On June 21, East Carolina University and XComP Analytics, Inc. – a newly formed entity backed by several regional entrepreneurs – signed an exclusive license agreement that allows the company to fully develop and grow it's eXtensible Competencies Platform (XComP) developed by ECU researchers.
For the past 10 years, researchers at ECU have used advanced analytics techniques to assess student and institutional performance relative to standards in competence, proficiency and mastery of instructional knowledge, performance skills and professional value components of institutional program curricula.
Traditional institutions have relied solely on course grades to assess student performance, despite this being an inaccurate gauge of competence. Created and developed by R. Todd Watkins Jr., assistant dean of academics and informatics at ECU's School of Dental Medicine, XComP normalizes the most granular data from simple and complex assessments to build a longitudinally-constructed composite picture of overall student performance.
In the past two years, XComP focused on connections to third-party assessment technologies through advanced programming interfaces, customized expression of data to personalized dashboards, and integration with IBM's cloud services and Watson Analytics.
"XComP was initially built to analyze the detailed strengths and weaknesses of students across all courses within a single degree program," Watkins said. "We see XComP as a component of a larger, cloud-integrated ‘educational ecosystem' that connects a wide variety of traditional educational softwares with non-traditional, job-specific performance reporting systems to expand the scope of the project to any level of education and training."
Watkins worked closely with ECU's Office of Innovation and New Ventures to protect the core components of the technology. It was through this process, and the issuing of the initial patent in 2011, that led IBM to Watkins and the XComP platform.
Mark Wdowik, executive director of ECU's Office of Innovation and New Ventures, has been involved in technology transfer and commercialization at several university systems.
"The licensing of XComP to a commercialization partner represents the important start of the exciting phase of commercialization," Wdowik said. "ECU continues to support the project as it enters its next phase of implementation. As an economic driver for the region, ECU is committed to moving research innovation to the marketplace for impact."
Danny W. Mills, president of XComP Analytics, Inc., said the company is working with IBM to expand the business opportunities and the scalability of the original technologies through utilizing microservices, cloud optimization and integrating with IBM Watson. IBM engineers are working with the company to scale the systems for use in any educational and training program around the world.
The XComP technology has expanded far beyond the original design of reporting student performance to include live reporting for both discipline-specific and institutional accreditation, Mills said.
"The rich and detailed data sources contained in XComP will save potentially millions of dollars for the institutions going through the accreditation process and will also serve to enhance the analytics for connected systems," Mills added. "XComP is the next logical step in creating a direct connection between application processes, student performance evaluation, program evaluation and accreditation reporting."
Phillip Hodges and Jim Chesnutt, two local entrepreneurs and ECU alumni, are board members of XComP Analytics, Inc., and investors in the company.
"An implementation of XComP, starting at ECU then throughout the UNC system, could set it apart as a national leader in using collection and analysis of big data for the betterment of the entire education process, in multiple programs, across multiple disciplines," Chesnutt said.
In a recent article, UNC System senior administrators stated that "getting us all on the same fact-based framework, and supplying the data our leaders at every level need is the UNC system's No. 1 priority.
Jay Golden, ECU vice chancellor for Research, Economic Development and Engagement, believes platform can help aid the university in its fight against educational disparities in rural regions.
"One of the pillars of ECU's Rural Prosperity Initiative is to address educational disparities in our region," Golden said. "XComP's novel analytics tool provides an avenue for schools and universities at all levels to better their academic programs and provide more effective, personalized teaching methods for students. ECU and XComP are harnessing big data to solve educational issues that can begin reversing educational disparity trends."
About XComP Analytics Inc.
XComP Analytics, Inc, is a newly formed Delaware Corporation established to exploit the development and eventual sale of the core XComP technology created by ECU over the past several years and recently licensed by the company. XComP is positioned to become a leader in big data analytics in education and has numerous seasoned entrepreneurs from across the nation as management, board members and investors.
ECU offers more than 85 bachelors, 72 masters and 19 doctoral degrees to nearly 29,000 students at its Greenville, N.C., campus and through its acclaimed online learning program. The university is ranked in the top three of the 17 member University of North Carolina System for research expenditures in health sciences, biological and biomedical sciences, life sciences, geological and earth sciences, expenditures of funding from health and human services, and expenditures of funding from businesses. ECU received $3.1 million in total economic development revenue for the 2016-17 academic year, with eight startups formed, six patents issued and 15 total products to market.