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Author's profile photo Rob Jonkers

Higher Education and Blockchain Prove a Convenient Combination

Higher Education and Blockchain Prove a Convenient Combination

What is blockchain? In today’s day and age what connects billions of people around the globe is the internet. There is no question that it is great for communicating and collaborating online. However, it is only built for moving and storing information rather than understanding the authenticity and securing of the data. Here the blockchain comes in. The blockchain works as an independent, secure, safe and transparent platform on which higher education institutions potentially can create a worldwide network for their students, faculty and staff.

Blockchain can help to reinvent higher education in such a way that the basic flow of internet information cannot. Many specialists say that the technology will cut out degree and credential fraud (a recent example where credentials were stolen from the internet: 1.4 billion stolen credentials found on dark web). As well as that blockchain is a technology that many think will disrupt the way individuals will interact with commercial organizations, government, doing financial transactions etc. Not only may that but blockchain can also help us change the relationships among universities and, in turn, their relationship to society.

However, the utilization of this to higher education institutes might not be immediately obvious but there are various ways in which this can be very beneficial. Going forward in time higher education is becoming more diversified, democratized, decentralized as well eliminated ‘middle-mans’. However, higher education still needs to uphold reputation, trust in degree, certification, and proof of learning. Here rises the opportunity, as concrete use case, to make use of blockchain which provides higher education institutions with exactly that. It is a public massive open online system with a very secure database.

One of which is to use this technology in order to create a secure, publicly accessible ledger of academic qualifications and degrees. Due to which universities approve a graduate’s degree and issue it on the Blockchain, this would help when student apply for jobs in the future and as well simplify HR recruiting processes. Beside this ‘end of student lifecycle’ use case you can also think about a ‘pre-student lifecycle’ use cases in the area of admissions. Applicants could share their credentials of previous education without the need of sending official (paint) stamped paper diplomas. Both corporate HR departments as well as admission departments from universities wouldn’t have to double-check if the job candidate/applicant defraud with their diploma’s, in other words; applying for multiple stakeholder’s simplicity and efficiency.

Another blockchain use case with great potential for higher education would be providing applicants and students with an easy method of payment of admission, tuition and graduation fees. Even micropayments would make sense. Especially since the traditional financial transactions use third parties who charge their own fees. A system of micro payments would allow students to make free transactions between parties. This would be very beneficial for the students and their tight pockets.
The ease of method of payment of for example tuition fee is in this blockchain context related to the well familiar cryptocurrency Bitcoin. We’ve already seen some examples globally where universities (e.g. University of Nicosia, Cyprus (they even offer a Master of Science course in Digital Currency via a MOOC) and FPT University, Vietnam) decided to accept bitcoin as currency for payment of tuition fee. Especially for universities having many international student’s, payment via bitcoin can ensure a much more smooth and simplified way payment of tuition fees, it eliminates the need of costly international bank transfers and it will reduce any waiting times, administrative delays, etc which international students today face with these ‘banks-in-the-middle’.

Blockchain as centralized database for credentials

Currently the most concrete and promising use case for higher education: issuing credentials/degrees on the blockchain and make them available in a personal wallet ready to be shared. The current system of degree certification is simply not efficient and not particularly safe. Degrees are crucial “documents” which follow the entire life span of a student, hence security and privacy is important. A paper system is an easy subject to loss, even fraud.

The population of students is increasing and diversifying, increasing the challenges of institutions to a track students; not just within an institute, but between institutions when/where a student may apply for admission, transfer or graduate, hence a centralized database of credentials and achievements makes sense. Not just for the institute but this is super convenient for student as well, whether a student is moving to another higher education institution, or getting a job. Even for refugees who might have no copy of their degrees and unable to retrieve one. This sort of secure, online repository would be extremely helpful. The blockchain based digital credentials / degree follows them regardless of allocation or address!

Personal identity and student records contain very sensitive information that is viable and valuable for the life of the student: They identify the student. This process of collecting data usually begins with a birth certificate issued by a licensed medical professional. And everything else from that day forward, from the previous academic achievements to a student’s health record each and every thing needs to kept secure and at hand for when it’s required. Maintaining the privacy and security of data stored digitally by those academically accredited institutions to protect their privacy is of paramount importance, but not always easy: The answer = Blockchain!

To summarize; to me blockchain and higher education is more than a convenient combination,
I would even state it is an unavoidable combination and will drive simplicity, privacy and trust between students and institutions but also between graduates and the corporate world.

In a next blog, I will highlight a proof-of-concept we conducted with a large European university where SAP Cloud Platform – Blockchain technology supported a concrete use case around issuing credentials/diploma on the blockchain: very exciting stuff!

Rob Jonkers
Solution Director – SAP Higher Education.

More info on SAP Higher Education & SAP Blockchain:

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      Author's profile photo Jean-Christophe PAZZAGLIA
      Jean-Christophe PAZZAGLIA

      What a nice project it will be for our HERUG community to build a peer network to support degree database on top of SAP Cloud Platform blockchain capability !