Tag Archives: blockchain

The research I undertook for the thesis of my fourth MA revealed that blockchain is already disrupting many industries and financial processes. Its impact on/disruption of HE is assured. In 2018, it was only the nature, speed, and degree of that impact/disruption that was unclear. This research stratified the discourse into six highly related subtopics that reveal the interests and predictions of educational and technological experts regarding the nature and degree of blockchain’s disruption of HE.

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In 2018, blockchain was already intensively active in securing data and facilitating transactions in logistics and transport, energy production, manufacturing, and trading. When combined with the Internet of Things (“IoT”), blockchain applications multiply further. The adoption by established HE institutions of smart technologies has been slower.

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Smart contracts enable/enforce bilateral accountability. Payments could be withheld conditionally, released pending satisfaction, and matched in high resolution to service usage. Smart contracts ensure punctuality of payments but also force service providers to accept payment-according-to usage. For HE, such flexibility represents pedagogic challenges. Learner commitment cannot be assumed. Wherever possible, teaching would have to be packaged into stand-alone compartments, to allow students to attend according to their requirements.

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It is unlikely that HE can continue without adopting technologies that are normal in every other sphere of information usage. Only a few aspects of the traditional HE offering are inimitable by online education. These few represent a potentially valuable differentiation and could be collectively described as the university experience.

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In proposed blockchain-based systems, students have a single point of access for all their certificates and learning histories; HE institutions can rely on the blockchain for up-to-date access to all the information they require about a learner. This means HE institutions would be able to configure learning around a detailed learner profile, boosting the relevance of teaching options to optimise the learning experience. 

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Castañeda and Selwyn (2018) contend that any discussion of pedagogy requires consideration of all aspects of education, including technology. Most learning theories are of pre-digital heritage. Technology-based learning needs to be fully understood, and the conceptualisation of the design and deployment of technologies in HE must be subject to sustained theorising. Proponents of technological learning must acknowledge the affective aspects of HE; and, similarly, the “hyper-rationalisation” of digital methods and technologies of education must be avoided. The impact of any educational technology must be gauged through its relevance to identity, responsibility, social relations, and accountability, since these are critical to the HE environment and experience. On the matter of engagement, the question of whether digital technologies are disconnecting and alienating (“hyper- individualising”) learners must be asked.

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Gazali et al (2017) inform us that in Malaysia, only 0.05% of HE loans are repaid. Their paper offers a blockchain- and smart contract-based solution. In the design proposed, borrowers are granted full access to their accounts and total ledger visibility; the authorities receive automatic notification of loan account activity. The design exploits the Ethereum protocol. Following basic blockchain principles, smart contracts are distributed across nodes, but, usefully, Ethereum supports three types of contract activity: creation of new, transfer to other parties, and function invocation. These give borrowers flexibility in repayment options and schedules, and provide lenders audit trail visibility.

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