Clearinghouse Evaluating Blockchain’s Benefits for Learners, Education and Workforce Communities
By Rick Torres, President and CEO, National Student Clearinghouse
The evidence is clear — bringing the two worlds of academia and the workplace together will require an intentional focus on bridge building of multiple technology solutions. These technologies will be the underlying technical support for new credentials in the future and where they are going to live. Digital, object-based technologies, like blockchain, will inevitably be part of the overall eco-system and take on a more dominant role.
Many of our education partners have asked us whether we are looking into blockchain technology and our possible role in fostering it. We’ve actually been discussing blockchain for several years, and since spring 2019, we’ve been in discussions with IBM.
The Clearinghouse and a consortium of leading academic and professional organizations are now working with IBM to evaluate the use of blockchain technology to produce a permanent, verifiable record of learning and skills certifications. For those unfamiliar with blockchain, it is a secure digital ledger of transactions that allows students and institutions to maintain their academic records that can’t be tampered with.
If you Google blockchain and higher ed, you will find millions of links to stories and webpages about blockchains possible impact on higher education. The ultimate learner facing solution will need to incorporate all forms of representations of learning outcomes including those that are represented in a blockchain, digital object technology.
Learners of all ages want control and easy access to their academic records that can work with multiple technology platforms, both in the digital object realm and outside of that realm. The Clearinghouse is well positioned to provide that service.
Our leadership in blockchain intends to support the education community to better understand student pathways and outcomes to help students succeed. Furthermore, some institutions are already researching to move to a standardized way of representing learning outcomes that can then be integrated into the network. Initiatives such as the Comprehensive Learner Record are going in that direction.
During the evaluation process, we will not be using Clearinghouse data, but investigating use cases regarding our potential role in a national blockchain utility and how we would apply this technology to best serve institutions and learners in a non-proprietary environment. While the Clearinghouse is committed to all of our existing services and platforms, we recognize the need to explore blockchain, as we would any new technology.
Blockchain will not only greatly mitigate the risk of resume fraud, but also make it significantly easier for companies to identify promising candidates and academic institutions to manage the huge increase in demand for learning credentials, while helping jobseekers and lifelong learners.
Moving forward into 2020, the primary goals will be scaling the network by signing on additional participants and fine-tuning an equitable governance structure. The Clearinghouse will be highly engaged in the development of governance and administration related requirements that create a highly trusted, secure, scalable and interoperable national network. As the national source for accurate information on the effectiveness of educational pathways in America for 26 years, the Clearinghouse understands, like no other non-profit entity in the nation, the credential needs of learners, institutions, and industry.
And be assured, as we always have, the Clearinghouse will be vigilant along the way in our concern for student privacy and our commitment to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects students’ privacy rights in their education records, The Higher Education Act, and all other applicable laws.
As we proceed, the Clearinghouse will be involved in multiple conversations across various blockchain initiatives to sort out how we can perform an industry-wide function serving institutions, learners and entities as part of our mission. Over the years, we have evolved our innovative services and technologies. The exploration of blockchain technology further demonstrates our commitment to be a premier resource in serving and supporting the opportunities created by lifelong learning.
The bottom line: the Clearinghouse’s mission of service to the education and workforce communities, and learners are directly linked to supporting the development of the most appropriate use cases for this technology. As we evaluate a national use case over the next six months, we will provide updates.
Shelby Stanfield, Director of Service Innovation Networks, and I are leading the Clearinghouse’s efforts with strategic input from blockchain consultants with Colvin Run Networks LLC. To learn more about the Clearinghouse’s efforts to evaluate blockchain technology, contact Shelby Stanfield.
“As we proceed, the Clearinghouse will be involved in multiple conversations across various blockchain initiatives to sort out how we can perform an industry-wide function serving institutions, learners and entities as part of our mission.”
President and CEO, National Student Clearinghouse