The applications of blockchain in higher education could disrupt the sector. In 2017 the University of Melbourne began utilizing blockchain to grant digital certificates, allowing students to exchange authenticated versions of their qualifications in a tamper-resistant network with employers and other third parties. Different ways of implementing blockchain technology are developing all the time in the higher education market. Many high-profile ventures have gained considerable media coverage in the last few years, fueling further interest in blockchain based education application development.
Since blockchain is an evolving technology, educational leaders, like executives in other sectors, are finding additional evidence of the mainstream application of blockchain (beyond cryptocurrency). Most are wary about investing valuable capital in a technology that is still maturing. But there are drawbacks to spending too long on the sidelines.
Institutions that are now starting to understand the technology and the value it can provide through realistic use cases will be well-positioned to benefit from its operational benefits.
As part of their work professors publish articles and papers daily. Under the conventional method, when a professor begins his or her thesis, there is no way to tell whether a similar academic study is underway. Additionally, the work itself has a lot of piracy. Using blockchain helps solve these issues. Blockchain can enable educators to freely publish content while keeping track of reuse, without restricting the source material. Such a program will allow teachers to be rewarded based on the amount of actual use and reuse of their teaching materials, similar to how they are rewarded based on the number of quotations given in their research papers. Students and schools will then be able to make metric-based choices on which to use instructional materials. Teachers may announce their resources being released and connected to them, as well as the other resources that they used to produce the content.
Crypto-coins may be awarded to educators according to their respective resource reuse standards. Coins would not be spendable in an open scenario, but would instead be used to assess the prestige of the author. Coins would have intrinsic value in a closed situation, which would result in monetary compensation. A more advanced implementation would scan resources automatically to recognize the percentage of other resources that have been reused and automatically issue awards. A “wise” (or self-executing) contract, for example, may allocate payments to writers depending on how much their material is quoted or used. Authors will no longer have to go through intermediaries like academic journals, which often restrict their usage by charging high access fees.
Institutions of higher education hold the completed course records of the students in proprietary formats. Such databases are designed with little to no interoperability, with exclusive access by the employees of an institution, and are dedicated electronic networks. Further, the majority of institutions have their specialized system for keeping students’ completed course records, which preserves the proprietary data structure of the database. Additionally, most universities have their unique system for maintaining the finished curriculum records of students, which maintains the database’s proprietary data structure. Even if the certificate issuing institution were to shut down, or if the whole education system failed, such certificates will still be verifiable against the records held in a database.
Furthermore, if entities issue a certificate, there is no need for more attempts to validate the authenticity of that certificate to third parties, as the certificate can be checked directly on the blockchain. For instance, the MIT Digital Certificates project provides an open-source platform for the development, sharing, and verification of educational certificates based on blockchain. On the blockchain, digital certificates are registered, signed cryptographically, and are tamper-proof.
Another persistent problem for institutions has been, frequently putting students at a disadvantage when they realize, for example, that they have to retake courses to meet the requirements of a new institution. Students also face difficulties transitioning to another institution of higher education while also maintaining and confirming courses completed at a previous institution. In situations where a student decides to move to an institution in another country, where language and different procedures are likely to pose additional obstacles, this issue is much more severe. Also, record management requirements differ which can make it difficult to share interinstitutional documents.
Credit transfers generally rely on institutions agreeing on agreements to accept each other’s credits subject to certain conditions, but they are often not noticed by students reporting such agreements. Such agreements may be written as blockchain-based smart contracts with a blockchain approach, whereby the credits will be transferred automatically upon fulfillment of the contract conditions.
For educational institutions, it is another persistent issue, requiring a lot of manual intervention and providing many opportunities for data tampering. Validation of a student’s identity once occurs through a digital phase. The blockchain network stores information about that document, rather than storing the student identity document. Students and work applicants may use blockchain to mark themselves online while retaining control over the storage and management of their data. Inside larger organizations, students have to interact with various sections of the company daily.
For these instances, either each part of the organization collects the student data on its own, or the organization uses a single sign-in, whereby all parties within the organization use one shared copy of the student data. In any of these models, tens or even hundreds of individuals can have access to personal information about a student. Maintaining the data is protected involves maintaining access privileges for all those individuals, and also ensuring their computers are secured – a daunting task, if not impossible. For blockchain, only a select few – namely the parties in charge of verifying the identity of a student – have access to the data. Other than that it is in the possession of the author. It ensures that the company no longer has to handle the complicated access rights programs, and instead has to protect the computer or network where the initial testing is carried out. It eliminates the necessity of additional expenditure to solidify the network against data breaches, train data security personnel, and maintain access rights.
Once it comes to blockchain technology in the education field, the possibilities are theoretically infinite. Blockchains can handle anything from attendance to record-keeping — and these are all instances that are being actively explored.