The American Council on Education (ACE) selected four winning groups for the Blockchain Innovation Challenge’s first phase. The challenge, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, aims to promote blockchain solutions that help students take control of their educational records.
One challenge that the American educational system faces relates to the management of students’ records. Scholars often have to go through a complicated and bureaucratic process to get hold of their school transcripts and other essential credentials to demonstrate employability. The process is worse in underserved regions where school districts lack staff and technology to gather the documents upon request seamlessly.
The Blockchain Innovation Challenge is addressing the issue by helping to fund blockchain solutions targeted at disadvantaged students to enable them to gain control over their records. It is part of the Education Blockchain Initiative, which was launched in 2020 to research implementations of blockchain credentials technology to improve students’ employability.
“Now more than ever, our nation must be willing to explore and implement new innovations that help underserved learners more seamlessly transition between education and employment,” said ACE Board Chair Paul LeBlanc. “These projects demonstrate the potential of blockchain as a new and promising tool to do just that: empower learners to share their skills and pursue opportunities for economic mobility, while also forging tighter connections between education providers and the world of work.”
A total of $900,000 will be distributed across the two phases of the challenge. In the first phase, all four selected groups receive $150,000 to develop a viable project that demonstrates the potential of implementing the technology by this Spring. In the second phase, two initiatives will be selected to share $300,000 to conduct the pilot projects.
Student1 is looking to develop a records platform on blockchain for K-12 students in Nebraska who have been through ‘the system’. Texas Woman’s University wants to establish a consortium of Northern Texas institutions that share a credentialing platform so students can more easily store their educational records and share with other consortium members.
Lifelong Learner aims to develop a digital wallet for teachers to store and share their credentials with relevant entities such as state licensing systems. The project is being led by RANDA Solutions and has, among others, the Velocity Network Foundation as a partner.
Lastly, UnBlockEd is to create a platform that facilitates student credit transfers across Universities. It involves Fluree which is also a participant in the Lifelong Learner Project.
ACE partnered with the Presidents Forum to manage the review of the applications and the main criteria in the selection were quality of design, technological approach, and sustainability.
Meanwhile, IBM has a blockchain credentialing platform for academic and professional qualifications and Etisalat Digital is developing a similar solution targeted at educational institutions. Furthermore, The University of North Texas partnered with Greenlight Credentials enabling students to store and share their academic information with any prospective employer.