The American Council on Education (ACE) announced yesterday that it received funding from the U.S. Department of Education to support an ‘ambitious’ initiative that will explore the potential for blockchain to close equity gaps across the nation’s education landscape.
Titled the ‘Education Blockchain Initiative,’ the project will conduct research to identify and appraise how blockchain can be applied to improve the movement of data between educational institutions and employers.
The initiative aims to give students increased control over their academic records and hence empower them to translate educational results into career opportunities.
“This work… is about enabling more seamless transitions between and across K-12, higher education, and the workforce,” said Ted Mitchell, president of the ACE.
“This initiative will explore how this nascent technology can break down barriers for opportunity seekers to fully unlock their learning and achievement,” he added.
A steering committee comprising of experts in the field of education and technology was formed to oversee the project. The committee will be responsible for choosing the pilot projects that receive funding based on a competitive challenge later this year.
Members include leaders from institutions like Consortium for School Networking, Georgia Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Union Public Schools, Elon University, Dallas County Community College District, Elon University, Southern New Hampshire University, Vantage Point Consulting, New America, Lumina Foundation, OpenWorks Group, JetBlue Technology Ventures, and Walmart.org.
The Initiative will be led by ACE’s chief learning and innovation officer, Louis Soares. “Blockchain holds vast potential to better connect learning in diverse contexts and help students achieve their education and workforce goals and ultimately improve mobility. ACE is excited to lead this work and ensure the learning from this project is accessible across educational institutions,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Education has long expressed an interest in bringing stakeholders and technical experts together to explore the benefits that blockchain can have on the education sector better.
The federal agency also sees the potential of blockchain technology in designing new methods of record-keeping and sharing of skills and achievement qualifications. This includes corporate training certificates, which form an $87 billion industry in the nation, and diplomas achieved from one of the 738,000 private credentials in the US.
Regardless of where learners are educated, this blockchain initiative can help them get ownership of their records. “The ability to demonstrate skills and knowledge is key to translating education into economic opportunity,” said Department of Education’s assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development, Jim Blew.
“ACE will be a powerful partner in furthering our understanding of the potential for blockchain to ensure equal opportunity in the workforce landscape,” he added.
The first task on the Initiative’s agenda is to produce a research paper that reevaluates the current application of blockchain in education. It will further assess the tech’s potential in advancing equity in education and workforce outcomes, and the opportunities and challenges associated.
Based on this report, the ACE will work with the President’s Forum to establish a process and criteria for the competitive challenge to be held later this year, during which pilot blockchain projects will be selected for funding.