Blockchain SSI for Academic Certifications and Digital Badges

A key objective of our DigitalScot.Academy initiative is to follow the first phase of setting up e-learning tools, with a second stage to build a surrounding ‘digital ecosystem’, to enable functions like ‘Blockchain Digital Badges’.

Leveraging a National Blockchain Network

In his Alastria presentation Carlos Pastor introduces their idea of a ‘National Blockchain Network’, a shared blockchain infrastructure co-owned as a non-profit by a consortium of relevant industry and government organizations.

Education is a great example use case of where this platform could be applied, to harness technologies such as Blockchain SSI : Self-Sovereign Identity. and apply them to the digital lifecycle of academic credentials.

Via their Medium article UniversaBlockchain explore the scenario of Blockchain in Education, highlighting keynote problems like the high rates of medical school diploma falsification as pain points a technology like Blockchain is ideal for tackling in some form, among a wave of other transformative benefits for the sector as it ripples through all workflow areas related to HR, resume checking, et al.

Athena builds on this some, notably detailing the core signature process that underpins the integrity of the record, as a comparison to traditional paper-based approaches:

  • Blockchain-enabled digital certificates are immutable and cannot be forged
  • The records are stored on a distributed ledger, hence certificates can be only evaluated by anyone who has access to the blockchain
  • Since the records are stored in a shared distributed ledger, the certificate can still be validated even if the organization that had issued it no longer exists
  • The digital certificates stored in the ledger can only be destroyed if all the copies in every system are destroyed

Badges and Certificates – Foundations for a Digital Learning Ecosystem

As an e-learning platform the integration point for us is a simple one – Soon we’ll be issuing Certificates for courses passed and ‘Digital Badges’ for a myriad of small progress step achievements, so the question is one of Blockchain-enabling these credentials.

The types of innovation that seem to be focusing on this type of use case include ‘Blockcerts‘, an open source blockchain project for enabling a Universal Verifier that will verify any Blockcert issued by any institution, anywhere in the world.

With these types of technology foundations the question about and process of forming an ‘ecosystem’ is examined through asking about how academic institutions and commercial organizations want to interact, notably in areas such as ‘recognizing’ the credentials of others in the ecosystem.

For example employment roles that require a very specific, up to date course qualification, such as ones related to operating the latest machinery, or the prerequisite high school grades for access to a university course.

Endorsements 2.0

In Endorsements 2.0Taking Open Badges and E-Credentials to the Next Level, the author explores exactly this challenge, looking at how a student uses their HIPAA certifications and as a way of explaining the The Open Badge specification, and its purpose to provide this type of assurance network.

So in addition to the document integrity aspect, there is also there is a broader conversation about shared curriculum and opportunities for new models of learning in general, which can be conceptualized through ideas about how Digital Badges can underpin transformed approaches and a collaborating ecosystem.

Educause Review covers some examples of universities now blending digital badge schemes into their awards programs, and the World of Learning blog writes about that second perspective of cultivating a surrounding vibrant ecosystem, utilizing and enabling uptake of the badging systems.

In their review of Open Badges the The Chartered Institute for IT concluded they represented the Future of Professional Development:

“Without doubt, digital badging represents the way forward for the recognition of skills in the same way as a CV does today.

and that –

However, the lack of a common skills definition framework will lead to challenges with being able to compare achievement across badge issuing organisations. A competency framework such as SFIAplus could be of significant value to digital badging going forward.

Building a Digital Scotland

From broadband through online government systems, there are many areas we can see to be keystone foundations to the digital nation ambition. Harnessing the Blockchain to build an entirely digital infrastructure for academic credentialing would be another similar keystone, presenting Scotland with the opportunity to define 21st century learning pathways, boosting skills and employment.

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