Blockchain in Education

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What is blockchain?

According to Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary, blockchain technology creates “a digital database containing information (such as records of financial transactions) that can be simultaneously used and shared within a large decentralized, publicly accessible network” (“blockchain,” 2016). With blockchain technology, each ‘block’ is representative of each participant involved in a transaction and is tamper proof. This can be a transaction involving financial entities, badges, or credentials. All transactions are logged with a time and date, and are encrypted and verified (Mearian, 2018). Blockchain in education can be utilized within educational institutions, in groups of educational institutions, or in international or national educational organizations. Really, any organization that wants to store badges, credentials, and/ credits securely and easily share that educational data with others should consider blockchain technology.

What are the uses of blockchain in education?

Blockchain technology can support certificate programs easily.

  • Project-based educational programs are increasingly being offered online. Several schools across the US have implemented successful certification programs that are supported by blockchain technology (Clark, 2016).
  • The Holberton school in San Francisco was actually the first school in the world to deliver certificates in the bitcoin blockchain (Barbier, n.d.). Bitcoin is a decentralized digital cryptocurrency that supports an exchange of digital information, permitting individuals to buy or sell goods and services (Blockgeeks, n.d.). At the Holberton school, certificates are stored in the blockchain to ensure a simplified certificate verification process by employers, and to create a stronger system for authentic educational data such as certificates and resumes (Barbier, n.d.).
  • Here’s how Holberton school handles their digital certification service supported by blockchain higher education technology:
    • Each Holberton digital certificate is supported by 256 bits encrypted private key and 2 factor authentication for certificate issuers to access the interface that creates, signs, and inserts the certificate into the Bitcoin blockchain.
    • This encryption process seals the certificate’s contents securely and ensures that the certificate is unable to be tampered with.
    • Each student receives a Digital Certificate Number (DCN) which can be included in resumes for employers. Employers can then lookup the DCN and verify the validity of the certificate earned by the potential new hire (Barbier, n.d.).

Blockchain higher education technology reduces the cost of storing educational data.

  • Distributed ledger technology offers cloud storage which provides safer and cost-efficient data storage options for students and administrators of educational institutions (Ark, 2018).
  • Filecoin is one example of a distributed ledger technology that stores educational data securely at an affordable cost (Ark, 2018)

Blockchain for education supports the secure issuance of badges.

  • Similar to certificate programs, proof of developing smaller-skill sets can be verified and communicated with a digital badge. Many badges can be earned by students and make up an open badge passport to share with prospective employers (Ark, 2018).
  • Blockchain in education provides a distributed ledger technology solution that is unable to be tampered with and can offer authentic accreditation on a larger scale at a lower cost (Clark, 2016).

With all of the promise offered by the blockchain education industry, why would Stripe--a major payment processor for online course platforms and other online educational services--decide to part with its blockchain technology?

For approximately three years, Stripe supported a tool that allowed payment collectors to accept Bitcoin. However, in April of 2018, the COO of Stripe unveiled that they were parting with blockchain-based payments. One of the reasons for Stripes departure from blockchain-based payments was due to slow clearance time on Bitcoin transactions. These Bitcoin transactions took up to three to five days to process and clear. In that passage of time, the value of Bitcoin could fluctuate--therefore proving ineffective upon first transaction and causing merchants to file second or third transactions just to be properly be paid for the price of their good or service at onset (Roberts, 2018).

One higher education service that integrates with Stripe is the online courses platform by CertCentral. CertCentral is a streamlined online platform that addresses client needs for a simplified interface to enable building dynamic online programs. This solution is perfect for online course entrepreneurs looking to break into the higher education industry. This solution is also perfect for internal and external trainings for businesses, higher education institutions, and healthcare facilities. Customers turn to CertCentral for a user-friendly experience with strong support from CertCentral’s technical staff. No training is required for course administrators to immediately begin building online programs, setting custom prices, and selling programs online to prospective students. After entering billing information, students are instantly brought into their student accounts and can begin their online course on smartphone, tablet, or desktop devices.

What does the future hold for blockchain in education?

The uses of blockchain in education are numerous, proving to show strong potential for issuing open badges, certificates, and strong cloud storage of educational data. Despite these gains, there is still a lot of development needed for blockchain in education.

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