Blockchain technologies grow rapidly and are applied in various industries. The most popular direction is the finance industry. In the first place, it is the development of cryptocurrency. Every user of gadgets knows, or at least heard about the “digital currency”. The mass media often reports news about the current bitcoin rate, the formation, and start-up of various branches (forks) on the cryptocurrency market. If the image of cryptocurrency is already fixed in the consciousness of people, then the meaning and principle of digital money remain beyond comprehension for the majority.
The finance industry has accelerated the development of the blockchain in other branches. Many large companies are beginning to introduce new technologies to optimize their business processes, including the educational industry. Let’s consider briefly what the blockchain is.
Blockchain is an algorithm-system, which is represented by a chain of blocks with information. To explain the meaning of the term for the common man, one can imagine an analog. This will be a standard database with an improved security system.
Distinctive characteristics of the system are:
• absence of the single server;
• the ability to store information on different data mediums;
• data decentralization;
• guaranteed safety of information.
The blockchain technology is constantly being updated. New blocks with information are attached to already-existing chains. Automatical indication of the time and date of creation of a particular capture helps to order the data. Also, a reference to other thematic blocks is pointed out (with reference to the entire chain). Due to the fact that there is no single server with data, attackers will not be able to hack the encoded system, steal or obscure the data.
Advantages of the blockchain
Thanks to its own comprehensive data storage system, the blockchain, when properly used, can improve the level of security and constancy of the common system. Now, a chain with information is used in other branches. The blockchain is relevant and penetrates into the following directions:
• medical records (studies, recording of carried out analyzes and patient anamnesis);
• making both small and large financial deal (broker services, crediting, currency transactions, purchase and sale of shares);
• latching data about community commitment (survey findings, election results);
• the work of the scientific community, research data validation (base for checking the uniqueness of scientific papers, system for distance teaching of students and advanced training of specialists).
The main advantages of the blockchain:
1. Information of each block chain is available to everyone, but no one can change it without having private keys.
2. During the interchange of data, the assistance of an intermediary is not required. Transactions are verified by all participants of the system.
3. The financial flow is not controlled by a separate body. Verification of the transaction is carried out through all recorded blocks of the chain.
Future education systems: is there a place for blockchain?
The blockchain database is integrated not only for financial transactions and cryptocurrency exchange platform but also for document flow. This feature can be realized on the basis of the Bitcoin node and the op_return function. This approach was suggested by Philipp Schmidt with colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The principle of this method is to add information to each transaction. For example, you can add a certificate to a transaction and define a hash using SHA256. After 5 confirmations, it is recorded in the blockchain. Although, at the moment, the approach of Philipp Schmidt is not optimal, because the op_return function has limitations of the amount of data. That`s why the team of Philipp Schmidt has developed blockcerts platform that will allow to confirm certificates using the blockchain. As you can see, in order to improve the education system, today we have to start blockchain integration.
With the help of blockchain, it is possible to avoid manipulations with certificates, diplomas, scientific works, articles. For the scientific community, researchers, and even common students, this is a great opportunity to save and safely share the works of authorship, to learn about the current developments, even in the niche specialization. The technology allows monitoring changes and authors of these changes. In such a way, you can ascertain the identity of the author and increase the level of responsibility.
The pioneer from the scientific community
For the first time, the blockchain system in the education branch was officially applied in 2017. It was the University of Nicosia (Cyprus), which decided to modernize and simplify the process of searching and storing any documents about specialization (diploma, certificate, scientific work) in such a way.
It was the first university that accepted Bitcoin cryptocurrency for learning fee. The university opened MOOC (Massive open online courses), which are accessible for distance learning for students from more than 83 countries.
By the receiving of diploma, you cannot be doubtful of its meaning. The University of Nicosia is a member of the EUA (European University Association). Both diplomas and certificates of educational institutions are authentic and recognized in any country.
Having declared itself only positive, the blockchain is also relevant for other universities. Recently, Open University (UK), an educational institution Sony, Institute of Technology (Massachusetts) began to use the blockchain.
