Make Education Great Again – Hacker Noon

Shifting The Education Paradigm With Blockchain Technology

Our education system is outdated. Even main media is telling us the education industry is failing us.

But how exactly?

Our education system does not prepare students for the needs and demands of the post-industrial information, service and freelance knowledge-worker economy we are fast settling into.

Characterised by flexibility, mobility and creative multi-disciplinary approaches, for students graduating from the education system in its current rigid setup, this new economy is hard to acclimatise into.

Years ago I personally experienced these problems in the system while at university. In order to acquire education, you have to:

  1. Select a single field of study.
  2. Part with mobility and optionality.
  3. Have a central planner dictate what’s worth learning within your field.
  4. Have teachers assigned to you, with little room for choice.
  5. Commit to a 4-year investment, while having little clue how this field works in the real world and whether you like it.
  6. Theoretical rather than practical, focused on memorisation rather than problem-solving
  7. Depart with thousands of dollars for it, despite all the drawbacks.
  8. And rely on a document provided by an institution to prove that you learned something.

Blockchain is able to solve or improve many of these problems, including others, such as equal access.

Let’s have a closer look.

PS: I remember in particular an animation from RSA about education reform that resonated with me on this matter. So I’ll share that with you as a backdrop to the discussion below.

Speed and transparency.

In the future, students could be able to find a tutor in any subject within minutes and take lessons at any time/place and degree level — thanks to blockchain technology.

By using smart contracts and identity verification, the quality of tutors and their content becomes completely transparent. Transparency makes it possible to easily search for suitable tutors and reliably distinguish good teachers, and their content, from bad (which checks Points 1 to 6 in the above list).

Level playing field.

Many people are disadvantaged because of a centralized and expensive education system, that is not accessible for everyone.

A decentralised peer-to-peer blockchain platform eliminates geographical borders. This would create a more level playing field for students in terms of inclusiveness and opportunity.

Some may point to already existing and established online platforms, like Skillshare, and ask whether we really need blockchain education with all these platforms.

When I Googled about problems with current online education platforms, some of the most cited problems turned out to be:

Turns out blockchain can help with these issues too.

Reliable tutor ratings.

A common problem on current online education platforms is that it’s relatively easy to create fake reviews that make it hard to separate the good teachers from the bad.

In a decentralized ecosystem, students may only rate their tutors after they actually underwent a lesson. And this would then be permanently recorded on the blockchain, so there are minimal ways to cheat.

Another factor affecting the ranking of a tutor could be their contribution to the blockchain. Tutors could increase their authority by participating in the development of the blockchain and get more visibility in exchange. This is how it’s already done on another very similar and already quite successful content platform called Steemit.

Community consensus for the best content.

In the real world, the best content doesn’t directly reach people, because people can’t easily find it. Advertisement dollars often influence what we see (for example Facebook and Instagram Ads). Intermediaries like universities are also generally inclined to be protective about their content, because it’s their bread and butter.

The main advantage of a peer-to-peer and community consensus-driven blockchain network is that it ensures fairer representation for content. As more users interact with content, the visibility of good content increases through their feedback. In the case of education, this ends up benefiting the students, their families, even teachers.

Certifications.

Blockchain also enables secure, loss- and fraud-proof certifications, where each students academic achievements would be immutably and truthfully kept a record of. So the right information would be a mouse click away for anyone that needs (and has the right to) such information.

Any of the student’s practical, internship or work-related achievements could accompany the student’s certifications too, adding to the credibility of his or her talents beyond theoretical knowledge.

Less fees.

The goal of getting a college degree has led students and their families around the world to willingly pay increasingly higher tuition fees, for education that is not of better quality.

Blockchain can deliver the full functionality of a school platform — completely online. And by connecting key players around the world decentrally, blockchain can do it with less fees.

Designing one’s own education.

In a future like this, anyone can design their own education. A student can literally build his or her own curriculum and update it constantly, as the world changes and evolves.

This is exactly where we need to be headed.

What one learns is an important decision and the time invested into learning is precious and scarce. Students designing their own curriculum will therefore add a lot to their personal ambition and happiness at work too.

Hence education decisions should really not be left to a central authority. The central planner designing a course doesn’t have individual students’ particular interests in mind and might not be up-to-date with the latest developments in that field. Taking charge of one’s education would connect students with the latest demands in the workforce a lot more than universities do or are motivated to (which checks Points 1 to 6 again).

This brings me to the last point on how blockchain technology can disrupt the education industry.

Blockchain revolution in education.

Sony has announced they will be using blockchain for developing education data. Schools and universities are starting to use blockchain technology to authenticate degrees. Make sure to read this article on Edublocks and Learning Ledgers too.

In principle, there are no aspects within our education systems that can’t be improved by blockchain technology. We can start by improving the quality of educational content and teachers, student performance and achievements, thwork up to improving the transparency and reputation of educational institutions and research.

Conclusion:

Strides in blockchain technology and the new economy enabled by the internet paves the doors to a new model of education. One where individuals take responsibility for their development, so they can meet the demands of the new workforce.

The path that these individuals pave for themselves develops their curiosity, ambition, personal accountability, intelligence and persistence. But most importantly signals their flexibility, mobility, creativity and a readiness for the changed new economy out there.

With blockchain, we will begin to trust technology and ourselves over traditional authoritative and hierarchical systems in education. By eliminating intermediaries (like schools and universities) and centralised online education companies (like Coursera and Udemy), blockchain can go MEGA — make education great again.

This is a long article, so congratulations for making it to the end!

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