Will academic digital credentials be commonplace in few years?

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In academic, digital credentials may play a vital role.

Kim Hamilton Duffy, an architect for the Digital Credentials Consortium, has accelerated the demand for digital credentials because of the existing educational blockchain-related pilots.

The traditional education sector may just be the beginning. One can imagine all kinds of credentials beyond academic degrees that could have a lasting impact on the labor market.

Traditional education is just a small part of what a person learns and can do. We constantly learn but have little evidence to back that up. There are efforts at foot today to “represent competencies” even before a conventional course of study is completed.

For example, Talent Cloud, led by Valerie Thomas, is an initiative developing new models for recruiting and mobilizing talent in Canada’s Public Service sector. It works with employers to shift flat job descriptions, like “a banal rock-star full stack developer” to something much more useful like “competency-based descriptions that can be more precisely matched up with skills/competencies, and this is where digital academic credentials could really come into play.

This sort of work is a prerequisite to a more significant shift in the global labor market. As Duffy believes: “This is the really exciting part — it can help employers discover talent in their existing workforce and empower learners from non-traditional backgrounds.”

“Many believe that blockchain-based systems could liberate citizens, giving control back to the owner of the personal data. The EBS is not only aiming for securely conveying diplomas and other credentials of students across borders but also to support them later in starting a business, managing taxes or health records.”

Kim Hamilton Duffy

Current events are spurring change. The problem is especially evident with the increasing number of migrants that either have lost their credentials or for whom it is impossible to tell if their documents are valid. Therefore, moving, working and studying abroad have guided the development of a single digital market like the European one, where credentials can be universally recognized and accepted across the region.

The aim of the recent EBSI initiative, which has 30 signatory countries, is to allow studying and working in different countries while giving back to citizens control over their credentials.This will make migration easier and increase workforce mobility.

“I think the entire nature of labor will change irreversibly because of COVID-19 and the ensuing collapse of the global economy. There has been more change in the past three months within education institutions and the labor market than in the past five years — and not all of it is negative.” 

Kim Hamilton Duffy, an architect for the Digital Credentials Consortium

Blockchain has been described as a hammer in search of a nail. If so, academic credentialing appears to be as obvious a nail as one can find. The current international trade in fake academic degrees, after all, is “staggering,” and with a global labor market increasingly mobile, the world could badly use a decentralized, borderless, tamper-free ledger of verifiable credentials — both for education and the broader labor market.

Is the system broken?

Meanwhile, the current system is untenable in the view of many. Fraudulent diplomas abound, Hans Pongratz, the chief information officer at the Technical University of Munich stated “There are diploma mills and online shops around where you can even select the right paper thickness and seals.”

Securely mapping certificates with humans claiming to be the holder is not always easy. Documents are not only photoshopped but also hard to verify as there are many institutions issuing certificates, diplomas and other work-related documentation. Paper-based documents can get lost, which makes it impossible for the holder to prove that she or he actually has a certain education.

The is no doubt that the argument for Digital credentials, especially in academic circles is only going to gain ground over the coming months and years, and it will be interesting to see if Blockchain can provide a commonplace solution to proving qualifications both in academia and other industries too.

Dylan Leighton

Dylan Leighton

Dylan Leighton is an composer, music producer, sound designer and mix engineer from the United Kingdom. Making music for over 40 years, he creates music for corporate clients, film and video, and his own personal enjoyment. Writing under the artist name Kalliste, he has composed in just about every genre, from hip-hop to funk to classical.

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