Simplify marking and assessment with OneNote - a case study of St Andrew's College, New Zealand


This blog post has been adapted from "Technology enables efficiency in English marking" by Sam McNeill, Director of ICT at St Andrew's College, New Zealand.

The above video shows how English teacher, Ms Helaina Coote, uses OneNote to mark English portfolio work and give feedback. Ms Coote is the English Head of Department at St Andrew's College in Christchurch, New Zealand. Using OneNote on her Surface Pro 3 has changed the way Ms Coote teaches and carries out assessments with her class. This is a wonderful example of how OneNote can be used as a tool to facilitate learning, and making the education process a lot more efficient for teachers and students.

The recent introduction of the OneNote Class Notebook has made the creation of a OneNote workspace for a classroom a lot easier. Each student has their own private student notebook that is only shared with their teacher, and students cannot see each other's notebooks. In addition to this there is a content library for course materials and information which any student in the class can view. Thirdly, there is a collaboration space for anyone in the class to share, organise and work together in an interactive environment.

Ms Coote believes that the biggest impact that OneNote has had is in the area of receiving work, marking it and returning feedback, saying "It has completely transformed how I manage the assessment practises, allowing me to streamline the feedback I am giving to students". This has been especially relevant for NCEA Achievement Standard 91106 where students are required to read, listen and watch up to six different texts over the course of three school terms, and respond to these. This traditionally creates a lot of paperwork in a classroom that needs to be managed. Previously, work was typically received via email, using Microsoft Word to insert comments or track changes, saving a copy locally, printing a copy for NZQA records and then emailing the revised copy back to the students with feedback - Ms Coote says this process was "triple handling" and creating more work than necessary. Now, students must submit their drafts via OneNote, and after having received their feedback from Ms Coote, have two days to develop a resubmission. These changes must be colour coded so she can easily see the differences. Asked whether using a digital pen was in some ways a return to the traditional ways of marking, Ms Coote commented:

"The Surface Pro 3 and the digital pen allows you to blend the “old school” with the “new.” I am still a teacher marking student submissions, but now I am using a digital pen and writing on an electronic submission. Furthermore, the feedback is literally real time – I do not even need to email it back to them."

While using OneNote may simplify assessment and teaching processes for teachers, how do students feel about the increased use of this technology in the classroom? Ms Coote says, "Student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive in terms of them receiving “written” feedback [via OneNote] … I’m able to do it much faster as well, so the pieces of paper don’t lie around on my desk for ages … it’s pretty immediate, as it’s a much more streamlined process". 

One of Ms Coote's students commented:

"[Since the introduction of Class Notebooks in OneNote] I have found it incredibly useful … I no longer have to lug around books or hand outs as it is all available on OneNote and all stored in one handy place. All my work and hand-outs are readily available whether I’m at home or at school its all there and backed up for when I need it. My teacher can now give me feedback on my work on OneNote using her Surface Pro 3 and she can even hand write on it … I can see it instantly and then make new adaptions to my work hassle free as the interface on OneNote is so easy to use."

It is great to hear such positive feedback from a teacher who is finding that OneNote is having an incredibly beneficial impact on her and her students' productivity in the classroom. The purpose of technology is to simplify rather than complicate, so we love to see how OneNote and Surface Pro 3 are helping to make some everyday aspects of teaching more efficient.

We will finish this post with a bit of food for thought, raised by Sam McNeill at the end of his original article - "It is a timely reminder that many of the established practices of teaching often need only minor tweaks to achieve optimum efficiency, rather than massively overhauling them with major technological changes".