On February 22 2016, Sony Global Education, a division of the Japanese electronics giant Sony Corporation, announced a new blockchain technology to share educational data with third parties.

Holberton School, an alternative software engineering school has also teamed up with Bitproof, a blockchain notary in issuing blockchain based academic certificates to its graduates.

MIT Media Lab has also begun issuing digital certificates, and in July 2015, they began issuing ‘coins’, that serve as physical versions of their digital certificates, to members of their community.

Why blockchain?

At the moment, verifying education credentials requires extensive legwork. Companies have to hire specialized agencies that carry out this work, or they have to take up the job of verifying educational credentials by themselves, this is slow, tedious and expensive.

“In addition, the process to check someone’s degree is quite laborious, as you need to get the school’s contact information, reach the right person and do it again for every candidate. Medium and big companies often delegate this task to third parties as it’s very time and money consuming,” explains Black Haggerty, a recruiter at CoreOS.

What can blockchain bring to the table?

Blockchain has the potential to change everything when it comes to how we receive or share our educational qualifications. As an example, in a few months’ time, I will be taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). If I pass this test, I will be issued with a one-time paper certificate that I can make photocopies of and share with potential employers or Japanese schools for further education. However, apart from the fact that I need to make photocopies, I also need to take care of this certificate, because, if I lose it or it gets damaged, it is difficult, time-consuming and expensive to get a duplicate. If JLPT issued a digital certificate, which could be verified through a private or a public blockchain, my life would be considerably simpler. I would have no paper certificates to worry about and potential employers and schools could just look at my results if they had access to the JLPT blockchain. There is evidence to point out that it is already happening.

“After taking an examination to demonstrate his or her academic proficiency level, an individual could direct the testing organization to share the test results with one or more third-party evaluating organizations.”

Sony Global Education

Verification of credentials

Blockchain has the potential to make verification of credentials a cinch, compared with the world of pain it is today. Employers would be able to verify data on resumes or LinkedIn within moments at virtually zero cost. They would also be able to access and verify details of training etc. As for employees and students, the benefits are obvious, no more having to pay a hefty fee to universities for transcripts, or running from pillar to post to collect folders of paper. Not only would this technology be useful for applying for work or hiring, but also for other applications, like applying for visas and work permits and beyond.

Given how much time and money people spend today on certified copies, notarized documents, apostles, transcripts, legalizations and verifications, the developments surrounding blockchains are a welcome relief for many. Although still in a nascent phase, we are surely moving towards a more digital and verifiable future where decentralized and deregulated third parties can help everyone instantly get access to vital information in a matter of seconds at a fraction of the cost.