Febin John James

@heyfebin

What Happens When You Combine Blockchain and Education?

Blockchain In Education

My college life was hard because it was easy. In my sports startup, I built mobile apps, wrote backend code and deployed them on AWS. In my college, I was forced to listen to programming lectures like “Adding two numbers”, “Generating Fibonacci series”, etc. It was frustrating!

In order to earn a degree, I had to go through this mental torture. Even if I reach the final year, I would be learning about cloud only in words. Nothing practical! I should be allowed to learn what I wanted and not what someone thinks I should. In India, only a few institutions offer quality education. On my day one in the engineering college my lecturer made the following statement.

“I came to this profession because I couldn’t find another job.”

Since the teaching profession has a huge demand, the job is almost guaranteed. In some institution, students don’t even get lecturers. They bribe the government to get a sanction for running the college.

The above video demonstrates a scene in a typical Indian Institution. A Java class! The lecturer is literally reading from the book. I wish I had an English version.

During the admission process, submitting your High School and Pre-University certificates is mandatory. In case you change your mind to switch the college after the second trimester, you have to pay the fee for all eight trimesters. Only then they would return your certificates.

The next thing I couldn’t digest in India is caste based scholarships. I had a classmate who is filthy rich. He gets a huge discount on his college fee. At the same time, my other classmate who can’t afford his fee is thrown out.

I like Coursera. The quality of the materials is great. However, I find some topics difficult. Discussion forums are helpful only to some extent. I wish I could interact with the professor directly. Coursera certificates are slowly seeing adoption here. However, it needs improvement. The problem being Coursera profiles are not queryable.

If I were to hire a mobile app developer. I would go to Github and search for projects that are aligned with the product milestones. Then I query individual developer profiles behind those projects. I can even see the code they have written. If I am satisfied with their profile, I shoot an email to them. In most cases they will have an Upwork profile, I can send a proposal immediately. Though there are skilled people in Coursera, they go unnoticed.

Blockchain won’t magically solve these problems. But it is an indispensable tool. Let us explore how this tool will help in solving challenging problems of the educational sector.

No More Broken Promises

Going to a court when educational institutions break their promises is impossible. Students can’t even afford their tuition fee! How can they afford to pay a lawyer?

Blocks of digital information connected with a chain is what makes a Blockchain. These blocks of digital information are distributed around the computers worldwide. This information once deployed cannot be altered. One of the key features of blockchain is smart contracts.

Smart contracts solve the problem of broken promises. Smart contracts are normal contracts with life in it. In a normal contract, two or more people agree on certain conditions they are obliged to keep.

John is a freelancer working with Tony. One of the conditions they agree on is the payment.

Normal Contract

* Once the project is delivered, we will pay you $4000
* ....
* ....

Here Tony has an option to pay. John can drag him to court. You can imagine rest of the story.

Smart Contract

If the project is delivered
Transfer of $4000 from John's account is irreversibly authorised

Here Tony doesn’t have an option. If the work is complete, the money will go from his account. Now imagine how smart contracts can help students.

If 15 lectures on subject X is delivered
Charge the student a fee of $100

If the majority of the students agree that lectures were not delivered, no students will be charged. Students now hold a leverage for the university to act truthfully.

The above smart contract can be deployed on multiple computers around the world (Ethereum Blockchain). The smart contract once deployed cannot be altered. No single entity can control the entire deployment. Hence blockchain enables to build a system that is truly democratic.

ODEM is a decentralised education marketplace. They use smart contracts to mediate financial relationships between its members (eg. students, tutors). I recommend you to read the interview between David Smooke and the founder of ODEM.

Remember, blockchain can be used to build a democratic system. This depends on how it is programmed and designed. Hence, all blockchain solutions need not be democratic. So don’t believe all organisation who advertise they are on blockchain to act truthfully.

Scholarships

The problem of caste-based reservation is not a problem Blockchain can solve. However, instead of depending on government funds we can open investment to anyone. Blockchain brings transparency to the system. Hence goodwill donators can be assured that their money was put to good use. They would be able to see where exactly the money was spent

Queryable Records

People make fake profiles, copy projects from other resumes and lot of institutions issue fake certificates. We can’t trust them.

Building a queryable infrastructure is costly for a platform like Coursera. On the Blockchain, we have the infrastructure built already. Reading data from Ethereum Blockchain is free of cost. Imagine if we can have a place like Github where we can see the courses and the projects students worked on.

On a blockchain, an authority can sign a certificate mentioning this person has learned digital marketing or this person worked on a Facebook campaign that brought 25% conversion. Anyone can easily verify this certificate on the Blockchain. If an institution issues fake certificates, their rating on the blockchain will be irreversibly affected.

One-One Support

As I mentioned earlier, though MOOC has great content it fails to provide one-one support. We need a substantial number of tutors on the platform to support the massive number of students. Blockchain enables us to build a platform that removes geographic restriction and eliminates cost by cutting out the middleman. ODEM is focusing on solving this problem.

In the coming days we can expect more such innovations of Blockchain In Education.

Claps Please 👏 , Thank You 😊. Follow us, HackerNoon and me (Febin John James) for more stories.

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