Technology has been the key to scaling education, from clay tablets to the printing press to online courses and YouTube videos. The internet provides connectivity and information access on a scale humans have never seen before. The world has a persistent digital divide, even with the World Wide Web. If the education sector hopes to meet the needs of a growing global population, it will need to innovate to meet modern challenges.
Web3’s blockchain technology capabilities can be a helpful tool in education’s evolution. Blockchain in education could transform the entire sector, from elementary to higher education. After a quick overview of blockchain’s potential benefits for students, institutions, and employers, we’ll look at some specific examples.
Stakeholder Benefits of Blockchain in Education
The education industry generates massive amounts of information and transactions between students, institutions, and employers. Institutions store transactions and data in traditional centralized databases that limit access and are vulnerable to hackers. How can blockchain technology help?
Enhancing Student Experience and Opportunities
In the current system, students must request (and often pay for) hard or electronic copies of their academic records. Blockchain technology offers them direct, 24/7 access to a secure record of their academic achievements.
Students with records on the blockchain can easily share verified higher education credentials with employers or other academic institutions. In the classroom, blockchain can simplify assignment workflow and grading, too.
Better Security for Institutions
Centralized educational databases top the list of hot targets for hackers and ransomware, as this graphic from August 2023 shows.
Blockchain’s decentralized architecture can provide enhanced security while increasing transparency and access for authorized users. Maintaining student data and transcripts on-chain will simplify verification for third parties like employers and other educational institutions.
Streamlining Verifications for Employers
Integrating blockchain technology for education records can significantly simplify employers’ verification of potential hires’ records. Employers can request direct access to verified academic credentials. This access ensures authenticity and diminishes the chances of lost or fraudulent records.
Six Disruptive Blockchain Innovations in the Education Sector
At its core, blockchain in any industry offers a transparent, secure, decentralized ledger that improves record keeping and can automate administrative tasks. Let’s look at six examples of how blockchain might transform education.
Revolutionizing Student Record-Keeping
In the current system, teachers and administrative personnel are responsible for maintaining student grades and other information. Blockchain can streamline this process, such as updating student grades automatically after their teachers grade an assignment. Teachers, parents, students, and administrators can all have 24/7 access to the students’ grade status. This innovation marks a welcome improvement in traditional record-keeping methods, where overworked teachers are often the bottleneck in grade reporting.
For example, Blockcerts is an open standard platform for creating, issuing, and verifying records and credentials on a blockchain. Academic achievements — grades, transcripts, and even diplomas — can be stored on a Blockcerts platform for immutable proof of past academic achievement.
Implementing Smart Contracts for Courses and Assignments
Smart contracts are executable pieces of code recorded on a blockchain. When you meet the contract’s conditions, the contract can execute a pre-determined outcome. In education use cases, smart contracts can automate enrollment paperwork and student onboarding.
As mentioned above, they can significantly streamline grading and grade reports on student assignments.
Let’s look at an example workflow of an assignment tied to a smart contract specifically designed for educational purposes:
Assignment Submission: Each student receives a unique smart contract for their assignment. The contract specifies submission deadlines, required formats, and other criteria. Students upload their assignments to the blockchain system, triggering the smart contract.
Automated Grading: For assignments with objective grading criteria, such as standardized tests, quizzes, and tests with multiple-choice questions, the smart contract can automatically grade the submissions based on pre-defined answers. The grades are then recorded on the blockchain, providing a transparent, tamper-proof, and instantly accessible record.
Feedback and Revisions: The smart contract can notify the instructor to grade the work for subjective assignments like essays or projects. The instructor inputs the scores and feedback into the blockchain system upon grading.
If revisions are allowed, the smart contract can be programmed to accept resubmissions within a specific timeframe.
Final Grade Compilation: After all assignments are submitted and graded, the smart contract calculates the final grade based on the predetermined weight of each assignment. This final grade is then securely stored on the blockchain and is available to any authorized viewer at any time. Students can also authorize the release of their grade transcripts to other institutions or potential employers.
Addressing the Student Loan Crisis: Between 1995 and 2015, US college costs increased at record levels. Private college tuition soared by 179%, and in-state fees at public schools surged by 296%.
By 2020, the total amount of student loans in the U.S. reached a record $1.57 trillion. Blockchain technology offers innovative approaches to reduce student debt, from more streamlined loan administration to crypto-based loans. It allows employers to fund a student’s education in return for a share of their future blockchain-based earnings.
Introducing Digital Badges and Credentials
With blockchain, educational providers and platforms can issue digital assets like badges and certificates. These digital credentials are secure, easily shareable, and verifiable. They can enhance perceived and actual value in the lifelong learning and continuing education landscape. As education expands from the traditional institutional model, digital badges and credentials can be essential to help students prove knowledge and mastery outside of a conventional academic transcript.
Utilizing Cryptocurrency for Rewards
Anyone using an app like Duolingo is familiar with collecting rewards to move to the next level. Gamification is a proven strategy for increasing student engagement and performance. Schools and online learning academies are exploring using cryptocurrency as a reward system for academic achievements.
Reducing Education Costs with Blockchain
Public education and university systems spend millions on administrative functions that can be streamlined and automated with blockchain. Blockchain can lower education costs by automating administrative processes and reducing the need for sizeable administrative staff and intermediaries. This cost savings could trickle down to the students through lower tuition.
Tackling Challenges in Adopting Blockchain in Education
While the adoption rate of education blockchain technology shows promise, there are challenges to address. Blockchain is a new technology. Vendors and in-house tech teams must provide robust app development and tech support for blockchain applications in education. Ensuring data privacy and security while integrating new technologies with existing systems is a complex task that can be expensive on the front end.
Moving Ahead with Blockchain in Education
Like the insurance and healthcare sectors, the education industry includes large traditional institutions with massive legacy databases and technology. The transition to blockchain does not happen overnight, and it may never replace existing systems completely.
Looking ahead, we’ll probably see cost savings and competitive edge drive the transition to blockchain services.
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Disclaimer: This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide tax, legal, or financial advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.