Education is one of the building blocks which helps lay the foundation of modern human organization. It is an ongoing process which accompanies us since we are born, and as a second shadow, it follows us all throughout our lives. As infants, we absorb every information that surrounds us, which in turn helps us develop and become members of our community, enabling us to interact with each other. From early childhood, we pass a certain threshold where education takes a more formal and structured approach, where control is handed to well-defined institutions such as kindergarten, grade school, high school, university, whose sole purpose is to help individuals find their path and place in the ever-changing social, political and economic structure.
On closer inspection, most observers will find themselves at a crossroads when trying to define education as a concept. What is education in the end? Most conclude that it is the collective pursuit of truth and the transfer of knowledge across generations. From a more pragmatic perspective, education is the process through which individuals acquire the skills necessary to ensure a career that guarantees financial stability, comfort, and status. There are gifted individuals, who tortured by an unrelenting inquisitive spirit make discoveries which forever change the landscape of their field of study, breakthroughs which can take the shape of new technologies, medicine, that add real value to the world we live in. Of course, there are those who dare to challenge established dogmas and demonstrate their inefficiency and provide better alternatives. The pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake is also a path enabled by what we perceive as education.
Regardless of the objective, education systems follow an established pattern in the relationship between student and teacher. Education is based on the trust in the institution, on the accuracy of the teachings and research material. Moreover, the advent of the internet, which was initially constructed as a means through which universities could share academic papers and research, revolutionized the whole education system, transforming it into a global community characterized by consensus, transparency, and persistence of information. Although the dimension has drastically changed in the past decades, the methodology has remained unchanged for the most part. Education still follows a rigid structure based on the broadcasting model, where the teacher takes the role of emitter which broadcasts information to the receptors, students who need to take notes and learn the information by heart. New advancements in technology hold the potential to address some issues present in the academic environment such as student data privacy, recognition of extracurricular activities, mobility and accessibility of information. On a grander scale, the role of technology is not just to solve a problem inherent to the current system. Although it can easily achieve this, it should also open new perspectives for every party involved, the institution, the teacher and the student.
The education system from a blockchain perspective
Over the past decade, blockchain has demonstrated its staying power through its versatility and applicability in key industries such as healthcare, real estate, Fintech, payments, basically any domain where trust and data integrity are core values. As a process which unfolds over a large span of our lives, at different intervals and places, it becomes cumbersome to map out every skill, achievement, proficiency.
Education becomes increasingly fragmented as we try to balance studies with the experience accumulated at the workplace. As a decentralized distributed ledger which ensures data immutability and integrity, blockchain can empower individuals to design their own pathways over a lifetime of learning and work. Education systems can prove to be difficult to navigate and use, information is highly fragmented and often characterized by a low degree of availability. The internet reformed education systems at a global level by enabling better communication and data sharing, blockchain as a relatively new player in the tech field positions itself as the next agent which can reorganize the academic environment from the ground up by enabling an environment where trust and transparency are guaranteed values. Information is currently distributed through insecure channels, which can lead to data corruption or data breaches that can render month and even years of research obsolete. Blockchain is a self-sovereign environment where secure data sharing is guaranteed through complex cryptographic algorithms, which enables a deviation from the classic paradigm by shifting control of learning from the institution to the individual.
Self-sovereign identity becomes a reality through blockchain. The concept of self-sovereign identity and a unique digital identity linked to a single individual is paramount in our increasingly digital society. Healthcare records owned by patients are a prime example of the value self-sovereign identities, but student records aren’t an exception. The concept entails that our identities and all the data associated with them, BA, Masters, Ph.D., diploma and any other extracurricular achievements such as training certifications become irrevocable and instantly available on a blockchain network. Legacy systems used by universities which often rely on centralized, client-server models, do a poor job when it comes to ensuring the integrity of the stored records, and the lack of availability and bureaucratic nature of the student-institution relationship often positions the student in an unfavorable position. The decentralized nature of blockchain technology creates an environment where data is always available, regardless of time and location. Furthermore, products such as Modex Blockchain Database come with inbuilt features which further tip the scales in the favor of students. Currently, universities have complete control over the historical record of students, and they can share the data with academic testing companies without consent. With access control mechanisms, Modex BCDB not only empowers students by making them the true owners of their records, but it also offers them the possibility to make a revenue, by charging testing companies a fee for accessing their private data.
Students and employees will have full rights over their learning data
Besides ensuring an environment which guarantees trust and security, blockchain can streamline the relationship between teachers and students, positioning them on equal footing. In a blockchain network, each record has one true owner, in this case the student who, during their academic years and later as an employee, accumulates degrees, certifications and documents which attest various skills. As the true owners of their data, students can grant access to recruiting companies to analyze their records and make better decisions based on merit and achievements. Integration in the job market can become a seamless process where the first move is done by companies who compete with each other for the best candidate. Although blockchain positions every party on an equal footing, universities and companies need to maintain certain privileges when it comes to student/employee records. The previously mentioned access mechanism works both ways, students are the true owner of their records, but they will not be able to modify grades, degrees or certifications. Modex BCDB enables the creation of a system where, students are obliged to grant write privileges to universities and employers, for a determined period of time.
