Gradeschool teachers are increasingly using a variety of software products throughout the school day. They’re grading a math test in one program, documenting student behavior in another, taking attendance in a separate program and using a different digital platform to show students a movie.
Some teachers are being asked to use upwards of 15 different technology tools throughout the day, creating a time-consuming and inefficient work environment that often pulls teachers away from the thing they do best: teach.
That was the takeaway by Keith Westman and the team at Otus, a Chicago-based EdTech startup that’s working to eliminate these inefficiencies for teachers with its all-in-one platform that puts those tech tools in one place. The goal is to give teachers a better platform to handle all of their technology needs so they can give more attention to their students.
“We are strong believers that EdTech is not going to change the world. Amazing teachers will change the world,” said Westman, Otus’ COO. “But they do need a platform so they don’t have to do everything in 15 different spots.”
Otus lets teachers do everything from take attendance, grade a test, note student behavior issues and provide interactive lessons. Using classroom devices like tablets and laptops, students can use Otus to complete assignments and provide teachers with feedback on how well they understand the material. For example, after a lesson a teacher can give each student a 1-question survey about how they felt about the lesson. If, say, four students marked that they were confused, the teacher can see that data in real time and connect with each of those kids later in the day to provide additional support.
Parents also have access to Otus and can see student grades and behavior updates in real time. Teachers can also communicate with parents within the Otus platform.
Launched in 2014, Otus is in 80 school districts around the country and has around 250,000 users, Westman said. The startup has 24 employees in its West Loop office, many who are former educators themselves. That’s what helps set Otus apart from other tech tools designed for the classroom, Westman said. The startup was built by teachers, for teachers.
“Teachers can tell when EdTech tools are not designed by people who’ve ever stepped into the classroom,” Westman said. “The EdTech industry has really overwhelmed teachers to the point where it’s not helping solve many problems.”
Otus costs school districts roughly $10 per student, but decreases for larger districts. In the future, Otus plans to use the data it collects to help districts create a new system of report cards, which could tell a much more comprehensive story about a student’s performance than just grades and test scores.
Ultimately, Otus wants to help school districts use technology in a smarter way, allowing teachers to be less bogged down with tech and have more time to create connections with students.
“We don’t believe EdTech is going to be the silver bullet that’s going to transform education. It’s always going to be humans helping humans.”