How Blockchain will Transform the Education Sector?

“Education is the most important weapon that you can use to change the world” - Nelson Mandela
Education has the power to not only develop the intellectual skills and knowledge of an individual, but it also can function as a foundation stone in the development, progress and prosperity of any country. And just like healthcare and banking, there are a lot of room for improvement within the education sector. Technology has brought great transformation to the field of education and it still continues to push the academic capabilities to new levels. In fact, we have come a great way from the time of wooden paddles with printed lessons to today’s easy accessibility of learning materials at our fingertips. Education technology (EdTech) or EduTech have a greater role in classrooms and learning now more than ever. The market for edtech is growing quickly, and is estimated to reach $93.76 billion globally by 2020. Blockchain technology, the distributed ledger technology (DLT) underpinning cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum has been touted as a game changer for the education sector. How will this ingenious technology help to improve the academic productivity? Let us find out.

Storing and Sharing Academic Records

Academic records of students are still maintained in paper formats which is highly susceptible to damage, theft and forgery. Whenever certificates or mark sheets are lost or destroyed, students find it extremely difficult to obtain its copies or reproduce the original from the concerned academic institutions. Another biggest challenge lies in ascertaining the authenticity of the degrees, certificates and diplomas. With the increasing instances of staffers fudging resumes and claiming non-existent qualifications with fake certificates, recruiters and higher educational institutions have begun to conduct comprehensive checks to verify the legitimacy of submitted documents. In this context, blockchain technology promises to build trust-free and transparent systems for the secure storage and sharing of academic records and certificates across the value chain. Building a blockchain-based repository for educational records helps in sharing the records among authorized parties securely and seamlessly. Since blockchain networks are designed to be immutable and tamper-proof, it would reinforce the security so that the diplomas are not modified. Even if a university or college institution were to close or shut down, student’s certificate would be still be available in the blockchain.

Protection of Intellectual Property

Plagiarism has been a constant problem in the academic world, especially in this digital age where all sorts of research papers and documents are easily accessible online. Intellectual property is intangible which needs to be protected with copyright laws and related contracts. However, the rising incidents of plagiarism and copyright violations exposes the limitations of current education system. Even though there are a number of plagiarism tools available online, they can be used only to find the content copied from the internet sources. Currently, there are no methods to detect the materials plagiarized from books, scholarly journals, old term papers and other sources. Such issues represent a significant erosion of quality and integrity across the academic sector. Blockchain technology offers a smart solution to protect and manage the intellectual property. Students or institutions can save their research papers or educational documents on a blockchain network to protect it from theft or plagiarism. Since blockchain records are encrypted and can’t be altered manually, the copyrighted material will remain secure under the direct control of the owner. Having a blockchain system for intellectual property protections helps in avoiding content theft and plagiarism.

Transfer of Credits

Nearly one third of students transfer colleges or universities at some point in their academic careers. And this change may be due to a lot of reasons such as shifts in their educational needs or career goals, disappointment with the current college or change in personal lives and so on. What makes these transfers a problematic affair for colleges and institutions is the issues connected to credit transfer. Most of the students lose their academic credits during the transfer process. This problem is even worse when a student shifts to an institution in another country as the difference in language and academic procedures are likely to present more roadblocks. Lack of an international standard and data interoperability among the academic institutions traps the students in the battles between education systems, colleges and faculty. Blockchain-based smart contracts could be an effective solution to the credit transfer issues. With smart contracts, it is possible to implement automatic credit transfer of students. Whenever the conditions of the agreement set by the institutions are fulfilled, the credits would be automatically transferred to student. Implementing a blockchain based solution helps in decentralizing the higher education credit and grading system, thus facilitating seamless migration to other institutes.

Accreditation of Institutions

Accreditation is a procedure by which an authoritative body gives formal recognition that a body or person is competent to carry out specific tasks (ISO/IEC 18009:1999). Currently, there are a huge number of accrediting organizations (and the agencies that accredit them) for universities, colleges and schools in every country. These accrediting bodies often take weeks or months to provide affiliation and accreditation to an institution. In most cases, the procedure involves several on-site visits, document submissions, verification and more, which turns the whole process expensive and nerve-wracking for all involved. Another major challenge is associated with the verification of accreditation an institution claims to have. Whenever an employer or an educational institution wants to verify the credentials of a candidate, they have to go through a lengthy, time-consuming process. Not only do they have to check the legitimacy of student’s credentials, but also the quality of the college or university that issues the credential. Blockchain technology with its decentralized and distributed architecture can offer an effective alternative to this multi-step accreditation procedure. All the critical data related would be captured, verified and recorded to blocks in a distributed network. Institutions or employers may verify the authenticity of a certificate by checking the accreditation chains recorded in the blockchain network.

Blockchain is positioned to bring great transformation in the education system. However, grassroots-level and effective collaboration among all stakeholders involved in the system is required to implement this disruptive technology. Many academic institutions have already implemented blockchain solutions thereby initiating its baby steps in the education domain.

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