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How Bitcoin Blockchain Can Revolutionize Academic Credential Verification

For companies, it is particularly difficult and time consuming to verify academic credentials and certificates of applicants. Chris Jagers, the CEO of Learning Machine believes the blockchain technology can permanently change the traditional method of verification utilized by most companies and educational institutions globally.

One of the most controversial cases in the world of technology is the release of former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, after it was revealed that he falsely listed a computer-science degree from Stonehill College to be eligible for a position at Yahoo.

Yahoo recruitment and human resources departments received harsh criticisms from the community following the release of Thompson due to the lack of due diligence from the company’s part in verifying each credentials and experience of their future CEO. Realistically however, the traditional method of issuing academic credentials should have been the receiving end of criticisms.

Previously, the only possible method in which companies like Yahoo could verify academic credentials was to contact the educational institution that issued the certificate directly. If and when Yahoo makes a request, it could take 1 to 2 weeks for it to be considered and it could an additional 1 to 2 weeks for the educational institution to verify the credentials.

Although this method could be utilized for small startups, it is an extremely inefficient process for large conglomerates that appoint thousands of people annually in hundreds of different departments.

As a solution to this global issue, the Massachusetts Institution of Technology (MIT) first released a demonstration of using the bitcoin blockchain to issue, manage and distribute alumni digital certificates.

It relied on the OP-RETURN of the bitcoin network, which allows users of the network to store additional data apart from the original transactional data to the transaction. Using this unique function, MIT computed SHA256 (encryption method implemented in bitcoin) of local certificate and embedded a MIT cryptographic signature onto the transaction.

After the five major phases, a certificate of an alumni from MIT would be integrated onto a bitcoin transaction that has its own blockchain address and public key.

“Using the blockchain and strong cryptography, it is now possible to create a certification infrastructure that puts us in control of the full record of our achievements and accomplishments. It will allow us to share a digital degree with an employer while giving the employer complete trust that the degree was in fact issued to the person presenting it,” said Philipp Schmidt of MIT Media Lab.

However, MIT struggled to publicize this digital certificate issuance technology as the OP_RETURN function limited the amount of data that can be stored. Thus, it was inefficient and expensive to issue thousands of certificates simultaneously through the MIT blockchain application.

Instead, MIT Media Lab and Machine Learning began to work on a joint project called Blockcerts, which utilizes the Bitcoin blockchain to create and manage cryptographically signed, tamper-proof and shareable digital certificates.

The method implemented by Blockcerts is similar to MIT’s initial demo platform. The major difference is in the deployment of certificates.

On the Blockcerts network, the student or the recipient of the digital certificate would first send its public key to the issuer or the educational institution. Then, the issuer can use the public key to hash certificate onto the blockchain. Once it is broadcasted onto the bitcoin blockchain network, anyone can view and verify the certificate.

“This open standard is OBI compliant and includes libraries for creating, issuing, holding, viewing, and verifying blockchain credentials. There is no other public resource delivering this complete ecosystem,” wrote Jagers.

With Blockcerts and the partners of Machine Learning that includes MIT Media Lab, Stanford University, Yale University, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, leading US-based universities will be able to test the platform and begin issuing digital certificates to eliminate the problem around fraudulent certificates.

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