Recording and verifying candidates’ credentials can be costly and time-consuming for academia and businesses alike. Now, some education facilities are turning to bitcoin technology for help.
They are using blockchain, which was developed alongside the digital cryptocurrency bitcoin, to record their students’ achievements in a cheap, secure and public way. Blockchain works like a decentralized ledger, storing information on a global network that is publicly available and should be safe from tampering.
One example is Holberton School of software engineering in San Francisco, which was established as a project-based alternative to college. In October 2015, the school announced plans to share academic certificates on blockchain from 2017.
“For employers, it avoids having them to spend valuable time checking candidates’ educational credentials by having to call universities or to pay a third party to do the job,” Sylvain Kalache, co-founder at Holberton School, told CNBC via email.
Using blockchain also means the school saves money from building and operating its own database.
“Because of the design of the blockchain-distributed database, it cannot go down and cannot be altered, making the data always available and secure … the blockchain does this free of charge,” Kalache said.
The University of Nicosia in Cyprus is also using the technology to record students’ achievements and it is proving popular, according to George Papageorgiou, a digital currency lecturer at the university.
“We’ve only encountered enthusiasm in the practical uses so far and students are glad to be able to verify, with their new knowledge and the blockchain, that their digital certificate is genuine and that it cannot be recreated,” he told CNBC via email.
“We believe this instills confidence in both students and potential employers that (they) can check on their own, whether a presented certificate is real or not,” he added.
Will it catch on?
Ed Featherston, director at digital consultancy Collaborative Consulting, said he was working with several universities considering adopting blockchain technology.
Apart from using it to cheaply track and record students’ coursework, some were considering providing micro-courses and micro-credentials, verified through the blockchain.
“We eliminate all of the overhead of the intermediary third-party systems to try and validate all of this [coursework],” he said. “The cost of it from a systemic and transactional perspective becomes much lower and makes it a much more feasible concept to do.”
Featherston also said that having a student’s transcript recorded on the blockchain meant they could more easily control who saw it and would be useful for those who wanted to change colleges.
In February, Sony Global Education announced plans for a blockchain service that would allow students to securely transmit data. For instance, they could safely share their exam results with a potential employer.
“The technology has the potential to realize an entirely new infrastructure system for sharing records securely over the network in any number of ways, opening new doors of possibility for academic records and how they are assessed,” Sony Global Education said in a press release.