learning practices. In 2012 Moodle was introduced as the first real Learning Management System the College had used, replacing an ageing and feature-limited version of Microsoft Sharepoint. In 2013, thanks to the introduction of cloud based synchronisation via SkyDrive (now called OneDrive), Microsoft OneNote became increasingly popular amongst teachers as a tool for delivering class notes and collecting student feedback.

Since then, many teachers have variously tried both Moodle and OneNote interchangeably, sometimes abandoning one in favour of the other or struggling to identify when to use the most appropriate tool. Through various discussions, I have picked up a distinct pattern of thought that suggests most teachers believe they must use exclusively either Moodle or OneNote, but rarely did any teachers describe a workflow that included both.

This is a shame, because I believe both tools actually complement the other and when used in conjunction they provide a phenomenal feature set to easily deliver quality eLearning to our students. As this case study from Microsoft shows, both Moodle and OneNote can work together and over the course of the next two blog posts I aim to highlight:

  • The various strengths and weaknesses of each product
  • Some suggested workflows of using them alongside each other

THE STRENGTHS OF MOODLE:

moodleI have blogged about how St Andrew’s uses Moodle already, and below I am going to list off the key features that make Moodle an outstanding Learning Management System (in no particular order):

  • It is free and easy to install for immediate use. Furthermore, it was designed from the ground up for educational use.
  • As an Open Source product, you are free to customise it in any way you choose to meet the needs of your school or students (admittedly, this does require some coding ability).
  • There is a huge amount of third party plugins written for Moodle, rounding out the feature set to meet the needs of most schools.
  • Assignments: it easily handles the setting of various different assignment types, automatic cut off at due dates, electronic marking using rubrics and other scales, and feedback to students.
  • Forums: multiple forum styles that allow for online discussion and sharing, with no chance of student interference of other’s comments.
  • Resources: since mid-2013, teachers have been able to drag’n’drop most file types for uploading into Moodle courses, streamlining the building of quality courses.
  • Quizzes a robust and flexible quiz engine allowing for individualised, self-paced learning and feedback.
  • Reporting: teachers can easily see which students have viewed a resource, contributed to a discussion or completed an assignment or quiz. This massively reduces the management of checking student work.
  • Embedding of third party content: You can easily embed third party video, audio, animation content directly into your courses meaning your students do not need to simply follow links to websites.
  • Automatic enrolment: students can be automatically enrolled into courses based off a third party database or directory groups.
  • End of course / year rollover: Teachers can easily “reset” a course at the end of a year or semester, removing assignment submissions, forum comments and other student data, readying it for the next class they teach.

There are many other features that could be listed here, but this is a number that relate to specific usage at St Andrew’s College.

THE STRENGTHS OF ONENOTE:

OneNoteIt is worth reading some of the previous blog posts on OneNote usage at St Andrew’s to see how our teachers are using it, for example as ePortfolios, class electronic whiteboards and to improve student writing. Again, in no particular order, here are some of the strengths of OneNote:

  • In New Zealand, the Ministry of Education agreement with Microsoft makes the Office Suite available to most students in New Zealand schools.
  • It is part of the Microsoft Office Suite, so is immediately reasonably familiar in the look and feel when compared with Word, Excel or PowerPoint for example, reducing the learning curve for teachers and students.
  • The default layout is very similar to a traditional tabbed ring binder folder – there is a visual connection as an electronic ring binder that is familiar with most people.
  • The ability to drag and drop images, documents and text into the NoteBooks is very intuitive.
  • It can now be shared easily via OneDrive with other OneNote users.
  • The desktop application is very feature rich: for example video and audio can be recorded directly into a NoteBook.
  • There is an online, browser based version called OneNote Online which can be shared as read-only to create an ePortfolio style document.
  • The recently added Class NoteBook Creator Tool makes it very easy for a classroom teacher to setup all students in a class to share a single NoteBook.
  • Inking: when run on tablet or supported touch devices, handwriting can be used directly into OneNote NoteBooks – good examples would be the Surface Pro 3 tablet.
  • A teacher can have “real time” access into a student folder at any time they choose, compared with having to physically collect in work books to see a student’s progress.
  • Microsoft seems to have a growing focus on education and they are becoming increasingly responsive to feedback and feature requests, resulting in the OneNote product becoming available on more platforms (iOS and Android for example).

