Blockchain and education seem like strange bedfellows.
After all, blockchain technology — which enables cryptocurrency transactions — hasn’t yet gained a strong foothold in the corporate world. Despite rallying calls for its adoption, its complexity and scope have prevented it from leading digital transformation efforts.
The truth is, blockchain has already demonstrated its value, especially in the realm of supply chain tracking and records management. Yet, 44% of business leaders view blockchain as “overhyped.” Meanwhile, 34% are quietly implementing it into their core IT architecture. This lack of consensus has created friction for blockchain’s growth.
In this post, we present a tangible use case for blockchain in the education space — the creation of a transparent, immutable, and secure student records repository.
Blockchain and Education: Disrupting Traditional Student Record Workflows
First things first. Let’s start with a working definition of blockchain: Digital information recorded onto “blocks” that are encrypted with hashes (algorithm-generated cryptographic security layers). Each block of data connects to the previous block, forming a chronological “chain” of data. The hash or cryptographic fingerprints make the data tamper-proof.
Today, 84% of organizations have some experience with blockchain and its use cases.
Yet, despite the rise in digital transformation initiatives in the education sphere, records management relies on largely inefficient processes. Most records are compiled manually using proprietary formats and storage systems. And, fax machines, snail-mail, and email comprise the main methods used for record transfers.
Blockchain eliminates these pain points, namely through:
- Decentralization: Everyone shares data but no one owns it.
- Immutability: Blockchain offers unparalleled security. In order to revise data, threat actors must alter all cryptographic hashes and out-smart the entire network of nodes.
- Transparency: Within a blockchain system, every transaction is visible across the entire network. Of course, permission-based sharing remains an option. But, overall, blockchain drives transparency and traceability.
To clarify how blockchain can be put to use in institutional records management, check out MIT Media Lab’s Blockcerts and Digital Certificates Project. The latter comprises an “ecosystem for creating, sharing, and verifying blockchain-based educational certificates.”
Conventional Versus Blockchain Recordkeeping: A Tale of Two Cities
- A long held component of education bureaucracy, student record systems have been in place since 1840.
- Those with Bachelors degrees earn 31% more than those with Associates degrees. Student record details document academic achievements.
- The average benchmark for a well-developed manual process is a 1% error rate.
- Schools are not required by law to keep student records for any set period of time, leading to inconsistencies in access, storage, and integrity.
The traditional student record process exists in a hyper-manual, hyper-fractured ecosystem. Many institutions of learning still use paper-based workflows and proprietary storage systems. This creates siloed systems across the education landscape. Each institution creates dedicated records management systems with unique security standards. This results in slow response times, virtually non-existent transparency, and redundant workflows.
In contrast, adopting a unified system (either via blockchain or through a traditional centralized repository) creates a comprehensive, shared environment that makes editing and retrieving records a breeze.
One of the largest issues with ad-hoc student records systems lies in record changes. Educators need to make changes, but they also need to share those changes securely. Blockchain enables this. When students experience life changes (relocation, marriage, graduation, etc.), they can modify their records without needing to delete past records. In addition, the source of those changes is evident, and each change is verified by all actors involved.
Blockchain Offers Tangible Value to Institutions Willing to Invest in Disruptive Technology
“As a distributed, tamperproof ledger, a well-designed blockchain doesn’t just cut out intermediaries, reduce costs, and increase speed and reach. It also offers greater transparency and traceability” — PwC
Innovation requires foresight. Mass-produced disruptive technologies don’t necessarily integrate seamlessly into existing tech infrastructure. If institutions want to reinvent their recordkeeping processes, they must invest in custom-built solutions that drive value to their operations. Blockchain is the “hidden dragon” of tech innovation. However, it isn’t a SaaS solution you can pay a monthly subscription to utilize. Winning with blockchain requires investment and collaborative effort across departments. However, the payoffs can be massive.
If you’re looking to develop a unique but secure records management solution, we can help. At Entrance, we leverage agile processes and best-of-breed skill sets to create custom solutions for learning institutions. Contact us to learn how blockchain and education can be natural allies in leading-edge innovation.