Blockchain isn't coming; it's arrived. 'This is a monumental shift in the way we approach records in education.'
By: Wendy Oliver and John Randall Dennis
Unending waves of new technology break and rush towards the shoreline of education: the cloud, mobile devices, big data, machine learning, 3D printing. The latest wave, blockchain, is not approaching – it’s already here. Several industries are proving it isn’t a fading fad. The good news is once you grasp the dynamics of blockchain you’ll recognize strategies it allows you to implement. Before you know it you’ll be wading out into the blockchain wave without fear of drowning.
You may have only heard of blockchain technology in the context of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, but the technology has far-reaching implications for finance, healthcare, and education. Here is a quick explanation: Blockchain data is extremely secure because it is based on a distributed digital ledger. That ledger is comprised of a growing list of entries (called “blocks”) recorded chronologically and can be shared by owners within a community.
By “distributed ledger,” we mean an encrypted database consensually shared and synchronized across multiple peer-to-peer networks. Distributed ledgers adhere to a special protocol for inter-node communication and validating new blocks. Data on centralized ledgers are prone to cyberattacks and fraud. Since blockchain is decentralized by design, this technology represents “data security reinvented”.
The implications for education are far-reaching and hold tremendous potential – for transcripts, attendance, tuition payments… even diplomas! Here are a few advantages of blockchain common in each application:
‣ Blockchains make data integrity a steady state – not merely a security goal requiring unending attention,
‣ Blockchain provides seamless tracking – both for student learning progress and for teacher certifications and professional development,
‣ Districts, universities, and credentialing bodies control awards of credentials, micro-credentials and badges. Students and teachers own their blockchain data forever to provide future access to higher ed, prospective employers, etc.
‣ The architecture and protocols ensure security. There is no single point of failure. No one can delete or tamper with the data; if a record has an error it cannot be altered, but a new, corrected record must replace it.
‣ Administrators are released from future burdens of providing proof of transcripts and credentials. Once the information is distributed, whether teacher or student, the learner is in control of his data, once verified.
This is a monumental shift in the way we approach records in education. The concept and technology could seem to overwhelm administration and other stakeholders… but it’s not only safer. It’s actually easier once you experience it.
We have identified a way to “wade” into the blockchain waters to familiarize yourself, your staff and students with a low risk of failure. This approach leverages blockchain in a non-mission-critical context to let all stakeholders become accustomed to blockchain and enjoy its benefits.
Badging and/or credentialing on blockchain is a great first step to get everyone engaged and familiar with the learner-centric strategies you can implement. Remember the portfolio we all did at one point? If it is digital, students or teachers can earn additional recognition from third parties by earning badges for completion or credentials recognizing or endorsing the work they have done in their portfolio.
This isn’t a new concept, but it is certainly a new, learner-centric way to award the credentials. With blockchain technology, there is no way a student or teacher could modify or change the credential or badge awarded, though the learner “owns” the record of learning. This means when a learner wants someone to gain access to view his or her accomplishments, the learner simply grants access by sharing a link with the potential reviewer.
If you’d like to explore strategies for implementing blockchain credentialing in your organization, we are available to provide insights, best practices, brainstorm, or warn against unforeseen pitfalls. Simply email us at the addresses below.
Wendy Oliver, EdD is a consultant who has dedicated her professional life to preparing children, parents, educators and learners of all ages to be competitive in a global economy. Find her book on Amazon: “Not Your Mama’s Classroom: What You Need to Know About Your Child’s Digital Education”. E: firstname.lastname@example.org
John Randall Dennis is a strategist specializing in education and speaks at edtech events. He serves as Chief Strategy Officer for FocalPoint (www.focalpoint.education). E: email@example.com