Blockchain in HE: Paradigm Challenges (1)

Blockchain technology is applicable to new methods of HE, such as the MOOC. Since MOOC participation requires no physical interaction between learner and institution, verifying participation is a challenge. Blockchain provides a solution: verifiable certificates of completion or assessment are easily generated and accessed.

Blockchain has broader implications: it can permit the sharing of social capital. Twitter-like applications that connect content through hashtags (#) would allow users to offer social capital to others through hashtag sharing. The authors of valuable content shared within communities would receive acknowledgement (through an approval process similar to that achieved by the “Like” function in Facebook, for example). Such acknowledgement would be logged on the author’s blockchain, and his/her social capital would increase quantifiably. Instead of authoring journal articles whose relevance is only discernible by comments and subsequent citation counts, academics could post articles to mass usage platforms and receive rapid, measurable feedback on their quality from academics, practitioners, and generalists.

Every learner and researcher would have a blockchain presentation app on his/her mobile phone. This would function as an aggregator and provide ledger visibility. The education blockchain portfolio would be similar in appearance to a bitcoin wallet.

Such a portfolio would not be merely a more intelligent version of a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn offers no criteria of endorsement, nor does it allow users to decline an endorsement by an untrusted user. The blockchain portfolio would permit endorsement refusal. Moreover, all claims to the authorship of material contained or linked to in the portfolio would be independently verifiable through blockchain. Thus, social capital, social media activity, and intellectual capital (broadly) would be easily demonstrated, discovered, and authenticated.

IBM (2017) report that blockchain will democratise education and shatter learning paradigms. A new culture will enter the classroom, ushered in by the need for new skill sets.

Today’s technological, mobile world demands agility in education. Increasingly, learning is occurring in non-traditional formats – credits are earned in multiple situations, countries, or companies. The educational ecosystem must reflect such technosocial developments, so must become fluid and specific. The backbone of that ecosystem will be an AI-searchable, detail-rich, blockchain-based skills and knowledge ledger.

Searchable blockchains will allow teachers (ideally assisted by Watson-like AI bots) to steer students toward units and courses that address weaknesses or strengthen skills. Teachers could concentrate on core material by having AI point students in the direction of preparatory learning. Blockchain-secured learning histories (certificates, transcripts, and references) would be verifiable and portable, which would simplify recognition across institutions and countries.