Traditionally the education institutions have owned the degrees for which they certified a student. A degree earned in a field derived its value from the university it was earned from. The better the university, the greater the value of the degree earned.
There was a good reason for it. The quality of information available at different universities varied dramatically. Harvard would have better libraries and repositories of research work on a subject compared to many other universities. So, getting a degree from a reputed university had a greater value. And, the quality of learning was better as well.
This was true for most of human history until the internet came along.
You can find videos of classes from Harvard online for free. Yes, the quality of peer you would attend the class with would be very different if you were physically sitting in a classroom at Harvard. But the information, the knowledge imparted, could be accessed from a different part of the world through the internet.
The value aspect of the degree still holds. Getting a degree from a top-class university will have a greater value. This is predominantly because of the resources available to these top universities, not necessarily because of the information available.
The information, thanks to the internet, is increasingly becoming accessible worldwide. Someone who is self-initiated can access to all the information available on a subject right on the screens of their mobile phones.
This is the reason Elon Musk could say things like “Don’t confuse schooling with education. I didn’t go to Harvard but the people that work for me did.”
And, this is just the start. The Internet has come a long way, but there are higher avenues to reach. Blockchain is a technology that is made possible because of the internet. And, it is changing the way people perceive ‘value’ of anything. Blockchain is decentralizing value from a central authority to an individual user. This has never happened in human history, and universities are no exception to this.
Because of the free-flowing nature of information these days, many universities have started providing degrees which have inherent value using blockchain.
MIT started issuing Diploma Degrees using Blockchain in 2017 through the Blockcerts Wallet App by Learning Machines. The app is used to receive and share official credentials from a wide range of universities, government agencies, and employers. The Blockcerts system helps the issuer of an education certificate to record it on a Blockchain. This allows for a tamper-proof record of both the issuance and the ownership of the certificate.
The key point here is the ownership of the digital certificate. Blockchain imparts the value of such certification to the issued student.
“MIT has issued official records in a format that can exist even if the institution goes away, even if we go away as a vendor,” said Learning Machine’s CEO Chris Jagers in a press release. “People can own and use their official records, which is a fundamental shift.”
MIT is not the only university providing degrees using blockchain. ECPI University has also started offering degrees using blockchain seeing the need for a secure, easily verifiable and decentralized certificate issuance. Malaysia’s Education Ministry formed a consortium of universities to provide degrees using blockchain through the e-scroll platform.
This will change in the future with degrees which will have a value of their own — independent from the university it was earned from. Sorry not earned, rather learned from.
A fundamental shift in the value of a degree
The value of any degree has always been a representation of the value a university has first, and then the value of the education received. This is set to change. The value of the degree will be inherent. It would be a representation of the knowledge gained by an individual. This is a significant shift from what we consider as schooling.
Universities will never lose their inherent value — the value of producing quality information and research. Universities will be known for the research happening there rather than the courses taught. People working towards creating information and knowledge will always draw value from the university because of the difference in resource availability for different universities.
The verification of knowledge gained by an individual will also become super-easy through blockchain. It would just take a click to see if the degree is authentic or not. Blockchain ensures encryption and safeguarding of authenticity.
Individuals will hold the value of the degrees they earn and it would become a part of their identity.
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