Blockchain: How it can be used to improve education

Blockchain: How it can be used to improve education

Most widely known as the technology that makes cryptocurrency transactions secure, verifiable, and irreversible, blockchain actually has many other use cases outside of finance. This is because blockchains, in essence, are distributed ledgers.

In accounting, ledgers are records of accounts. Each expense, asset, and liability account can have its own ledger wherein every transaction concerning the account is written down. Of course, account records aren’t limited to accounting. For instance, hospitals keep medical records and schools maintain their students’ academic performance records.

Thanks to digital technology, ledgers are now electronic, require specific software to maintain, and are normally centralized. Being centralized means having a single point of failure: if the ledgers are stolen or tampered with, getting back to a state wherein data is available and trustworthy again is very troublesome and costly.

However, if copies of a ledger are distributed to different nodes, and each node unceasingly verifies new account information and the copy it holds against the copies of other nodes, then the single-point-of-failure problem is mitigated. That is, if there is an attempt to hack the blockchain, then a majority of nodes must be overtaken first. However, each node uses encryption, which makes taking over or bypassing a node time-consuming. This, plus the fact that the node distribution is widespread, makes hacking a blockchain practically impossible for any cyberattacker.

The unparalleled data security that blockchain can provide makes it very attractive to many sectors, including education. Below are some of the more notable use cases of blockchain in education.

Student records

To issue a transcript of a student’s grades, an administrator must first manually verify every entry in the record for the sake of maintaining accuracy. Blockchains can take over this labor-intensive and time-consuming process.

Additionally, when a student transfers schools, they need to submit a certification of course contents to the school they’re transferring to. This is required because even if a course goes by the same name, the course contents in one school can be very different from the course contents in another school. Verifying sameness is a nightmare to do manually, especially when documents on course contents can run hundreds of pages long. However, doing so programmatically using blockchain allows schools to certify course contents quickly and easily.

The unparalleled data security that blockchain can provide makes it very attractive to many sectors, including education.

Blockchain-based diplomas and certificates

Sadly, paper diplomas can be forged. However, the same cannot be said for diplomas that are stored in blockchains. An employer only needs to receive a link to a digital certificate to verify an applicant’s educational credentials. This isn’t far-fetched: MIT has been issuing blockchain diplomas to its graduates since 2017.

Beyond diplomas, blockchain can be used to record skills you may acquire via online courses, internships, and job experiences. All you have to do is to go to a trusted third party like Open Badge Passport to verify your skills, then have them issue blockchain-based certificates or badges. Organizations that provide informal learning can also use open badge platforms to issue verifiable microcredentials as learners move along a course.

Decentralized cloud file storage

Like organizations in most sectors, those in education have growing data storage space requirements. Beyond academic records and admin-related files, schools create more and more digital educational content. Storing files in the cloud is an option, but this tends to be too expensive for some schools.

However, organizations like Filecoin want to change this. Their platform allows individuals and small organizations to offer up available storage space to those who might need it. By opening up the market for storage, schools and universities don’t have to rely on cloud providers whose data centers are few and far between. The more storage providers there are in one’s area, the more affordable and hyper-local storage setups can become.

Courses built on smart contracts

Regular contracts often need a centralized authority to witness and arbitrate between two or more parties. Smart contracts, on the other hand, have the terms of an agreement written directly into lines of self-executing code.

To illustrate, a student enrolls in a Spanish language class. Whenever the student submits coursework and exhibits proficiencies in speaking, listening, reading, and writing in Spanish, the smart contract can automatically verify these activities. Be it after every completed lesson or after the entire course, the smart contract awards the student with credits and the teacher with income, depending on the agreed-upon terms of the contract. With smart contracts, students and teachers can remain anonymous if they so desire, and they won’t need a centralized authority between them.

Online Computers makes it a point to keep tabs on emerging technologies such as blockchain to ensure that we provide our clients with the tech that suits them best. Schedule a consultation with our IT experts today!

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