A practical guide to digital formative assessment

Our two-year project is drawing to a close, but we have gathered our experiences and recommendations in a practical guide to digital formative assessment with OneNote in higher education. If you want to find out more about what we did to enhance formative assessment practices in our courses, and how we used OneNote to support those practices, then do check out our Guide. The guide is very practical in nature and full of tips that we have gathered on the bases of our experiences. You can access the guide here:

A Practical Guide to formative assessment with OneNote in higher education

How OneNote is used in this project

In which ways has OneNote supported our educational development work?

OneNote Class Notebook is a programme that lets teachers  create individual and shared work spaces for students.  A Class Notebook includes a Content Library where teachers can post materials such as handouts, videos and lecture slides, a Collaboration space for group work in and outside class, and individual Notebooks where each student can take notes, work on tasks, and submit homework and assignments.

Several of the students in our project reported that OneNote gave them the feeling that they were working on drafts, rather simply uploading finished assignments to a Learning Management System. This work-in-progress aspect lowered the threshold for producing content in and outside of class and lends itself more naturally to collaborative writing and to process portfolio work.

Furthermore, OneNote invites the creation of individual learning portfolios (Student Notebooks). This provides the course lecturers with insight into individual students’ work and progress. Students were made aware that these individual Notebooks were only visible to their teachers (not to their peers) and that their teachers would occasionally look at their homework to get an impression of their progression and perhaps leave some feedback. This also meant that we, as course lecturers could use this evidence of students’ progress to plan our own teaching, addressing any issues and misunderstandings that might have cropped up and that we might otherwise not have had insight into.

The Collaboration space, which can be edited by all students and teachers, invites collaboration in class and out of class. The Collaboration space was particularly useful for giving and receiving peer feedback. It was also used for note-taking during group discussions in class.

The Collaboration Area in OneNote Classroom

It should be noted that OneNote for Classroom is not a Learning Management System and was not intended to replace such platforms. Students in the project had to navigate two platforms at once, the LMS (It’s Learning or Canvas) and OneNote. The LMS was then used to send out messages to all of the students, whereas OneNote was used for drafting and notetaking, collaborative writing, and submission of assignments.

Finally, OneNote has been a useful tool for collaboration between project group members, as it has helped us systematize our own professional development work.


What is the project about?

The project aims at developing a pedagogical model for implementing formative assessment in higher education by using the digital application OneNote for Classroom. Research shows that formative assessment can have a powerful effect on student learning (Hattie 2012). However, the results of the 2015 national student survey in Norway (Studiebarometer) reveal that students are generally dissatisfied with assessment practices and the quality/amount of feedback. An increased focus on formative assessment has therefore the potential of improving both student achievement and the overall course satisfaction. The current project  implements formative assessment by making use of learning portfolios as a pedagogical tool and explores the affordances provided by OneNote for Classroom as a digital tool. The aim is to design a flexible pedagogical model that other institutions and study programs can draw on and adapt to their needs and to share the experiences gained while implementing these innovations.