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A brief overview of Blockchain
Just some years back, the word Blockchain was not even remotely relatable to most of the people around the world. But there have been huge technological developments in the last three to four years.Nowadays professionals working in Information Technology or Finance are more acquainted with this term. However due to a lack of proper Blockchain education, the general consensus in public regarding Blockchain is that it’s a piece of technology that facilitates the use of Bitcoins. While cryptocurrencies are known to be the first time when Blockchain technology was widely used, there are numerous other sectors that can be revolutionized with the help of Blockchain technology, ranging from healthcare to education.
To put it simply, Blockchains are basically Distributed Ledgers.
A ledger is a concept that most of us are acquainted with. It’s a document that maintains records for instance accounting records or grades of students and likewise. Nowadays most of these ledgers are maintained digitally with the help of specific softwares and generally they are centralized. However the problem of being centralized is that if by chance, anyone hacks or steals the main and only version, then the whole ledger is compromised. With Blockchain however, that doesn’t happen because the ledgers here are decentralized which means every user on the blockchain will have an exact copy of the ledger and if or more ‘nodes’ fail or get compromised, even then the information stays as it is.
It is thus, quite fathomable what this technology can do in different domains. Apart from maintaining safe ledgers, they also offer services such as smart contracts and rewards. Let us take a look at what it has to offer in the education sector.
Blockchain and its application in Education
Blockchain-based ledger technologies have many necessary applications in Education.
Academic Institutions today are facing one of the most time-consuming and labor intensive challenges, which is the task of maintaining academic transcripts. Prior to issuing a transcript that demarcates a student’s performance on the basis of grades, every single entry on the transcript has to be verified. This is mostly done through manual labor in order to obtain optimum levels of accuracy.
Certification of the contents of a course is one of the records that are often in demand. While in K-12, it may happen that a student takes up a subject called ‘Chemistry’ while she is in a particular State. But when she moves to a different State, she joins another school that teaches the same subject. However, she may be studying the same subject, but does that mean that the course content in two different schools from two different States will be the same? Of Course not. Thus there should be a proper verification done on the course contents. If the verification needs to be done at K-12 level, then it would be quite a tedious process. But if a similar situation were to be repeated at the university level, then it would simply be nightmarish. We can imagine the course contents of a student attending medical classes.
To manually verify such a mammoth content base is no joke. But if all this information is safely stored in a blockchain, then all the verified records of courses and other academic achievements can be obtained with just a few simple clicks.
Digital Certificates and Diplomas
In 2017, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology started issuing digital certificates and diplomas to their graduates. These certificates were already stored on blockchain. Since it is impossible to hack or manipulate data on a blockchain, it would also refrain employees from presenting fake certificates to potential employers, which unfortunately is a commonplace practice. Using a blockchain to issue certificates and diplomas is thus a great idea to prevent fraud and forgery of the documents. Any information stored on the blockchain is immutable and distributed across all systems on the network of that particular blockchain. Hence validity and optimum safety of academic documents can easily be achieved through implementation of blockchain. Instead of issuing paper certificates, Institutions can simply provide links to digital certificates which can be passed on to employers if and when needed.
Use of Badges
Apart from degrees and certifications, a person’s resume contains a lot of additional information about them, for instance, it can be a foreign language expertise, a certain technical skill or an ability that is not specifically linked to their profession. Problem is, it is not easy to verify this information. Fortunately there are services like Open Badge Passport now, where you can get an expert to verify your credentials and get a badge or a certificate as a token of validity. These badges can be stored on Blockchain and employers will never have an opportunity to wonder whether your skills are legit or not.
Storage is a big issue when it comes to large institutions. An Educational Institution, if they want to store all their data, which comprises staff details, student information, legal data etc, they would require lots of storage space. If they want to store the information on local hard drives, that would again cause the problem of centralization. If in case, the hard drive is compromised then all the data would be compromised as well. Also, if they want to store all that information on Cloud, then they will have to pay a humongous amount to buy that Cloud space. On the other hand Blockchain-based Cloud storages like Filecoin would be a much lesser and a safer option to go for.
Providing Lessons and Courses
Blockchain uses a software called smart contracts which can be used to integrate entire lessons and courses in the blockchain which will then be automatically executed when certain conditions will be met. Each task designed by the teacher can be verified by smart contracts. Upon completion, teachers can automatically receive payments in the form of tokens and students will receive credits, according to performance.
Publishing with Blockchain
Oftentimes, academic dissertations and papers that are initially rejected by the University supervisors, goes on to become award winning theories. This necessarily pertains to the fact that rejection doesn’t mean the paper isn’t good, but getting it published is a difficult job. Whereas publishing on Blockchain is great, especially for young researchers or upcoming authors. It not only ensures protection against piracy but also helps them get into the industry with confidence and access.
Use of Blockchain Technology in the Education sector can bring about some revolutionary, as well as fundamental changes. Most of the processes that are basically labor intensive will be automated and hence will result in a system that will be smooth, safe, convenient and a lot more efficient. Most importantly, it will be cost effective and hence will enable institutions to enhance their vision and focus on new stages of development in the education models and systems.