Arizona State University is working with local colleges on using the blockchain to implement data exchange for academic records. This was reported on July 9 by the university news site Inside Higher Ed.
The state of Arizona seeks to use the blockchain to determine if students who are transferred from local colleges earned enough credits to get an associate’s degree – intermediate qualification between a high school diploma and a full-time bachelor.
Tracking credits during this process – known as reverse translation – becomes difficult and time consuming to navigate: in addition to simply sharing data, colleges are required to interpret academic records that are not homogeneous and establish whether their credentials are equivalent.
In collaboration with the cloud-based software firm, Salesforce, and its central corporate branch, EdPlus, Arizona, it is developing a blockchain-based student data network that will allow participating institutions to securely share and verify academic data.
Reportedly, the focus is on a bi-directional data sharing process so that community colleges can continue to receive information about the progress of their former students in Arizona. EdPlus technical director Donna Kidwell told reporters:
We want to optimize those pathways back and forth between us and facilitate conversations with faculty on both sides so that we can support students who are creating their own path towards a degree
Kidwell reportedly added that insight into those DIY student journeys can also help universities understand how to develop and adapt their software capabilities.
Kidwell said that the system aims to better evaluate and share data so that students do not miss full accreditation for training: “Saying you have 86 credit hours towards a degree isn’t very meaningful on a résumé,”
Many of those involved believe that students with an associate degree will be more likely to complete bachelor’s degree after transfer, and that the blockchain can provide a reliable mechanism for managing complex individual routes through higher education. Ted Bland, reverse transfer coordinator for the Maricopa Community College District in Arizona noted:
Blockchain is going to be the future of academic records. The technology would certainly provide for greater fluidity. It will also allow students to own their own academic records.
However, another consultant emphasized that inter-agency compatibility remains a major obstacle to optimal blockchain adoption, noting that Arizona:
If anyone can make it work, it’s Arizona State. But they’ll have to do the very difficult political work to get others to buy into a shared chain. They’ll face questions about sustainability, management and ownership of the information and technology, as well as the challenge of mapping knowledge from different courses at different institutions.
Meanwhile, many leading universities around the world offer a variety of courses and accelerators related to blockchain and cryptography: a group of Oxford professors even sought authority to receive a full degree in the EU for what they call the world’s first “blockchain university”. “