Blockchain as a tool to combat fraud in education

By using blockchain, educational institutions can create decentralised records of student achievement which are stored in a distributed ledger that cannot be tampered with

Alexander Pfeiffer
Alexander Pfeiffer

Igor Dvorskiy is a former director of a private school in Los Angeles, who was involved in a massive scandal that saw wealthy parents pay bribes to secure admission for their children in elite universities.

Dvorskiy was also accused of meddling with test scores after they were taken, in order to improve the chances of the students being admitted to top colleges. 

With so many students pursuing their studies with diverse international institutions and online, confirming the veracity of educational credentials and academic accomplishments is a big task for different entities such as universities, employers, evaluators of applications for government or EU-funded projects among others.

Addressing Transform-ed, a training symposium hosted by the Permanent Representation of the European Commission to Malta, blockchain guru Alexander Pfeiffer highlighted how ledger technology can offer solutions to this dilemma.

Expressing disappointment at how the term blockchain has often been mistakenly associated only with failed projects or risky currency transactions, Pfeiffer showcased how database technology can be used for good, since blockchain can verify every single transaction.

The core functionality of blockchain technology is its ability to offer a safe and decentralized method of recording and verifying transactions without the need for an impartial broker. This is accomplished by linking up huge sources of data that collaborate to keep track of a shared ledger of transactions that is protected by sophisticated cryptographic procedures. A transaction that has been added to the blockchain cannot be eradicated or altered after this has been done, offering a high level of transparency. Because of this, blockchain technology may be applied to a variety of processes, including voting systems, supply chain and logistics management, as well as financial transactions.

Pfeiffer, who is a post-doctoral fellow on blockchain technologies and their impact on game-based education and learning assessment argued that blockchain technology can serve to potentially fight deception in education through the creation of fraud-proof, uneditable record of educational achievements that are difficult to tamper with.

By using blockchain, educational institutions can create decentralized records of student achievement which are stored in a distributed ledger that cannot be tampered with. 

Blockchain technology can help the educational system become more transparent and accountable by making it simpler to track the movement of school credentials and confirm that they are only being used for authorized reasons. 

In a research paper he co-authored in 2020, Pfeiffer argued that one of the most significant advantages of blockchain is the ability, or rather the non-ability of retrospectively altering data which is stored on the blockchain. Added to that, the open nature of public blockchains supports decentralised data verification, making it independent of any central authority and consequently valid across different programmes, departments, institutions and countries. 

As a result, it can offer solutions in a range of policy areas, including healthcare, real estate and identity management, which depend on significant amounts of data and at the same time require higher levels of confidentiality safeguards.

Transformed-ed, organised as part of the European Commission’s #EuropeanYearofSkills, initiative sought to facilitate collaboration and knowledge-sharing between educators, industry experts, thought leaders, and trainers on the future of education in Europe.

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