Nine Major Universities to Build Blockchain Solution for Digital Academic Credentials

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Nine major universities from across the globe have formed a group called Digital Credentials, in order to create a trusted, distributed, and shared infrastructure standard for issuing, storing, displaying, and verifying academic credentials. 

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“Currently, those who successfully complete a degree from an institution must go back to that institution — sometimes by mail or even in person — each time there is a need to verify the academic credentials earned,” said Sanjay SarmaMIT vice president for open learning. “This can be a complicated problem, especially if the learner no longer has access to the university. Such is the case with many refugees, immigrants, and displaced populations.”

The partners include Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands), Harvard University Division of Continuing Education (USA), the Hasso Plattner Institute (University of PotsdamGermany), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), Tecnologico de Monterrey (Mexico), TU Munich (Germany), UC Berkeley (USA), UC Irvine (USA), and the University of Toronto (Canada).

“As teaching and learning offered by our universities has come to encompass digital platforms and as each of our learners have gained the power to shape their own educational trajectory over a lifetime, the question of trusted verification and authentication of learning and credentials poses itself with broad urgency,” said Diana Wu, dean of university extension and new academic ventures at University of California, Berkeley.

Using technology that relies on strong cryptography to prevent tampering and fraud, and shared ledgers to create a global infrastructure for anchoring academic achievements, the researchers plan to build upon earlier research and pioneering efforts by their institutions — including MIT’s pilot program for issuing all of its graduates a digital version of their diploma that is verified against a blockchain.

One of the driving forces behind this shared effort is the interest by universities to utilize the advances brought by these new technologies in a way that prioritizes the needs of learners. Digital credentials allow learners to maintain a compelling and verifiable digital record of their lifelong learning achievements that may include badges, internships, bootcamps, certificates, MicroMasters and stackable combinations, as well as traditional degrees — all of which they can easily share with employers or other institutions. Institutions can record and manage the achievements of their learners in a way that is easy, safe, and inexpensive, and minimizes the risk of identity fraud.

“We are well positioned in academia to use cutting-edge technology to empower learners to advance their careers and education with credentials in the palms of their hands,” said Hans Pongratz, senior vice president for IT-systems and services at Technical University of Munich (TUM).

The team has now set its sights on the evolution and governance of a shared standard. “Digital credentials are like tokens of social and human capital and hold tremendous value for the individual. The crucial opportunity we have today is to bring together institutions that share a commitment to the benefit of learners, and who can act as stewards of this infrastructure,” said Philipp Schmidt, director of learning innovation at the MIT Media Lab.

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p style=”padding-left: 40px;”>”Our shared vision is one where academic achievements, and the corresponding credentials that verify them, can open up new pathways for individuals to become who they want to be in the future,” said José Escamilla, director of TecLabs Learning Reimagined at Tecnologico de Monterrey.

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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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