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.
The same concept underlies the use of blockchain for academic credentialing. Every new degree, certification, digital badge, or other honor that students earn throughout their lives would be added to this record like links in a chain, and these credentials would be tamper-proof to give employers some assurance that students actually earned them.
With paper or digital transcripts, colleges and universities own this information—and students or alumni must engage in a tedious process to access these records or share them with employers. The promise of blockchain is that it will allow students to maintain their own academic record in a way that can’t be tampered with—while continuing to build on this record throughout their career.