In 2017, the University of Melbourne started using blockchain to issue digital credentials, enabling students to share verified copies of their qualifications with employers and other third parties in a tamperproof system. New ways to apply blockchain technology in the higher education sector are emerging all the time. Over the past several years, more high-profile projects have received significant media attention, fueling further interest in the technology.
“ The most promising use case for blockchain in higher education is to transform the “record keeping” of degrees, certificates and diplomas”
The Gartner 2019 CIO Survey revealed that 2% of higher education respondents have already deployed blockchain. Another 18% of respondents were planning to do so within the next 24 months. However, nearly half of respondents (47%) cited a lack of interest, and that number is up from just 37% in the 2018 survey. Many in the “disinterested” group are taking a wait-and-see approach, considering the extreme hype, immaturity and potential risks of blockchain.
Some have analyzed the likely returns and concluded that existing technologies can do the job better than blockchain. Others are unaware of the potential benefits. Terri-Lynn Thayer, Vice President, Gartner, says higher education CIOs should remain curious about blockchain’s potential. “Focus on practical uses for blockchain in the near term, while keeping an eye on its long-term transformative potential,” says Thayer. “The more ambitious use cases have the potential to disrupt the entire education ecosystem.” Gartner has identified four ways to apply blockchain in the higher education sector.
No. 1: Improve record keeping
The most promising use case for blockchain in higher education is to transform the “record keeping” of degrees, certificates and diplomas, making credentials digital and under the learner’s control, without the need for an intermediary to verify them. Blockchain could be also used for accreditation of educational institutions, a complex process in many countries, enabling them to verify quality or qualification to teach. Blockchain’s ability to improve record keeping also makes it a natural fit for solving intellectual property (IP) management problems, for example, by using blockchain to determine if an idea or invention is unique or to register IP assets, copyright and patents.
No. 2: Increase efficiency in existing business processes
Blockchain-based university diplomas are a great leap forward, but perhaps the ultimate use case is the creation of a virtual transcript or record of all education achievements throughout one’s entire lifetime. A verifiable lifetime transcript would reduce CV fraud, streamline student transfers between universities, reduce the overhead related to credential verification, and make moving between states and countries less complex. This kind of initiative goes beyond record keeping and seeks to streamline processes, making it an “efficiency play.”