Certificates on blockchain- a future thought

Certificates on blockchain- a future thought

A blockchain is essentially a distributed database of records, or public ledger of all transactions or digital events that have been executed and shared among participating parties. Each transaction in the public ledger is verified by consensus of a majority of the participants in the system. Once entered, information can never be erased. The blockchain contains a certain and verifiable record of every single transaction ever made.

It opens the door for developing a democratic open and scalable digital econ- omy from a centralized one. There are tremendous opportunities in this disruptive technology, and the revolution in this space has just begun.

An obvious educational use is to store records of achievement and credit, such as degree certificates. The certificate data would be added to the blockchain by the awarding institution which the student can access, share with employers, or link from an online CV. It provides a persistent public record, safeguarded against changes to the institution or loss of its private records. This opens opportunities for direct awarding of certificates and badges by trusted experts and teachers. The University of Nicosia is the first higher education institution to issue academic certificates whose authenticity can be verified through the Bitcoin blockchain [5] and Sony Global Education has announced development of a new blockchain for storing academic records [6].

A problem with the blockchain as a record of learning or intellectual effort is similar to that for its use as a digital store for certificates: it is proof of existence2, but does not guarantee that the data held in the record is valid, authentic or useful

A new public blockchain is initiated to manage educational records and rewards, perhaps by a consortium of educational institutions and companies. Each recognized educational institution, innovative organization, and intellectual worker is given an initial award of ‘educational reputation currency’, which we will call Kudos. The initial award might be based on some existing (albeit crude) metric: Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings for Universities, H-index for academics, Amazon author rank for published authors etc. An institution could allocate some of its initial fund of Kudos to staff whose reputation it wishes to promote. Each person and institution stores its fund of reputation in a virtual ‘wallet’ on a universal educational blockchain.

Then, any institution or individual can make a reputational transaction. For an educational institution such as a university, that might be the award of a degree or certificate, which would involve posting the certificate on the blockchain and also transferring some Kudos from awarding institution to the awardee. For individual, it could support an economy of online tutoring, with students paying a tutor for online teaching in financial (e.g., Bitcoin) currency, who would then pay the student in reputation (Kudos) for passing a test or completing the course. The Smart Contracts mechanism could allow such peer-to-peer micropayments to be made in a variety of currencies.

A consequence is that the educational blockchain would provide a single universal record of lodged creative works or ideas, each associated with reputational credit. The amount of Kudos associated with each item indicates its value to the author and thus, if needed, its real world monetary value (e.g. for purchasing a copy of the creative work).

What might be the implications for education of trusted distributed educational records combined with a system of tradeable reputation? The first benefit is in providing a single secure record of educational attainment, accessible and distributed across many institutions. Once there is a recognised educational blockchain, then individuals as well as institutions could store secure public records of personal achievement. Second, a generalized system of reputation management associated with blockchain technology could help to open up the system of scholarly reputation currently associated with academics. This will require thought to develop accepted and trusted practices of acquiring public reputation, but there are already of examples of reputation management at work in companies such as AirBnB as well as in educational systems including iSpot. Third, and more controversially, reputation could be traded, by being associated with academic awards, as well as being put up as collateral for important ideas or to validate the adding of new block to the chain.

Just my intial thoughts on using blockchain in education industry.

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