Blockchain technology, in the form of digital credentials, is already being used in some higher education institutions across the United States and the world. Different colleges are utilizing the technology in different ways, with some schools taking a more innovative approach than others. With some schools already making the jump, it’s expected to see more colleges follow suit and begin to offer more programs centered around cryptocurrency and blockchain. Eventually, blockchain credentials will become widespread, eliminating fraud and reducing overhead.
After a group of Stanford students realized there were no courses focused on blockchain and cryptocurrency in the 2018 schedule, they petitioned the administration. Understanding this technology wasn’t disappearing anytime soon, they wanted the competitive advantage that knowing this technology would give them. The course Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Technologies was created in response and is being offered this fall. So many students were interested that the course has a waitlist of over 50 students.
University of Nicosia
Located in Cyprus, the University of Nicosia has achieved a lot of “firsts” regarding incorporating blockchain into their institution. The school was the first to accept Bitcoin tuition payments, first to offer a degree in digital currency, and first offer a course on cryptocurrency. The first course in their cryptocurrency program is free and open to anyone looking for an introduction to the currency. The Certificates of Completion for the course are offered via blockchain.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
As a university focused on technology, MIT students have been learning about blockchain since 2014. They have a Digital Currency Initiative, which aided in creating three courses Cryptocurrency Engineering and Design; Shared Public Ledgers: Cryptocurrencies, Blockchains, and Other Marvels; and Entrepreneurs without Borders. In 2017, MIT issued blockchain-based diplomas. The Register’s office used the app Blockcerts to send 111 diplomas. The app uses blockchain to allow students to access their full academic record and lets employers verify the authenticity of their diploma without having to contact the institution itself.
Columbia University has a private group of employees, students, and alumni that work to bring blockchain to multiple disciplines at the University called the Columbia Blockchain Alliance. In addition to trying to get the university to utilize the technology, the group also helps to facilitate larger discussions about the technology and its use in innovative ways. Other ways the technology is used at Columbia is through the Columbia Entrepreneurship Blockchain Studio. The studio gives students a space to experiment with and learn about the technology.
Beyond the traditional universities described above, a variety of new university models are coming online. Each hopes to become the Uber of higher education, connecting leading academics with students and cutting out the university as a middleman or offering traditional universities an opportunity to cut costs and refocus on one-to-one tutorial instruction. Given the rising price of tuition and diminishing pay of adjunct processors, this use of smart contracts and blockchain record keeping has strong potential to redefine how future generations will engage in higher learning.