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Blockchain will transform education

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While the cryptocurrency market might be the domain of the brave or the foolhardy, blockchain technology itself has the ability to revolutionise pretty much any activity that requires secure transfer of information and education is no different.

A recent JRC Science for Policy report has looked into how blockchain can be integrated into education and the benefits are apparent.

Blockchain technology could usher in paperless degrees and certificates, tracking citations and protect intellectual property as well as secure student records, monitor attendance, the list goes on.

Through a number of case studies at European universities, the report confirms that the relationship between blockchain and education is in its infancy and provides recommendations on how the relationship can be fostered.

Key characteristics of blockchain technology could be applied to specific scenarios in the education sector.

Once a record is on the blockchain, it is there to stay so you can permanently secure digital degrees and course certificates, even if an institution were to shut down or an entire country's education record-keeping system were to collapse (which has happened in Syria).

Entries on a blockchain can be verified with the click of a mouse. This can significantly reduce the burden on both learners and educational institutions. For learners this could mean the end of fishing out paper copies of degree certificates and transcripts to apply for a course. Institutions can check an individual or organisation's credentials instantly.

Blockchain spells the end of a paper-based system for certificates. Any kinds of certificate issued by educational organisations, in particular qualifications and records of achievement, can be permanently and reliably secured using the technology. More advanced blockchain implementations could also be used to automate the award, recognition and transfer of credits, or even to store and verify a complete record of formal and non-formal achievements throughout lifelong learning.

Blockchain technology allows for users to be able to automatically verify the validity of certificates directly against the blockchain, without the need to contact the organisation that originally issued them. Thus, it will likely remove the need for educational organisations to validate credentials.

This ability to issue and then reliably validate certificates automatically can also be applied to other educational scenarios. Thus, one can imagine certificates of accreditation being issued to institutions by quality assurance bodies, or licences to teach being issued to educators, with all of these being publicly available and verifiable by any user against a blockchain.

It can also be applied to intellectual property management, for the tracking of first publication and citations, without the need of a central authority to manage these databases. This enables, e.g. the possibility of automatically tracking the use and re-use of open educational resources.

The ability of blockchain technologies to create data management structures where users have increased ownership and control over their own data could significantly reduce educational organisations’ data management costs, as well as their exposure to liability resulting from data management issues.

Blockchain-based cryptocurrencies are likely to be used to facilitate payments within some institutions. The ability to create custom cryptocurrencies is also likely to mean that blockchain will find significant use in grant or voucher-based funding of education in many countries.

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