5 ways blockchain helps to decentralize the education sector

The co-founders of the biggest online programming websites–Ryan Bubinski, co-founder of Codecademy, and Michael Karnjanaprakorn, co-founder of Skillshare–have become consultants for IOST, an enterprise providing a decentralized ecosystem for service providers and users based on blockchain technology. This cooperation signals their aims to construct a new type of education based on blockchain.

Since blockchain has shown its value, its application in various areas has sparked hot discussion. Blockchain was first applied in financial sectors to make transactions safe and transparent, but how would it change education?

Blockchain builds a completely new technological world. Information held on a blockchain exists as a shared database. The blockchain database is not stored in any single location, meaning the records it keeps are truly public and easily verifiable. Hosted by millions of computers simultaneously, its data is accessible to anyone on the internet.

In fact, the application of blockchain needs to satisfy at least three requirements: more than one participant’s operation in the transaction needs to be recorded; participants are required to record their behaviors; the program requires the participation of agencies, adding cost and complexity; the transaction is time-sensitive and time delays can potentially affect it; the transaction needs interaction.

Here we have compiled five new directions in which blockchain is expected to lead education:


1.Blockchain helps protect intellectual property.

People can get access to digital information for free thanks to the internet. However, copyright holders have lost control over their intellectual property. It is commonly believed that plagiarism does harm to a teacher’s creation. In fact, educational resources can be easily plagiarized without protection. One can find many educational resources and electronic books sold online at a pretty cheap price or free of charge.  

It is possible that blockchain-based platforms can help to solve these problems. If teachers upload their articles on this platform, their stamp of originality can be tracked and protected. Blockchain is able to provide unchangeable and unique electronic identification for users, eliminating the risk of file copying and redistribution.


2. Collecting objective assessments from students can improve educational quality.

In February, EduCoin, a virtual currency for online education, opened to the public for use. This platform provides educational resources and products, and assessment of educational quality.

Educational institutions often find it hard, in reality, to collect objective assessments from students. Whether the course is popular with students is difficult to calculate accurately. Without objective assessments, both students and teachers cannot make use of the assessment. In fact, teachers and educational institutions who benefit from authentic assessment call for an objective platform.

Blockchain is a good way to form an objective assessment system in which teachers and students can put forward their needs. After finishing teaching, students can give teachers their assessment and suggestions.


3. Blockchain makes educational transactions transparent.

Some educational institutions assure students that they can pass the exams after they take some courses. Sometimes educational institutions write the agreement in their contracts but they do not keep the promise. In some cases, if students do not pass the exams, students won’t be given compensation by educational institutions as they claim.

Blockchain can build a nation-wide system and a new contractual system. The new contracts can be accessed by students and teachers publicly. Blockchain will operate without significant disruptions by others. The blockchain network lives in a state of consensus, one that automatically checks in with itself every ten minutes. Once one party cannot fulfill his or her duty, the blockchain network will do whatever they promise to do at the very beginning.

In Bitcoin transactions, a global network of computers use blockchain technology to jointly manage the database that records Bitcoin transactions. This mechanism can also be used in education to supervise the process of transaction and guarantee the rights and responsibilities of every single person.

Apart from this, there is no need to use a third party to take part in money transactions. In Bitcoin transactions, users can transact directly with one another — Bitcoin transactions in 2016 averaged over 200,000 USD per day. Without the participation of a third party such as WeChat pay and Alipay, it will improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of the transactions.


4. Educational donations can be tracked by blockchain.

Donations to charities are hard to supervise. Some organizations try to design a system based on blockchain technology to supervise the transfer of money. For example, Ant Financial, a technology company that offers inclusive financial services, designed a blockchain system to track the donations to children in deprived areas. No matter where the money is, it can be recorded by the system, which helps it to be transparent to the public.


5. Blockchain can conduct educational authentication and talent management.

HireRight found that 86% of companies have faced problems related to employees’ fabrication of academic credentials. It does not only increase the cost to companies but also harms the reputation of universities. For example, University of London has applied blockchain to verify the authentication of students’ educational experiences.

In addition, employees’ documents are mainly in hard copy versions, which are not easy to take and use. The application of blockchain offers opportunities for good management of employee’s documents.

Both artificial intelligence and blockchain can be applied to the field of education, and their different characters can supply education with various functions. The former contributes to the smartness of education while the latter is great for the transparency of educational transactions. We look forward to their benefits for education.

Lena Zhang

Lena is our columnist. Previously working as a finance reporter, she is passionate about social sciences and curious about how technology impacts our lives. She holds a master's degree in Social Anthropology from London School of Economics and Political Science.

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