Blockchain guarantees privacy and cybersecurity
We live in a society in which data has become more valuable than gold. As a result the occurrences of ransomware, the practice where a hacker penetrates a database system and encrypts all the data, threatening to delete it until a ransom is paid, have increased. In recent years, the University of California-Berkeley, Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, and Kirkwood Community College have been targeted by hackers. Centralized legacy systems are especially vulnerable to this type of attack because once the system is penetrated, all the data is at the mercy of the attacker. Blockchain negates this threat through decentralization, complex cryptography and its approach to data storage. Data introduced in a blockchain network is stored in interdependent structures known as blocks, which are distributed among every network participant, also known as nodes. If a node is compromised and attempts to tamper with the data, the system automatically detects any changes and rejects them, locking the compromised node. Data can be altered in a blockchain only if every network participant submits its agreement. The structures known as blocks are interdependent, because each block contains a unique identifier of the previous block, if tampering occurs, the unique identifier will also be changed, which will create a discrepancy that will render all the blocks that follow invalid.
Besides decentralization, blockchain protects data by using public key infrastructure for establishing a secure platform. A public key infrastructure is an advanced form of asymmetric cryptography where users get two keys that perform different functions: one is for encryption and the other for decryption. Forged diplomas and certificates are a common practice, and advancements in photo editing software enable the duplication of every minute detail. These immoral practices can become a thing of the past if diplomas are stored in a blockchain network and tied to an individual through a digital signature. Employers only need to verify the digital signature and if they do not correspond, they simply reject the job candidate.
Micro credentialing skills is on the rise
Micro credentialing is the process of earning a micro-credential, which is similar to are like mini-degrees or certifications in a specific topic area. Micro-credentials can cover a vast array of topics and to earn a one, students need to complete a certain number of activities, assessments, or projects related to the topic. Once they complete the requirements, students submit their work to the accredited institution or organization in order to earn the credential. To remain relevant, institutions and companies need to rethink how they measure, record and credential student accomplishments and mastery of skills both inside and outside the classroom. Blockchain provides an ideal environment for storing and managing credential while guaranteeing their validity and integrity.
The concept of meta-university is gaining traction
More and more people around the world are relying on alternative methods of learning, ranging from online education platforms like Udemy, listening to TED Talks, incorporating MIT’s open courseware in their syllabi, participating in free massive open online courses (MOOCs), and receiving industry-recognized certifications for their participation and completion in these learning activities. Employers have also signaled a shift in mentality, investing more aggressively in reskilling their employees for new jobs positions, focusing more on skills than degrees. In other words, learners everywhere are curating their own education, and employers are encouraging them to focus more on practical abilities than theoretical information.
Modex BCDB, an ideal partner for academic institutions
Blockchain solutions present themselves as a valuable asset to any company and institution which operates with a database system. The problem is that they aren’t affordable, and if implemented poorly can do more harm than good. This is especially available for academic institutions which have amassed large quantities of data over the decades. To make use of a revolutionary technology such as blockchain, institutions need to scout for blockchain experts which are few and number and charge considerable fees for their services. Even if the funds are available to seal the deal with a team of experts, most solutions present on the market provide a rigid approach, in the sense that they construct a custom framework from the ground up. The problem with this approach is that it is time-consuming, and not cost-effective.
Currently, the majority of blockchain solutions present on the market are oriented towards blockchain as a service, limiting themselves to a rigid view and application of the technology. A company or the CTO of a company can come to the realization, after a bit of study that their business can solve several issues and streamline back-end processes by implementing blockchain. The problem is that in order for a company to implement blockchain technology only through its own tech team, they need to invest a significant amount of time and resources to study what type of blockchain is most suited for their needs, and commence a lengthy process of learning the development specificity of the respective blockchain, as well as scouting for developers proficient in the technology.
Every enterprise is reserved and unwilling to make changes to its database, and for good reason, as data loss or data corruption constitute major risks. Modex BCDB doesn’t work by deleting the existing database, or data entries. The database is maintained intact throughout the process, data integrity is ensured by calculating the metadata of the records and storing it on the blockchain. Moreover, the system does not restrict access to the blockchain or to the database, so when a developer needs to make a reporting or ETL transformations, they can always perform warehouse analytics by accessing the database directly. This is because Modex BCDB has been purposely designed to be agnostic. With our solution, clients are able to set up a network, regardless of the type of database employed. In a consortium, each company can maintain what type of database they prefer (Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, Mongo DB), and connect them through a blockchain-powered network to ensure cohesion, availability while protecting corporate interests.
Blockchain company Modex is promoting the adoption of blockchain technology and strongly believes in a future built around blockchain. Modex offers fully integrated services designed to solve the last mile adoption problem of the blockchain and aims to make blockchain user-friendly for every single device or person. At Modex, we can innovate thanks to our incredible team of experts and we offer services for the entire blockchain technology ecosystem: Marketplace for Smart Contracts community tools for developers and blockchain as database services for enterprises. In over two years, using cutting-edge technologies and with a clear strategy, Modex has evolved from the world’s first app store for blockchain into a complex ecosystem designed for developers’ needs and enterprises looking for blockchain solutions. Our mission is to spread and facilitate the adoption of blockchain into society and to solve real-world problems using this revolutionary technology.