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Applications of Blockchain Technology in Education

By Kelly XuPublished April 3, 2016

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Most people are only familiar with blockchain technology through Bitcoin. However, can the core benefits of blockchain technology be extracted and successfully applied to other industries such as education?
By Kelly Xu, 04/03/16

Blockchain technology is best known for facilitating Bitcoin and providing a public ledger of all cryptocurrency transactions that have taken place. Data is recorded and accessible to all nodes connected to the network. A block chain typically consists of records known as transactions and blocks. Transactions feature the actual content being stored in a system while blocks record the time and sequence in which transactions enter the system. Though the blockchain isn't regulated by a centralized authority, the data is considered secure from any tampering or manipulation since each node possesses a partial copy of the blockchain. The financial services industry has been one of the first to capitalize on the potential of blockchain technology outside of Bitcoin, and now other industries are following suit.

Sony Global Education, based in Japan, recently announced plans to integrate blockchain technology onto an educational infrastructure. Sony sees potential in applying this technology to the transmission of test scores and other verified academic records. Unlike bitcoin transactions, these records would not be publicly available for everyone to view. Instead, parents and students would ideally be able to share their test results with third party organizations in a safe and efficient manner. President Masaaki Isozu of Sony Global Education stressed the importance of keeping "life-long learning records...securely in the cloud forever." Isozu also pointed out an increasingly globalized education sector, where the need to conveniently and safely transfer academic records has become more prevalent than ever.

Sony Global Education's vision to utilize blockchain technology is not unwarranted. There are many stakeholders involved who would benefit from widespread implementation of this technological infrastructure. Sony Global Education and other companies looking to integrate blockchain technology are expecting to find latent demand in the market for more convenient means of transmitting academic records. Students in high school who are applying to universities might prefer this revamped educational infrastructure to traditional means of using College Board as an intermediary to send out scores. College Board can take up to a few weeks to electronically deliver SAT or AP results, meaning students must plan ahead for universities to receive their scores by a certain date. Furthermore, students who attend college in another country or choose to study abroad would appreciate the newfound ease of transmitting important academic files on a network unaffected by geographic boundaries. Even students who have already graduated from college could make proper use of blockchain technology. For example, having academic records readily accessible on the cloud might make it easier to apply to jobs for companies requiring verification of test scores.

That being said, there are still significant boundaries and adoption costs Sony Global Education must overcome before it can fulfill its vision. Parents and students unfamiliar with blockchain technology could have substantial privacy concerns about how secure the network is. Sony Global Education would need to convince people to trust blockchain technology enough so that sensitive academic records can be uploaded onto the network. However, those hoping to apply blockchain technology to the education sector have reason to remain optimistic. Large financial institutions such as J.P. Morgan have found success in using blockchain technology as a means of transferring U.S. dollars to cut costs associated with traditional trading methods. It might not be too long before the same can be said for SAT, GRE, or AP scores.