Until December last year, block chain technology was a word that was used in reference to crypto currencies like bitcoins. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi awarded the graduating IITians from IIT Kanpur their degrees in a blockchain based digital form on December 28, he unveiled a new facet of the blockchain technology, writes Tarannum Manjul of Elets News Network.
When we talk about blockchain technology, the first thing that comes to our mind is that it is technology that enables the Bitcoins and Ethereum of the world. But this has a much larger and a bigger picture, and the true potential of blockchain technology lies in transforming other key sectors. One such sector this technology can truly revolutionize is education.
The pandemic has very strongly affected educational institutions across the globe. While everyone hopes that campuses will again buzz with the physical presence of students and teachers, the widespread use of digital technology in education is here to stay. Through blended learning and flipped classrooms, students are no longer limited by teaching resources and learning possibilities available within the institutions’ physical boundaries. The new world is here to stay – there is knowledge from across the globe for everyone to use and share.
By introducing the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), India has set an ambitious agenda. The goal is to achieve a 100 percent Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030 and double it in higher education, to reach 50 per cent by 2035. The students, it is envisaged, will have increased flexibility and subject choices, with no rigid separations across disciplines. There is a strong need to invest in digital education and related technologies to achieve these ambitious targets and to provide education that is holistic and multidisciplinary.
There are several aspects for making a robust Digital Education Ecosystem (DEE) – content development, teaching, evaluations, grading, attendance recording, achievements, certificates, degrees and diplomas. Stakeholders such as educational institutions, prospective employers, mentors and certification agencies can be integrated into the DEE. With greater digitisation, there is an inherent need for more secure and fool-proof systems that can track students’ academic activities as well as provide the required information to all stakeholders. The blockchain can emerge as a viable solution to manage such an integrated DEE.
Now you will think where does Blockchain get its name from ?
Blockchain gets its name from the digital databases or ledgers, where information is stored as “blocks’’. These blocks are then coupled together forming “chains”. An exact copy of the blockchain is available to each of the multiple computers or users, who are joined together in a network and any new information added or altered via a new block is to be vetted and approved by over half the total users. With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) and availability of cheap computing and internet services, blockchain technology can now facilitate innovations across a range of processes and applications requiring management, storage, retrieval and safety of vast and important information.
Blockchain technology can provide an excellent framework to manage student records ranging from day-to-day information such as assignments, attendance and extracurricular activities, to information about degrees and colleges they have attended. It would be a secure system that ensures educational records remain immutable. These can be trusted upon by prospective educational institutions and recruiters, who can be provided access to relevant records. In a similar manner, information about teachers can be safely stored and this would enable an educational institution to monitor faculty performance and attendance as well. The blockchain ledger would provide a time-stamped and tamper proof record of faculty performance – attendance, student evaluations, number of students opting for their electives, research output and publications.
These records could be linked to faculty appraisal systems, thus ensuring greater accountability of the faculty and the staff as well.
The NEP-2020 calls for introducing multidisciplinary education where students would be able to choose their own combination of major and minor subjects along with flexibility in course duration. And for effective management and implementation of this multidisciplinary education, blockchain can help implement a multiple-entry and-exit structure. Further, students can be assured of the quality of teachers and educators. It can help enable educators to display their certified Skill Badges, allowing students to opt for courses in a disciplined and informed manner. Meanwhile, students too, especially those in higher education and research, can adopt Skill Badges to indicate their proficiencies. This would enable faculty to identify the right students for various projects. A blockchain-based ecosystem can also be used to design a scholarship system incentivising students to maintain consistency and achieve academic excellence,
The blockchain system works on the principle of decentralisation. This means that the control is not in the hands of a central agency, but to a distributed network of nodes. This will help in keeping the data safe even if any specific node is compromised. Also, the information in a blockchain is recorded and stored sequentially along with an exact time stamp. The previous information can’t be altered, only amended by adding a new block. This makes tampering with a transcript very hard.
Maintaining the records and database of students
The blockchain technology can simplify the tedious task of maintaining the records of students by digitalising them. Also, the students will be able to access their records remotely. According to Maryville University of United States, the blockchain technology can simplify the verification process. Any institute can do this with just a few clicks, instead of going through loads of paperwork and documentation, and in case of transfer of students, or sharing records with employers, or issuing degrees.
Help in preparing curriculum and grading
The blockchain technology, through its algorithms, also allows teachers to execute a particular curriculum when certain conditions are met. The teachers can set lessons and courses into a blockchain, including programming the tasks too. The algorithm can then verify the completion of each task and provide students with the next one until all the tasks are cos – the algorithm takes into consideration questions, answers, and scoring parameters.
Lowering costs for various processes
Blockchain technology can lower costs by opening affordable paths to learning. It will require less manual intervention, thereby reducing the need to hire more staff for processes. The technology is already being used in the financial sector and has been powering currencies like bitcoin.
Challenges in using blockchain technology
Incidentally, security is one of the primary challenges of using blockchain technology for any purpose. Increased security doesn’t mean that blockchain is not vulnerable. It also eliminates the possibility of modifying student records for legitimate purposes. There is also a limitation with scaling the system beyond a certain level. Increasing the network means adding more blocks, which will slow down the speed of transactions, as each transaction requires peer-to-peer verification.
The adoption of blockchain in education could help improve the efficiency of the education ecosystem and thus optimize the use of the available resources. Doing so is worth every penny as it would help usher in an educational system that is better equipped to handle higher enrolment while being secure, transparent, collaborative, creative and future-ready.