National PlatformUse Cases

Transforming Scottish Education through an Integrated Blockchain Ecosystem

A great example scenario for a national Blockchain platform is Education, and how it can be enhanced through ‘Blockchain Digital Badges’.

In his Alastria presentation Carlos Pastor introduces their idea of a ‘National Blockchain Network’, a shared blockchain infrastructure co-owned as a non-profit by a consortium of relevant industry and government organizations.

Education is a great example use case of where this platform could be applied, to harness technologies such as the Blockchain and apply them to the digital life-cycle of academic credentials.

Blockchain-Enabled Digital Certificates

The role and value of digital certification in today’s modern world can most simply be described visually:

This example highlights their immediate value to employment, how they can be modular and very specific to workplace roles – an AWS Solution Architect is a very well defined function, and not only does the digital certificate validate the required skills have been achieved but they can also be used to socially promote the fact we have them, increasing our chances of securing such a job.

The purpose of introducing the Blockchain into the mix is to add another layer to enhance the validation aspect of this, ensuring the authenticity of certificates.

The types of innovation that seem to be focusing on this type of use case include ‘Blockcerts‘, an open source blockchain project for enabling a Universal Verifier that will verify any Blockcert issued by any institution, anywhere in the world.

Via their Medium article UniversaBlockchain explore the scenario of Blockchain in Education.

They highlight keynote problems like the high rates of medical school diploma falsification as pain points a technology like Blockchain is ideal for tackling in some form, among a wave of other transformative benefits for the sector as it ripples through all workflow areas related to HR, resume checking, et al.

Athena builds on this some, notably detailing the core signature process that underpins the integrity of the record, as a comparison to traditional paper-based approaches:

  • Blockchain-enabled digital certificates are immutable and cannot be forged
  • The records are stored on a distributed ledger, hence certificates can be only evaluated by anyone who has access to the blockchain
  • Since the records are stored in a shared distributed ledger, the certificate can still be validated even if the organization that had issued it no longer exists
  • The digital certificates stored in the ledger can only be destroyed if all the copies in every system are destroyed.

Digital Badges – Foundation for Gamified Micro Learning

This capability would ideally go hand in hand with ‘Digital Badges’, which can also be authenticated via the Blockchain the same way.

In another blog we describe a number of new approaches to education that our Learn.scot portal will enable, that includes ‘Micro Learning’ and ‘Gamification’ – Digital Badges can underpin these through certifying the learning of small modules, rewarding the individual progress steps through an overall course in a fun, game-like manner.

Participants earn points for various activities and achievements, which you specify both in terms of the goals and also the number earned. You can then also define Ranks, how you progress overall as a result of earning these points, and that can be reflected through a Leaderboard, showcasing the core motivation context.

As Hastac explains :

A digital badge is a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality, or interest that can be earned in many learning environments. Open digital badging makes it easy for anyone to issue, earn, and display badges across the web—through an infrastructure that uses shared and open technical technical standards.

Open digital badging makes it easy for anyone to issue, earn, and display badges across the web—through an infrastructure that uses shared and open technical technical standards. Organizations like Credly facilitate their universality across industries.

A pertinent example of how this can be applied in the corporate world is this example of the Scottish Social Services Council uses them to underpin workforce learning. The BCS describes this as the future of professional development, with many organizations like Siemens using them this way.

An Integrated Ecosystem – Platform for a world-leading digital nation

The core ideal of our Learn.scot initiative is that it is not just a single web site, but the catalyst and framework for an overall integrated digital ecosystem approach. xAPI provides an overview of the interplay of different education applications that can form such an ecosystem.

With these types of technology foundations the question about and process of forming an ‘ecosystem’ is examined through asking about how academic institutions and commercial organizations want to interact, notably in areas such as ‘recognizing’ the credentials of others in the ecosystem.

For example employment roles that require a very specific, up to date course qualification, such as ones related to operating the latest machinery, or the prerequisite high school grades for access to a university course.

This Cointelegraph article explores the nature and details of this ecosystem. Blockchain and Digital Credential experts Christopher Allen and Kim Hamilton Duffy explain how a key trend is ‘personal data agency’ – To date academic credentials like degrees and transcripts are held centrally, and individuals must navigate a number of challenges and approvals to obtain access to and share them for employment purposes.

They can also be changed, deleted and shared without consent or knowledge of the individuals, and so the advent of the Blockchain era will see users take direct control and ownership of their records, and via technologies that ensure their integrity. This would be hugely impactful in scenarios like immigration, where an increasing number of migrants that either have lost their credentials or for whom it is impossible to tell if their documents are valid.

Another critical dimension goes hand in hand with our point about ‘Social Learning Communities‘ enabling a peer to peer approach to learning. Christopher Allen highlights:

“This makes it possible for there to be P2P [peer-to-peer] competency credentials, from fellow students, teachers, co-workers, clients, contractors, employers — not just educational institutions.”

In other words not only can a single individual be the teacher providing the education but also the ‘institution’ certifying the student has learned the skill accordingly. Their own reputation as an expert in the field would underpin its’ legitimacy.

Conclusion

For Scotland to truly realize their ambition to become a world leading digital nation, we must first follow those currently blazing a trail at that level, those already building such ecosystems.

As this news highlights the Association of the Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada (ARUCC) has chosen Digitary as the solution provider for the Made for Canada National Network.

This initiative means the Canadian higher education community is creating the very first online platform and national credential wallet for post-secondary learners. Once fully operational, the Network will enable 3 million learners across the country to access and share their official digitized post-secondary transcripts and credentials online – anytime, anywhere.

Digitary offers a suite of features for managing academic credentials and digital badges, and has teamed up with Evernym to integrate these with Self-Sovereign Identity.

This is a real-world example of what cutting edge, world leading digital innovation looks like, and will come to act as an exemplar for the future of digital education, globally. Scotland’s opportunity is to move quickly to be part of that cutting edge and to be a pioneer of that future.

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