The college transcript still plays an important role in the lives of both students and graduates. The official document that shows courses taken and grades earned is used by students who are looking to find a job, planning to transfer, or applying for graduate school. Different schools, organizations and industries weigh the transcript differently, but it’s still an important tool when evaluating a prospective student or job candidate and verifying credentials.
The traditional transcript is owned, managed and controlled by the institution. A student or graduate who wants a copy can request one, usually for a small fee. However, new educational models are making this process somewhat antiquated. It’s becoming increasingly common for an individual to attend multiple institutions, both brick-and-mortar and online, for education and training.
Because records and credentials are validated at the source, an institution or potential employer would have to go back to multiple sources, which could turn into a long, complicated process. The challenge is to offer a platform upon which all of a student’s credentials are centrally stored, updated, authenticated and easily shared.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has created an open-source system that uses Blockchain to allow individuals to securely create and share official documents and sensitive data, including academic transcripts. Students who have grown up with the ability to easily share text, photos, videos and other information can now share certified records without having the authenticity of those records questioned.
Blockchain is a distributed, digital ledger of data that continuously adds information in chronological order. Once a block of data is added to the history, or chain, the data cannot be changed. The fact that Blockchain data is tamper-proof provides it with built-in validation as an independent, transparent and permanent database.
Originally developed to record Bitcoin transactions, Blockchain can be used in higher education to share a wide variety of data for each individual across many institutions. In addition to the traditional brick-and-mortar college transcript, data could include online courses and grades, co-curricular activities, employment history, portfolios, and other types of learning experiences and training. There have also been discussions about using Blockchain to award and recognize micro-credentials such as digital badges and MOOC (massive open online course) certificates in a standard way. Blockchain information can even be analyzed to improve educational programs and individual courses.
Blockchain could very well disrupt the concept of the traditional transcript, or even replace it. The technology would shift management and control of verified documents from the institution to the individual. Every person would have their own verifiable learning history and credentials that could be accessed from virtually any device. Although these records could not be altered, individuals would have the ability to control exactly what they show to various groups of people.
It could be several years before we see widespread adoption of Blockchain at colleges and universities, but individuals are already demanding to take control of their own records. Institutions should familiarize themselves with this technology and learn how it can simplify the sharing of transcripts and other official documents and credentials.