How We Built the Ultimate Student Profile

This summer, we released a new feature that we’re really excited about -- the student profile. Our goal was to provide educators a holistic view of students: their interests, engagement, performance, and growth. The tool not only serves teachers and administrators but also empowers students. It allows them to upload multimedia projects (in addition to the standard blog capability) to better showcase their creativity and skill. It’s a tool that was built with today’s important education initiatives in mind, from standards-based grading to personalized learning to data-informed instruction.

The student profile is something we’ve envisioned from the very beginning of Otus. It’s been a long journey to get to this point. We have gone through many steps and iterations to make this feature a reality.

Identifying a need

Measuring student learning is of the original guiding principles of Otus. Originally, we created a student profile that we believed had everything educators would need. But, once we started soliciting feedback from users, we realized there was more work to be done. We had the right data and information, but we needed to synthesize all of the information and present it better visually. It was as if we had a placed all of the information into filing cabinets. Related information was still separated by a few clicks, we weren’t effectively showing users how everything was connected.

Gathering feedback

Once we had a good idea of the changes we would like to make, we started talking, and more importantly, listening to our users. We expanded our outreach. Not only did we learn the issues they were running into with our initial platform, but what they’d like to see from their ideal platform. We also had many conversations internally as well. We brainstormed how we could make the platform visually compelling.

Even if our solution was good, the presentation of our solution needed to be better. One of the big things we came to realize is that people wanted the student profile simplified and condensed. They did not want profiles spread out over numerous tabs and pages. It was also important that the new profile show users information, not just tell them. We worked to reorganize the content of the profile. We are constantly collaborating across teams to find ways to make the information more engaging.

Reorganizing & simplifying

This summer, our talented designers and developers turned the research into a reality. The student profile provides all of the same important information it did before, but does so in a way that is easier to navigate. The many sections that made up the first iteration of the profile are now just four: Profile, Content, Reports, Information. Just as Otus takes disparate edtech tools and data and brings them together into one platform, we had to follow our own lead and make sure our users didn’t have to search through view after view to understand their students.

Making things visual

Being organized is important, but it’s just as important to be visually compelling, and the student profile was rebuilt with that in mind. Before this redesign, t almost all of the information in the profile was presented in a table. Now, the profile shows attendance, recognitions and participation widgets on the first page. Portfolio items are shown as the various dynamic media types that they are (video, image, audio, blog post, etc.), creating a more engaging experience for users. Third-party data is also easily understood, displayed with charts we designed from scratch.

Lessons learned

It took a few years, but we ended up with a more effective and impactful student profile The process taught us that staying true to our guiding principles will lead us to a better outcome and that there is nothing more valuable than listening to our users. It also reminded us that nothing is perfect on your first try -- but by working together, internally and externally, we can learn together as well.

Student and Teacher Flags are Now Called Groups

Otus has always included a feature allowing teachers to group students by creating “Flags.” This is an important part of what makes Otus a powerful personalization and differentiation tool for educators, but we’re making some exciting improvements.

Eliminating confusion

We’ve learned the name Flag is a bit unclear. Each time we met with our users, we found ourselves explaining that Flags were really just groups of students. Furthermore, we are officially changing the name of Flags to Groups in April of 2019.

Generating better data

Nevertheless, here’s the most exciting part. As we improve the organization of Groups, you will find disaggregating the student data in Otus easier. Educators and administrators can break down data in Otus to identify the performance of unique subgroups of students.

For example, with a couple of clicks, an administrator can view assessment results for the Caucasian, female third-grade students at Jefferson Elementary School who have a specific learning disability. By streamlining this process, we reduce the amount of time spent gathering and organizing the data.

Now you can focus your time on using data to inform your discussions about how to best support these students and help them achieve success! Our continued goal at Otus is to help make the data you have actionable; this is another step toward that goal.

Otus and GradeCam Partner to Increase Teacher Efficiencies for Formative and Summative Assessments

Otus and GradeCam Partner to Increase Teacher Efficiencies for Formative and Summative Assessments

Otus is a fast-growing edtech company that combines learning, assessment, data, and classroom management tools into a single platform. Today they announced a partnership with GradeCam, an innovative education solutions company. GradeCam allows teachers to create, scan, and score assignments using any mobile, desktop, or document camera.

