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MIT and other universities team up to explore blockchain potential for management of academic credentials

Wed, 24 Apr 2019, 04:31 am UTC

Nine leading universities have teamed up to form the Digital Credentials collaboration that will aim to create a trusted, distributed, and shared infrastructure standard for issuing, storing, displaying, and verifying academic credentials.

Participating universities include Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands), Harvard University Division of Continuing Education (USA), the Hasso Plattner Institute (University of Potsdam, Germany), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), Tecnologico de Monterrey (Mexico), TU Munich (Germany), UC Berkeley (USA), UC Irvine (USA), and the University of Toronto (Canada).

Sanjay Sarma, MIT vice president for open learning, said that those who complete a degree from an institution are currently required to reach out to the institution – either by mail or in person — each time there is a need to verify the academic credentials earned.

"This can be a complicated problem, especially if the learner no longer has access to the university. Such is the case with many refugees, immigrants, and displaced populations,” he said.

Digital credentials will allow learners to maintain a verifiable digital record of their learning achievements, such as traditional degrees, badges, internships, bootcamps, certificates, and more, all of which they can easily share with employers or other institutions.

The initiative aims to use technology that relies on strong cryptography to prevent tampering and fraud, and shared ledgers to create a global infrastructure for anchoring academic achievements. It will build upon earlier research efforts by partnering institutions — including MIT's pilot program for issuing all of its graduates a digital version of their diploma that is verified against a blockchain.

“We are exploring how recent advances in public key infrastructures, public ledgers, and blockchains can be used to rethink the way we recognize and transact with academic achievements,” the website reads.

According to the official release, the team is currently focusing on the evolution and governance of a shared standard.

In June 2018, Ripple announced the University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) to support and accelerate academic research, technical development and innovation in blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payments.

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