Higher Ed: The New Kid on the Blockchain. Intelligence (BI) and business analytics (BA) with key performance indicators (KPI) dashboard concept. Co-working process, entrepreneur team working in creative office space using digital tablet docking keyboard.

Recently, JPMorgan Chase became the first major United States bank to introduce its own digital coin. This, in addition to JPMorgan’s blockchain platform used by a number of institutions to track financial data, is another step in ways that the financial world is increasingly accepting blockchain technology.

What does this have to do with the world of higher ed? The more prevalent blockchain technology becomes, the more likely it is that institutions of higher ed will embrace it, in the same way other technological innovations or advances like data and analytics become part of university life. Blockchain is sure to be a topic we’ll be hearing more about. Let’s take a look at blockchain in the world of education.

What is blockchain?

The underlying concept of blockchain has existed for decades, but the way it’s currently being used – and the fact that it is being used effectively – are new. Put simply, it’s a ledger technology, allowing for multiple computers to access the same information in a permanent, tamper-proof way. The reason blockchain is so closely associated with the financial world is because it is the technology used to keep track of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. And, as shown by JPMorgan Chase’s recent news, it is becoming more mainstream and other industries are looking at how they may be able to possibly use the technology.

Blockchain’s purpose

Many industries see blockchain as a way to streamline a process that could be more efficient, or as a way of making an existing process more transparent. Many see the biggest benefit of blockchain as that level of trust or accountability it can offer.

Whatever the industry – whether it’s an institute of higher education, a financial company, or another industry like healthcare – any company thinking about using blockchain needs to understand how it can help the company achieve its goals. Skeptics wonder about the long-term usefulness of the technology, and in the world of higher education, some wonder if it’s worth the expense.

Uses in higher ed

Colleges and universities are doing their due diligence, exploring how best to use the technology. The best bet for shared information using blockchain is student records, including transcripts and credentials, but institutions are also looking at how it can help researchers – whether students or professors – share their intellectual property while also still controlling it.

It’s not just at an administrative level that blockchain could make its way onto college campuses. A number of schools are involved in a research initiative that provides funds for research and curriculum development related to blockchain.

Some of the schools involved in the research initiative say there is strong student interest in using blockchain for social impact.

So while it may have taken a financial giant like JPMorgan to bring legitimacy to a new technology in the financial world, it just may be that student interest in making a difference in the world is what might drive colleges and universities towards change. Which, in that sense, makes blockchain no different than any other aspect of the college experience over the years.

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John Sucich

John has more than a decade of experience in education as a teacher, board member, and communicator. He also spent several years in sports journalism. John graduated from Boston University with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism and from Lesley University with a master's degree in elementary education.
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