- ECPI University, a for-profit college based in Virginia, is among the latest colleges to offer verification of student degrees via blockchain, according to The Roanoke Times, which notes that Virginia Tech is "in the early stages" of considering a similar offering.
- The university, which partnered with blockchain digital credentialing startup Learning Machine, has uploaded more than 1,000 diplomas to the blockchain since August. Students can still obtain paper certificates.
- With a blockchain diploma, students can share a web link to their credentials with future employers, allowing those employers to verify them without contacting the university.
The blockchain is an Internet-based digital ledger on which transactions can be stored and easily shared. While it gained popularity as a medium for transactions of digital currency like Bitcoin, it is also finding use in the field of logistics and to track regulatory compliance. In higher education, some colleges and universities see it as an efficient channel to track student credentials.
Learning Machine CEO and founder Chris Jagers told attendees at the annual Educause conference earlier this month that the goal of blockchain credentials is to give students more accessible documentation of their accomplishments. "Credentials that are issued to students should be vendor-independent and recipient-owned," he said. "The ultimate end goal is for these records not to be … locked up in any way but actually to belong to the student in a useful format that they can use for the rest of their life."
Learning Machine also worked with MIT to pilot blockchain diplomas for students in two of its programs ahead of a full-scale implementation this past spring. MIT looked to blockchain for several reasons, including students' frequent need for immediate records verification and the college's large share of international students, said Mary Callahan, the university's senior associate dean and registrar. Having a largely tech-focused student body didn't hurt, either.
Central New Mexico Community College has emerged as a leader in using blockchain to store and share student records. It also worked with Learning Machine to develop an open-source platform. CNM and other colleges such as Columbia University are investing in blockchain research. Colleges looking to use blockchain for student credentials will also need to invest in outreach to educate students and local employers about how it works.
That's also on deck for MIT. "[The] focus was on getting it ready for the student to use. It was less on the narrative about working with employers, working with the community that might then benefit from the verification," Callahan said. "That's our next phase."