Blockchain and Education
Institute of Blockchain Singapore Article
Author: Andrew Ong
#IBS #instituteofblockchain #blockchain #blockchaineducation
Blockchain technology is commonly identified as the underlying technology of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Yet, there are potentially many use cases that exist beyond cryptocurrencies that can help us rethink and reconstruct existing imperfect infrastructures, such as education systems. Many elements of blockchain technology such as open access, peer-to-peer networks, and immutability can prove incredibly beneficial in improving current infrastructures in education.
Accessing all our certificates and transcripts on the blockchain, digitally and easily.
Digitally Secure and Easily Accessible Education Records
Digital certificates and documents uploaded and managed on the blockchain are extremely secure and resistant to “physical wear and tear” that traditional or paper documents suffer from. These digital records can also be easily shared with any party, such as another school, or a future employer, with great ease. This would make the transfer and sharing of academic documents seamless and efficient between all parties who would require it.
For instance, an app called Blockcerts Wallet used in The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, allows students to receive virtual diplomas via their smart devices. These e-diplomas can be easily validated by the university and can be easily shared with employers. They are also resistant to physical damage or loss, as they are permanently stored on the blockchain, and can be accessed any time, from any location.
Instead of long and manual verification processes, blockchain can reduce the costs of validation and cross-checking of a candidate’s qualifications.
Validation of Certificates and Degrees
In addition, a large problem faced is the use and circulation of fake degrees and certifications in various industries. Universities, companies, and organizations can rake up huge amounts of cost when attempting to verify and validate a candidate’s degrees and documents. It is a long and costly process to go through multiple intermediaries and agents, to search through old and poorly maintained databases, simply to retrieve someone’s qualifications. The blockchain can serve as a solution to this problem.
By uploading all certificates and diplomas on an open blockchain for all education documents, any employer or organization can easily enter a candidate’s information and retrieve their data and background instantaneously. As all data is transparent and immutable, employers or organizations can verify when the certificates were issued, who issued them, and cross-check with the issuing organizations own records. A great example of a current system is one that is managed by Sony Corporation and IBM. They have developed a platform that manages student records from various institutions and provides interested parties a convenient platform to validate these certifications.
A student’s entire attendance record on the blockchain? This would reduce administrative time for teachers and educators.
Cost Effective Processes
By using the blockchain to record all student activity such as attendance, test scores, and activities, this would reduce the administrative costs and loss of time faced by educators in recording all these activities in paper-and-pen documents. By reducing the need and time spent on administrative actions such as filing and documentation, a blockchain can contain all databases and ledgers needed to record student activity. This could extend to settling and managing school finances and teacher performance scores on the blockchain as well, reducing administrative costs the school would face.
An example of such an institution would be the Holberton School in San Francisco, which uses blockchain technology to manage student transcripts, records, scores and other activities. By using the blockchain to reduce administrative costs and time spent, this would give educators more time and resources to work productively on developing and refining better lesson plans for students, as well as spending more time interacting and grooming students.
Democratized Access to Education
Many people around the world do not have access to education and materials due to their location or socio-economic conditions. Building upon the idea of MOOCs, such as Udemy and edX, education materials on the blockchain will further democratize education and make it available to those who need it most. Currently, educators would mostly teach online courses through centralized institutions and schools. With the blockchain, anyone from content creators, to developers, to artists and more, would be able to register on this platform and share their knowledge with users. Individual educators would be compensated for their knowledge and content, without paying the fees towards a centralized entity, hence making costs of education more affordable for users. A decentralized model of education platforms would also enable a restriction-free circulation of knowledge and expertise, which would be beneficial to students who want to learn from a wider variety of topics and disciplines. Ultimately, the blockchain will remove the need for centralized entities running education platforms, creating a direct peer-to-peer transfer of knowledge at lower costs.
LiveEdu is one such company working on a blockchain based learning platform. They connect various participants, such as educators and professionals, with learners and students across the globe. These participants can then interact freely, without restriction or limitation, as to which topics or modules to take. Learners and students also enjoy lower costs as no transaction or commission fees are paid to a centralized body.
The blockchain can be used to help incentivize students to pursue learning and academic excellence.
Edtech and Innovations
Self-education and self-improvement are vital in the digital age where new jobs and new skills are constantly required as technology changes. Blockchain technology, or more specifically, cryptoeconomic principles, can be used to create a platform that incentivizes people to take education courses and earn tokens for doing so. For instance, LiveEdu issues EDU tokens. These tokens can be used to download materials, do projects, work collaboratively with content creators, and a whole set of other activities. The more a user learns, and the more material and experience is covered, the more EDU tokens that user will receive. Tokens are also issued if you take on responsibilities as a community moderator or get your friends to join the platform. This will drive user behaviour to learn actively and be rewarded with tokens and could be a model that institutions can adopt to drive higher student motivation.
In addition, there exists a gap between a student’s academic records in school, and how that translates into value for a future employer. By knowing which modules or projects the student has completed in school, and having easy access to that information, employers can better evaluate a candidate. An example of this can be seen from an initiative called The Ledger Project, which tracks everything a student has completed and learned on an “Edublock”. Their goal is to make it easier for potential employers to screen through the experience and lessons a student has taken, to find skills that match their needs. This would help bridge the skill gap between school and industry for students.
Life Long Learning Passport
To take things one step further, some organizations are working on building a “lifelong learning passport”. This is a series of records that detail every single achievement and activity of an individual on the blockchain, for anyone to access. One example of this would be Open University. They create Open badges, which act as tokens of achievement that aim to present a holistic view of a candidate’s life-long experience and skills. This would give potential employers a more complete view of a candidate, beyond his or her academic records.
Many elements of education such as physical diplomas prone to damage or loss, paper-and-pen administrative tasks, or high costs and inaccessibility, can potentially be addressed by blockchain technology and its innovations. In fact, many organizations have already started refining and revamping current education systems by proposing alternative models and solutions. In time, education will become a globally accessible resource that is available regardless of a student’s background or circumstance.