INTRODUCTION: STATE OF EDUCATION
The education industry has seen an extensive transformation over the years. The transition from the usage of hard copy textbooks and learning materials to the adoption of e-learning modules and digitization has been impactful. Over the past few years, the global education industry has shifted their focus to online instead of offline resources.
This article focuses on challenges and solutions for Education sector in India. However, many of these are very relevant to many parts of the world.
Education in India comprises of government, government aided and private institutions, of which nearly 40% are government institutions. With the population growth rate of 1.5%, there is enormous pressure on the education system to produce quality education at an affordable price and advance the literacy rate.
An Indian government policymaking body (NITI Aayog) is eyeing the potential applications of blockchain technology across various sectors. The primary focus is on developing a proofof-concept to explore blockchain in critical areas like education. Chitkara University is the first university in India to the Blockchain technology to issue e-documents for student’s benefit.
IMPACT OF STAKEHOLDERS IN EDUCATION
In the cultural milieu of India, parents, extended family, and friends influence of where, what, and how a person gets educated cannot be understated. The other stakeholders are the Educators, School Administrators, Future Employers, Local and State Governments.
Every stakeholder has a role to play. Each part is unique in their regard but supports one another. All beings with individual and specific roles act as an interconnected body with a shared goal.
CHALLENGES IN EDUCATION SYSTEM
Threat of student data theft: Nowadays educational establishments rely on Internet accessible databases, the risk of a hacker changing their grades, adding unearned certifications or even deleting/stealing an entire database has increased. Periodic reports of examination papers leaking or grades being changed by unscrupulous characters is common in India.
Difficulty in authenticating certifications and documents: The only way employers can verify potential employees’ credentials is by contacting individual educational institutions. It is a very time-consuming process. Verifying every student’s credentials is costly. There are many cases of fraud resumes and fake degrees.
Frauds related to education qualifications: This is also a crucial problem present in our education system. Applicants sometimes provide erroneous information and verifying student credentials remains a problematic and costly task for many employers.
Complexity of tracking intellectual property: Traditional copyright and patent practices protect an invention or original research paper, but also require the disclosure of such discovery. IP misuse and outright plagiarism is rampant in many parts of the world.
Biased behavior in the education sector: Many a times deserving candidate misses his/her right to education due to fraud or internal politics in the system. Corruption also results in biased behaviour.
High prevalence of paper documents: Paper based systems still highly prevalent in India A very small fraction of institutions have moved to a fully digitized platform. Paper documents are fragile and prone to damage and theft. There is no transparent and tamper-proof system available in traditional education.
Less Acceptability of MOOC certifications: MOOCs can get a massive boost if MOOC certification starts getting the same acceptability as a traditional degree. While each provider does provide certificates, the authenticity of these certificates remains ambiguous.
Completion rates in Online Education: Completion rates for online courses are meager. Many learners/students initially sign up for these courses, but the majority fails to complete the courses for typical reasons like personal distractions, change of focus, to lack of discipline and motivation.
Accessibility: There are many infrastructural limitations and social issues which makes it challenging to make education accessible to all sections of the society like poor, women, and minorities).
Cost: The cost of education is very high even for the people and places where it is accessible. This becomes especially pronounced in Second tier cities, towns, and rural areas.
BLOCKCHAIN: SOLUTION TO CHALLENGES
The blockchain is the next step in revolutionizing the education industry and addressing the above mentioned issues. Blockchain can be executed in individual educational institutions, groups of institutions, and both international and national educational organizations. In fact, to safely store credits and qualifications, the blockchain technology should be implemented in the education industry as a whole.
- Use of Blockchain in education reduces/eliminates threat of student data theft. Records which are accessible on blockchain system cannot be modified. Students with a profile on platforms can attempt multiple courses, and everything will be published on their public profile powered by blockchain technology such as EduBlock.
- Blockchain technology manages difficulty in authenticating certifications and documents. In blockchain technology, any new block added to the chain should be validated by other participants. Therefore, the record cannot be counterfeited, and it prevents people from producing false certifications. The blockchain administers a trust factor when it comes to certificates and digital degree which were not available before.
BADGR and Mozilla Open Badge are already being used to provide digital certifications to students in some prestigious academic institutions. Accredible is the industry-leading digital credentialing platform. It issues secure, digital certificates and badges.
- Frauds related to education qualifications are resolved by storing e-portfolios. Sony in partnership with IBM created an educational platform to guard and share an unspecified amount of student records. This platform could incorporate things beyond graduation certificates like attendance records, transcripts, credits and more. Moreover, this will cut down on the expense of verifying student’s credentials. Indorse is using blockchain-technology to launch a verified e-portfolio.
- Blockchain can also solve complexity of tracking Intellectual Property. Intellectual assets can be easily maintained on a blockchain to track publications and citations or other such details. Bernstein Technologies is a platform which registers the hash of documents on the blockchain, thus providing proof of existence, and ownership.
- Minimization of the use of Paper in document management: Blockchain technology can be used to create a digital repository for all academic records. Blockchain can support in leading a digital transformation in the educational industry by eliminating the need for paper documents.
- MOOC certifications and Blockchain: For MOOC providers, Blockchain can solve the apparent problem of authenticity by providing a formal process of issuing and managing certificates. Examples of MOOC providers are Edx, SWAYAM, NovoEd, Coursera and many more. Edx is one of the world’s most influential providers of online courses. SWAYAM attempts to bridge the digital divide for students who have inadequate access to the knowledge economy.
- Accessibility: The embodiment of Blockchain could genuinely create an open, traceable, regulated and transparent system of education which provides a means for more accessibility without the need for expanding the number of schools and training centers.
- Rewarding students with blockchain tokens can increase completion rates in online education. If students are awarded tokens, which can be exchanged for other cryptocurrencies or other local incentives, then they will have added motivation to complete online courses.
- Cost: Some universities have started to accept cryptocurrency as payment for tuition fees. Smart contracts are small computer programmes stored on a blockchain, which will perform a transaction under specified conditions. Real-time awards can be given to students, and they will get a certain number of digital currencies according to smart contract as rewards. This kind of money can be stored in the education wallet, which can be used as tuition fees. ODEM is a decentralized learning marketplace. They use smart contracts to negotiate financial relationships between its members.
Blockchain applications for education industry are still in their infancy. The majority of attention is currently focused at Fintech as opposed to education, but blockchain technology can change the face of education in India and elsewhere.
Blockchain technology has the potential to accelerate the end of a paper-based system for certificates and removes the need for educational organizations to validate credentials. Educational systems can automate and standardize many of their functions through a decentralized autonomous network.
Some action steps could be implemented to investigate the specific educational uses of blockchain technology. Policymakers should set up innovation pipelines to study and establish usually agreed digital data standards for educational records and how these can be linked to current degree course and qualification certification methods.
An expert panel should be formed to keep policymakers informed about the latest advancements. Educational organizations and students will be the primary receivers of the adoption of this new technology, and the central focus should be on these primary receivers to make them understand about these benefits.
Written by Ram Ramachandran.
Ram is the Dean and CEO in Residence of Firebird Institute of Research in Management, an international management school based in Coimbatore, India. Firebird is an innovative B-School that actively promotes experiential learning focused on creating hands-on leaders for the industry. Ram is a thirty five year veteran in the management consulting and IT industry focused on delivering strategic and transformative solutions in the areas of data & analytics, robotic process automation, and evolving Fintech solutions.