and I'm all out of bubble gum…

I’m working at a school using Office 365, and OneNote is the main event. I notice, however, that there don’t seem to be many clear, declarative answers to questions that I have about OneNote Class Notebooks, so I did some fiddling to find out.

As of the date of this post, the following questions and answers are empirically true of OneNote 2016 and the most current version of the Class Notebook plugin:

Can I create a class notebook in a custom location?

No (mostly). The motivation for this was that it would be really keen for class notebooks to live in our departmental shared OneDrive folder, so that we can both archive old classes and peek into each other’s notebooks with ease. It turns out that class notebooks can only be created in your personal OneDrive, in the Class Notebooks directory.

If you create the class notebook and then move it to a more desireable location (via OneNote’s ability to sync a notebook to a different location), it will totally make a copy of your notebook in that new location, but all of the students will still be accessing the original location, so it’s not gonna work for actually moving the OneNote.

If you move the class notebook (i.e. sync it to a new location and delete the original), you can no longer manage the notebook via the web interface that you need to use to add/remove students, lock the Collaboration Space, generate parent/guardian links, etc., etc. Essentially, it is dead to the web management interface. (But this does seem like a good way of archiving old class notebooks to a shared space at the end of the year.)

If you move your class notebook back to the Class Notebooks directory where it is supposed to be, the web management interface will not recognize it as a class notebook. And there is no path for (re)converting a seemingly normal OneNote notebook into a class notebook (again).

So, basically: no.

Can you rename the default underscore section groups?

Sort of, but it’s probably not a good idea.

I really don’t like “_Collaboration Space” and “_Content Library” (or “_Teacher Only”), which are the default names of those sections in class notebooks (and for which there is no management interface for renaming them).

You can, of course, just rename them in OneNote. And they’ll get re-alphabetized into the mix with the students’ section groups. And they seem to continue to behave with the proper permissions. Which is good. However, the Class Notebook plugin will now interpret those sections as being additional students (who seem to not have the right sections within their section group, to boot), so that when you try to distribute a page to your students, you need to be careful to not distribute it into your renamed Collaboration Space or Content Library. This is a little confusing.

If you rename them back to their original names, the Class Notebook plugin reverts to treating them as “special” section groups that are not representative of students.

Probably better not to rename them.

Can I put student collaboration sections into a section group after the fact?


You can now create these nifty little collaboration sections within your Collaboration Space that are limited to a specific group of students. You have to create these sections through the web interface. By default, these new collaboration sections are created at the root of the Collaboration Space.

If you move these sections into a new section group (e.g. “Last Week’s Groups”), the permissions appear to carry over into their new location.

In fact, if there are section groups created inside the Collaboration Space, you will have the option of creating new collaboration sections directly inside those section groups, through the web interface. W00t!

What does a parent/guardian link to a student section give access to?

These are created through the web interface.

It legit only gives access to that particular student’s section group. None of the shared section groups (Collaboration Space, Content Library) are visible through that link.

I did not explore what happens if you post a link into one of those section groups into a student section group… I doubt the link would be follow-able.

What does a link to the Content Library give access to?

Also created through the web interface.

This is also tightly restricted: just the Content Library. There doesn’t seem to be a built-in mechanism for sharing access to the Collaboration Space.

August 31st, 2018

Posted In: How To

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