Back to school with my digital toolbox

I remember the excitement of preparing for every new school year. The scent of fresh textbooks. Notebooks lovingly covered in contact paper for protection. New stationery with my name carefully etched in. But times have changed and as I have prepared to go back to school I’ve embraced the same digital toolbox that I use at work, Microsoft 365.

As is the standard for school these days I have a student account connected to an email. This account is also a Microsoft 365 account with licence to some familiar friends that I immediately began putting to work.


Edge is at the top of my list for two reasons:

  1. Integration. The home page in Edge when integrated with a work or school account gives you a handy rollup including recent accessed documents, pages, news and the ability to search within your work or school documents. You can also personalise news, and they recently made it possible to hide news stories from specific sources which is very handy.
  2. Profiles. School work is not the only things I do on my device. I have a profile for school, a profile for work, and a profile for home. This means that log ins, applications and browser history which are unique to school, are in my school profile.
Screen capture of the Edge home page.


My new email account is an essential point of contact from school. To avoid missing out on important email and having to frequently be in the web interface I syncronised my new university email with Outlook on the desktop.

I also added it to my Outlook app on mobile. I’m using the mobile Outlook app, rather than the native mail app in my client because I can get mail and calendar in one application, and it’s a much nicer interface.

Playlist of videos with Microsoft Outlook for Mobile tips


Technically the Cortana emails come to my Outlook inbox, but they warrant their own heading.

I have found these emails incredibly useful for my busy corporate accounts in the past. But it is also useful for my university account, which is a little more quiet and not always getting my attention as a part time student.

Briefing email overview – Cortana | Microsoft Docs

Screenshot of the Cortana daily breifing. Shows an email with an action and includes prompts to mark as 'Done' or 'Remind me'.
Screenshot of the Cortana daily breifing.


It’s no secret that I am a huge OneNote fan. So I am sure it’s no surprised that I have orgainsed all of my university notes in OneNote. I’m never dismissive of a paper notebook, and I still have one for when I need some non device time, or I just feel like it.

I’m using OneNote to

  • Save unit information for offline use
  • Make typed or handwritten notes during classes (with Surface Pro and iPad Pro)
  • Save and read course material to highlight and make handwritten notes

This last one is pretty powerful for me. I don’t have easy access to a printer, nor do I want to print out every academic paper I need to read for the duration of my degree. Instead I am importing it into OneNote and making notes there. Joy!

Screencapture of my OneNote notes on an academic paper.


I have a personal OneDrive, I have a work OneDrive and now I have a university OneDrive. I am okay with this. I like the separation of these different facets of my life. I can use my shiny new uni OneDrive to save all of my documents and assignments in one spot. If I need to collaborate on an assignment I don’t need to worry about giving people access to a personal storage location. It also means that anything I save in that OneDrive is discoverable by that lovely Bing search in Edge.

Planner / To Do

I use To Do a lot for work and personal already, but I was not sure that was how I wanted to manage my coursework tasks. Then in occurred to me that it was very likely I had access to Planner!

I immediately set about putting all of my trimester assignments and weekly coursework activities into Planner which I can view as a kan ban style board, or as a calendar. I have the Planner app on my phone and iPad so I can check and mark off tasks from anywhere. I have a particular set up of ‘buckets’ that I am trying out and will probably do a blog later in the trimester reflecting on how helpful my set up is.

Not sure about when to use Planner vs To DO. Here is some advice from Microsoft:

To Do vs. Planner – Office Support (

Observations of other apps

Having a Microsoft 365 licence means there are other apps available. The university website clearly outlines that the Microsoft 365 toolset is where the supported tools live, BUT my observations so far is that they are not necessarily what is used widely.

I have had a poke around and Yammer is being used, by a few small groups and for sharing critical university communication. A sneaky look at the Yammer community stats (which any member can access) tell my that engagement is super low. In my experience so far, Facebook and the unit discussion boards seems to be where collaboration happens.

Teams is used but not a lot. It was mentioned during orientation week at some point and I recall emails that mentioned it. I was quickly dissapointed to realise that a rival tool is used for classes and seminars. And of course a specialist platform is used for managing course materials and discussion boards.

Have you got any tips to share about using digital tools as study aids? Want to see more of what I have set up? Please share in the comments below.

3 Responses

  1. Lovely post, Rebecca! I am curious how you save complete papers to OneNote…I know adding a file but then it is just a button, not all the text. Copying a complete paper sounds like a lot of work. So…would you let me in on your secret? 😁
    Best regards,

    • There are few ways I do it depending on the file source:
      PDF in Browser – I can Print it to OneNote. Not sure how long this feature has been available but I only came across it this year.
      PDF as a local file – From OneNote I can select Insert > File Printout and choose a file from my PC.
      Another useful one is:
      Web page – From my iPad in the browser I can share to OneNote. If it’s a PDF it will just do a link. BUT if it’s a webpage then it does a screen capture of the page.

      • Great digital toolbox Rebecca! Thanks for sharing.
        Another tip for Ellen; there’s also a really handy tick box at the bottom of Advanced Options in OneNote:
        Insert long printouts on multiple pages
        If you tick this on, OneNote will create a new page for each page in the printed document, rather than nesting them all on one page (I have mine turned off for Uni papers, but it does come in handy sometimes).

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