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Online: Trending Now

Unique biweekly insights and news review
from Ray Schroeder, Director of the National Council for Online Education

Blockchain Securing the Future

Online: Trending Now #141 

Securing networking, empowering dissemination of credentials by students; blockchain opens the doors to large-scale change in higher education.

Much has been made of blockchain since it first enabled Bitcoin. Blockchain is a distributed ledger platform that has facilitated anonymous transfer of funds and much more. There are public and private blockchains that are becoming increasingly important in situations where secure transfer of information, individualized communication, and a scalable architecture are desired. If you are new to the topic, here’s a two-minute primer:

MIT and SNHU are among the institutions that have begun distributing their degree and certificate credentials via blockchain. Most notably, blockchain has the potential to enable students to essentially build their own transcripts by assembling badges and similar credentials from MOOCs, traditional college credit transcripts, and verified internship/fellowship assessments into a connected assemblage of credentials to present to employers. This changes the control of assembly and dissemination of credentials from the Registrar’s Office to the student who can take what s/he wants from the Registrar and supplement it with credentials from other sources to create a new, more complete version of a transcript. For example, a computer science student from a state university might supplement a transcript with validation links to MOOCs taken from Harvard, MIT, Northwestern, etc. The blockchain entries can include more information than a traditional transcript – adding details about the material covered, projects submitted by the individual student, etc.

Further implications for higher education are enormous. For example, Don and Alex Tapscott recently described some areas of research in EDUCAUSE Review:

  • Identity and Student Records: How we identify students; protect their privacy; measure, record, and credential their accomplishments; and keep these records secure
  • New Pedagogy: How we customize teaching to each student and create new models of learning
  • Costs (Student Debt): How we value and fund education and reward students for the quality of their work
  • The Meta-University: How we design entirely new models of higher education so that former MIT President Chuck Vest’s dream can become a reality

And, much more research is now underway on possibilities in higher education. We will see applications across the higher education enterprise emerge in the coming weeks, months and years.  Predictions abound, the Wall Street Journal lists five areas where they see innovation in higher education using blockchain; and earlier this year, EAB pointed to half a dozen.

As always with technology startups, there will be many failures, but also successes. For most of us, it is important to follow the developments closely; new products and applications are coming out at a torrid pace. Consider practices in your area that require additional security, or individualized treatment; they may be good candidates for blockchain treatment.

Of course, I will continue to track the developments in emerging trends, technologies, pedagogies and practices, Continuing and Online Education Update blog by UPCEA. You can have the updates sent directly to your email each morning – no advertising, no spam!

Best,

Ray Schroeder
Founding Director
National Council for Online Education

Ray Schroeder 2016 Summit for Online Leadership

Ray Schroeder is Professor Emeritus, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Senior Fellow at UPCEA. Each year, Ray publishes and presents nationally on emerging topics in online and technology-enhanced learning. Ray’s social media publications daily reach more than 12,000 professionals. He is the inaugural recipient of the A. Frank Mayadas Online Leadership Award, recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award, the United States Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame Award, and the American Journal of Distance Education/University of Wisconsin Wedemeyer Excellence in Distance Education Award 2016.

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