This partnership will allow teachers to save time and reduce paperwork. It will do this by enabling the importation of pre-existing paper-based assessments - whether they use bubble sheets or require students to show their work - into the Otus standards-based gradebook, points-based gradebook, and K-12 data warehouse features.

“As a company that is dedicated to providing educators with a single place to view student performance, we understand that not all teachers are able to provide students with online assessments,“ said Dr. Keith Westman, COO of Otus. “Our partnership with GradeCam will allow educators, regardless of their internet connectivity or ability to replicate existing assessments into an online format, to leverage our powerful analytics features to ensure students are given feedback and support in a timely manner.”

We are planning on a full release to all users in late-Spring of 2019. Interested school districts on the Otus platform will be able to view the integration within the next few weeks.

"GradeCam’s number one priority has always been to help teachers save time grading so they can focus on what they love most: teaching,” said Debbie Delaney, Executive Vice President at GradeCam. “So we’re thrilled to be partnering with Otus, a platform designed to allow teachers, students, families, and school leaders to use a single technology platform for their learning, assessment, and data needs."

About Otus

Otus is free for students, teachers, and families. Recently, it was named by Built In Chicago as one of the 100 best places to work in Chicago. It has also been recognized as the “Best Learning Analytics Solution” by EdTech Digest. The company recently unveiled several added features, including its new student profile, which highlights student performance across a variety of metrics and timeframes, and its interactive historical analytics, which will be available in 2019 to enhance educators understanding of student performance and improvement over time. All of these tools are designed to support the successful implementation of initiatives. Initiatives include: standards-based grading, differentiated instruction, and data-informed decision making.

About GradeCam

GradeCam is a web-based application that empowers teachers. It allows them to quickly and easily create, score, and record assessments without special forms or equipment. Founded by veteran teachers Rick and Tami Porter, GradeCam began as a smart solution for managing large volumes of classroom paperwork. Now, GradeCam allows teachers to create customized forms that can be quickly scanned. Using a mobile device, laptop, or document camera, forms are instantly scored, and automatically transferred into any digital grade book. This allows teachers to respond to actionable data in real-time. In addition, they can share feedback with students and other educators, and even see standards-based comparisons.

A single data point can’t define your school district, so be able to tell your story.

In today’s schools, there is no shortage of student data. Hiigh-stakes test scores, classroom assignment scores, student behaviors, attendance, performance on learning standards, engagement- the list goes on and on.

The real challenge for educators, students, and families is how all of those pieces of data can be assembled into a holistic story of student growth. Without the ability to efficiently assemble a more holistic view of school or district performance, school districts are often measured based on their performance on a single state-mandated test.

At Otus, our goal has been to provide the unified technology platform. We want t high-stakes test scores put into context with the moments of learning and growth that happen in every classroom, every day. That way, school communities can have a better understanding of their strengths and opportunities.

Using past performance to guide future success

While schools can currently use Otus to view the point-in-time performance of schools, we knew that the best predictor of future success is past performance. We needed to give educators the tools they need to efficiently identify what worked in the past and what didn’t work. We can then arm them with the data necessary to drive their next steps. 

Otus is ready to take the next step with how the platform can be used to view student, school, and district performance on academic, social-emotional, engagement, and other non-cognitive growth over time. School systems are no longer relying on a single data point, commonly a state-mandated assessment, to measure their effectiveness as a school organization. 

It’s time for educators to tell their  own story 

High priced statisticians and consultants have been a helpful resource for K-12 school systems. They help analyze disconnected and disparate data into a clear message that can be understood by all stakeholders. The reality is that today's educators, learners, and families are more data-savvy than ever before. Whether it's "leveling up" on a game, earning badges for using Waze, or checking a step count on a wearable device- we live in a culture of data.

With Otus, school and district leaders will, for the first time ever, have the data analytics tools necessary to view longitudinal student performance data. In addition, they will be able to identify strengths and opportunities. They can even leverage the institutional knowledge of the people who already work in the schools to tell their story.

Otus Query and Historical Analytics

Come the summer of 2019, Otus will offer users the ability to build easy-to-use data visualizations across an unlimited number of school years that do not require the ability to integrate multiple systems. To view a video showcasing our new reporting capabilities, click here.

For example, below are some visualizations for a district leader who wanted to use NWEA, SBAC, classroom level assessment data, and non-cognitive data related to their work habits and behaviors to identify At-Risk students. They will do this while also seeing characteristics of the students who make up that group of At-Risk students:

In the second example, a building principal wanted to see how various groups of students compared to one another on a state-mandated assessment:

Otus is empowering school systems to make more informed decisions by pairing one-a-year data from high-stakes assessments with data that is generated in classrooms each day.

