Otus is about to release a major update to their extensive, teacher friendly and FREE Learning Management System. First of all, Otus wants to give the reins to the students and allow them to take ownership of their learning. The user has complete autonomy in setting up their own profile in the color, photo choices, or emotion of their choice. One change that I not only noticed but also assisted me in the review of this app is the addition of words as opposed to relying solely on icons. They do use the universal mountain pic for photo and the ubiquitous trash can.
As a special education teacher, I was happy to hear that they had added a co-teacher option so that two teachers could share the same class.
- Flags for teachers use only
- Behavior Reinforcers for motivational purposes keeps a detailed running record
- Otus Browser (for the iPad only), which can be turned on or off
- i button to easily scan individual profiles, the i button indicates additional information is available
- Transfer student profile without losing data
- Flexible seating chart, great for making collaborative or cooperative groups
- Real time book shelf, easily shared with others
- Chrome feature revamped to make adding to your Bookshelf easier
- Interactive poll
- Renewed teacher and student blog space
ED PEN – a built in the workspace for adding images, sketching, and annotation of what is happening real time. This includes the option to use this space for solving math problems as well. Another added bonus is the partnerships that Otus has forged with some leading educational name companies, Khan Academy, Open Ed, as well as other major players. These outside resources that have been directly incorporated into the app allow for adding content of any kind and the ability to use the built in data tools that Otus has been fine tuning.
In an overview given by co-founder Chris Hull, he pointed out that one of the updates he was most proud of - the ability to search and align content to the Common Core State Standards. This can be done by strand, project, grade level, or any other way in which the teacher wants to configure it, including individual questions. It is intuitive and uses logic to simplify the life of any educator tied to the CCSS. The key idea is that that the language of the CCSS is the same no matter who is using it. Not using the standards exclusively? Not a problem, Otus has that covered and a teacher can customize any standard and add it to their data collection. If you are one of those teachers that work best by color-coding or organizing in a visual way this LMS is dreamy. Data, did I mention the data capabilities of this LMS, well they are extensive and available in real time. A teacher can make their own formative assessment questions and individualize them for different individuals within the same class. This is HUGE in the ability to easily differentiate instruction. Chris also is very "...excited to provide teachers access to their students learning data to help maximize the insights and learning taking place".
The system has a class feed that can be utilized by both students and teachers. Chris mentioned that the power of pulling up one student’s post and the capability of easy student conferencing is another powerful component. A toolbox is two-fold; you can connect to your favorite outside features and smoothly integrate them for student use, think Grammarly. Or use the formidable data and analytics collection system to fine-tune each individual student’s profile,
Consider Otus as an “open educational ecosystem” that allows sharing and collaboration amongst teachers as well as alleviating the endless paper workload. This LMS can empower teachers to collect all the necessary data in one easy to access place, and that includes simple attendance records to grades as well as participation. What TWA likes best is the attention to the whole child. Otus gives a complete overview of each student and this system is not only powerful, it is completely flexible and is designed with an easy interface along with short tutorials that replicate having a personal assistant. This new and improved Otus LMS has taken into consideration that not all teachers are comfortable using tech and they have broken down the videos to help learn one feature at a time.
The best account shared by Chris was about some teachers that were able to do an error analysis with a social studies test that had one question assessing math skills that had not been taught to those students. Best part, Otus allows for teacher overrides to actually degrade the test without that particular question. Convinced yet, that this tool made by teachers for teachers is a gift from the gods, remember it is also free!