The U.S. Department of Education hopes that the blockchain technology transforming the finance and logistics industries could play a role in making education records more portable and transparent.
The federal agency has provided $2 million to the American Council on Education to organize a new Education Blockchain Initiative, the council announced Thursday.
The endeavor will support research about blockchain systems and fund a competition to select experiments testing ways to apply the technology in education. The council has set up a steering committee to oversee the work with representatives from K-12 schools, colleges, education research teams and employers (see full list below).
Blockchain technology records information in decentralized digital ledgers that enable swift, transparent transactions. This kind of system has the potential to improve the flow of data among schools, colleges and employers and give students more control over their academic records, say leaders at the the American Council on Education.
They think it could be especially helpful for students who transfer among multiple institutions and for people who participate in formal education intermittently throughout their lives.
“It’s emerging as a technology that’s designed for this moment in time when learning is becoming more portable,” Louis Soares, chief learning and innovation officer for the council, told EdSurge in an interview. “The idea of mobility of learning is something our members are wrestling with in different ways.”
The council started conducting research in October, and it expects to publish its initial findings in about a month, according to Soares. That will inform the creation of a rubric that the steering committee will use to evaluate pilot projects during the funding competition, which should launch in summer 2020.
Questions of how to make education more equitable for underserved populations will be of great interest as the committee considers proposals, Soares said.
Successful pitches may address challenges created when “learning is crossing either institutional boundaries or stakeholder boundaries,” Soares noted, such as:
Education Blockchain Initiative steering committee members include:
- Gayatri Agnew, Walmart Foundation
- Susan M. Bearden, Consortium for School Networking
- Todd Borland, Union Public Schools
- Richard A. DeMillo, Georgia Institute of Technology
- Amber Garrison Duncan, Lumina Foundation
- Kara Lee, American Council on Education
- Kerri Lemoie, OpenWorks Group
- Joe May, Dallas County Community College District
- John Mitchell, Stanford University
- Rodney Parks, Elon University
- Bonny Simi, JetBlue Technology Ventures
- Tomicah Tillemann, New America
- Harold Tran, Vantage Point Consulting
- Connie Yowell, Southern New Hampshire University