The average student loan debt for 2017 graduates was $39,400—a 6% increase from 2016, and we are likely to see that amount grow. Students are paying increasingly high tuition for degrees that may or may not give them a positive return.
That said, it’s no secret that higher education is one of the largest industries poised for disruption. Students are discovering the availability of trustworthy and affordable online learning platforms, and blockchain technology has arrived to add a stamp of accreditation previously unavailable in the digital education world.
The proliferation of affordable online learning
No online learning platform better represents the future of learning than Khan Academy, which has grown steadily year-over-year and recently launched a free LSAT prep that is available to all prospective law students.
“As a teacher, I can’t encourage online learning enough,” said Erika Gingery, a faculty member at Settlement Music School specializing in piano lessons in Philadelphia, PA. “I assign students supplemental material through various online music learning platforms and virtual keyboards, and they actually like it. The rest of their life is on a screen, so I like to meet them where they already live.”
Driven by language learning, coding, and take-home school materials, free online learning has spiked dramatically. But so far, none of these platforms have used blockchain technology to add a layer of authority or accreditation.
The progression of online learning will lead to blockchain integration
According to the Times Higher Academics, a group of Oxford professors recently launched a new platform that’s been called “Uber for students” and “Airbnb for academics.”
This platform enables students to take classes “a la carte,” from a professor of their choice. It differs from online colleges by literally following the Airbnb model; if a professor wants to make some additional income, he or she can list their class online. A student can communicate with that professor to schedule online classes, and that study would transfer into credits at an established university.
The move allows teachers to earn the same or more pay than they would at a traditional institution, and it allows students to take a full year’s worth of courses for less than $20,000—significantly less than the cost of attending school full time.
So how will blockchain be involved?
- Proof of interaction will live on the propriety blockchain, so students will be unable to falsify studies with professors. This is especially important considering the open and independent nature of these courses, which don’t have the authority of a university’s registrar office to back them up.
- Payments and contracts will be automatically charged and regulated via blockchain. No payments will be made through PayPal or similar payment services.
Retrieval of academic records via blockchain
While online learning platforms will gain the most from blockchain technology in the near future, academia, in general, will benefit further down the road.
In the current academic landscape, universities must communicate amongst themselves to verify a student’s degree. A DMA candidate at Harvard, for instance, will have to ask the registrar office of his master’s degree program to send an official transcript to Harvard. This process is expensive and inefficient, and it can take weeks.
In contrast, if academic credentials lived on a blockchain ledger, students would be able to supply a key wherever they need to. In addition, credentials via blockchain would be far more trustworthy than a diploma hanging on the wall.
Blockchains will revolutionize how research is shared
Besides helping students avoid Chapter 13 bankruptcy and making the retrieval of credentials easier, blockchain technology could be a boon to open education models.
Professors could have research immediately notarized via blockchain, skip the publication process in a formal journal, and track their material’s use around the world. This process would take one day rather than months, and it would be essentially free.
In short, the only institutions that would not benefit from blockchain integration would be universities themselves—the same universities that spend millions on frivolous programs and send thousands of students into crippling debt.
For more on technology in the education industry, see 5 Digital Transformation Trends In The Education Industry.