New applications of the blockchain for education and talent are still emerging in this ‘fuzzy front end’ of the innovation cycle. HolonIQ has been keeping an eye on emerging models, use cases and start-ups operating this is space and have published our first 2019 Education Blockchain Market Map, which identifies 50 companies working across six thematic areas.
1. CV’s on the blockchain. Verification of skills, experience and qualifications on the blockchain could be a game changer for recruiting talent and managing staff upskilling.
2. Hyper-experimentation. Traditional education institutions are now seriously experimenting with blockchain for watertight verification of their qualifications, cost reduction, fraud elimination and streamlining of cross-institution credit.
3. Infrastructure for the micro-P2P market. Blockchain technology will likely be the underpinning infrastructure for the micro-learning, P2P global market for lifelong-learning and upskilling.
4. Distributed power. Through blockchain technology, individuals can take control of managing and sharing their own learning or IP ‘assets’, thus disrupting centralized systems of authority – governments, universities, banks, publishers – expect pushback.
The blockchain provides a decentralized database, or “digital ledger”, of transactions that everyone on the network can see, and which cannot be altered. Initially created for transacting digital currency, the blockchain can also store, display or transact other information, such as knowledge, skills, qualifications and experiences.
1. Verifying credentials
Many traditional education institutions are using blockchain technology to experiment or implement alternative ways of issuing credentials. Most are dabbling around the edges with verification of co-curricular activities, academic training, graduate skills and recognition across institutions. However, this ‘low stakes’ experimentation will ultimately pave the way for the certification of mainstream credentials.
Learning Machine is a start-up servicing these needs through initiatives such as Blockcerts, an open source and open standard, securing credentials on the blockchain. The project was jointly conceived by the MIT Media Lab and Learning Machine and will continue to develop as an open source project. Learning Machine closed a $3m seed round in May 2018.
2. Verifying skills and experience
Start-ups and projects in this area are deploying blockchain technology to provide verification of knowledge and skills with a focus on jobs and employment. Integration with HR systems, powering candidate search and building individual competency maps are features of these platforms.
EchoLink provides users with trusted information regarding a job candidate’s education, skill and work experience, providing time and cost savings to recruiters. EchoLink is also partnering with universities to record ‘soft skills’ attainment.
3. Payments and financing
Companies in this group are focusing on digital currency as applied to education and learning. While ‘tuition tokens’ are far from mainstream, distributed ledger technology to manage payment and tracking of tuition, scholarships and grants has significant potential.
Larecoin is a cryptocurrency which tokenizes tuition payments, scholarships and student debt and is also an alternative payment method for other higher education-related costs such as housing, meal plans, books and transportation.
4. Peer-to-peer ecosystems
Start-ups and projects are using blockchain technology to support peer-to-peer knowledge exchange. These models focus on the disintermediation of the ‘institutional middle man’ by connecting those with knowledge directly to those who need it, with the aim of vastly reducing costs of education.
Woolf University is in the process of becoming a full degree-granting university in the European Union. Woolf aims to use a blockchain to enforce regulatory compliance, streamline bureaucratic processes, and manage the custodianship of sensitive financial and personal data.
5. IP and Knowledge
Organizations in this cluster are focusing on using blockchain technology to support and incentivize creation and sharing of information or ‘knowledge content’. Knowledge creators can be rewarded for their input and the community can ‘rate’ content.
Orvium is an open source framework, powered by blockchain technology, for managing scientific publications. Scientists can create a global, traceable and trustworthy, real-time record of their research, bypassing the centralized power of academic publishers and returning rights and recognition back to scientists and institutions.
Companies offering online learning via courses and micro-lessons are using blockchain technology to incentivize and reward learning, and to track achievement. Typically, there is a link with employers by matching skills with labor needs.
BitDegree offers low cost and free online courses with blockchain-based achievement tracking and token scholarships. In June 2018 the start-up reported a 5,970% increase in students from 900 in March to 54,000 three months later.
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Coursera made its market debut on the New York Stock Exchange late March through an IPO and is now trading under the ticker symbol “COUR.” The company raised $520M and closed it’s first day of trading with a $5.9 billion market cap.
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