The education industry is evolving before our eyes. With the advent of newer technologies, the process of knowledge sharing has spread across the physical and virtual worlds. The need for digitization in the educational sector has been of primary importance.
The rapidly growing education industry has witnessed huge investments in innovative technologies for the development of universities, online courses, colleges, and several research organizations.
The role of emerging technologies such as blockchain has been successful in addressing various issues that the educational institutions are facing for several decades.
Blockchain technology offers solutions to address these problems by reducing cost, improving the overall efficiency, speeding up manual procedures, and providing transparency by offering secured information exchange without the need for third-party involvement.
The use of blockchain has a wide range of benefits for universities such as verifying student credentials, appropriate certification of ownership of intellectual property, financial assistance and grants verification and allocation, admissions, digitizing the paper certificates which helps in sharing educational qualifications with employers digitally.
The growth of blockchain technology has been able to deliver a digital offering that enables students, educational networks, and employers to have a seamless experience in information sharing securely.
Blockchain Technology in Education
Initially, the world was introduced to blockchain technology with the creation of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The primary reason for using blockchain is its ability to allow decentralization.
In recent years, blockchain technology has grown significantly and is useful for several industries. The possibility of making transactions without knowing the other party through various intermediaries has been due to blockchain technology.
Based on various studies conducted by European universities and a report by the Joint Research Center of the European Commission, blockchain technology is found to be an incorruptible system that can offer tremendous value to any educational institution.
The development of the blockchain has been encouraged due to its potential of offering value to an education system with its offerings.
Blockchain can be termed as a distributed ledger, where records of accounts, student grades, certification, and identity-based information can be maintained securely. Ideally, these processes are performed through software today which are centralized.
The problem with a centralized ledger is that all the information would be compromised if it is stolen or damaged and having the backup of such data is technically impossible.
Therefore, blockchain technology is considered more effective due to its decentralized nature, which makes the data immutable in such systems which is a boon for sensitive information.
Blockchain technology provides a distributed ledger in which individual nodes keep a copy of the original ledger while verifying the integrity of new records as well as the copy of it. In the case of failure of nodes, it ensures that the ledger remains stable.
The following section highlights some of the key contributions that are achievable with the help of blockchain in education.
Possible Contributions of Blockchain in Education
The paper-based certificate generation is a lengthy procedure. The need for writing to the administration for releasing certain certificates causes delay and students often face the difficulties of rushing the remaining process in terms of applying for jobs or getting enrolled for other courses.
Blockchain makes it possible for storing all the certificates and credentials in a single platform. The employers or institutions can verify by providing the link of a digital certificate that an individual has earned.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology is among the first institutions that have opted for providing a blockchain-based digitally stored platform for certificates and diplomas of their graduates.
The benefit of such approach is to prevent submission of any fake degree certificates to a potential employer or an institution for enrollment to a degree or certificate course.
Maintaining Student Records
Academic transcripts are one of the most important and valuable records in a student’s career. Schools, colleges, and universities need to maintain all the data accurately for several years in their system. However, the maintenance of the student records is a labor-intensive task and requires to be stored appropriately with manual verification for accuracy.
Such tedious tasks can be handled efficiently with the help of blockchain, ensuring verified records of all the academic achievements being available with the utmost ease. It helps save time for students, teachers, and the office administration department.
The data stored in a blockchain is considered tamper-proof. There are provisions for verification and storing of information with timestamps existing on each tamper-proof block. All the available blocks are authenticated due to time stamps, thus helps in easier verification.
Typically, the credit transfer in the situation of student migration to another institution is time-consuming and often takes time to process. The problem faced by students with a waiting period is that they may miss out on important deadlines for application and verification by the new institute.
Often, there are scenarios where the procedure of credit transfer is not accepted by another institute if it has not been performed with the required procedure. Therefore, blockchain ensures that if the necessary conditions are met by a student, then the credits are automatically transferred as per the agreement.
The process is beneficial to make it automated for issuing degrees on fulfillment of credit criteria by a student which ensures a hassle-free process while the records remain safe and unalterable by any outside source.
Intellectual Property Protection
As several kinds of research are going on in a university, it is crucial to keep it protected if a violation of a certain agreement occurs.
There is a possibility of hackers trying to extract important information from certain research or make some part of research or a stolen technology out in the market. As the data is secure in a blockchain, there is control over the registration, faster and safer that can be accessed by the required sources only.
The blockchain will consist of particular information on who owns the rights and evidence of the creation of the design or technology with time-stamped information and solid evidence to prove it.
The publishing-related works that are the most vulnerable to plagiarism can also be avoided as copyright material will be existing in the blockchain with no scope of alteration due to advanced encryption and complete ownership access.
