Contineo: Riding the Washington Accord Wave

By CIOReview Team
The global education technology market is expected to grow to USD 93.76 Billion by 2020. This growth can be attributed to several factors like measuring learning outcomes, blended and flexible learning, cross institution collaborative research, integration of open source resources into learning infrastructure and emergence of video lecture and discussion driven classrooms. “The growth numbers in India are much higher, albeit on a lower base and we are going to witness a strong push towards academic autonomy as a differentiator in a fiercely competitive environment, especially in engineering education, complying with international obligations like Washington Accord (WA) and measuring learning outcomes, introducing transparency and audit ability into core processes through automation,” says Sudhindra Mokhasi, Founder and CEO, contineo. The company is a leading provider of outcome based academic autonomy management solution to premium institutions. This pioneer and category creator team has many ground breaking achievements to its name. For Washington accord compliance, the team worked closely with KLE Technological University and had a solution ready in 2012, two years before Outcome Based Education (OBE) became mainstream. Moreover, when the contineo platform was launched for management of academic autonomy, there was neither any such category nor a standalone solution for the same and institutions used to go for band-aid extensions to their ERPs to manage autonomy processes. 

Empowering outcome based academic autonomy

Sudhindra strongly believes that with the government’s renewed push towards academic autonomy and the growing recognition by institutions of this factor as a key differentiator, the autonomy movement will soon reach a tipping point. He foresees that over the next five years, the role of current educational ERPs will be replaced by strong academics and autonomy management systems supplemented by bare-bones HRMS and SCM systems.

Technology based learning, another key government initiative, is the ultimate leveler, breaking constraints of time, geo-location and dissemination logistics. From app based learning and tutoring to adaptive systems for tailored delivery of education, there are major initiatives from the private sector. “At contineo, we have spent considerable time to connect these dots and identify opportunities and risks for the private sector. We clearly see the private sector launching many initiatives along with their associated experimentation, trials, failures and successes. We will also see some opportunistic substandard offerings proliferate, likely denting academia’s faith in new-IT, and will deter better ideas and relevant products from entering the sector. Over time, adoption will grow and solutions from credible organizations that add sustainable value to academia will prevail,” says Balaji C R, President of the firm.

Philosophy of creating innovative solutions  

Aparna Mokhasi, Co-founder and Director of the company, shares, “We are seen as far-sighted, high quality Product Company by our customers - because of our philosophy of creating innovative solutions for today’s needs and more importantly, offering solutions and roadmap to the customers’ needs of tomorrow. We are also extremely customer centric - and proud of our 100 percent customer retention record.” Six years into serving the education sector, contineo has customers from Jaipur to Thanjavur, long term SaaS contracts - many of them as long as 12 years, marquee customers like M S Ramaiah and KLE Technological University and a healthy 100 percent growth this year.    

Staying ahead of the curve

“We do not rest being category creator and having an early mover advantage but continuously innovate to keep adding value to the customer. We are inspired by two great companies - Apple for product design and Amazon for customer service. Hence, you will find that contineo is the most intuitive, user centric education technology product in the market. Because of the design, our products require minimal training and take the burden out of adoption and use. I would like to say we are customer obsessed instead of customer centric - rather than an impersonal 1-800 number or trouble ticket system, every customer has a designated customer relationship manager,” says Sudhindra. 

contineo has three variants focusing on specific segments. The first variant is for complete student lifecycle OBE and academic autonomy management. Second one – contineo exam is for end term OBE based university grade assessment and the third variant - Accredia OBE is for Tier 2, affiliated institutions that are planning to transition to autonomy. 

Transition to academic autonomy made easy

For most institutions, transition to autonomy is a daunting task and typically has a three/four year stabilization window. From understanding the concepts of autonomy, choosing/defining academic processes of autonomy for their institution, implementing OBE and measuring outcomes, creating processes, templates and guidelines, having mentoring and supervisory oversight, training the academic staff, and having an audit structure to ensure compliance, to maintaining transparent reporting to stakeholders because the institution and not the University is the final academic determinant.

“Compounding this already complex scenario is the fact that institutions try to adapt their current ERP systems to manage OBE and autonomy as well. Almost every new contineo implementation is a replacement of either a home grown or bought out ERP system. contineo is what we like to call ‘OBE based autonomy out of the box’. This is because it has reference templates of autonomy built-in, the institution just needs to tick the boxes for the software to enforce the rules. Audit trail and transparency is maintained and all relevant data is reported to stakeholders through the medium of their choice. Many contineo customers have used the built-in OBE framework to get accredited to NBA, hence the OBE which is quite subjective in guidelines become a concrete implementation,” says Sudhindra. 

contineo OBE is a configurable framework that can accommodate any accreditation agency under the Washington Accord as well as ABET. In addition to the mandatory requirements of these agencies the system is expandable and can support custom tags. The OBE software has been designed for in-process data capture of both tag based and rubrics based data from the relevant stakeholder. In-process capture is important because a typical engineering undergraduate institution of 5000 students generates around 18 lakh data points every semester. Specific to NBA, Contineo fully supports the 2015 formats input, process and outputs. The outputs from Contineo are in the format required for the NBA SAR.

Exploring machine learning, artificial intelligence and foreign markets

“We are seeing the entry of new players in the category created by us. They are not so much of a threat yet because of our four year head start, happy customers and overall recognition of the contineo brand. However, we think competition is healthy as it bolsters the category recognition in the market, gives customers more choices, and keeps us on our toes to innovate incessantly and continue to focus on customer delight. We strongly believe in the potential of machine learning and artificial intelligence and we are exploring these technologies in areas like intelligent course selection for students, recommendation of pedagogical methods based on course content and student profile. For expansion, we are shortly going to announce a tie-up with a US firm to offer ABET accreditation advisory services and we are also planning to go international by increasing our global presence to Peru, Costa Rica and Philippines to start with,” signs off Sudhindra.    

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