Blockchain technology is famous for its pivotal role in cryptocurrency. As far as the average person knows, it is simply the “tech that makes Bitcoin work.” To an extent, that is true, but like any other form of technology, the usefulness of blockchain extends beyond the crypto industry. Aside from the finance market, blockchain has unique and specially programmed features that could innovate and even transform the educational sector today.
To elaborate, blockchain technology could be described in three words: decentralized, traceable, and immutable. Here is a quick breakdown of each description and why it makes blockchain revolutionary in the eyes of developers, scientists, and other experts.
- Decentralized – Blockchain technology is also known as distributed ledger technology. Instead of having central storage of data as is common in current file storage models the information entered in a blockchain is distributed in a network of computers called nodes.
- Traceable – Information in a blockchain is arranged chronologically. Each time a new piece of information (called a block) is added to it, a timestamp is automatically imprinted into that block. This means that data is trackable, and users and institutions can check and verify when specific info is entered into the blockchain.
- Immutable – Information entered into a blockchain cannot be tampered with easily. Nodes work on the same algorithm and sync in real-time. If a user tries to change info from one node, other nodes will immediately detect it.
After laying out all of these components, the question remains: how can the educational sector apply blockchain technology?
Since blockchain is so closely related to crypto, the first response would most probably be for payments. Students can use crypto wallets, like an XMR wallet, to settle their tuition fees. However, the potential of blockchain technology goes beyond finances. To start, here are some of the other practical applications of using blockchain in education.
Since blockchain is primarily about data storage and management, it should come as no surprise that one of the first areas that blockchain can help with is record-keeping. Each year, hundreds to thousands of students apply to a single institution, and hundreds more return to acquire academic transcripts and other documents which they may need for transfers and job applications.
Acquiring, organizing, and storing all of this information not only requires a lot of work, but also uses up significant amounts of time. For example, each time a student requests a transcript, staff will have to manually check previous records to ensure accuracy before handing in the document. Another problem is when institutions become defunct, students and graduates lose access to their academic records, which they would inevitably need for employment purposes.
With blockchain technology, the processes connected to record-keeping become more streamlined. For example, schools considering a transferee can simply access the blockchain containing the transferee’s records instead of asking for physical transcripts. Meanwhile, students and graduates from defunct institutions can feel at ease since they will still be able to access their records and manage them as they please.
Lessons and Courses
Blockchain may even be able to transform university curricula. Using smart contracts and built-in rewards systems, teachers can give assignments and tasks through the blockchain and have student scores computed by the program. These scores are then immediately recorded in the blockchain. In this manner, teachers can save on time and allocate their resources to other academic ventures.
This feature is especially helpful as pay-as-you-go courses become more popular. Blockchain technology can help streamline the transaction between teacher and student. Upon completing a task, blockchain’s smart contracts can immediately verify it and hand out accompanying “rewards” – the teacher gets paid and students earn their credits.
That said, the biggest perk of using blockchain most probably lies in data distribution. Schools, universities, and other research institutions can make studies, journals, reports, and other academic resources widely available through blockchain. Moreover, authors of said studies will be able to monitor their published work’s activities, which could help them secure grants and funding for further research.
Considering how blockchain can streamline key processes in record-keeping and even teaching modules, some experts and institutions suggest that blockchain may also help lower school education fees. As such, students can save on costs and reduce their student loans, if any.
That said, this possibility is still highly debated, considering the investment needed to run blockchain technology in educational spheres. If it does come to fruition, new doors will open up for students and lifelong learners as more affordable yet equally reliable learning paths become available to them.
Indeed, blockchain is an exciting development in modern technology. Outside the realm of cryptocurrency, multiple sectors including education could potentially benefit from its employment in their day-to-day tasks. While there are a lot of debates and discussions around the topic, remember: blockchain technology is only in its infancy, and it will only continue to improve from now.