These are excerpts from a thorough and accurate review of Otus by Common Sense Media. Our team is humbled by the positive remarks and motivated by what we consider honest constructive feedback about our product. Read the full review at commonsense.org.
How can I teach with this tool?
It’s not often that teachers come across a technology tool that delivers as much as Otus, much less a free one. With many opportunities to manage grades, class content, and student data, the site can feel overwhelming at first; however, with some up-front investment, teachers will find it a valuable resource for managing instruction and pulling in valuable data points from third-party resources such as Khan Academy, PARCC, NWEA, and more. Use Otus to create and grade standards-based assessments, to get feedback from and about students, including video responses, document uploads, and quick polls, and to access detailed reports to disaggregate data and create more individualized assessments and targeted skill practice. Host topic discussions and cultivate writing skills via a class blog. Draw from the item bank to address specific skills, and then automatically assign an assessment to a group of students you’ve identified.
Teachers can support a variety of learning modalities by letting students choose formats for submitting assignments, and they can encourage student ownership by collaborating with them to curate digital portfolios. While student-to-student collaboration capabilities are limited, communication options abound for classes, students, and parents.
What is it?
Otus is an online learning management system (LMS) that focuses heavily on using student data to inform instruction. Signup options via email or platforms like Microsoft, Google, and Clever make getting started a snap. Students can access their classes via a class code, but they’ll need to use an email address to sign up. Teachers can create lessons or assessments (simple, advanced, or rubric-based) to assign by class, individual, or group using one or more data points. They can flag students to create behavioral and academic data points to help provide a clearer picture of student progress. Support is available via videos, screenshots, and an extensive blog, but sifting through all that’s available to find what you need can take some effort.
Luckily, Otus offers tons of content to lessen the burden. Teachers can upload content, add from Google Drive, or search via the OpenEd resource feature. Teachers can save desired content on the Bookshelf to be easily located and used as needed, and the ability to draw student data from third-party sites can be a valuable time-saver in terms of figuring out students’ strengths and struggles. The filters for finding items are very useful, but it will take effort to build assessments that fit students’ needs. Although the design is a bit bland, and teachers should be ready to spend some time using trial and error as they learn, the wealth of free resources available makes for time well spent.
Is it good for learning?
Finding effective ways to assign relevant content, collect responses, keep notes, and communicate with students and parents is essential in the 21st-century environment. The current drive toward differentiated, data-driven instruction can feel like an impossible expectation, but tools like Otus enhance teachers’ ability to use student data to inform their teaching. The platform encourages a balance between skill practice and creativity, and the ability to access so many resources in one place can serve to eventually reduce teacher workload — encouraging teachers to plan deliberately by giving students access to challenging, differentiated content that promotes higher-order thinking skills.
The ability to identify students’ behavioral and learning needs can help teachers meet students where they are and help them achieve success and develop confidence. Of course, no tool can replace good teaching, and teachers will want to avoid overreliance on data that can at times be subjective or incomplete. Teachers should be sure to develop a variety of assignments and assessments to gather a clear picture of student learning, but Otus can make the overwhelming task feel achievable.