This black diagonal chain is a blockchain concept.

Initiative zeroes in on blockchain in higher ed


U.S. Department of Education supports research into and pilots of emerging uses for blockchain in education

​A new federally-funded and ambitious initiative aims to explore the use of blockchain technology in higher education.

The American Council on Education (ACE) has received funding from the U.S. Department of Education to support the Education Blockchain Initiative, which is designed to help identify and evaluate ways that blockchain technology can improve the flow of data among educational institutions and employers while empowering individuals to translate educational outcomes into economic opportunity.

Related content: How will blockchain transform higher education?

It will include the launch of a competitive challenge to fund pilot programs later this year.

“This work is about exploring the potential of blockchain technology to give learners greater control over their educational records,” says Ted Mitchell, president of ACE. “It’s about enabling more seamless transitions between and across K-12, higher education, and the workforce. This initiative will explore how this nascent technology can break down barriers for opportunity seekers to fully unlock their learning and achievement.”

The funding builds on longstanding efforts by the Department of Education to convene stakeholders and technology experts to explore how blockchain can help facilitate student ownership of their learning records, regardless of where the training and education takes place.

Blockchain may also have a role to play in supporting new ways of recording and sharing achievements and skills, including those earned through the $87 billion in annual spending on corporate training or via one of the 738,000 unique credentials offered in the United States.

“The ability to demonstrate skills and knowledge is key to translating education into economic opportunity,” says Jim Blew, assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development at the Department of Education. “ACE will be a powerful partner in furthering our understanding of the potential for blockchain to ensure equal opportunity in the workforce landsc​ape.”​

ACE and the Department of Education also announced the formation of a steering committee to oversee the initiative, consisting of leaders and experts in technology and education as well as workforce stakeholders. The committee will be responsible for providing oversight of a research report and selection of the pilot projects to receive funding.

The steering committee members include:
Gayatri Agnew, Walmart.org
Susan M. Bearden, Consortium for School Networking
Todd Borland, Union Public Schools
Richard A. DeMillo, Georgia Institute of Technology
Amber Garrison Duncan, Lumina Foundation
Kara Lee, American Council on Education
Kerri Lemoie, OpenWorks Group
Joe May, Dallas County Community College District
John Mitchell, Stanford University
Rodney Parks, Elon University
Bonny Simi, JetBlue Technology Ventures
Tomicah Tillemann, New America
Harold Tran, Vantage Point Consulting
Connie Yowell, Southern New Hampshire University

“Blockchain holds vast potential to better connect learning in diverse contexts and help students achieve their education and workforce goals and ultimately improve mobility,” says the initiative’s lead, Louis Soares, ACE’s chief learning and innovation officer. “ACE is excited to lead this work and ensure the learning from this project is accessible across educational institutions.”

The initiative begins with the development of a research paper that will review the current use of blockchain in education as well as identify opportunities and challenges for potential applications that can advance equity in educational and workforce outcomes.

Following the report, ACE will partner with the President’s Forum to create a process and criteria for pilot project selection, which will be released later this year.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

Laura Ascione