Digital Economy

Digitizing Scottish Education: Implementing a Blockchain-based System for Recognizing Academic Credentials

Tech pioneers have defined a blueprint for a Scottish digital certification system.

When we think of Digital Education we tend to focus on virtual classroom environments and e-learning systems, but equally fundamental is the administrative record-keeping.

This may seem relatively unimportant and mundane but it forms the keystone foundation of our economy, providing the credentials that enable the flow from academia to the workplace.

Foundations for Scotland’s Digital Economy

Therefore digitizing those credentials can be seen as establishing the keystone foundations for our Digital Economy.

Through technologies like the Blockchain and Self Sovereign Identity (SSI), all aspects of how our currently paper-based economy works will be digitized, highlighting that this technology isn’t a one-off point solution only for scenarios like Education, but rather a whole platform for the entire economy end-to-end.

For example consider key documents like your passport, birth certificate and drivers licence. Most likely you have these in paper form, and for processes like opening a bank account, you must physically present these documents.

Digitizing these documents and the processes that call upon them are the building blocks for creating a digital economy.

Digital Recognition Networks

The core principle is one of cross-enterprise collaboration, multiple organizations inter-operating through sharing a common set of technology standards.

In his blog Amit Jasuja explains the core mechanics of this and how multiple organizations can share digital identity services, an ecosystem of ‘relying’ and ‘issuing’ parties.

Another great way of describing this ecosystem is “Digital Recognition Networks” – The ecosystem will be formed through organizations establishing agreements to share data and recognize the digital credentials of partners they work with to fulfill these processes, like opening a bank account.

Writing for the CPHR Terrahub explains the principle through exploring an excellent use case of how this will take shape and the economic benefits it will bring: Education and Employment.

“In a recognition network, skills and credentials are represented by digital badges that organizations use for achievement and an employee can us for permanent external branding during or post-employment.

As brands move global and geographical boundaries dissolve, these recognition networks enable talent to shift and move without having to re-qualify their competency, eliminating frustration for the employee, and inefficiency for the employer by getting the right people to work fast.”

Education and Employment is a great scenario as the core components are easily understood: The credential – Your academic qualification in certificate form, and the recognition – How employers seek that qualification as a requirement for employment.

Scottish Pioneers: MySkills

A Scottish startup pioneering this concept is APPII, addressing a credential scenario of employment checks. In a few clicks, employers or recruiters can issue requests to candidates to complete their checks, and APPII is integrated with several data verification providers to automatically verify candidate credentials. A powerful example of a Digital Recognition Network.

Highlighting the potential of a common platform approach to enable multiple use case solutions, they’ve also applied their technology to offer Covid-19 verified ‘Digital Health Passports‘. In this scenario you can schedule a test at one of their 1500 participating centres and the results will be provided straight into the APPII App.

Specific to the scenario of Digital Education they are pioneering prototype work with the City of Glasgow College and the Scottish Qualifications Authority. Documented in this white paper they explain the MySkills project, a collaboration to define a generic model of digital certification to be used and adapted by other awarding bodies throughout the rest of the UK.

This explores in specific detail the concepts described in this article, applying them to the Scottish Education and Employment market, demonstrating walk-throughs and process models for how it would work in practice and defining how the pilot project can be scaled to a nationwide roll-out.

MySkills offers Scotland a framework for implementing a national Digital Recognition Network, a collaboration between academia and businesses that leverages a single digital certification system.

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