Some companies have faced a problem of the authenticity of certificates and diplomas. This is especially relevant for top positions, where the level of education is a key indicator when choosing a candidate. For example, in 2012, Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson was fired for his cheating. He brought in fake information about diploma of the college. Scott has worked for a couple of months when the activist shareholder group Third Point found out the data. This scandal shows that verification of future candidates requires detailed verification. But there is another problem. As a rule, acknowledgment request for a diploma lasts a couple of weeks. This significantly hinders the rapid search for new employees. Blockchain makes it possible to solve this problem in the future.
It is worth noting that the blockchain is used not only as a database. Only due to the unique opportunities and transparency of operations, the traditional education system can be reorganized. Online learning will be in line with the standard intramural and extramural education.
For example, one can complete MOOC from across the world and receives a real diploma that meets international standards when successfully passing exams.
Advantages over traditional education:
1. Cheap cost of educating in comparison with intramural education.
2. Great choice for single disciplines with the best professors and doctors.
3. Independent selection of a combination of the studied subjects, choosing learning strategies based on own requirements/wishes.
4. Direct contact between teacher and student, which will significantly increase the effectiveness of the process of knowledge acquiring.
Danger for corrupt institutions
As you know, the main financial flows pass through popular universities. Not always, the quality of education corresponds to the declared status of the institution. Moreover, there are still bribes and collusion.
The blockchain is able to reorganize the hierarchy of pseudoscientific works, and other moments, that are unacceptable for a high-quality education system.
• With the help of decentralized storage and common information accessibility, it will be possible to track each diploma, authenticate it.
• Students will independently choose a qualified teacher, which will significantly reduce the level of academic incompetence.
• Professors will also benefit, because they will be able to receive fair percent from lectures and seminars they held, regardless of a fixed university compensation.
One of the successful examples of such work is the ODEM platform (On-Demand Education Marketplace). This is the unique startup that represents the educational services market. Students apply for a certain course. They are offered to take a course from one of the famous teachers for a fee. For such a “collaboration”, it is not necessary to head to one or another university officially. More details about the revolutionary platform can be found in an interview with Richard Maaghul.
ODEM uses Ethereum-based smart contracts for integration of the blockchain. This unique opportunity allows building a transparent relationship between teacher and student. All cooperation conditions are recorded from a smart contract and are fulfilled automatically.
Here you can check out an example of a smart contract that was developed by our team.
Globalization cannot be avoided
How will change the education system after implementation of the blockchain document flow?
1. All documents will be in the same block database. This means that the company will be able to find out about a potential candidate freely. For example, check his diploma against certain knowledge and skills.
2. Search of candidates will be much easier. Due to the fact that the system cannot be deceived, the choice of the candidate will satisfy the expectations.
3. It will be possible to track the demand for certain information, courses. By putting forward their own demands for a potential employee, the student will know what knowledge he needs to gain.
4. A learning person will be able to choose only those courses that he needs. All additional disciplines will be excluded, what differs from the standard “package” of the university.
The European Commission was engaged in the examination of issues of the blockchain system implementation into the education system. According to a published report, studies were undertaken to analyze the risks and benefits, possible problems, and the feasibility of such study at different levels of education (schools, colleges, universities, postgraduate education). Upon completing all the procedures, the report “Blockchain in Education” was submitted. The document contains answers to questions about:
• accreditation and transfer of documents;
• changing the structure of the payment system;
• improving the structure for receiving of digital certificates.
The Commission pointed out that at this stage, the blockchain is just beginning to gain momentum. However, the system is quite viable and, perhaps, will become a new platform for education in the near future.
With the flash-like development level of technology, it is difficult to keep track of all the novelties and updates. It is the blockchain system that will help to keep up required knowledge, to solve the problem of reorganization of educational programs.
The blockchain technology market is just starting to develop. Many companies are developing ideas on how to apply the new technologies to their business. The demand for experts is huge, and their number is insufficient. Budgets for software development are growing. If you look at the capitalization of cryptocurrency, it grew from 17 billion to 500 billion in 2017. Many companies understand that the blockchain affords vast opportunities for business process improvement, network Infrastructure development and improvement of the business profitability. Integration in the logistics, real estate and agrarian industry is being carried out actively. According to a PwC survey, 84% of the company is developing blockchain for its business. “Everyone is talking about blockchain, and no one wants to be left behind,” the survey says. Our company is deeply involved in the integration of blockchain in the financial industry and the development of solutions in other branches.