Report Assesses Challenges and Opportunity of Blockchain in Higher Ed

The American Council on Education published a report today on the use of blockchain in higher education, the result of a six-month study funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

The report is based on interviews with leaders from K-12 and higher education, credentialing organizations and technology providers. It identifies 71 active blockchain initiatives. These include large-scale projects such as the Trusted Learning Network — a project led by Arizona State University and the Maricopa County Community College District — which aims to streamline reverse transfer processes so that more community college students who transfer to ASU are awarded associate’s degrees.

Blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, is being used to build stronger communication between employers and education institutions, as well as create portable credentials for increasingly mobile students and learners, said Louis Soares, chief learning and innovation officer at the American Council on Education.

Despite large numbers of active blockchain experiments, Soares notes that many are still at the proof of concept stage and face significant challenges. “We’re still struggling to make colleges and employers speak the same language,” he said. “We’re still trying to address the challenge of creating a digital identity.”

The American Council on Education will use the results of the blockchain report to inform the design of a new $900,000 grant program funded by the Department of Education. The Blockchain Innovation Challenge will fund up to three pilots with the aim of empowering learners, unlocking the value of learning and improving economic mobility. More details on the application process will be released later this summer.