While Blockchain technology is often associated with cryptocurrency and the FinTech space, its applications go way beyond the financial sector. In fact, a recent CBInsights article revealed the 58 industries that Blockchain technology will profoundly transform over the next 10 years and the education sector is one of them.
From improving record-keeping to streamlining processes for education providers, new beneficial ways to leverage Blockchain technology are constantly emerging. However, according to a recent Gartner study, only 2% of education institutions are using Blockchain technology to issue digital credentials. A further 47% have no interest in the technology or its applications at all.
Excel High School isn’t just a school. We are also a technology company committed to offering students a new approach to education. With nearly 20 years of experience teaching students online, we’ve seen firsthand the problems with the way records and credentials are currently tracked. That’s why we’ve decided to explore how we can harness Blockchain technology and provide its benefits to our student body.
To help you better understand why we think Blockchain technology is important, we’ll first look at how the technology can be used for digital records and credentials. Then, we’ll outline our unique vision.
What Is Blockchain?
Invented in 2008, Blockchain is primarily a technology for storing and transmitting information. More precisely, it is a specific type of database (referred to as a distributed ledger) that contains the history of all the transactions made between its users. The main difference between Blockchain and a more traditional database is how the data is managed and stored.
Blockchain systems are predominantly decentralized and permission-less, whereas more traditional databases are managed by a centralized authority. Most Blockchain networks are administered and secured by a network of computers known as ‘miners’. These are specialized computers which are designed to validate information stored on the Blockchain. As a reward for validating this information, miners receive cryptocurrency as payment.
What Makes Blockchain Secure?
Each time a new block is added to the blockchain, miners verify the validity of all the blocks that came before it. If a user attempts to alter a block, the hash of the block will be altered as well. This will make all subsequent blocks (and the Blockchain as a whole) invalid as they no longer store a valid hash of the previous block.
On top of this, Blockchain systems are distributed across permission-less peer-to-peer networks which anyone can join. When someone joins the network, they receive a full copy (node) of the Blockchain. Then, when a new block is created, it’s sent to everyone on the network to verify and add to the Blockchain. In fact, Blockchain is designed around a consensus-based system.
Therefore, for someone to successfully tamper with the record of a transaction (or block), they would have to get a majority of the other network participants to agree with their changes. To be successful, the user or hacker would have to control over 50% of the peer-to-peer network and simultaneously alter 51% of the copies to obtain consensus. This highly complex system makes it extremely difficult to tamper with.
How Can Blockchain Be Used for Digital Records & Credentials?
Enhancing the Student Record Management Process
Blockchain technology enables schools to provide students with secured platforms through which they have total control and ownership of their academic records. Blockchains offer a high level of security for housing digital diplomas and transcripts by encrypting data and only allowing access by authorized parties such as the issuing school or the student.
One other major benefit Blockchain technology offers to the student record management process is prevention of credential fraud. With the list of fake high school diplomas growing larger everyday, Blockchain systems offer a real solution for preventing credential fraud.
On top of these 2 benefits, Blockchain also offers a simplified and seamless way to document and track students’ learning achievements and credit records. The conventional system requiring students to manage transcripts and other important documents can be replaced by a digital solution! Instead of having each school with its own record management process and security standards, students could now use one single unified and secured system.
Improving the Verification Process
A degree, certificate, or diploma is issued to summarize a student’s knowledge and understanding of their particular subject matter. However, paper-based diplomas offer very little information other than that the student graduated. It doesn’t show which classes were taken, where a student excelled or where they struggled.
However, Blockchain-enabled records can contain detailed information about a students education history, including course attendance, exam results, skills learned, and more. Once the issuing school or student provides access, these digital records could be easily verified from anywhere in the world within seconds. It would take much longer to verify a student’s records manually.
Additionally, if the issuing school closes, it becomes very difficult for a third party to verify credentials. However, once diplomas, degrees, or other certificates are recorded on the Blockchain, they’re always there, up to date, retrievable, and verifiable. This will make Blockchain one of the most important tools for educators moving into the 21st century.
Excel High School is Exploring Blockchain for Digital Credentials
At Excel High School, we recognize that digital credentials offer real benefits for the future of education. As a forward-thinking school, we’re always striving to maximize our students’ success by providing them with a competitive edge they can’t find anywhere else.
The idea is to one day provide every student who graduates from Excel High School with a tamper-proof digital diploma which they can use to access their academic records on the Blockchain. As a school, this will allow us to better protect and track student records while also providing a useful benefit to our students. However, this isn’t an overnight process. Changing up systems that have been in place for years can sometimes take just as long. We’re not waiting any longer to get started though!
After all, we know how valuable the credentials we issue are for our students. That’s why we’re committed to leveraging the power of Blockchain to improve their learning experience and help them secure a successful future.