By Natalie Smolenski, head of business development, Hyland.
Digital credentials, presented through a blockchain-secured format, have the power to eliminate fraud and verify students’ identities through admissions. Blockchain, a verification infrastructure used to prevent fraud, plays an increasingly important role in educational record verification, as the technology is quickly being adapted to verify educational experiences and qualifications. These include degrees, transcripts and other types of credentials.
Not only can blockchain make credential verification much faster, it is also significantly less expensive and vastly more secure. This opens the possibility of virtually eliminating records fraud, streamlining the verification of educational documents and giving control of personal data back to individuals.
Eliminate records fraud
Academic records fraud is both widespread and pervasive, as it is easy to edit and falsify information both digitally and on paper. Diploma mills are a flourishing industry – a real diploma can be purchased from a fake school and fake diplomas from real schools. Universities also regularly discover that applicant transcripts include photoshopped grades.
Blockchain can solve this problem by providing a decentralized, transnational and digital verification infrastructure to prevent and detect fraud. It achieves this by employing both advanced cryptography and timestamped digital signatures to validate both the issuer and recipient of a credential. Digital signatures and hashed data, combined with the immutable blockchain ledger, ensure that credentials have not been tampered with. Minimization of fraud increases trust, which facilitates international student mobility and safeguards the public from professionals with illegitimate credentials.
Streamline sharing and verification of educational documents
Under the current practice of applying for employment or further educational experiences, individuals must request their official academic records from their school or institution. This process is both costly and time consuming: the receiving institution is required to validate the credential either by using a software vendor’s solution or by contacting the school—or a third-party credential verification organization (CVO)—by phone or in writing.
Blockchain allows institutions to issue records to recipients only once. Following the first issuance, recipients can carry their records with them in a portable, digital format and cryptographically prove to anyone that the record was issued to them and by which institution. Recipients can share their records at their own discretion and make decisions about which data to disclose. This eliminates the back-and-forth interaction between receiving institutions and issuing institutions, simplifying the process of record transfer and verification.
Return control of personal data to individuals
Currently, individuals have copies or originals of their official records in their possession. However, these records are not self-validating; their original issuing institutions still must re-authenticate the records each time verification is needed. This makes the records in the hands of the individual effectively worthless, as they have no ability to verify and share those records.
It would be as though you could carry cash with you but couldn’t spend it without the store calling the government to validate the cash was authentic—a process that takes several weeks or months on average—every single time. In the best-case scenario, the store would send a digital verification request to a third-party company—say, RealCash—to verify the cash is authentic. This process is quick, but they may charge you or the store a fee—and what happens if RealCash goes out of business or stops providing the service? Then, the verification process must start from scratch all over again.
Anchoring digital credentials to a blockchain enables instant verification every time. Individuals now have a useable record they can carry with them anywhere and share with anyone they choose. Additionally, these records can be verified an unlimited number of times, at no cost, without the need for re-issuance or additional validation. This empowers individuals, placing control over their own documents back into their hands.
Because of the importance of educational credentials and qualifications for future learning and employment, education is at the forefront of the technological transition to verifiable credentials. This places educational institutions in the exciting and unprecedented position of serving as a global vanguard for new technology adoption – the first non-currency use cases for a next-generation social currency of trust. In this way, the education industry has the potential to lead the way in the future of blockchain.