ODEM empowers students and educators with blockchain technology
Education is most impactful when students are given control. Until now, students have had to rely on their institutions, but technology is changing this. If you’ve read some of my other posts about blockchain technology for education, you know how passionate I am about empowering students.
The decentralization of education
From a technological perspective, empowering students means understanding the traditional educational structure that depends on centralized control. This is where universities and colleges sit, at the center, with students and educators relying on their administration. While very valuable in their contributions to higher learning, educational organizations can’t serve the best interest of each individual student while maintaining control over all of them.
“A decentralized model of education supports a connected network of students and educators that all operate autonomously. They can interact and collaborate, but they’re empowered to control their own data, records and educational and employment path.”
Think about this model as a bicycle wheel; the school is at the center of the wheel, with each of the spokes representing students and educators that extend away from it. This centralized model of governing can be efficient and helpful when it comes to implementing overarching programs or changes, but it doesn’t work to support the needs of individuals. The decentralized model of education, what we focus on at ODEM, supports a connected network of students and educators (and educational organizations!) that all operate autonomously. They can interact and collaborate, but they are empowered to control their own data, records and educational and employment path. The significance of decentralization is that you’re not relying on a central authority for permission or for administration.
Technology puts control in your hands
Part of my reasoning for wanting to put students and educators in control is the technological shift that I’ve witnessed over the last decade. With smartphones, we can handle everything that affects our lives, from managing our banking, travel, connections, communication -- everything. This is the result of industries becoming decentralized, with people no longer needing to connect to a central authority in order to conduct a financial deposit or trade, place a call or send a letter, or book a plane ticket. When you look at the gig economy, you really see the fruits of decentralization; people being financially incentivized to help other people, anytime, anywhere.
“When you look at the gig economy, you really see the fruits of decentralization; people being financially incentivized to help other people, anytime, anywhere.”
This is the same model that blockchain technology follows, but on a technological level. Rather than depend on a central server for processing, the decentralized network depends on hundreds or thousands of servers (nodes) to process transactions, encrypting and sharing these transactions to the distributed public ledger.
A marketplace that supports choice and ownership
We’ve implemented blockchain to support the decentralization of education by allowing students and educators control over their course material by leveraging the public Ethereum blockchain for the ODEM Marketplace. Students and educators can choose and implement courses based on market and employer demand, receiving and issuing blockchain-based certificates for completion of a course. These digital education records are hugely empowering for students because they give complete control over one’s diploma. Students no longer have to wait out the four month period that many universities take to deliver a hardcopy diploma to apply for a job. And what would happen if a diploma was lost, stolen or damaged? At US colleges, it can take up to six weeks, and a hefty fee, to replace a diploma. With a credential secured on the blockchain, there’s no such thing as a damaged or stolen diploma -- with the owner’s permission, it’s universally available.
“On the ODEM Marketplace, students and educators can choose and implement courses based on market and employer demand, receiving and issuing blockchain-based certificates for completion of a course.”
I’ll also note that because this technology is still relatively new, development is ongoing to make it suitable for mobile use (though significant strides have and continue to be made). As the infrastructure development continues, so does our own mobile development. We’ll share updates on this as we can.
Making education work for you
The other part of my reasoning for wanting to support innovation in continued education is the customization it allows students in a rapidly changing world. The world isn’t set up as it used to be, with students following a linear education and career course. Today, many people choose alternative paths, including those of digital nomads, remote workers or freelance contractors. Education must be designed to support this changing employment landscape, and I believe we do this with a Marketplace that gives people the choices and options for customization that they require for success. With the Marketplace, education becomes more accessible, more affordable with full programs or single courses available to students and verifiable with digital education records.
As mentioned, institutions still play an important role in education today, and we’re partnering with forward-thinking schools to deliver blockchain-based credentials to their graduates. Last June, SAIT, a Canadian polytechnic university, became the first post-secondary school in Canada to issue blockchain-based academic certificates to a graduating class with ODEM’s technical support. We look forward to sharing more soon!