Otus Partners With CESA Purchasing to Expand Reach in Wisconsin

Partnership offers preferred pricing for K-12 School Districts Across State

Otus is a Chicago-based educational technology provider for K-12 school communities. Today they announced a partnership with CESA Purchasing to offer all-in-one technology platform to K-12 schools in Wisconsin. CESA Purchasing works with over 100 vendors to provide discounts and promotional benefits for Wisconsin schools.

The new partnership makes it easy for Wisconsin schools and districts to take advantage of negotiated pricing for Otus. Otus is a single platform that pre-integrates three types of system. The systems consist of learning and classroom management, assessment management, and data management.

Otus provides K-12 school systems with one, pre-integrated platform. As a result, schools are better able to implement instructional initiatives like standards-based grading, differentiated instruction, and data-informed decision making.

Otus is an Authorized Data Partner of NWEA. We integrate with Skyward, Infinite Campus, PowerSchool, and other traditional student information systems.

“It is important for us to partner with organizations who not only understand our mission and purpose at Otus but have built a foundation of trust with school districts in Wisconsin,” said Dr. Keith Westman, Chief Operating Officer for Otus. “Our partnership with CESA Purchasing represents our commitment to aligning ourselves with trusted and respected organizations and our desire to maximize the learning of every child in Wisconsin.”

“CESA Purchasing partners with organizations that identify and meet the needs of Wisconsin schools,” said Jane Wray, Purchasing Administrator for CESA Purchasing. “Anytime, a service or product allows a teacher to give more time back to students, the value is unprecedented. CESA Purchasing will find a way to offer partnerships that are affordable and relevant. Otus does that and more with their standards-based grading software.”


Otus has been named the “Best Learning Analytics Solution” by EdTech Digest. in addition, they have been listed in District Administration magazine’s “Top 100 Products” ranking. The company recently shared several added features. These features include its new student profile, which highlights student performance across a variety of metrics and timeframes, and its interactive historical analytics, which will be available in 2019. The analytics will add to educators’ understanding of student performance and improvement over time. To conclude, all of these tools are designed to support successful implementation of initiatives. Examples of a few initiatives are standards-based grading, differentiated instruction, and data-informed decision making.

About Otus:

Otus is a Chicago-based education technology company. The company has created an innovative school operating system for K-12 classrooms, schools, and districts. It provides an all-in-one technology platform for the entire school community. Otus allows users to easily view student engagement, performance, and progress. This company was designed and built by teachers and school administrators. Otus empowers teachers in the classroom, informs school leaders, keeps students engaged and organized, and helps parents stay better connected. In addition, Otus features three primary components: a Classroom and Learning Management System, an Assessment Platform, and a Data Management system. It was named one of Chicago’s 100 best places to work by Built In Chicago in 2019. The company received EdTech Digest’s 2018 award for “Best Learning Analytics Solution". Lastly, Otus has been listed in District Administration magazine’s “Top 100 Products” ranking. For more information, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

CESA Purchasing:

CESA Purchasing is a Wisconsin cooperative that works with over 100 vendors. They work to go give discounts and other value-added benefits. CESA Purchasing serves K12 schools, libraries, technical colleges, universities, municipalities, and other non-profit educational programs. Overall, their mission is to level the playing field for ALL Wisconsin schools. They work to negotiate contracts with discounts on behalf of all Wisconsin schools that benefit the smallest school as much as the largest. To conclude, you can learn more about CESA Purchasing at

What is the difference between Google Classroom and Otus?

Author's Note: We love Google (and are actually located in the Chicago "Google Building")! To see all of the ways in which Otus leverages Google and allows users to expand their use of Google Apps for Education, click here. Keep in mind, your teachers can continue using Google Classroom with Otus!

Teachers who use Google Classroom enjoy its ease-of-use and requires very little setup in order to begin using it. Additionally, since Google is pervasive in every area of our lives, it is very easy to stay within their ecosystem because it's comfortable.

As pervasive as Google Classroom is in K-12 classrooms, it often times must be supplemented by other tools, extensions, and plug-ins that may not provide the most efficient workflow for the way in which teachers work.

Additionally, K-12 families and school leaders can best support teachers and students when they have some visibility into student learning and growth over time.

