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Friday, August 22, 2014

Otus - A Great Online Learning Environment

Otus is a free online learning environment that I first learned about in July. One of the founders of the company recently gave me a hands-on tour of the environment, I was impressed by the possibilities of what I saw. Otus was originally designed to be a service for teachers to distribute assignments, quizzes, polls, reading materials, and essential information from their iPads to their students' iPads. Otus has expanded to support use within a web browser on laptops and Chromebooks.

To get started with Otus sign up as a teacher either on the iPad app or in your web browser. Once you have registered as a teacher you can create classrooms. Students join your classroom through either the student iPad app or through a web browser. Either way students have to enter your class code to become a member of your Otus classroom.

The possibilities for teachers using Otus seem limitless. A few of the key features that grabbed my attention are the polling tools, the resource libraries, and the assessment tools. The polling function in your Otus classroom allows you to quickly create and deliver one question polls to your students. You can create your poll as a multiple choice, true/false, or open response poll. You can choose to display names next to poll responses or hide names.

The resource libraries in Otus are called bookshelves. In each of your Otus classrooms you can create bookshelves of reading materials in PDF format, add links to resources, and soon you'll be able to import files from your Google Drive account. Resources can be organized into folders and labeled with tags for easy sorting as you build your bookshelves. You can choose any item from your bookshelves to share with any of the students in your Otus classroom. It appears that you can share with an entire class or share with an individual student.

In the assessment section of your Otus classroom you can create multiple choice, true/false, and open response questions. You can assign assessments to students to complete immediately or to complete by a specified date. Soon you'll be able to create assessments that ask students to hand write and annotate materials.

Applications for Education
I only listed my favorite options in Otus, there are many others to explore. If you're looking for a good way to distribute lesson materials and assessments to students through your iPad or Chromebook, Otus is well worth taking some time to explore.

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