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

Tags: , , , ,

So, I’ve spent the last few days wrestling with a curriculum unit that an outside consultant built. In PowerPoint. On Windows. And which we have been trying to set up in such a way that we can share the interactive document with students. Who are using Macs. And, perhaps, without asking each student to download a ~200MB file to use it.

I have learned and grown much in the process. And have discovered that Microsoft PowerPoint 2008 does an execrable job of exporting PowerPoints as web pages (it does an execrable job of doing a lot of other things too, but we can talk about that at another time). Here are the key fixes that I made to the exported web page and supporting files so that the presentation would fundamentally work (all of this was done using regular expressions in TextMate):

  1. I stripped out all of the fancy Javascript calls that PowerPoint inserted as links to navigate from one slide to another. It turns out that a simple HREF to the actual page’s HTML file works (and the JavaScript Does Not.)


    Replace with:

  2. The export to web page takes all of the already URL-encoded links in the PowerPoint and reencodes them, rendering them useless. I stripped off the second encoding.


    Replace with:

  3. Finally, because the links were built in Windows and then URL-encoded, all of the Windows-style paths needed to be turned into POSIX paths for use on the web.


    Replace with:


At this point, in an average PowerPoint, most of the damage has been fixed and things more or less work. However, the curriculum unit that we were working with also linked to external Word documents (hence some of the Windows-style path issues above). This meant I had a few more fixes along the way that are worthy of note:

  1. I replaced the links to Word documents with links to the corresponding PDF files (and script I used generated PDF files with .doc.pdf extensions and I didn’t bother to fix that).


    Replace with:

  2. These links to external documents open in the same frame as the slideshow. Which defeats the purpose of the slideshow being a navigational tool. So I redirected all of the new PDF links to a new window in the browser. As the hyperlinks are broken across two lines in the HTML source code, this took two steps.
    1. Find (changing {{name of Links & Sources folder}} to the, well, actual name of the Links & Sources folder):
      (href="((http://)|({{name of Links & Sources folder}}))[^"]*")\n

      Replace with:

    2. Find (modifying as noted above):
      (href="((http://)|({{name of Links & Sources folder}}))[^"]*"\starget=")_top(")

      Replace with:


September 24th, 2009

Posted In: Educational Technology, How To

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,