The academic world will benefit highly from the implementation of blockchain as more institutions look for exposing students to the world of research and publishing their research work in academic journals.
However, most cases of plagiarism have been reported in the field of academic writing, therefore it is necessary to maintain original work with the right authorship that can be referenced but not copied. The possibility of keeping the documents and research safe and secured from forgery is with the use of blockchain.
Blockchain can contribute towards an innovative platform for learning and knowledge sharing. An internal blockchain ecosystem can be developed wherein students can share ideas, study resources, project ideas, downloading resources, and feedback sharing.
With the potential of blockchain platforms ensuring secured record-keeping, digital certificates, and automatic credit transfer, the need for monotonous tasks is reduced significantly.
This allows for automation of these activities leading to reduced cost for educational institutions. The cost of file storage is reduced and the available savings could be better utilized for the development of the institution or helping students with grants and financial aids.
Financial Aids and Grants
The increase in the number of cases related to fake student ID cards and accessing their information for wrongfully manipulating the possible financial aids to potential students have been reported.
With the availability of blockchain, the hacking and manipulation of data are not possible, thus keeping the system protected. Although universities are extremely cautious, however, the number of hacking situations has grown in recent years. Therefore, a blockchain ensures that the rightful and deserving candidates receive grants and financial aids.
The increased number of cases involving fraudulent links for payments have made it a necessity to have a protected network for payment. Blockchain technology is well-suited for such tasks as this technology has found acceptance in major transaction-based companies such as PayPal.
The use of blockchain in the payment gateway of educational institutions ensures reliable transactions with a provision of verifying the credibility of the institution that an individual is making payment for. Blockchain can help to eliminate fraudulent networks that exist in the mode of payments.
Barriers of Blockchain Adoption in Education
As an emerging technology, blockchain adoption presents several challenges. To implement blockchain, will require a wholesome change at the grass-root level along with the technical components that form the backbone of an educational system. Another critical factor to consider is the blockchain regulations that are enacted by the government and the need for a particular infrastructure to propagate the usage of blockchain in the educational platform.
There have been efforts from the European Commission to invest in blockchain technology in education. It will need more investments to spur the adoption of blockchain technology in the future.
Countries like Singapore and Australia are focusing on removing the regulatory hurdles that exist in the adoption of blockchain technology.
To achieve successful adoption of blockchain infrastructure in the educational sector, the institutes must have data standards, increased cost of storage and processing power, data storage locations, and careful analysis of the data that should be allowed to be shared to maintain the security of an individual.
Each institution has its system for record-keeping and student data management, therefore blockchain implementation may cause some chaos.
To have a smooth functioning of blockchain technology in education, there is a need for standards from authoritative bodies like IEEE to set the rules for data privacy, metadata concerns, data storage and availability policies, the type of skills, credits and qualification, the type of data that can be transparent and the ones that need to be private, data governance policies, etc.
Finally, the need for addressing problems like what happens to the existing data in the systems, the possibility of any incorporation of existing and the new system, will the data be available entirely on the blockchain and the organization management when such a system will come into existence.
The cost of training the staff as for an individual without any technical background, the understanding of blockchain technology will be a challenge that will need to be addressed as well.
Universities That Have Implemented Blockchain
- The largest private educational institute in Cyprus called the University of Nicosia has been among the ones to have a fully integrated blockchain infrastructure for student grades, qualification and certification information storage.
- Perhaps, the most popular among the educational institutions in the world in terms of technology has implemented blockchain for their graduate students pursuing diploma courses.
- Woolf University is another educational institution that is among the first blockchain-based universities that processes most of its student-related information with the use of blockchain.
Platforms That Have Implemented Blockchain in Education
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Blockcerts is a platform in which the verification of academic certificates can be performed. The platform allows companies to review the credibility of the documents from the blockchain and sort out any falsified information. The grades, transcripts, and diplomas are some of the documents that can be stored on their blockchain to have insight into past academic achievements.
Achievement: Over 600 students from MIT chose Blockcerts as the platform to receive their digital certificates. The records of these students will be stored permanently, with the possibility of future employers to access and verify them.
Location: London, England
APII enables the verification of credentials of the prospective students and professors. The platform comprises a combination of blockchain, smart contracts, and machine learning to perform the verification procedure.
The users on this platform need to create a profile and fill out their educational history along with transcripts. The blockchain is used for verification of the filled out information and performs a background check and then stores the information.
Achievement: APII along with The Open University has jointly created a platform for storing accreditation and qualification for student record keeping and creation of academic records for alumni from it.
Location: Kaunas, Lithuania
The BitDegree platform has blockchain ledgers and the availability of tokens as well. It is an online education platform with a focus on technology. There are courses such as Cryptocurrency for Dummies and other relevant courses on blockchain to drive people to enter a blockchain career. The tokens are provided in the form of a scholarship as a means to complete the course.