THE FOLLOWUP:

Evidently then, both Moodle and OneNote offer incredible features for teachers and students alike, making it immediately obvious why schools and educational institutions all over the world are using them. In the next blog post I will discuss some of the drawbacks with each product when used in isolation and in doing so, highlight where they can complement each other when used together.

 

OneNote Class Notebook Creator Is Here!

It’s easy to forget that Microsoft’s Office365 was only launched in early 2013 and was the successor in the education sector to Microsoft’s Live@Edu product, which St Andrew’s College had been running since 2010.

Google-Apps-for-EducationThe incumbent cloud collaboration suite for many New Zealand schools is Google Apps For Education, and with the launch of Office365, Microsoft had significant ground to make up. We encouraged many teachers to take advantage of the benefits of the collaborative, cloud based documents – in particular many embraced OneNote with their students. There were challenges and even confusion at times – Microsoft’s cloud based storage changed names from Skydrive to Skydrive Pro, then to OneDrive before settling on OneDrive For Business.

Additionally, there was no native application on Apple’s OS X or iOS (that finally changed, after a false start in March, with a significant release in July), meaning many of our students had to rely on the web browser version of OneNote Online. Throughout all of this, many of our most innovative teachers continued to persevere as they could see the potential for their students. A number of these stories were picked up by Microsoft New Zealand Education and blogged about over here, reinforcing we were definitely on the right track.

Realistically, however, many of our teachers found the process of setting up OneNote notebooks, sharing them with their students, followed by the reciprocal process of students sharing their notebooks back to the teacher, just too difficult. There were no easy shortcuts to circumvent this process – that is until now.

notebook creatorAt the start of October Microsoft released an app for Office365 called The OneNote Class Notebook Creator – I had first seen a beta version of this at the Edutech Conference I attended in Brisbane in June. This tool is the missing ingredient in making the setup of a class OneNote notebook incredibly easy as it allows the classroom teacher to:

  • Create a “read only” section in the NoteBook where they could add notes, slides, files, images and links that students could easily see within their notebook.
  • Create a “collaborative” section where both the teacher and all students in the class can contribute information and ideas to – each student’s contribution can be seen with their initials beside their additions to the notebook.
  • Create private subsections for each student. These are visible only to the to the individual student and the teacher, with both having read/write permissions into the notebook. This effectively creates sub-notebooks for each student within the one master notebook allowing the teacher to see a student’s work and provide feedback directly into their notebook.

In practice, this means that there is only a single notebook for each class, whereas currently the teachers using OneNote with their students share their “master” notebook, and receive access to an individual notebook back from each student.

To encourage our staff to start using this fantastic tool, I’ve created a screencast showing just how easy it is to set this up:

Setting up a new OneNote Notebook with the Class Notebook Creator Tool

This is a huge step forward for Office365 schools, and I know of some New Zealand schools that are now going to be using OneNote as their only Learning Management System (LMS). Whilst I personally believe OneNote is not an all encompassing, feature-rich LMS, the ease of use for staff and students alike along with the familiar MS Office interface makes it a very powerful tool in the classroom. The Class Notebook Creator tool allows for a single link to be shared with students, either via email or on the class Moodle site, and from there students can open the NoteBook directly into their App or Browser.

haparaGoogle Apps for Education, with their jump start on Microsoft in this sector, have seen some valuable third party apps designed – perhaps none better than Hapara, founded originally in New Zealand (hapara is Māori for “dawn” or “daybreak”). This product allows teachers to get an overview of activity amongst their students and their use of various Google Docs.

It would be awesome if there are extensions to the OneNote Class Notebook Creator as well to enhance the feature set on offer currently. Regardless, this new tool is guaranteed to assist with uptake of OneNote amongst teachers since they can now easily create and share a single NoteBook with their entire class.