When COVID-19 forced schools around the world to close their doors, remote learning technology allowed students and teachers to safely gather inside virtual classrooms and maintain their momentum. Many corporations rapidly adopted work-from-home policies whereby Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Mural, and other software platforms boomed as they supported the new paradigm in work and workplace collaboration.
After this great period of challenges within global educational institutions, we learned how we can create an accessible learning experience with the help of technology. As we look to the future of education, this may be the best time to focus on other ways technology will support this crucial institution in the future.
More specifically, this article showcases how blockchain technology can reduce the administrative burden on educators and corporate training departments by bringing decentralization and stability into education credentials, tracking competencies, and record keeping.
Understanding the Role of Blockchain in Education & Training
Most people who have heard of blockchain associate the technology with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, or perhaps Dogecoin. While it’s true that cryptocurrency is based on blockchain technology, they’re certainly not its only practical application.
Blockchain technology allows for the creation of verified ledgers that make it possible to store any information in a transparent, traceable, and immutable manner. What’s more, blockchains can be decentralized and distributed to make it virtually impossible for records to get lost, destroyed, or stolen.
In contrast, traditional education and corporate training recordkeeping rely on centralized databases that are not easily shared as employees or students move across institutions. Centralization poses an increased risk of tampering by anyone who is authorized to access the records. To overcome its limitations, educators and corporate training teams must spend a lot of time on record verification—time they would much rather spend with their students and corporate learners.
Practical Applications of Blockchain Technology in Education & Training
Now let’s explain how blockchain technology can practically be used in education by leveraging a few real-world concepts. These few examples simply scratch the surface of what is possible and what could be created in the future.
Traditional corporate training records are stored in various HRIS systems, an LMS, or siloed within employee files internally in their organization. Rarely are these records made portable across employers. Badges and certificates have become more popular in years past providing employees the opportunity to add unique certifications to their LinkedIn profile, for example with digital credentialing platforms like Credly. However, this is not ubiquitous or standardized across various industries or employment types who may not have the need or desire for a LinkedIn account.
Blockchain technology could tremendously benefit employees, providing access to training records and history available to future employers. Industry-standard safety training (i.e. OSHA), health-related training (i.e. CPR), and many other types of industry-specific training could be written to a blockchain as an immutable and verified record for unique individuals. These records could be timestamped and even carry expiration dates in the case of recertification requirements. When an employee starts a new position, they could provide access to their previous training history via the blockchain, providing an employer with a current training background and helping the company to customize their onboarding process and overall corporate learning experience.
In addition to starting a new role, career pathing could also be enhanced through access to additional training and subject matter expertise through continuous learning activities. xAPI and other technologies working alongside blockchain could provide a more holistic view of an employee’s skills and strengths, providing a richer employee experience including enhanced internal career path opportunities.
Report after report confirms what all educators know too well: the administrative burden they face is getting worse. As if that wasn’t bad enough, many educational recordkeeping activities limited value because schools store their records in isolated silos.
When a student transfers to a different school, their records are manually verified and entered from one system to another. This manual verification and transfer of student records can be time-consuming because a single mistake can have far-reaching consequences.
Blockchain technology makes it possible for schools to move their records away from silos into interoperable cryptographically verified ledgers. Once school records are stored in a blockchain, they can be verified with a simple click, and moving them to a different blockchain is just as easy.
Digital Diplomas and Certificates
In 2019, the National Universities Commission in Nigeria exposed around 100 professors with fake diplomas. Scandals like this one are, unfortunately, much more common than they should be, and they occur across all sectors because the verification of diplomas and certificates is inefficient and based on manual processes.
The good news is that there are already some institutions that are experimenting with blockchain-based digital diplomas and certificates. For example, a group of 111 students received blockchain-backed diplomas from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) back in 2017, and Maryville University became one of the first institutions to implement blockchain transcripts and diplomas in 2019.
Blockchain-based digital diplomas and certificates can’t be damaged, lost, or forged, and their verification is just as effortless as the verification of any other records stored in a blockchain. What’s more, they eliminate the need to print diplomas and certificates on paper, which helps both the environment and educational administrative staff.
Roadblocks to Blockchain Adoption in Education
As you can see, blockchain technology has the potential to solve some of the biggest problems plaguing the education sector, but there are several roadblocks that stand in the way of its broad adoption, and they include:
Resistance to change: The education sector is resistant to change because there’s so much at stake, and it can take some time to achieve standardization. Blockchain technology is closely associated with cryptocurrencies, so it’s understandable that many educators and policymakers alike are wary of changes to longstanding processes.
Security and compliance: Blockchain technology makes it possible for records to be stored in a transparent, traceable, and immutable manner, but that doesn’t mean it is invulnerable—its security ultimately depends on how well implemented it is. There’s also the issue of compliance with data privacy laws and regulations all schools and corporations must follow.
Cost: As unfortunate as it is, education institutions are underfunded, so finding the money to implement any new technology can be difficult in the least. While the cost of blockchain adoption keeps decreasing, it will take a while before all schools and corporations have easy access to interoperable blockchain-based platforms —and not just leading institutions like MIT—who can afford to experiment with it.
Overcoming these roadblocks to blockchain adoption in education and training is certainly worth the effort because the benefits it can unlock are too good to ignore.
Blockchain technology has a lot to offer educational institutions and corporate HR, from smarter record keeping to instant verifications of digital diplomas and portable certificates. To reap these and other benefits, education institutions and corporations will have to overcome several roadblocks, and they can draw inspiration from industries with high rates of blockchain adoption, such as finance.