Academic credentials to go on a blockchain

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The first university in the Asia-Pacific region has started to issue recipient-owned academic credentials on a blockchain. The University of Melbourne has issued its Melbourne Teaching Certificate using the Learning Machine issuing system, an enterprise platform which simplifies anchoring official records to the blockchain.

University of Melbourne Pro Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning) Gregor Kennedy says the university is “very excited that its exploration of a new way of providing students with credentials was successful. While we are entirely committed to the existing degrees and awards that the University offers, we are also interested in exploring how we can build a more diverse credentialing ecosystem. Issuing credentials on the blockchain is a key component of this investigation.”

Why academic credentials?

Credentials stored on the blockchain:

  • cannot be tampered with
  • are private
  • remain recorded on the (blockchain) ledger permanently
  • provide security and longevity for recipients and verifiers
  • offer a single point of confirmation for those wishing to verify an academic qualification.

The Learning Machine dimension

Learning Machine blockchain credentials use the Blockcerts open standard. This means they are ‘learner-owned’, portable, independently verifiable, and interoperable with any system that supports Blockcerts or Open Badges 2.0.

The Blockcerts open source code was developed by Learning Machine and the MIT Media Lab in 2016. They released this to the public the same year under the MIT open source license. Using Blockcerts means that blockchain credentials:

  • remain the possession of each recipient
  • are verifiable by third parties – even if an issuing institution or vendor ceases to operate.

The Blockcert Wallet

Recipients possess full discretion over how they store and share their credentials. They accomplish this through their private Blockcerts Wallet. This is an open-source mobile app available for both iOS and Android.

When shared with a third party, for example a potential employer, Blockcerts verify instantly and for free. This should save employers (and the issuing institutions) all the time and labor traditionally associated with credential verification. In turn, this should:

  • reduce fraud and misrepresentation
  • boost the confidence of employers, governments and schools in potential employees.

Learning Machine Chief Executive Officer Chris Jagers says: “The blockchain is an innovation which gives institutions brand protection while also giving individuals the benefit of owning their official records and taking them anywhere. Both issuers and recipients immediately gain a level of independence and security that wasn’t possible before.

What does this mean

This may be the first Asia initiative but it is not the first. SAP has produced TrueRec. This is a secure and trusted digital wallet for storing professional and academic credentials. These credentials go further than the University of Melbourne. TrueRec can include IDs, such as passport, driver’s license or voter ID, educational credentials like university degrees and employment certificates.

Nevertheless, with institutions all over the world needing to come to terms with the logistical challenges of an increasingly mobile, global workforce and student body, this is progress. In effect, blockchain technology ‘upgrades’ legacy methods of credentialing and verification. The benefits include increased security and efficiency of records processing.

There is another point to make. Irrespective of the specific merits of either TrueRec or Blockcert, for the employer enterprise it does not matter which ‘solution’ a qualified person offers. Put another way, this is one of those instances where parallel blockchain implementations need not hinder functionality. The qualified person might have two or more ‘qualification wallets’ and have to submit each to a prospective employer. Or it may even become possible to transfer accreditations between wallets.

But the savings regarding academic credentials all around will be immense. Roll on TrueRec and Blockcert.

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