OneNote Class Notebook as an e-Portfolio

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Today’s post was written by Edita Rabizaite, ESL teacher and ICT coordinator at the Kaunas Kazys Grinius Progymnasium School in Lithuania.

I have been working with kids, teachers and parents since 2012 on the concept of portfolio. A few years ago, I chose OneNote to create portfolios for my students and teachers. Back then, I was looking for a simple solution for kids and teachers to understand. OneNote, which looked familiar to teachers and students (like a digital notebook) proved to be a great tool for portfolios. It was easy for teachers and students to learn how to use. Many tools used for portfolios were technically hard for teachers to understand and for students to find all their work in one place and not scattered. OneNote helped me to create a class portfolio where all students and teachers in one class were connected in one place. It is hard to imagine it now, but in 2014, I created a folder in my OneDrive with 24 OneNote files for each student in that class, and then made a list in Word Online with students’ names and family names and links to each student’s portfolio, and shared that Word document with teachers who worked in that class and students. The practice of a few years proved that the methodology of a portfolio has a positive impact on students’ learning, creativity and motivation. Students like to compare their work from the last year and see how their knowledge developed this year.

The OneNote Class Notebook tool is simple to use and to create portfolios for students, because it builds off the structure of OneNote automatically with a the push of a few buttons.

If you would ask me, “What is a OneNote Class Notebook?” I would say that for me it is the digital space that connects students and teachers of one class into a virtual learning community.

In 2015, I started using OneNote Class Notebooks to create e-Portfolios for 5th-grade students to foster autonomous learning and 21st-century skills. With a teachers’ leadership group, we have tried various scenarios of teaching, which were shared with 35 schools in Lithuania. As one of our aims is to have each student’s learning e-Portfolio for at least four years, it is highly important to organize all materials in it and make them long-lasting, easy to find and to take it from storage anytime a student finishes studying in a school.

Let’s go through the main elements of an e-Portfolio and discuss how OneNote Class Notebook as a technological tool helps to implement it. The Collaboration Space area in Class Notebooks serves as storage and a workspace where students of a particular class learn together: share ideas, talk, create, reflect and interact. Each student’s notebook is used to store class work, notes, records and assessments. In the Collaboration Space, students learn and interact with peers and get feedback on their learning, and it serves as workspace for collaboration. The Content Library fulfills the function of storage as all materials that teachers share in that Class Notebook are stored for a period of several years. Students’ notebooks serve as:

  • Storage of learning evidence; personalized learning plans; and feedback from peers, teachers and parents.
  • Workspace for individual work, learning diaries and drafts.
  • Showcase of examples of the best achievements.

OneNote Class Notebook as an e-Portfolio 1

There are six elements of an e-Portfolio that should be followed to turn the OneNote Class Notebook into an e-Portfolio:

  1. It should be digital.
  2. It needs to include learning evidence.
  3. It has to possess structured content and the student‘s reflection on the learning process.
  4. It should reflect a student‘s authorship, meaning a student has the choice whether or not to share the contents of the portfolio.
  5. It should demonstrate student reflection.
  6. It should showcase student work.

There should be the ability to work on a task and change it several times, select the best learning experiences and save to a place in the e-Portfolio and have work ready to share as learning evidence or achievement. Some of these elements can be implemented only by technical tools and some have to be put into teaching methodology, taken into a teacher’s attention while planning lessons.

OneNote Class Notebook as an e-Portfolio 2

Six elements of an e-Portfolio.

At the Kaunas Kazys Grinius Progymnasium School, we find ways to shift some of the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the students. In addition to using the e-Portfolio to accomplish this, we also deliver opportunities for personalized learning and develop students’ autonomous learning skills.

