When writing my recent Innovation Now! post related to blockchain and higher education, I couldn’t stop thinking about how blockchain could impact my field of higher education. As I mentioned in my post, using blockchain for a centralized, student-owned record could positively affect both the student experience and improve the admission process. I think it’s possible that this same concept could improve compliance with government regulations as well.
As this article describes, “Whatever is in your record, in the view of the creators of this environment, is a validated occurrence and you therefore can’t delete pieces of history you don’t like anymore.” In other words, the entirety of a student’s education record would be in one place. Some federal financial aid availability is based on the number of college credits earned as well as satisfactory academic progress toward a degree. If a student misrepresents the number of credits earned, their initial financial aid offer may be inaccurate. While there are technologies that exist to verify educational backgrounds on the financial aid side, they often aren’t checked until funds are about to be dispersed. Utilizing blockchain technology, the students accurate and complete academic history would have been captured at the time the student applied, which would mean that financial aid wouldn’t need to verify the record again later in the process.
Up until this point, I was thinking about how blockchain could innovate already existing aspects of higher education. What if blockchain could disrupt the whole way in which we think about higher education? Students are no longer earning credit or completing degrees in a traditional manner. Instead, people take courses part-time, at many institutions, sometimes for credit, sometimes not for credits and then there are MOOCs (massive open online courses). In addition, for a variety of reasons, many people start, but never finish a degree. As this article asks, “Will new and sophisticated platforms such as Ethereum be used to widen access to education, allowing students to define and assemble their own mix of qualifications across a range of courses of their choice, from different institutions?” Instead of earning a degree, individuals could earn “badges” whereby they combine courses that center on skills and content that is relevant and applicable. In fact, there are already companies that are doing just that, such as Bitdegree and universities, such as MIT are already doing it.
According to the 2015 census, only 33% of adults in the US have a college degree. There is an incredible market opportunity here. Allowing individuals to earn credentials through blockchain, would be attractive to overshot consumers (students who are paying a premium in the for-profit education sector as a means to finish a degree quickly), undershot consumers (students who are tired of paying for credits toward something that may not be of value given their career goals) and non-consumers (students who thought post-high school education wasn’t for them).
And this is just the start! There are so many other ways in which blockchain could innovate higher education. Check out this article for some other innovative disruptions.