Can blockchain transform credentialing?

This community college is one of a handful of schools using the technology to give students ownership of their academic record

At Central New Mexico Community College (CNM), empowering students is an important goal, says Tobe Phelps, senior director of online college. Giving students a permanent, secure digital record of their accomplishments that they can take with them when they graduate aligns perfectly with this objective.

“When we issue a diploma to a student, that diploma still belongs to the college, and the student must get a certified copy from us,” Phelps says. “If they try to get a job or move on to another college, all of those (entities) have to come back to us for validation of the student’s credentials.”

By using a technology called blockchain, “we’re able to take that certification and give it to the student as an official record they own themselves,” he says. “We can be completely out of the circle.”

Updating the credentialing process
Blockchain is the technology that Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies use to record financial transactions. In academia, a small but growing number of colleges and universities are using blockchain to confer degrees and certificates—and supporters of the technology believe it could revolutionize the credentialing process.

A blockchain is a secure digital ledger of transactions in which each block builds on the previous one, making the entire chain immutable. When used to record financial transactions, a blockchain indicates the history of who sent and received the currency and how much it’s worth.

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