At the intersect between education and technology

What Blockchain Means for Higher Ed

While there has been plenty of buzz around blockchain and the ways it’s going to revolutionise everything from global finance to our daily lives, the implications of this new technology for the Education industry hasn’t gotten a lot of attention.

But, a new patent from Sony has hinted at the idea that the Japanese tech giant might be developing uses for blockchain in education. Back in August last year, Sony announced it was cooperating with IBM on a suite of education services that used blockchain to secure student records and data sharing.

According to digital marketing experts, One Stop Media, the largest users of Blockchain technology will be industries that require strict proof of identity. Blockchain offers a digital identity solution where authentication is secure and indisputable, and using it can mitigate data manipulation by internal or external threats.

Something education providers are all too aware of since universities and colleges became serious targets for hackers throughout 2017.

Adopting blockchain technology could provide plenty of benefits for the higher education sector.

Perhaps most exciting is its ability to permanently and securely store all records. Student records contain life-long identifying information. Maintaining the privacy and security of student data stored by academic institutions is of paramount importance, often involving costly storage and disposal processes for the boxes of paper-files. Blockchain could essentially eliminate paper from the equation; issuing reliable certificates and awards, transferring credits and keeping track of achievements of a student’s entire academic career.

When we breakdown all the hype and jargon surrounding it, the blockchain itself is simply a ledger. A record of transactions. In the case of cryptocurrencies, it’s recording the financial details – who sent it, how much was sent, who received it. It’s a pattern that is ideally suited to recording academic credentials as well. Essentially, a grade for a paper or a course is just another type of value, and the pertinent information is exactly the same as in a financial situation, who issued the grade, who received it, and what it’s total value was.

In this way, blockchain also removes the need for having a central authority validate certificates and transcripts. Instead, the technology will be able to make all diplomas publicly verifiable and available, eliminating the need to submit copies to employers to prove you have a degree. It will even be able to track citations and first publications, instead of relying on a supervising body manually performing the tasks.

Blockchain-based cryptocurrencies also have the potential to simplify payment to institutions, as well as significantly reducing the costs of data management across the board.

But the biggest obstacle to blockchain’s adoption by the higher education sector is a cultural one. Education has always been a slow adopter of new technologies, and it’s often the students at institutions who adopt technology trends first, forcing universities and schools to fall in line with student demands. The blockchain provides a transparent platform on which a rich, secure global network for higher learning could be developed, but it’s up to the education sector to use it to its advantage.

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