IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

National Contest Awards Blockchain Tools for Student Records

Seeking to connect qualified students to a workforce that needs them, the two-year Blockchain Innovation Challenge sought blockchain solutions that would make student records easier to share and access securely.

The American Council on Education (ACE) released a report this month outlining the results of its Blockchain Innovation Challenge, a U.S. Department of Education-funded competition studying how blockchain technology may be used to give students more control over educational records, such as job training and university credits, needed for employment and enrollment in post-secondary programs.

According to the report, 2 in 5 unemployed workers today have remained without work for at least half a year — despite the recent return of over 75 percent of jobs lost during COVID-19. The report noted that nearly 7 million learners now lack access to “stranded credits” awarded to them through job training and higher education programs where they owe outstanding fees, keeping them from completing their education or applying for jobs that call for related skill sets.

The report said the two-year competition found 71 active blockchain projects related to credentialing in order to grant learners permanent access to and control over their records. Its first phase of winners announced this month were chosen for the quality of three things: their ecosystem-first design approach, technological approach, and management plan and adequacy of resources.

“This report highlights promising technologies like blockchain that grant learners agency to navigate their educational journey, including ownership over their credentials and the ability to share credentials between institutions freely,” said Kristina Ishmael, deputy director of the Office of Educational Technology at the Department of Education, in a public statement.

Winners of the Blockchain Innovation Challenge include:

  • Data management company Student1, the Nebraska Department of Education, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and other state agencies collaborated on digitizing a paper process for parents or guardians to give consent for services for their children and share necessary data for those services.
  • The data company RANDA Solutions worked with the Utah Department of Education and others to develop a digital wallet for teachers to store credentials, licenses and other proofs of practice and share them securely with state licensing systems, human resources departments and learning management systems.
  • The University of Arizona, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the data management company Fluree, and the John N. Gardner Institute collaborated on a blockchain-enabled open transfer exchange system that helps students to know further in advance how certain courses at their college or university will transfer to another, thereby pressuring those institutions to be more clear about the requirements of their degree programs and what credits they’ll accept.
  • Texas Woman’s University worked with a consortium of institutions and K-12 schools in the Denton, Texas, region to create and test a shared credentialing platform designed to enable students to store and share their educational records with colleges and employers.

“As the world of work continues to shift rapidly, higher education institutions have a critical role to play in ensuring that all learners can successfully transition between learning and work throughout their lives,” Louis Soares, ACE’s chief learning and innovation officer, said in a public statement. “Experimenting with new approaches such as blockchain, and scaling what works, is paramount to our collective efforts to unlock opportunity for more learners. This initiative has made clear that blockchain technology can help learners have agency over their educational experiences—in ways that can improve their chances of economic advancement.”