Research on global infrastructure for digital university degrees
While digital technology has started to transform education by enabling new learning pathways that are customized to each individual’s needs, the way that educational institutions issue and manage academic credentials has not changed much. Nine leading universities announced today that they have formed the Digital Credentials collaboration in order to create a trusted, distributed, and shared infrastructure standard for issuing, storing, displaying, and verifying academic credentials.
“Currently, those who successfully complete a degree from an institution must go back to that institution — sometimes by mail or even in person — each time there is a need to verify the academic credentials earned,” said Sanjay Sarma, MIT vice president for open learning. “This can be a complicated problem, especially if the learner no longer has access to the university. Such is the case with many refugees, immigrants, and displaced populations.”
The universities working on this effort include Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands), Harvard University (USA), the Hasso Plattner Institute (University of Potsdam, Germany), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), Tecnologico de Monterrey (Mexico), TU Munich (Germany), UC Berkeley (USA), UC Irvine (USA), and the University of Toronto (Canada).
“Universities can reach more diverse groups of students and learners by offering them different forms of education”, says Rob Mudde, Vice Rector Magnificus and Vice Chairman of TU Delft. “In addition to the traditional student following a bachelor's or master's programme, you can think of people following online courses (MOOCs), postgraduate education or a professional course. In this way, people increasingly have the opportunity to shape their own educational pathways throughout their lives. We want to develop an infrastructure to reliably verify and certify these learning achievements and credentials”.
Using technology that relies on strong cryptography to prevent tampering and fraud, and shared ledgers to create a global infrastructure for anchoring academic achievements, the researchers plan to build upon earlier research and pioneering efforts by their institutions — including MIT’s pilot program for issuing all of its graduates a digital version of their diploma that is verified against a blockchain.