OneNote Class Notebook as an e-Portfolio 3

If we look closer at the skills of autonomous learning, we see that skills can be divided into three parts for any given lesson or learning period:

  1. Learning plan
  2. Learning strategies
  3. Actions

OneNote Class Notebook as an e-Portfolio 4

According to this model, we used OneNote to create and save page templates to be used as customized learning plan templates for each student. Teachers keep the same structure and add features needed for the lessons of their subject. Templates are used to plan each student’s learning. In the image above, you see a learning plan template that hints at how it was built. A teacher and student discuss the topic of learning periods, aims, learning strategies and success criteria, and then they complete the learning plan template.

OneNote Class Notebook as an e-Portfolio 5

OneNote Class Notebook as an e-Portfolio 6

OneNote Class Notebook as an e-Portfolio 7

Students set their own learning goals (for example, learn more or less than 20 words) and choose how to adjust self-assessment criteria. After the teacher distributes a template of a learning plan to the students’ notebooks, students adjust it to their educational needs and abilities and make a personalized learning plan.

In this way, each student has the possibility to plan learning and personalize it through learning objectives, success criteria and self assessment (see image below).

OneNote Class Notebook as an e-Portfolio 8

A learning plan is adjusted several times during a learning period. As students assess themselves and receive feedback from peers and teachers, it is easy to trace if something goes wrong. The struggle points are discussed and changes are made to a learning plan, so the student is always on track to meet learning goals. A template of self-assessment sheets (see image below) is made by a teacher in Excel, and a student uses it several times. The student adds data into this sheet, which is stored in a OneNote learning plan page. The student can upload work for teacher review several times, correct it and present to a teacher again until the planned success criteria is reached.

OneNote Class Notebook as an e-Portfolio 9

In my school, we had lots of discussions about how the OneNote Class Notebook e-Portfolio should be organized. We built and deleted e-Portfolios three times. When you plan how your class portfolio will be organized, you have to consider long-term usage. After using it for four years or more, it should remain easy to navigate, easy to find materials and possess all necessary sections for deeper learning and storage of learning evidence. I would like to present some solutions that proved to be good ones.

Students Class Notebooks have two sections (see Option 3 in the image below): my library for adding important resources and my best work for showcasing the best achievements and section groups for different subjects. In this way, teachers who work in that class have more space than in simple sections, and it makes navigation for students more accessible.

OneNote Class Notebook as an e-Portfolio 10

To make navigation through pages quicker, we decided to add the year and then the topic of a lesson to a page title. For example, 2015 GR. Tenses refers to the school year, 2015 GR refers to the section of grammar and Tenses refers to the topic of the page.

OneNote Class Notebook as an e-Portfolio 11

The learning plans shown above also help to keep a class e-Portfolio organized, making it easy to track students’ progress during stages of learning and to inform a student’s parents, as a page from OneNote can easily be sent my email.

—Edita Rabizaite

  1. I would like to suggest a seventh essential element for an e-Portfolio: security and privacy. I n the United Sates, that would mean a product that complies with, and is used in compliance with, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, as well as any applicable state law. In New York State, we have a section of the Education Law that imposes certain requirements on contracts between school districts and vendors such as Microsoft. Unfortunately, we have not been successful in engaging with Microsoft on behalf of the 50 school districts we support.

    David M. Pellow, School Attorney
    Madison-Oneida Board of Cooperative Educational Services
    Verona, New York

    • Thanks David Pellow for the comment. I think the element 6, which is Authorship considers security and privacy.

  2. Thanks a lot for this article, dear Edita! I think it is inspiring for the ATS2020 pilot as well. For ATS2020 it might be useful to use the notebooks as well for reflections – like a diary. It would add to the reflective potential of ePortfolios and learning. And I would dream of students showcasing their “best of learning artefacts” in the end with a Sway presentation, to really have the learning products and reflections contextualized. Do you think I want to much? I have to admit that I am sometimes too far from teaching practice to understand, how much more work I add with my ideas 😉
    For all who cannot follow what we are talking about: OneNote Class Notebook is one of the platforms the project ATS2020 – Assessment of Transversal Skills is going to work with. Find out more about ATS2020 at

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