How Blockchain Will Contribute to the University of the Future

From encrypting record-keeping for certificates, diplomas, and degrees to documenting a student’s learning experiences, blockchain technology has found its way to the 21st century campus. 

Blockchain, the process that divides the data into blocks which are secured through unique cryptography algorithms, is paramount to ensure privacy and security. In higher education institutions, securing the data transaction such as student profiles and certifications represents a growing concern for security professionals.

Although this emerging technology is still in its infancy, a few higher education institutions have begun experimenting with and deploying blockchain technology in yet another effort to join Education 4.0 in the digital transformation toward the university of the future. These first steps have been mostly in the form of verifying academic credentials such as degrees, certificates, and transcripts with the aim of fighting the counterfeit of academic credentials. 

Diploma certificate forgery is an important concern. For colleges and universities, being able to make credentials digital, placing them under the student’s control, encrypted, and without the need for an intermediary to verify their authenticity is the most promising of the use cases for blockchain in higher education. In fact, blockchain technology can serve as a replacement for any paper-based and manual transaction processing. 

It was an important milestone when in 2017, Central New Mexico Community College became the first community college to issue student-owned digital diplomas using blockchain. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a pioneer in the use of blockchain-based credentialing. A partnership between Learning Machine and the MIT Media Lab resulted in the development of Blockcerts, an application able to create, issue, view, and verify blockchain-based certificates. 

Blockchain and the future of higher education

A few universities around the world already accept tuition payments in Bitcoin. MIT and the Georgia Institute of Technology accept Bitcoin in the campus store. This trend will see more institutions adopting blockchain-based currency in the next few years. 

A team of researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong have proposed EduChain, an heterogeneous blockchain education data management system, which leverages the advantages of both private blockchains and consortium blockchains. This is meant to solve the current centralized educational data management system which results in problems such as malicious tampering leading to academic cheating, low-cost diploma fabrication, and high cost of certificate verification. 

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