Blockchain is (still) the word of the day when it comes to technology in the media. While the reports are mixed as to its efficacy, need, implementation – basically everything – there is no doubt that the underlying groundswell of interest points to it being something that could indeed change the game. As we’ve previously explored, blockchain at its most basic level is a data record that is tamperproof. It sounds fairly mundane, yet its applications are far reaching.
Where it hasn’t been talked about as much, is when it comes to education. But there are some interesting applications it could have. Part of the broader conversation about the future of higher education institutions in a digital age is the challenge faced when it comes to collaborative learning, and the skills required for the future of work.
For instance, universities and education institutions currently hold our ‘educational identity’. Their accreditation means that only they can deem students worthy of being at a certain level of knowledge – and only their officially stamped transcript or certificate can ‘prove’ to potential employers a candidate is qualified. Often, such transcripts have to be bought directly from the institution, or at the very least, certified by a third party.
A blockchain solution could provide the trust needed to improve this process – and could be required if skills required in a post-automation world become asynchronous, perhaps needing to be gained in the form of micro-credentials, or ongoing subscription-based education.
Other applications for blockchain in education could go to the heart of education itself. Higher Ed institutions have traditionally been quite isolated, walled gardens of knowledge that trade on the quality of the content inside and the value of the paper at the end of a degree. With the democratisation of knowledge brought about by the internet, and the characteristics of upcoming generations who expect things to be as easy and accessible as everything else in their digital lives, this model of knowledge-hoarding may no longer make commercial sense.
Blockchain could be the way that these isolated ecosystems can play with each other, with the good of the content, student or research at heart – allowing a trusted platform where brand identity can be retained, but participation can be collaborative.1 There are also blockchain use cases being made for smart contracts and student debt, and of course, the use of bitcoin for payments will likely need to be addressed at some point in the future.
Understandably, it’s early days when it comes to how blockchain may influence or be utilised by education. Still, it’s going to be an interesting learning process for all as it plays out.