How Blockchain Can Impact Education

As time progresses, the capabilities and utility of blockchain technology are becoming increasingly obvious, and it has now become clear that blockchain has applications in practically every industry there is.

Ranging from supply chain management, to decentralized land and medical record registries, ultra-secure and redundant file storage, and even decentralized operating systems, blockchain is now working its way into everything — and for good reason.

With the potential to unlock dramatic improvements in security, efficiency, transparency, automation, and more, the technology is already being explored by more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies — including the likes of Walmart, Exxon Mobil, Apple, Samsung Electronics, AT&T, and more.

But while the wide-ranging capabilities of blockchain are still being explored in many cases, there is one sector it could stand to completely disrupt in the near term — the education sector.

Making Education More Accessible

As we have seen with the explosion in massive open online course (MOOC) providers, such as Udemy, Coursera, and edX, worldwide demand for high-quality, structured educational content is growing rapidly.

However, the adoption and usage of these platforms are being hindered by several obstacles. For one, they’re often not globally available due to licensing issues, regional restrictions, and local censorship. They’re also simply unaffordable in many cases, with those from underprivileged backgrounds or living in less economically developed countries typically having little to no access to high-quality educational resources outside of government-provided facilities and syllabuses.

Moreover, with many MOOC platforms taking a substantial cut from content creators, there is a strong incentive to drive up costs to mitigate this. Ultimately, this has made accessing online courses far more costly than necessary.

But this might not be the case for much longer. Thanks to the advent of distributed networks and decentralized file storage protocols like BitTorrent and Filecoin, creators now have a way to store and distribute their course materials without relying on centralized distribution and onboarding platforms.

With the advent of smart contract-capable blockchains, like Polkadot, Ethereum, and Binance Smart Chain, both content creators and consumers now have the opportunity to create and access feature-rich content that is automatically executed over the blockchain via smart contracts. This can be used to automate test scoring and plagiarism detection to dramatically boost efficiency for educators while providing new engaging ways to learn.

Though several platforms have attempted to make progress in this area, so far none have managed to achieve the level of adoption necessary to sustain further growth. For example, Gilgamesh — a once-promising Ethereum-based knowledge-sharing network — failed to generate much traction among educators and users, and recently shut down for good.

Simply making education more accessible, doesn’t necessarily make it more desirable. After all, standardized education is still considered the norm, and many employers and further education establishments fail to recognize non-standard qualifications — such as completed online courses, certificates, and accreditations. In order for blockchain-based educational resources to be considered viable options, users need to know that their achievements carry weight and are of tangible benefit going forward.

Blockcerts, a platform that provides an open standard for creating, issuing, and verifying blockchain-based certificates, is making great strides towards resolving this issue. The developers behind the platform hope to provide an easy-to-use solution that apps can use to produce and verify blockchain-based records. Certificates, diplomas, and student credentials can be permanently stored on the blockchain, providing an immutable source of truth that can be securely shared or used as part of a curriculum vitae or resume.

In 2018, more than 600 MIT graduates opted to receive a digital version of their diploma via Blockcert’s solution — demonstrating real-world adoption of the technology.

With the prospect of gamification and blockchain-based rewards, educators can use blockchain to incentivize users and issue tokens that commemorate their achievements — such as non-fungible token badges and other collectible assets. These might even go on to generate real-world value, further motivating learners.

Furthermore, blockchain can also be used to deliver monetary incentives and rewards to students, including bursaries, grants, and awards, which could be programmatically unlocked based on academic performance or student competitions — all without needing to lose a cut to a middleman or payment processor.

Transforming Education: One Block at a Time

As with most disruptive technologies, the integration of blockchain and the public education sector will likely be a gradual process. After all, government-run institutions like state schools and colleges, as well as other state-sponsored educational platforms are notoriously slow on the uptake of new technologies.

But with many citizens of numerous countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Thailand, Russia, and more pushing for education reform, it may not be too long before decentralized technologies begin to make an appearance in mainstream education.

Nonetheless, it is likely that private institutions will be the first to leverage these new technologies. Motivated by the potential for dramatically improved efficiency, automation, and student satisfaction, as well as a renewed focus on distance learning efforts, dozens of private further education institutions — including Harvard, MIT, and Yale — have been actively researching the technology. Some have even gone as far as to directly invest in cryptocurrencies and supporting infrastructure via their endowments.

Though the potential to innovate in the education sector is clear and blockchain-based solutions make sense in many cases, odds are that the capabilities of the current iterations of the Ethereum and Binance Smart Chain blockchains may be inadequate to support an educational platform with potentially millions of users. As a result, the growth and success of blockchain-powered EdTech platforms may be contingent upon the adoption of second-layer technologies and cross-chain hubs, such as Polkadot.

“Blockchain has long been hailed as a potentially disruptive technology, but it’s still very much in its early days in terms of tech maturity and awareness. While it is likely we will see a mass-market blockchain-powered education platform in the near future, we should expect blockchain-enabled platforms to gradually work their way into the sector based on their utility value,” said Master Ventures Founder and CEO Kyle Chasse.

About Master Ventures

Master Ventures is a blockchain-focused venture studio helping to build the next generation of blockchain-based Web 3.0 system innovations within the crypto industry. Launched in 2018 by Founder and CEO Kyle Chassé, the company’s ethos can best be summarized in the acronym #BeBOLD: Benevolent, Open, Love, Decentralized.

Master Ventures co-creates with entrepreneurs and businesses worldwide to turn the best ideas into innovative and disruptive products. They do this by investing as strategic partners through offering advisory services to the projects they believe in. To date, Master Ventures has invested in over 40 crypto projects, including the likes of Kraken, Coinbase, Bitfinex, Reef, DAO Maker, Mantra DAO, Thorchain, and Elrond.

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