No. 1: Improve record keeping
The most promising use case for blockchain in higher education is to transform the “record keeping” of degrees, certificates and diplomas, making credentials digital and under the learner’s control, without the need for an intermediary to verify them.
Blockchain could be also used for accreditation of educational institutions, a complex process in many countries, enabling them to verify quality or qualification to teach.
Blockchain’s ability to improve record keeping also makes it a natural fit for solving intellectual property (IP) management problems, for example, by using blockchain to determine if an idea or invention is unique or to register IP assets, copyright and patents.
No. 2: Increase efficiency in existing business processes
Blockchain-based university diplomas are a great leap forward, but perhaps the ultimate use case is the creation of a virtual transcript or record of all education achievements throughout one’s entire lifetime.
A verifiable lifetime transcript would reduce CV fraud, streamline student transfers between universities, reduce the overhead related to credential verification, and make moving between states and countries less complex. This kind of initiative goes beyond record keeping and seeks to streamline processes, making it an “efficiency play.”
No. 3: Create a new market for digital assets
Processing student payments is labor-intensive and may involve the student, parents, scholarship-granting agencies, financial institutions, governments and educational institutions. In the future, cryptocurrencies — perhaps even custom cryptocurrencies — could be used as a method of student payments.
In 2014, King’s College in New York City became the first accredited U.S. institution to accept bitcoin as payment, eliminating the credit card transaction fees previously charged to students. This is a good example of how blockchain could be used in higher education to create and trade new digital assets.
No. 4: Create a disruptive business model
To date, higher education blockchain use cases have focused on record keeping and efficiency, while the real disruptive power often lies in creating new business models.
Woolf University aspires to become the first blockchain-powered, nonprofit, borderless university. Founded by a group of academics from both Oxford and Cambridge, it will rely on blockchain and smart contracts as the basis of the relationship between learners and educators — aiming to create the Airbnb of degree courses.