Blockchain technology and Micro-credentials (aka Digital Badges)
Submitted by David J. Rosen on April 22, 2017 - 7:00am
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Integrating Technology Colleagues,
Have you heard of blockchain technology? If so, it's most likely in connection with an online currency called Bitcoin. However, blockhain technology has other applications, including for authenticating, recording tracking and sharing a record of attainment of micro-credentials, also known as digital badges.
According to this Bostonomix article by Asma Khalid, “What Blockchain Is, And Why Some Experts Say It's As Revolutionary As The Internet,” http://www.wbur.org/bostonomix/2017/04/20/blockchain-explainer it’s a technology to which we all should be paying close attention, that “Tech experts say it's the next major revolution that could change our lives as drastically as the internet once did.” Of course, that remains to be seen, but I wonder if I am the only person in this group watching its development. Are you? If so, what do you think? Is blockchain technology useful for our field, for the development of a secure system of digital micro-credentials leading to authenticated and secure credentials?
What is a “blockchain”?
“If you've ever tried to run a business, you're probably familiar with the idea of a ledger -- a written list of transactions (think Excel or an old-school balance sheet in a binder). Essentially every multinational corporation or small Mom and Pop business uses ledgers to track sales and expenses. In the most basic form, a blockchain refers to a shared digital ledger.”
Why is it important?
“It's a global ledger that can record any transaction, and it'll keep that transaction and all the details associated with that transaction secure," explained Jalak Jobanputra, who runs Future Perfect Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund that focuses on investments in blockchain technology.”
“And by having this system digital and public, blockchain advocates say it makes it easier to prove, track, trust and audit transactions.”
How does this apply to the education world, and specifically to adult basic skills education?
In a June 3, 2016 Learning Machine Blog Article https://medium.com/learning-machine-blog/blockchain-credentials-b4cf5d02bbb7, Chris Jagers wrote, “The world needs a new system to record, house, curate, secure, and distribute evidence of learning. That new system is the global blockchain and every individual is a lifelong registrar.”
Jagers describes an MIT Media Lab and Learning Machine project “for issuing official records to recipients, and anchoring them onto the Bitcoin blockchain.” He wrote that it “allows education providers, employers, and others to issue official certificates that supply proof of membership, completion, or achievement. These certificates can be collected by individuals and shared directly with anyone who requires official documents.” In the article he provides an example of how the verification process works.
Jagers also describes why this is needed in education, and several of these reasons apply to adult lifelong learning including adult basic skills:
- “Students don’t have easy access to their official records and typically have to pay money to have them shared with others.
- Lifelong learners have no meaningful way to insert the wider array of experiences and achievements into their official academic record.
- Displaced peoples (refugees) can lose their history and have no way of proving who they are (i.e. doctors or lawyers).
- Employers have given up asking for transcripts to be sent (too difficult, slow, and increasingly less relevant).
- Colleges and Universities wait too long for official documents to arrive during admissions and spend too much effort trying to connect them with the right application.
I am interested to hear from others who are tracking how blockchain technology may develop a secure system for authenticating and recording attainment of education and industry-related training credentials. Please share with us your understanding and experience with blockchain technology.
David J. Rosen, Moderator