The blockchain is a foundational technology that has made waves in finance, supply-chain logistics, and governance. Blockchain presents an opportunity to create a significant amount of disruption in a lot of spaces. Its promise of disintermediation and efficiency is being noticed by a lot of people, including educators, administrators, and people interested in improving education.
Blockchain in the education space is gaining momentum, paradigm-shifting ideas are out there. Using blockchain as a means of creating a digital identity and associating credentials from issuers is producing some really interesting blockchain applications.
Recently University of Basel’s Center for Innovative Finance became the first Swiss university to issue blockchain based certificates. Last year, an MIT pilot program gave 111 graduates blockchain credentials in collaboration with Learning Machine using an app called Blockcerts. Coding Dojo has also issued almost 400 blockchain based certificates to its graduates.
“Fraudulent documents are a problem in academia just as it is in any field,” he [Dr. Fabian Schär] said. “By securing credentials on the Blockchain, we provide an extra layer of security for graduates and potential employers. These credentials can’t be faked and can be easily verified online. It will introduce a new paradigm of security and offer value to all parties – employers don’t lose time checking credentials, graduates have an edge, and the institutions themselves reduce their reputational risk and a significant administrative burden.”
Credentialing may seem like a simple way of using blockchain to augment education on the surface, but its implications can be far-reaching. Sony has created an initiative to use blockchain as a way of storing educational information, a digital transcript, which will follow a student.
“We believe that highly reliable individual performance data in educational services is [as] valuable as personal credit information. By using blockchain, the authenticity of the transcript will be secured, and the examiner will be able to manage their data and share it with others safely. We aim to achieve trust through a completely new network with further development.”⁶
Fathom, a decentralized protocol for creating and assessing credentials envisions a “… universal credential ecosystem, where individuals are free to learn what they please how they please and earn credentials that are meaningful and trustworthy to anyone in the world.” Digital certificates and credentialing are out in the wild now, how widely it will be adopted, accepted, and its long-lasting effects are yet to be seen.
ODEM (On-Demand Education Marketplace) is a platform that removes the intermediaries between educators and students. The creators of ODEM believe that high-quality education is too expensive. They are currently beta testing a platform that uses their ODEM tokens and the Ethereum blockchain as an alternative way to get and pay for education.
Ryan Craig, an author of College Disrupted, has some interesting thoughts on how distributed ledger technology can change the way we pay for education.
“… DLT-based credential means the mechanism by which that credential is financed will be verifiably baked into the credential itself.”
Craig posits that this combination allows for financiers of education to no longer fund the institutions but the students themselves.
“… focus government support on those who need it most. Because current postsecondary spending isn’t targeted, early childhood educators, K-12 educators, and social workers aren’t getting enough help, while tens of billions of dollars a year are wasted on supporting future top earners in fields like technology and finance.
Blockchain technology won’t solve everything that ails our educational system. It shouldn’t be shoehorned into solutions for problems that could be fixed with existing tools, and things aren’t going to happen overnight, but things are changing, and we should be excited for the future of blockchain.