MIT Media Lab Rolls Out Blockcerts —  Open Infrastructure for Academic Credentials on the Blockchain

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MIT Media Lab has released a  decentralized credentialing system for academic, professional, and workforce credentialing called Blockchain Certificates (Blockcerts) — an open standard for digital academic certificates on the Bitcoin Blockchain.

The Bitcoin Blockchain acts as the provider of trust, and credentials are tamper-resistant and verifiable. 

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There are four Blockcerts components:

Issuer — Universities create digital academic certificates that can contain a wide range of assertions about an individual’s skills, achievements, or characteristics, and register it on the bitcoin Blockchain.

Certificate — Certificates are open badges compliant, which is important, because there is an entire community of open badges issuers that we want to support, and because open badges is becoming an IMS standard.

Verifier — Anyone can, without having to rely on the issuer, verify that (1) a certificate has not been tampered with, that (2) it was issued by a particular institution, and (3) issued to a specific user.

Wallet — Individuals can safely store their certificates, and share them with others, for example, an employer. The iOS wallet is available already, and we are looking for partners to develop an Android version.

They stress the importance of Open Source in a Medium post:

At its core, Blockcerts is open. The software is open source and anyone is welcome to join the developer community.

Only an open standard allows individuals to remain fully in control of their own academic history. That is important, because academic certificates are markers of our lives. They can be tickets to a better job or education, and we can use them to tell a story about who we are and how we have become that person.

And being open enables us to bootstrap a new ecosystem for digital academic credentials, by allowing other collaborators to take co-ownership. Through collaborating around an open standard, we can help to insure an interoperable credentialing ecosystem.

The Bitcoin Blockchain is still a relatively new technology and its complexity and immutability make it important to carefully consider the long-term effects that small design decisions can have. Letting others review and contribute will make Blockcerts more robust and reliable.

Blockcerts started as a research project at the MIT Media Lab, led by Philipp Schmidt and Juliana Nazare (with help from many others, including Guy Zyskind and Jeremy Rubin), and they collaborated with Learning Machine, an education technology company. Kim Hamilton was the technology lead and release manager for the core software and standard, and Chris Downie developed the iOS wallet reference implementation. Chris Jagers and Dan Hughes, were instrumental in thinking through the broader implications of an open standard for academic certification.

About Richard Kastelein

Founder and publisher of industry publication Blockchain News (EST 2015), a partner at ICO services collective Token.Agency ($750m+ and 90+ ICOs and STOs), director of education company Blockchain Partners (Oracle Partner) – Vancouver native Richard Kastelein is an award-winning publisher, innovation executive and entrepreneur. He sits on the advisory boards of some two dozen Blockchain startups and has written over 1500 articles on Blockchain technology and startups at Blockchain News and has also published pioneering articles on ICOs in Harvard Business Review and Venturebeat. Irish Tech News put him in the top 10 Token Architects in Europe.

Kastelein has an Ad Honorem - Honorary Ph.D. and is Chair Professor of Blockchain at China's first Blockchain University in Nanchang at the Jiangxi Ahead Institute of Software and Technology. In 2018 he was invited to and attended University of Oxford's Saïd Business School for Business Automation 4.0 programme.  Over a half a decade experience judging and rewarding some 1000+ innovation projects as an EU expert for the European Commission's SME Instrument programme as a startup assessor and as a startup judge for the UK government's Innovate UK division.

Kastelein has spoken (keynotes & panels) on Blockchain technology in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Beijing, Brussels, Bucharest, Dubai, Eindhoven, Gdansk, Groningen, the Hague, Helsinki, London (5x), Manchester, Minsk, Nairobi, Nanchang, Prague, San Mateo, San Francisco, Santa Clara (2x), Shanghai, Singapore (3x), Tel Aviv, Utrecht, Venice, Visakhapatnam, Zwolle and Zurich.

He is a Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Métis) whose writing career has ranged from the Canadian Native Press (Arctic) to the Caribbean & Europe. He's written occasionally for Harvard Business Review, Wired, Venturebeat, The Guardian and Virgin.com, and his work and ideas have been translated into Dutch, Greek, Polish, German and French. A journalist by trade, an entrepreneur and adventurer at heart, Kastelein's professional career has ranged from political publishing to TV technology, boatbuilding to judging startups, skippering yachts to marketing and more as he's travelled for nearly 30 years as a Canadian expatriate living around the world. In his 20s, he sailed around the world on small yachts and wrote a series of travel articles called, 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Seas' travelling by hitching rides on yachts (1989) in major travel and yachting publications. He currently lives in Groningen, Netherlands where he's raising three teenage daughters with his wife and sailing partner, Wieke Beenen.

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