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How Blockchain Can Revolutionize The Education Industry

We at DevTeam.Space are firm believers in the power of blockchain to disrupt the education sector. One of our recent projects, Decenture uses blockchain to provide an efficient economic framework for the higher education ecosystem.

This platform will help everyone in the society to collaborate to curb student debt, however, blockchain has many more use cases in the education sector.

Are you an entrepreneur or a senior leader in this sector? If so, you need to explore how blockchain can revolutionize the education industry, and that’s exactly what I explain here.

Contents

Challenges facing the education sector
Why blockchain matters
The use cases of blockchain and its global market
How blockchain can transform the education sector
Examples of using blockchain in the education sector
Building a blockchain platform for the education sector
Planning to launch a blockchain-powered app for the education sector?

Challenges facing the education sector

The education sector faces several challenges. A few of the challenges are as follows:

  • The annual spend on education is estimated to be $4.7 trillion worldwide, however, it’s far from equitable. High-income countries spend $3 trillion on education per annum, whereas low-income countries spend merely $22 billion, i.e., 0.5% of the total. This anomaly is glaring, considering both groups of countries have approximately the same school-age populations! Read more about this in the “Education data” report from the “Global Partnership for Education”.
  • The above report also states that as of 2016, 132 million girls of school-going age couldn’t attend school.
  • Globally, the profile of the teaching profession needs to be raised, which will help it to become a desirable career.
  • The curriculum in schools need to meet the demands of the 21st century, however, it often doesn’t.
  • Learning programs need the flexibility to promote growth among students. Read more about this in “‘Big five’ challenges in school education”.
  • The education system needs to support disadvantaged and underperforming students.
  • In the USA, student-debts amount to $1.5 trillion as of mid-2019, and it’s a challenge. Read more about this in “Here’s why America’s $1.5 trillion student-loan crisis has spiralled out of control”.

 

Why blockchain matters

Before we delve into how blockchain can revolutionize the education industry, it’s worth understanding what blockchain is. It’s a decentralized “Peer-to-Peer” (P2P) network with the following characteristics:

  • Public blockchain networks are open to all, whereas private blockchain networks restrict participation to trusted parties only.
  • Computers on a blockchain network are called “nodes”, and they all maintain a shared ledger of all transactions. This distributed ledger makes information sharing easier, moreover, it promotes transparency.
  • The decentralized nature of blockchain, coupled with the security features like digital signatures, encryption, cryptographic hash functions, and consensus algorithms protect the data against tampering.
  • Ethereum brought smart contracts into the mix, which transfer cryptographic assets based on the fulfillment of predefined conditions. They are transparent and tamper-proof, moreover, their execution is irreversible. They can improve contract administration.

Read more about blockchain in “How to build your own blockchain using Node.js”.

The use cases of blockchain and its global market

The popularity of Bitcoin, Ether, and several other cryptocurrencies dominate discussions about blockchain, however, the technology has many other use cases. Businesses can use it for asset tokenization, supply chain management, digital identity management, etc., as you can read in “Top 5 most compelling use cases for blockchain technology”.

Grand View Research Inc., a market research company projects that the global market for blockchain will read $57.641 billion in 2025. According to this estimate, this market will see a CAGR of 69.4% between 2019 and 2025. Read “Blockchain technology market worth $57,641.3 million by 2025” for more insights.

How blockchain can transform the education sector

Blockchain can add value to the education sector in various ways, e.g.:

  • The security features of blockchain can help protect student data.
  • Forgery of education certificates is a key challenge, however, blockchain can change this since it’s tamper-proof. Read more about this in “How will blockchain transform the education system?”.
  • In addition to preventing forgery, blockchain-powered digital certificates help students since they are easier to manage. You won’t need to worry about losing a certificate that has a permanent digital presence on a decentralized blockchain network!
  • Since blockchain reduces data management and administrative costs significantly, education will become more affordable. This can help to address the burgeoning problem of student debt.
  • “Massive Open Online Courses” (MOOCs) are increasingly popular, however, providers of such courses need to prove their credentials. Blockchain can help here since users know that credentials can’t be falsely embellished on blockchain networks. Read more about this in “How blockchain could disrupt the education industry”.
  • Open Source Universities (OSUs) are gaining in popularity, again due to the high cost of education. Blockchain can make it easier to manage OSUs with its efficiency, transparency, and security.
  • Blockchain digital identity management solutions can help educational institutes to manage the IDs of their various stakeholders.
  • Charitable donations can advance the cause of education, however, transparency of operations is paramount here. Blockchain can help educational institutes to maintain this transparency, as you can read in “Blockchain could revolutionize education next. Here’s how”.

Examples of using blockchain in the education sector

As I have mentioned, Decenture uses blockchain to help communities tackle the problem of student debt. The platform offers an integrated platform to bring all transactions under one roof, and it creates an ecosystem for people to contribute to tackling student debt.

Decenture addresses the following functionalities as part of its platform:

  • Payment remittance;
  • Attendance monitoring;
  • Certification management.

It aims to build a complete ecosystem including students, universities, and governments.

Many colleges and universities all over the world have started to use blockchain to effectively combat diploma frauds. A few examples are as follows:

  • The University of Nicosia, Cyprus;
  • Sony Global Education;
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT;
  • King’s College in New York;

You can read more about this in “Benefits of blockchain technology in the education system”.

Building a blockchain platform for the education sector

I will now explain the steps involved to build a blockchain platform for the education sector. These steps are as follows:

1. Define the project scope

As I have explained, there are several use cases for blockchain in the education sector, and you need a detailed discussion with your business stakeholders to select the suitable one. Hire a project manager (PM) with experience in leading blockchain development projects.

