By Amit Bhagnari

Blockchain technology continues to demonstrate its potential to disrupt industries by providing transparency and saving businesses time and money. This technology is proving its impact in various sectors; let’s have a look at some of its use cases in the Education and L&D sector, within which, emerging digital transformation trends call for an evolution in administrative and educational technologies.

Let’s start with the basics …

What is Blockchain?

If you know about cryptocurrency, you’ve probably heard of the term Blockchain technology. These two terms are probably amongst the most confused to be the same thing. Blockchain is the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies, but it actually has much wider applications.

In simple terms, Blockchain is a type of database, more specifically, it is a distributed database where data is arranged into blocks. Each block has a reference of the block that came before it, forming a chain, hence the name Blockchain.

The blocks are chained together by running the entire data that a block contains through a special function called cryptographic hashCryptographic hashes create a specific output for a specific input. This makes the hash of each block unique based on the inputs.

To chain blocks together, the header of the current block contains the hash of the previous block. This makes it virtually impossible to make changes in the previous blocks as any change will result in a completely different hash. This gives the Blockchain its property of immutability (can’t be changed) creating an auditable trail of data.

Let’s now explore some ways in which Blockchain can be used to transform Education …

  1. Permanently Store and Secure Certificates

Traditionally, educational institutions have had to keep a record of the learning achievements of all their students throughout their lifetime. This is a huge administrative burden for the institutions, and is a time consuming, expensive hassle for the students. For e.g., if a student wants to apply for a post-graduate degree, they have to contact multiple institutions to get their previous credentials verified and create a complete academic record. This process usually takes a few weeks and can turn out to be quite expensive.

Blockchains can store this information in a tamper-resistant way, which can make this process hassle-free, secure and save time and money by distributing student records across the network. This way students can still have access to their documents for life and be able to verify and share them even if the issuing institution cannot be contacted anymore.

  1. Cloud Storage

Educational institutions provide a large amount of cloud storage to their students and faculty to enable collaboration. Existing cloud storage services are quite expensive, and this cost is usually passed on to the students in the form of higher fees.

Blockchain based cloud storage solutions lease out unused hard disk space from computers around the world and reward them in cryptocurrency payments. Using Blockchain based storage solutions can help bring down this cost significantly for educational institutions.

“There’s a ton of storage in the world that’s not getting used. Think of it like Airbnb. You had people with rooms that weren’t being used; Airbnb built a marketplace for them.”

Juan Benet, CEO Protocol Labs, Inc.

  1. Identity Management

Identity management is a difficult task for educational institutions with thousands of students to keep track of every year.

Corporates like Apple, Microsoft and Amazon to name a few, offer discount programmes to help students. However, these IDs are easy to fake, so some companies have had to discontinue their programmes to prevent losses.

Using the Blockchain to store these IDs makes it much easier to ascertain the identities of the students and ensure that these programmes benefit the ones they were meant for.

The Outlook for Education:

  • The global education and training industry is estimated to become a $10T market by 2030*
  • Digital transformation is expected at a global scale
  • Technology will drive unprecedented reskilling and upskilling in developed economies
  • It’s currently a highly fragmented and grossly under-digitized industry

This industry, albeit expanding, faces challenges due to inefficient traditional models. The good news, these challenges can be easily overcome by Blockchain technology. The technology is still in its nascent stages, and as new use cases are being discovered every day, various industries are just beginning to grasp its limitless potential.

*Sources: HolonIQ 2021 Global Learning Landscape Handbook: https://www.globallearninglandscape.org/HolonIQ-2021-Global-Learning-Landscape-Handbook.pdf

HolonIQ Education in 2030: https://www.holoniq.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/HolonIQ-Education-in-2030.pdf