Do you think blockchains could disrupt the current education system? As an educator, I am constantly bubbling with ideas for using blockchains within my job and with my students. The use cases are quite wide, and the development is bound to come eventually as blockchain technology is more readily understood and more widely adopted.
The blockchain space has increasingly shown more applications for real-life use cases in a variety of fields. Every day, we see new changes to this growing genre of technological development, including many major companies coming out in support of blockchain technology and exploring their applicability. As information on blockchain technologies has reached more people, we have seen more ideas and development in and for blockchains, one of which lies in the expansive field of education.
Education is an interesting field to apply technological developments to. Currently, there are major debates about the true seat of control in education. Is it under states, federal, or districts domain? Education, being so ingrained in society as a government-run program, poses different problems and obstacles from other areas of society in which we can more readily apply technologies like blockchain.
Rather than focusing attentions on how we can better student learning and teacher preparedness and qualifications, the main focuses in education currently are surrounding appropriate testing, parent choices, accountability, and budgeting. Many teachers are already left with out-of-date computers, failing or broken technology, and a lack of enough resources for all students to have appropriate access. Plus, we outsource a great deal of our educational resources for public schools to major corporations that do not truly understand teachers and students needs in classrooms today. None of this leaves much room for discussions about innovations in education and in the classroom, although applicabile situations are prominent. Also, with educators busy schedules, it makes it hard for educators to spend time creating tools and resources that are equal with the technological times we are currently growing into (we are already falling behind in using them). How can blockchains pose a solution to some of these problems?
Tracking and Verifying Credentials and Test Scores
In the short term, blockchains provide a simple and encrypted way of ensuring that a person is qualified and educated enough to fulfill the requirements for a position. They provide a plausible means of security for employers and employees to prove their credentials in certain areas. As blockchains are immutable ledgers, it would be difficult to lie or say you have taken coursework that you truly have not taken coursework in, and it would be easy for employers to authenticate this information, also leaving a traceable link to institutions that can help the employer verify it. This can provide a more secure solution to teacher-readiness accountability in public schools, and it can ensure that teachers have taken appropriate classwork for the job they are taking on, or help teacher show they are qualified in various areas.
Currently universities around the world have begun implementing blockchain technologies to monitor and keep account for transcripts and qualifications for students and educators, like MIT who is testing “Blockcerts,” University of Nicosia in Cyprus, University of Melbourne in Australia, and more. There has also been questions regarding research into using blockchains to monitor and keep track of student assessment scores in K-12 education. “Learning is Earning” is a company that has invented the idea of “edublocks,” which can be collected by various institutions and community centers to collect credits or prove that a person has taken classes about certain topics and subjects, and also allows others to use their credentials to be teachers or mentors. This project is specifically exciting as it has wide hopes to revolutionize the world of education, and give people the opportunity to use their education as a token, so to speak, in the modern world. These are just some projects that are currently being explored.
Blockchains also offer a secure database for student test scores and data from online learning systems. Some parents have begun to question the security of these systems. They track a great deal of information on students, and this information is being held online. Not only does this data hold substantial amounts private information that should not be accessible to all, and it also holds a great deal of information for teachers, that is used to determine a student’s readiness to pass onto the next grade. What happens if these servers are hacked? Or if the information is lost because it is held in a centralized server? Blockchains can provide the security for students, parents, teachers, school districts, and companies.
Blockchains can prove to be the essential system that the departments of education and schools need to confidently and securely hold data and records on students. It also can work as a good tool for the students as well. The students will need to prove this information as they get older (SAT and ACT scores is an example). If a student has an identity on a blockchain from the time they begin school, they can build a record of their learning that follows them, and they can add to this and easily use it as a proof of their education. They can be in control of this data and keep it securely in a place where they can share it with others.
Will blockchains overrun higher-level educational institutions?
In the long term, blockchains can make great impacts to education on a general level. Rather than spending huge sums of money on classes that will lead to a degree at a college or university, one can collect credits from various institutions and life experiences. When someone has an opportunity to learn something, they can log that experience or class, and keep it tracked on a blockchain and verified by someone who gave the class.
This can eliminate the need for degrees or technical certificates in certain areas. At the very least, it can allow people who have not gotten a degree to have the same qualifications as those who have gotten one. This can be tracked by the individual, and verified by institutions and later on, employers. This can allow some people to have widen opportunities then they may have originally. “Learning is Earning” is a company that is working on a system that allows people to do just this. MOOCS (massive open online courses) are also widely available today, and rather than going for a degree, as these classes become more popular and available for various subjects, students can customize a “degree” for field of study and verifiably show that they have studied and done coursework in these topics.
These innovations open many doors in the world of education. We have seen technology and the internet spread information like wildfire. Now we are at a place, where we can use these tools, and continue innovating them to allow people more opportunities to learn and use their knowledge to find jobs and build careers.