Application of blockchain technology in education

We are living in an era of unprecedented innovation. We are witnessing a convergence of digital, physical and biological realms as connectivity is increasing. Emerging technologies like Blockchain technology, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) are transforming every field. Application of blockchain technology is emerging in the field of education.

Introduction to Blockchain

Blockchain technology is maturing across sectors and it has enormous untapped potential to change the game in the field of education. As stated in a report from a market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), global spending on blockchain solutions reached ~$2.1 billion in 2018.

Blockchain creates a cryptographically secure and immutable decentralized ledger system to facilitate peer-to-peer systems, manage data in form of records, transfer value via digital contracts and track real-world objects. Blockchain enables the transfer of assets among parties securely-allowing every participant in the network to own a piece of the network by hosting a node. Democratic design is a defining feature of Blockchain technology. Digital currency is a significant and widespread application of Blockchain technology. As of early July 2018, the total crypto currency market cap (spanning 1,629 currencies) was valued ~$255 billion (Source: Blockchain Beyond the Hype, World Economic Forum).

Students of today travel and study abroad, they pursue a mobile learning style which has propagated a need to share data in a secure and seamless manner. Blockchain, an emerging technology, can reduce data management costs effectively by making needed changes in the operational and technical models of higher education.

Blockchain’s Applications in Education

Blockchain obviates the need for a central authority/system. This is how it creates a decentralized system:

  • Blockchain maintains a digital form which allows a user to store his/her information like credentials, certifications, transactions and other related information.
  • A new “Block” is created for every update and added to the “chain”. All the entries can be managed, validated and circulated.
  • Transaction histories are archived making the database or the ledger transparent and secure for every stakeholder involved.

Implementation of Blockchain technology in education revolves around peer-to-peer interactions which are used to:

  • Store learner’s credentials and qualifications permanently
  • Authenticate learner’s transcripts
  • Enable credit transfers
  • Provide a central platform to enable collaboration among educational institutions and organizations

Digital Identification

Blockchain ensures ‘Digital Identity’ by maintaining ‘Digital Certificates’ of learners which are stored cryptographically. It provides a digital process for validation of learners’ identities by storing the information about the document holding the learner’s details. Various stakeholders in the system can exchange and access digital records.

Credit Transfer

Blockchain can be used to transfer credits by storing ‘Digital Contracts’ which holds the conditions laid down by the institutions for credit transfer. Credits will be transferred automatically upon the fulfillment of the conditions mentioned in the Contract. Blockchain allows institutions to update the Digital/Smart Contracts as well.

Blockchain is a nascent technology. Adopting Blockchain technology requires active involvement as well as collaboration from all the stakeholders. Implementation of Blockchain technology in education requires change management. Every educational institution will have to adhere to common standards co-created by potential catalysts and policymakers.

Blockchain can reinvent education and such transformations cannot happen automatically. Institutions need to participate, understand and experiment with the implementation of Blockchain technology in education individually or as a part of a consortium.

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