You should also hire an IT architect with blockchain expertise and a team of business analysts. This team should discuss with the business stakeholders and define the project scope. You might offer a web app, an Android app, and an iOS app.

2. Project planning

Your PM needs to plan the project thoroughly, which involves several considerations, e.g.:

  • You need to determine if you need a cryptographic token.
  • Analyze the level of data privacy you need. A blockchain project concerning the education sector will likely process sensitive data, therefore, you should use an enterprise blockchain. Read more about this in “Public vs private (permissioned) blockchain comparison”.
  • Choose an appropriate enterprise blockchain framework.
  • Select a cloud services provider for hosting the enterprise blockchain system.

Our guide “What to plan for when undertaking blockchain software development?” can help you with this planning exercise.

3. Choose the right enterprise blockchain framework

Public blockchain networks can’t ensure data privacy, however, a blockchain-powered solution for the education industry will contain sensitive data. Enterprise blockchains support data privacy, therefore you should choose a suitable enterprise blockchain framework for this project.

I recommend that you use Hyperledger Fabric, a popular open-source framework for enterprise blockchain networks. Hyperledger Consortium, an industry group consisting of many businesses has created this framework. Fabric offers many advantages, e.g.:

  • Unlike public blockchain networks like Bitcoin and Ethereum, Hyperledger Fabric uses consensus algorithms that facilitate high transaction throughput.
  • Fabric helps developers to create a scalable blockchain network, moreover, it’s also a smart contract platform.
  • IBM and several other technology giants contribute to Fabric and other Hyperledger projects, which ensures steady development of the framework.
  • Fabric has a modular architecture with pluggable components for functions like identity management, consensus algorithm, etc. This expedites development.
  • You need a permissioned blockchain for this project, and Fabric enables you to create one.
  • Fabric uses “Channels”, which enables data-partitioning. This will help you to ensure data privacy.
  • This enterprise blockchain framework has rich querying capabilities.
  • For application systems that need higher security, Fabric offers its “Hardware Security Model” (HSM) to protect the digital signature keys.

You can read “Pros and cons of Hyperledger Fabric for blockchain networks” for more insights.

4. Select the right blockchain network host

You need to select an appropriate blockchain network host, and “Blockchain on AWS” is a great choice. It’s a comprehensive platform for blockchain development, and it offers the following advantages:

  • “Blockchain on AWS” makes good use of the excellent cloud capabilities of AWS.
  • You can use Hyperledger Fabric on this platform.
  • You can either have a centralized ledger on this platform or a decentralized ledger. A trusted authority manages a centralized ledger and shares it with the other participants. On the other hand, members own peer nodes in case of a decentralized ledger.
  • Both centralized and decentralized ledgers offer you all the key advantages of blockchain, i.e., immutability, transparency, and audit trail.
  • “Blockchain on AWS” offers the Amazon “Quantum Ledger Database” (QLDB), which is a fully managed ledger database.
  • Using the fully managed “Amazon Blockchain Service”, you can easily build a Hyperledger Fabric blockchain network.
  • You can use the “AWS Blockchain Templates” to easily create and deploy a secure blockchain network.

Read more about “Blockchain on AWS” in “Best blockchain network hosts 2019 – Ethereum – Amazon etc.”.

5. Build a development team

It’s time to form the complete project team, therefore, you need to onboard competent people for the following roles:

  • UI designers;
  • Blockchain developers with experience in Hyperledger Fabric including smart contract development;
  • Web developers;
  • Android developers;
  • iOS developers;
  • Testers;
  • DevOps engineers.

Given that blockchain is a niche skill, this project is complex. You should hire a field expert development team for a project like this, as I have explained in “Freelance app development team vs. field expert software development teams”.

6. Design the UI for the web and mobile apps

Your web and mobile apps need user-friendly UIs, therefore, you should follow appropriate guidelines. Consult these resources:

7. Develop your blockchain application on AWS

You now need to develop your blockchain application on AWS, and the front-end of your web and mobile apps will access this. As part of this step, you will create “chaincodes”, i.e., smart contracts in Hyperledger Fabric parlance.

This involves the following:

  • Create the network and the first member.
  • You need to create an endpoint.
  • As the next step, you need to set up a client.
  • The system needs a member admin, therefore, you now need to set this up.
  • Transactions in this system need peer nodes, and you need to set up one such node.
  • Create a channel to secure sensitive data.
  • Read “Chaincode tutorials” and develop the chaincodes you need.
  • This application will likely require sensitive data passing hands, therefore, you should create a joint channel and invite members as needed.

Read “Get started creating a Hyperledger Fabric blockchain network using Amazon Managed Blockchain” for more insights.

8. Develop the web, Android, and iOS apps

It’s time to create the web, Android and iOS apps.

Developing the proposed web app involves the following:

Create the proposed Android app using Android Studio and code it using Java. You can read “Getting started with Android app development” and learn how to use AWS Amplify for this. Read “Publish your app” to learn how to publish the app to Google Play.

Use Xcode to code the proposed iOS app, and develop it using Objective-C. Read “Getting started with iOS app development” to learn how to use AWS Amplify for iOS app development. Publish the app to Apple App Store by following the instructions in “Submit your apps today.”.

Planning to launch a blockchain-powered app for the education sector?

This guide, platforms, tools, and frameworks will help, however, developing a blockchain-powered app for the education sector can be complex. Blockchain is a niche technology, and you should consider working with a reputed software development company for such projects. Read our guide “How to find the best software development company?” to find such a partner.