Using OneNote to support collaborative group field work by Dr Alan Howard

Technology has played a core role in supporting learning and teaching on the GG2FC Crete Field Class module. The module typically enrols 30 students who work in small groups collecting data and evidence to solve Human and Physical Geography related problems in Sfakia, SW Crete. In previous years groups have completed daily blog entries or produced short video presentations in which they reflect on their academic and other experiences.

Students always maintain hand-written field notebooks which contain the evidence that forms the basis for writing their individual reports. Given that data collection is a collective group exercise, technology was used this year to try to enhance the collation and sharing of evidence. Each group was therefore required to maintain and update a shared OneNote notebook. By the end of the week the completed notebook formed a shared evidence base to support individual report writing.

Students in Sfakia, Crete: June 2012

OneNote is part of Microsoft Office 2010 and is available as a free Office Web App saved in cloud storage (SkyDrive). OneNote allows the user to create a notebook containing text, pictures, document print-outs and other multi-media. The software enables efficient filing and organisation of entries and may be a helpful aid to student note-keeping in general. The online version (which can be synced to the desktop application) enables easy shared access for collaborative working.

The user interface is similar to other Office 2010 applications and students required no special training. Groups enthusiastically updated their notebooks each day but perhaps focused more than necessary on production quality.  However the use of OneNote represented an enhancement because group members were able to share evidence easily including rich content such as photos and video clips.

For other colleagues interested in using OneNote to support collaborative group work I recommend utilising the Office Web App version. This is free and works in all modern browsers and can be viewed on mobile devices. The Office application version offers greater functionality but necessitates all group members having easy access to Office 2010.