The U.S Department of Education is exploring blockchain technology, intending to “rethink” how distributed ledger technologies can be incorporated into the education system.
In current global pandemic times, various U.S. government departments are exploring blockchain technology to finding solutions regarding transparency, safe record-keeping, and decentralized information sharing. The U.S. Department of Education (Office of Educational Technology) became the latest department to join the bandwagon funding the “Education Blockchain Initiative (EBI).”
EBI is designed to help identify and evaluate ways that blockchain technology can improve data flow among educational institutions and employers while empowering individuals to translate educational outcomes into economic opportunities.
The project, launched by the American Council on Education (ACE), aims to find blockchain-based solutions to enhance the network and communication between and among students, learning institutions, and employers.
According to a statement from ACE, the EBI aims at identifying and evaluating new ways blockchain can improve the flow of data to institutions, students, and employers. Projects launched through the EBI will restore data control to the learner, “empowering them to control their identity and leverage the skills learned,” the statement further reads.
ACE is an organization that lobbies and creates “inclusive, dynamic, and resilient” public policy across postsecondary education centers to better the students. In line with finding blockchain solutions, the organization launched the ‘Blockchain Innovation Challenge’ in 2020 to overhaul the education and employment systems in the U.S.
Louis Soares, chief learning and innovation officer of ACE, stated the challenge would help the undeserving and minority students affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic. The solutions being created will also enhance student enrollment, improve the transfer of credits, and communicate between institutions and employers. Soares said in a statement,
“This includes finding new approaches to credentialing (and hiring) that leverage the potential of emerging technologies to improve communication among education and training organizations.”
Phase 1 winners of Blockchain Innovation Challenge announced
To pace up developments in the education space, the Blockchain Innovation Challenge is making awards totaling $900,000 in two phases. The awards target teams and projects that “put forward bold ideas to reorient the education and employment ecosystem” to improve information transfer across students, institutions, and employers.
On Feb 11, four Phase 1 winners were announced, including teams from Nebraska, Texas, Arizona, and Utah.
One of the winning projects, “Student 1”, collaborating with the Nebraska Department of Education and Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, created learner records for a third of all Nebraska students involved with multiple behavioral, judicial, or state educational services.
Other winners include Texas Woman’s University, which is partnering with the University of Texas- Arlington to build a “shared credentialing platform” that enhances sharing educational records across institutions and training facilities.
A similar project, UnBlockEd, led by the University of Arizona and Georgia Institute of Technology, Fluree, and the John N. Gardner Institute, is developing an open and decentralized transfer exchange that will enhance credit transfer articulation for students transferring schools.
Powered by Fluree is the Lifelong Learner project, also sponsored by the Utah Department of Education. The project is developing a digital wallet to allow teachers to store and share information, including their credibility scores, licenses, and exemplars of practice with human resource departments and other management systems.
Still a long road ahead
While these blockchain developments move ahead to provide innovative solutions in the education industry, practical integration to real-life situations remains challenging. Brian Platz, co-CEO of Fluree, mentioned in a statement.
He explained that blockchain developments suffer from the supply-demand rhetoric across the education space. He noted that building a data-sharing platform and digital credentials is currently not in demand as employers rarely ask for them.