The education sector demonstrates dynamism. It has a few challenges too. Experts in this sector are trying to resolve them. Governments, businesses, and non-governmental organizations are investing in technology for this, and that includes blockchain. Read on, as we explain Edtech and the blockchain use cases in education and learning.
The challenges in the global education sector
The education sector attracts massive investments globally. Governments, businesses, and consumers will continue to spend heavily in this space. Experts project that global spending in this sector will reach $7.3 trillion by 2025.
At the time of writing this, the education sector faces a paradigm shift. A WEF (World Economic Forum) report highlights the following shifts:
• The education models need to change to support lifelong learning. This will help learners to align with the social and technological changes brought about by the fourth industrial revolution.
• The focus will shift from degrees to skills.
• Traditional education institutions and operating models face disruptions from start-ups and new business models.
The educational sector needs to resolve its inefficiencies, which are as follows:
Inefficient record-keeping processes: The educational institutions use paperwork-intensive and inefficient processes to manage academic records, certificates, and credentials. These processes are susceptible to forgery.
Manual processes to manage identities: Educational institutions use manual processes to manage student identities. That makes it hard for students to manage their credentials and certificates. The risks of forgery are high.
Inadequate processes to establish accountability between teachers and students: A teacher spends a high amount of time to ensure that students complete their assignments according to the predetermined standards. Spending this time for all students can be hard.
Inefficient processes to track the performance of learners: Educational institutions use paperwork-intensive processes to track the performance of learners. These processes delay the flow of information.
Transcript management challenges: Students find it hard to get transcripts of academic records from educational institutions. This is due to manual processes.
The key features of blockchain
Blockchain emerged a little over a decade ago, and the first application of it was Bitcoin. Cryptocurrencies remain the most popular application of blockchain. However, smart contracts and enterprise blockchain frameworks have enabled people to use blockchain elsewhere.
If offers the following key features:
Decentralization: Blockchain uses a P2P (peer-to-peer) network. One can’t shut this network down by shutting down one server.
Distributed ledger: All “nodes”, i.e., computers on a blockchain network have complete transaction records. This makes this decentralized network a distributed ledger. One can share information easily.
Security: Thanks to encryption, digital signatures, cryptographic hash functions, and consensus algorithms, blockchain offers immutability of data. It offers robust security against hackers.
Efficiency: Smart contracts are autonomous pieces of code that transfer cryptographic assets bases on predefined conditions. They are transparent, immutable, and irreversible. This improved the efficiency of contract administration.
Enterprise blockchain frameworks like Hyperledger Fabric allow you to create permissioned blockchain networks. This makes enterprise blockchain networks different from public blockchain networks, which allow anyone to join.
Blockchain use cases in the education sector
The prominent blockchain use cases in the education sector are as follows:
Blockchain can help education institutions to maintain the academic records of students efficiently. The distributed ledger of blockchain makes it easier to share information. Therefore, all applicable stakeholders can access students’ records easily.
The security features of blockchain prevent anyone from tampering with these records. This prevents forgeries of academic certifications. IBM and Sony have collaborated to create a blockchain platform to secure student records.
The accreditation processes for educational institutions vary from one country to another. However, these processes involve a high degree of record-management activities. Manual and paperwork-intensive processes slow down the accreditation process. The secure and distributed ledger of blockchain can expedite that.
Identity management processes in educational institutions are often manual and paperwork-intensive. These involve verifications based on identity documents provided by governments, record-keeping, etc.
Students need effective and efficient digital identity management processes. They need to provide their credentials to institutions providing higher education. Senior students need to provide their credentials to potential employers. Archaic identity management processes make it hard for them.
Blockchain can make identity management efficient. The security mechanisms offered by blockchain prevent the manipulation of identity records. The distributed ledger of blockchain makes it easy to share identity proof with relevant stakeholders. Therefore, students can easily tie their identities to their credentials.
The market for blockchain-based identity management solutions is growing. A MarketsandMarkets report projects this market to grow from $58.3 million in 2017 to $1.929 million by 2023. This translates to a CAGR of 84.5% during the 2018-2023 period.
Track the progress of learning and establish accountability
Currently, teachers spend a lot of time assessing the progress of a student. The evaluation processes are manual and paperwork-intensive. Teachers need to assess the progress of many students, and the manual processes act as bottlenecks.
Blockchain smart contracts can help. Teachers and students can use them to establish transparent criteria for evaluation and tracking progress. Students need to demonstrate the completion of their coursework, assignments, and projects. They can do that on a blockchain platform. The distributed ledger makes it easier to share information with teachers.
Teachers can complete their part of the process on the blockchain platform. Smart contracts can execute autonomously, and they can issue the course credits to students. Other smart contracts provide access to the subsequent course in the program.
Improve transcript management processes
Education institutions have manual, complex, and error-prone processes to create transcripts of academic records. Students need these transcripts to present their credentials to institutions offering higher education. Senior students need to present credentials to prospective employers, and the inefficient processes affect them. Students hardly have any control over the process.
Blockchain offers decentralization, which reduces the roles of intermediaries. The distributed ledger offered by blockchain can store academic records transparently. The security features of blockchain prevent the forgery of academic records. This improves trust in the system.
Finally, autonomous smart contracts can expedite the process of creating academic credentials. Sony Global Education (Sony GED) is already making progress on this count. The company has created a blockchain platform to manage educational transcripts. It helps to securely store academic records, and the platform makes it easier to share transcripts.
The education sector is in the middle of a profound shift that will provide greater value to stakeholders. Efficiency, trust, and accountability are important building blocks here. Blockchain can provide these with its decentralization, distributed ledger, security features, and smart contracts. We reviewed key use cases of blockchain in the education sector, and we reviewed examples of companies implementing them.
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