Why ODEM is leveraging blockchain technology for education
Education has long needed a shake up, and we’re proud to be part of the movement pushing edtech forward to create more meaningful learning experiences.
Edtech has shown up in many forms, bringing the benefits of software and digital communication to students and educators around the world. At ODEM, we’re working to bring greater autonomy to the process of learning with blockchain technology.
Our mission is to help students learn skills that will advance their careers by making education and employment more affordable, accessible, verifiable, and transferable (we recently explained why). Blockchain technology supports this inclusive approach to learning.
Imagine a technology that moves control from the hands of institutions and executives and puts it in the hands of students and educators. That shift would empower people to determine what, how, and when they learn, resulting in a more meaningful connection between student and material. This is one of the reasons why blockchain technology has gained significant traction and why ODEM’s leadership team recognized it as being revolutionary for education.
Blockchain is a decentralized software network that enables autonomous global communication and transactions. This means that across the world, there are host nodes, or computers, that support the network’s activity on a shared digital ledger. Data is confirmed by the nodes and added to the ledger in the form of blocks. These blocks are ‘chained’ together by cryptography, with the hash of one block’s data linked to the next, creating a chronological chain of blocks.
This chain provides immutability, meaning that data added to the ledger can’t be manipulated or tampered with once it’s recorded, so transactions are secure. By ensuring the security of data (transactions and communication), people can freely share across a global network without needing a central authority to provide trust in the network. The trust comes from the decentralized and immutable nature of the technology.
Education benefits from this architecture because of the autonomy it affords; institutional authorities aren’t required for the functionality of the network, it operates freely.
Ethereum: a public chain for ease of use and global adoption
While Bitcoin launched the world of blockchains (mightily impressive), the Ethereum blockchain spawned many of the decentralized communities and ecosystems we see developing today. The public, censorship-resistant, and immutable ledger has generated a new way to think about ownership and security.
Ethereum was an iteration on Bitcoin when it’s core creator, Vitalik Buterin, wanted to develop a chain with better scripting ability that would allow for programmable digital agreements (read more about this in ODEM, Ethereum white paper). The “if this, then that” capability of digital contracts makes it possible for computers to autonomously and automatically complete tasks ranging from financial commitments, ownership transactions, issuance of project deliverables, or general communication. These flexible and permissionless smart contracts allow parties to agree on, and produce, an outcome, giving the blockchain a myriad of uses. Anyone able to launch an ERC-20 smart contract (ERC-20 is the technical standard) can build on Ethereum, a key feature of the blockchain that has launched a wide range of decentralized applications (DApps).
Programmability and ease-of-use are two key reasons why the Ethereum chain has been instrumental to global blockchain adoption. Bitcoin continues to be the prevailing cryptocurrency, but Ethereum is the home of blockchain and crypto communities, dApps, and a legion of new projects that are bringing innovation and value to the world.
ODEM + Ethereum blockchain
ODEM is one of these projects, an on-demand education marketplace that leverages Ethereum smart contracts so that students, educators, and facilitators across the world can engage securely and easily. On the Platform, communication and payment is trustless; third parties are not required which eliminates unnecessary cost and inefficiency.
Verifiability is also an important component of the ODEM Platform, something blockchain provides with data provenance via chain of custody. As in law, chain of custody preserves legitimacy of data, providing proof of validity. With blockchain, this chain of custody is created when blocks are cryptographically hashed and connected once a new block is confirmed. The resulting chronological ledger is able to produce data authentication and ownership, making records incorruptible. On the public Ethereum chain, those records are universal and easily transferable.
Leveraging the ODEM Platform, students can validate and verify their academic credentials with prospective employers and educational institutions by sharing access to the record of their degree or diploma on the Ethereum blockchain. On our blog, we further explain how blockchain proves authenticity of education credentials and how these records are stored, off-chain via the interplanetary file system (IPFS).
Education is bettered by use of the technology because it allows for freedom outside of traditional processes where students and educators must operate within the constraints of traditional academic models.
The decentralized web that DApps create offers users greater independence to do what best serves them. We believe that educational ownership ultimately leads to a clearer career path and employment opportunities.