What should every head of college know about blockchain (opinion)


Blockchain is at the end of the cycle of higher education hype. Even leaders and institutional experts are intrigued by the potential of the blockchain, but they often know little about technology beyond its central role in stories about initial coin offerings or Bitcoin University.

So, how do you place the blockchain with the aspirations of higher education? And why institutional leaders could take note of its potential? What should university leaders know about the origins of technology and the application to real-world challenges and opportunities?

What is Blockchain and why is it important?

Blockchain is the technological innovation at the base of Bitcoin – the rise of the digital currency. The same technology solves one of the big problems of society: how to create a system in which many people keep reliable and verified information. Today, for example, the register of who owns a plot of land is kept at the town hall. Imagine if each city hall was connected in such a way that each municipality had a copy of a title of property?

As Chris Dixon, a member of Andreessen Horowitz, recently signed, "Likewise, people have abandoned smartphones early because they have abandoned computing power and screen size for portability and new sensors," many will see Bitcoin as a passing fashion but will ignore how truly revolutionary blockchain will be for every sector including higher education.

Think of the blockchain as akin to online learning in the early 2000s. Most college presidents questioned the quality and effectiveness of the digital revolution, while some business presidents like Michael Crow at Arizona State University and Paul LeBlanc of Southern New Hampshire University have built powerful online learning networks that catapult them into the forefront of higher education ecosystem.

Blockchain is driving the growth of work

It will not be long before the "jump of ability" of the blockchain skips the shark. Already, the single most requested skill for freelancers is blockchain. LinkedIn publications for blockchain jobs have increased 6,000 percent year-over-year and initial developer salaries are over $ 100,000, with hourly billing rates that often exceed $ 100. There are more than 14 job offers for each expert developer.

If your university is not equipped to introduce courses and concepts based on the application and potential of the blockchain, now is the time to start. Your students will wait for it. Blockchain presents a rare opportunity for differentiation, rather than the latest fashion. All major financial services companies have announced a blockchain initiative, while whole countries like Malta have started efforts to move their identification systems onto the blockchain – throw away that pesky driving license; your PGP key will be enough. There are not yet emerging institutions in the era of the blockchain. But the first pioneers are clamoring for the title. The Australian Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology is among the few growing, along with the recent MIT course on blockchain and money.

If you do not have a blockchain course, start with a certificate and develop a degree program over time. It's not just about technical skills – an education in the basics of blockchain has implications in product design and business strategy that will support students in a whole range of careers.

Research Matters

Blockchain research is multidisciplinary in nature and could touch virtually all university departments. Even the classicists will be pleased to note that the main innovation of technology is often called the problem of the Byzantine general.

Dollars and research opportunities will soon abound. The most skilled institutions will develop skills by launching block workgroups across departments such as mathematics, political science, finance and others

As you gather your research group, think about creating a center of excellence specific to your research : blockchain revolutionize everything from currency trading to digital identity issues, and is probably too broad a field for even the largest university to cover every topic.

Implications of responsibility

Fundamental aspects of university life, such as teaching and governance of learning or faculty, will hardly be transformed by blockchain in the short term. But blockchain will have significant implications for other facets and functions within higher education.

The federal government and private creditors could base the payment of financial aid dollars upon completion of the course, as opposed to sitting time. Universities can put student portfolios or other work on the blockchain to allow discovery by employers or other partners.

The blockchain could allow simpler micropayments or identifications on university campuses that create the next set of radical innovations in student identification and payment. Each university president should start by exploring just a few areas (for example, financial aid) where blockchain can create new efficiencies or transform back-office functionality.

Beyond the Transcript

Blockchain is probably the knell death for the relief transcription. The records will be kept in the distributed accounting books. Students will be able to share much more granular information about their learning for future employers, friends and partners.

At the moment, the only way to know if someone has graduated from your university is to call the registrar. What would happen if individual teachers or programs could play the role of "authorized credential issuers", performing the timing on the blockchain that can be validated instantly? In a short time, blockchain can help solve one of the most irritating challenges of higher education: take the case of a system in which many people maintain reliable and verified information.

This is not science fiction stuff. Blockchain already allows millions of computers to securely store the information of those who graduated from which university, rather than keeping those records within a single registration office. In addition to hosting the largest MOOC on digital currency, the first of such university programs in the world, the University of Nicosia has announced a blockchain-enabled credential to offer students a safer way to test their online skills, which now he is employed in several universities.

Technological innovation and interruptions tend to come to the end of the education cycle. The newspapers discovered their business model interrupted by the Internet long before higher education. With the blockchain, it seems that venture capitalists and other financial intermediaries will be disrupted first (there have been over $ 6 billion in initial coin offerings already this year). However, it is only a matter of time before blockchain technology interrupts the operations of practically all universities – and institutional leaders should be prepared.

In a decade, what reader of this column will claim to be the Michael Crow or Paul LeBlanc of the blockchain era?

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