With that, we made a list of The Top 5 Differences Between Otus and Google Classroom.

The Top 5 Differences Between Otus and Google Classroom

  1. Integrations

    Otus is able to integrate with many of the systems that your school district already uses. Otus allows teachers to have all of their tools in one place. You can keep your classes in sync with your student information system. With Otus, grades seamlessly flow from your SIS (Infinite Campus, PowerSchool, and Skyward (coming soon). Users can import data from third-party assessments (i.e. SBAC, NWEA, Renaissance, iReady, etc.) as well as incorporate LTI resources from your district curriculum.

  2. Points and Standards Gradebooks for Students, Teachers, School Leaders, and Families

    Not every school uses a single grading scale for all grades. More and more K-12 school districts are implementing initiatives like standards-based grading. With Otus, school districts can create unique grading scales for each grade. You can also share point or standards gradebooks with students, administrators, teachers, and families. This ensures that student performance is reported in ways that are consistent with today's instructional initiatives.

  3. Classroom Management Tools

    Otus is much more than a learning management system. Otus allows educators to text students and families, maintain communication logs, and track student recognition points for behaviors. In addition, users can take attendance, understand student strengths and passions, and streamline the ways in which teachers manage every facet of their day.

  4. Engaging Assessments Aligned to Standards

    While multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions are great for certain learning situations, today's educators want to provide students with more authentic measures of learning. Otus offers a wide variety of K-12 assessment options for teachers including an assessment item bank that is pre-aligned to state learning standards.

  5. Actionable Data

    In order for teachers to be able to leverage student data that typically exists in disconnected tools, it is critical that the data is accessible and actionable by teachers. Otus provide educators with access to high-stakes assessment data, benchmark data, common assessment data, and data that has been gathered using all of the other tools that exist within Otus. Now, data can truly be used to inform instruction.

Google is changing the ways in which teachers work. Be sure to learn how Otus leverages all of the things you love about Google to help streamline your workflows.

Where is Otus going next? A look into our plans for 2019.

We took some time to assemble some of the many exciting things that we are working on. We expect them to be available to our users in the weeks, months, and year ahead. While we do have plans for 2019, please be comfortable if we include a few unannounced surprises that show some real innovation in the K-12 edtech space:)

Data Management and Analytics

We're redesigning the way in which users create reports and run query analytics to allow for a more efficient workflow:

Our new historical analytics tool will allow users to review data over time. There is no restriction to the number of years that you will be able to analyze!


Add testing windows and availability dates for assessments:

Add multiple standards and/or competencies to Simple and Rubric Assessments:

When teachers of school leaders are creating assessments, Otus will first show frequently used learning standards and competencies which will cut down on the amount of time it takes to create an assessment:


Our plans for 2019 also include seamless integration with NWEA so that MAP scores from two most recent years and all future testing sessions sent to Otus automatically (no more MAP data uploading!)

Integration with GradeCam so that teachers can easily scan answer sheets from paper-based assessments into Otus.

Learning and Management

We are redesigning our standards gradebook to offer an even better way to understand student progress on learning standards and competencies at-a-glance.

Otus for eLearning/Snow Days in IL

A guide to using Otus as an eLearning platform to comply with Public Act 099-0194/HB 2781

In order to be approved to offer eLearning Days by the State of Illinois Board of Education as stated in Public Act 099-0194, a school district must submit an eLearning Plan. Part of the plan relates to how a learning management system can support remote learning. Today’s students will likely have the chance to telecommunicate. Furthermore, eLearning days present a prime opportunity to prepare students for their future.

Below are responses to the items that are requested by the Illinois State Board of Education. The responses relate to Otus as a platform for remote learning:

Ensure and verify that instruction or school work is being completed for each student participating in an e-learning day:

A variety of tools within the Otus platform can be used by classroom teachers, student services, and building/district leaders. They can help make sure that the minimum number of instruction or school work hours have been met.

  • Lessons: The lesson module allows teachers to create and distribute a series of learning activities. They can be shared with individual students, groups of students, or entire classes. Learning activities can include video introductions or instructions, links to learning resources (PDFs, videos, online resources), assessments, blogs, and other activities required for a lesson.
  • Assessments: A wide variety of online assessment tools are available within Otus to provide students with formative or summative assessment options. Students are able to upload work (i.e. Google Docs, PDFs, etc.) or video. Students and teachers are also able to provide audio and video feedback.
  • Bookshelf: Add any web resource, video, or file to the bookshelf. This allows both students and families  to access important learning materials.
  • Messaging and Communication: The Otus mailbox can be used to email and text notifications and other messages to students.
  • Class Board: The class board can be used to provide general announcements to classes about the work expected to be completed during the eLearning day.

