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Accreditation management startup for higher education institutions

Epaathsala provides higher education institutions in India a structured project management and ICT tool to manage their compliances. Suman Nandy, Founder, Epaathsala on how the startup is helping institutions prepare for accreditations, including international ones, using cutting-edge technologies

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Epaathsala was started by Suman Nandy and Prabol Bhandari. Working at Ernst & Young in USA in accreditation and compliance for corporates and other institutions, both have a wealth of experience in managing accreditation process and compliances using ICT tools and structured project management. During a visit to India, Nandy identified that educational institutions here lack a proper tool and structured project management to manage their accreditation and compliance. “Accreditation is mandatory, and with the lack of a dedicated accreditation management team, the institutions depend on individual consultants and the entire process is managed completely manually,” says Nandy, adding that ICT has been made mandatory as part of various affiliation and accreditations. Moreover, accreditation is also being mandated by the governing agencies. Accreditation also helps all institutions to provide quality teaching learning as per international standards to all students.

The first major milestone was achieved back in 2014 when one institution prepared the accreditation report completely using this software. Nandy mentions that soon many such instances followed and Epaathsala started working with other premier institutions in the country. “Epaathsala got its first round of investment in 2015 and a follow up round of investment in 2016. The investment helped to provide the much needed support for building a scalable solution as well as expansion. Soon Epaathsala was being used by multiple institutions across the country,” he says, disclosing that the company started its first international expansion in 2017 when a pilot software was implemented in an institution in Australia. An entirely new version of the software was created with the help of international partners from USA and Europe for the international market. Global plans include expanding footprint in the Australian market in the coming months.

Managing compliances
Epaathsala was formed to provide the higher education institutions in India a structured project management and ICT tool to manage their compliances at a very affordable cost. It is available both as an open source as well as a cloud based software. “Data is easily collected from multiple stakeholders using an easy-to-use web based interface and the reports and supporting documents are automatically created. Moreover, it also supports required ICT processes such as Feedback, LMS, MCQ, Psychometric test, PO-CO attainment calculation etc. to name a few,” states Nandy, indicating that the process of preparing the reports and supporting documents takes sometimes years and is prone to manual error. Epaathsala is the only ICT software helping the institutions to manage this process effectively, thereby reducing the time taken to prepare the reports in weeks as compared to months. Moreover, there are very limited chances of error as the entire data is compiled and the report is prepared by the software.

Nandy points out that Epaathsala also contains the supporting ICT software required. The traditional ERPs available in India do not cater to the requirement completely. “For example, every ERP would probably have an option for student feedback but hardly any ERP would have an option for 360 degree feedback. Similarly, PO-CO attainment calculation linked to assessment, online MCQ, Assignment and other direct and indirect assessment methodologies makes it very easy for the faculties to implement a robust attainment monitoring system, introduce timely intervention and ultimately ensure that the quality attainment is achieved by the students by the end of their program,” he explains.

Cutting-edge technologies
Innovation using cutting-edge technologies has been one of the key focus areas of Epaathsala. Nandy reminds that traditionally, many faculties in the institutions are not aware of how to use computers. Epaathsala has conducted multiple market survey and design iterations and field trials to implement a system where faculties who are not very familiar with computers can easily use it to enter data.

Further, Epaathsala has also recently introduced an Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) based Learning Management System where the system can proactively identify the students who would need academic and other support and helps the faculties to provide timely intervention to the students for the same. “The system also helps the career counsellors to identify the right career option for the students using a combination of psychometric test and machine learning over past placement records based on the demographics and academic and extra curricular performance of the student,” shares Nandy.

Regarding future plans, Nandy reveals that Epaathsala will continue to invest on AI and ML based technologies to provide a single platform for accreditation management and Learning Management for higher education institutions.

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