Achievement: The platform has been able to provide paid and free classes on cryptocurrencies to in-depth blockchain courses.
Location: San Jose, California
Gilgamesh is a platform that is based on Ethereum smart connects. Students and authors can connect over a discussion on a novel or other forms of writing. The learners acquire incentives for engaging on the platform and the tokens can be used for purchasing academic e-books.
Achievement: The Gilgamesh app is available on iOS which provides book suggestions and interaction with other learners and professionals for knowledge sharing and a wallet to store the tokens as well.
Location: Chiasso, Switzerland
ODEM is a platform for educators and students to relevant resources and necessary courses. The smart contracts, students, and academic professionals agree upon the courses that need to be enrolled into for improving their professional backgrounds.
The ODEM ledger maintains the record of each course that a student has enrolled for as well as the record of courses that the professors have taught. This allows for boosting the careers of both the students and professors on the platform. The courses can be paid for by the ODEM tokens.
Achievement: The ODEM platform awarded skill badges for students and professors, concerning their necessary skill set and specialization in a specific area. The primary reason behind the creation of the badge is to enable students to take up courses by a professor whose badge displays more growth. On the other hand, students with more growth will have more professors willing with that student for improving their skills.
Sony Global Education
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Sony Global Education is yet another platform that maintains a record of student information and their academic achievements. This platform has partnered with IBM, which offers a blockchain platform for adding individual information of the academic achievements from multiple institutions. It allows for maintaining clear digital records of the students and their academic achievement history.
Achievement: With the use of the platform, Sony could provide certificates for a Global Math challenge. The certificate acts as a report that can help the participants to apply for future education and applications.
Blockchain Education Network
Location: Newark, Delaware
The Blockchain Education Network (BEN) is a blockchain platform comprising the records of students and alumni across the world that are associated with the blockchain and cryptocurrency initiative. It was initially started by students of MIT and the University of Michigan. Currently, BEN has more than 4000 members who share ideas and prototypes related to blockchain technology.
Achievement: It has been reported that the worth of the companies involved in blockchain technology through the platform has a worth of $11 billion.
Location: Kesklinna, Tallinn, Estonia
The platform uses blockchain technology for creating a register that comprises academic achievements and qualifications for various universities. There is a provision for automatic assigning of scores to an individual based on the achievements and qualifications. These scores are accessible for the universities to plan the learning path based on the performance of the student.
Achievement: The Alpha version was released for becoming familiar with the app for the students and universities. The student app allows students to track their educational history whereas the educator-related app allows profiles of the professors, their approach to the teaching style, and different course offerings.
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
Parchment is a platform that provides academic merit verification. Students can share their academic qualifications and achievements with future employers through this platform. K-12 institutions also benefit from the platform by uploading the developmental progress of a student. The higher education institution can benefit from the platform by tracking the academic merit, immutable diplomas, and processing different applications. Students can share their academic achievements with potential employers.
Achievement: The platform has formed a partnership with x2VOL. The provision of looking at a student’s academic career is possible with logs of service hours and their learning experience. This allows employers and universities to have a clearer look at the overall record of a student.
A Decision Pathway for Adopting Blockchain
- The institutions must be wary of several factors before adopting blockchain. The possible factors that will be decisive in the adoption of a blockchain in an educational network are highlighted below.
- Is there a need for a shared database?
- Are there multiple numbers of parties interacting within the system?
- Are there any conflicting interests and trust issues between them?
- The transaction scenarios remain stable for a longer period.
- Transactions are public.
- Various rules for parties involved in communication within the system.
To sum up, blockchain technology has the potential to improve the educational sector in multiple ways. As the technology is related to the secured exchange of information and storage, it is perfect for educational institutions as there is critical information that is available in an educational network.
The use of blockchain has the capability of bringing more efficiency by reducing the need for manual workloads. Higher education and universities also benefit from the use of blockchain by safeguarding the credentials and copyright protection of researches and publications, thus eliminating any malpractice in terms of plagiarism.
The use of blockchain technology in education can help bring the students, industry professionals, researchers, and professors under one platform for meaningful sharing of information and resources. As technology advances, the benefits of implementing such technology is immense.
The acceptance of the technology and a significant amount of commitment to address the possible challenges that need to be taken into account to ensure a successful implementation. The factors such as cost, structure-based changes are involved which are huge decisions for an educational institution. Whether blockchain breaks into the world of education entirely is uncertain.
However, the substantial advantage that is witnessed as evidence with the use of blockchain in education is worth investing in. The promise of blockchain technology must be noted by the educational providers as this is a technology that might impact the educational sector soon.