Ensure access from home or other appropriate remote facility for all students participating, including computers, the Internet, and other forms of electronic communication that must be utilized in the proposed program:

Otus is designed to be used on any web-enabled device. It can be used with even the most basic internet connections. This makes sure that all students may use Otus as long as they have internet connectivity.

Many students do not have access to the internet at home. Teachers are able to communicate school work for the eLearning day via a text message. Texts are sent to any authorized student and family member.

Recently, major internet providers started opening their network of WiFi Hotspots during extreme weather conditions or other emergencies.

Ensure appropriate learning opportunities for students with special needs:

Otus allows teachers to provide differentiated learning options for students based on IEP/504 requirements, accommodations, or best practices. Additionally, Otus is designed with guidance by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 (level AA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Otus tries to go beyond them by truly empathizing with our users to build a fluid user experience for everyone.

Monitor and verify each student's electronic participation:

To monitor student progress on assignments throughout the day, teachers and school/district leaders have access to progress dashboards as shown below:

Address the extent to which student participation is within the student's control as to the time, pace, and means of learning:

Otus is accessible to students and family members 24/7/365. This means that the pace in which students work is flexible to the events of the day.

Provide effective notice to students and their parents or guardians of the use of particular days for e-learning:

Otus has a variety of resources available to parents and guardians that describe how Otus is used. These resources are available as brief videos, written instructions, and OnDemand webinars.

Additionally, Otus may be used by teachers to communicate expectations for the eLearning day. It can be communicated to parents via email and text messages, which is then logged and documented within the Otus platform.

Provide staff and students with adequate training for participation on e-learning days:

Otus has a variety of training and professional development options for school systems. It is important to note that all adult users of Otus (teachers, administrators, and family members) are able to access our in-app chat. This is so that they can receive technical support from Otus staff at any time.

To learn more about Illinois Public Act 099-0194, visit

Chicago Tech Leader Ed Earley Joins Otus

Former SpotHero, Scientific Games Exec Enlisted to Scale K-12 EdTech Platform

Otus is a Chicago-based educational technology provider for K-12 school communities. Today they announced the appointment of Ed Earley as Chief Software Architect. 

Earley most recently served as Head of Engineering and Chief Architect at SpotHero. He focused on a large-scale transformation of the company’s engineering organization. He also worked closely with the architecture and internal processes. Earley previously served as CTO at Scientific Games. There he oversaw all aspects of multiple casino gaming business lines in U.S. and European markets. Earley holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a master’s from the University of Chicago.

As part of Otus’ leadership team, Earley will focus on building up the EdTech platform’s architectural and technology vision. Additionally, he will be scaling the engineering team’s processes and organization.

“Ed has a proven track record of building high-performance teams and innovative platforms,” said Otus Chief Operating Officer Keith Westman. Furthermore, “His leadership and vision will help take Otus to the next level in our mission to transform K-12 edtech and help educators, students and parents be more productive, connected and informed. This is an incredibly exciting next chapter for Otus.”  

“Joining Otus offered a profound opportunity to build an industry-leading platform that fosters student growth and shapes the next generation of learners, ” said Earley. “I knew I wanted to be part of that transformation, bringing my decades of experience in delivering cutting-edge architecture and building dynamic teams to help keep this company at the forefront of edtech.”

About Otus EdTech Platform

Otus is free for students, teachers, and families. It was recently named by Built In Chicago as one of the 100 best places to work in Chicago. Otus has also been recognized as the “Best Learning Analytics Solution” by EdTech Digest.  The company recently unveiled several added features. These include: its new student profile, which highlights student performance across a variety of metrics and timeframes, as well as its interactive historical analytics, which will be available in 2019 to enhance educators understanding of student performance and improvement over time. Above all, all of these tools are designed to support the successful implementation of initiatives such as standards-based grading, differentiated instruction, and data-informed decision making.

Our teachers don't like standards-based grading. Now, what?

Listen to Lisa Westman discuss ways schools can overcome teacher objections to the standards-based grading initiative.

Also read, "What is standards-based grading?"