As eLearning platforms gain popularity and blockchain's role in education increases, the question is not whether blockchain will play a role in digital badging and certifications, but what that role will look like. That's why we want to take the time to consider where blockchain technology can lead digital badging and why these next steps are necessary.
Before we do, though, let's determine what exactly digital badges are. Digital badges are indications of an accomplishment or skill which can be verified, accessed, and viewed online. Badges can be earned in a variety of ways and digital badges, which are exclusively online, are becoming increasingly common. There is a wide ecosystem of credentials, which includes achievement recognition (training certificates), physical documents (passports), and digital licenses (website security); but if we look closer, there is some overlap among these categories. A credit card, for example, is both a physical credential you carry in your wallet, and a credential to digitally access your credit. A diploma recognizes an achievement and is a physical document. Digital badges and certifications are much like a diploma except they are exist as purely digital documents.
So, why is blockchain well-suited for badging? Blockchain brings an added level of verification for those who both issue and earn credentials. When using the network, the chain itself is able to communicate with organizations that someone is seeking to earn a credential. It also supports high-volume verification requests of future- and tamper-proof credentials.
How does it work? When your organization starts using blockchain for digital certifications and it is enabled, the badge will be published on the blockchain upon acceptance. The credential is then verified in real time by third parties. The blockchain will cryptographically seal the record of the credential when it's created, which gives those third parties the assurance that the record hasn't been altered since issued. This approach also aids in preventing fraud. Once the credential has been recorded on the blockchain, it cannot be altered or faked: should someone attempt to create a credential that looks too much like yours, it will be flagged and will not be verified.
By implementing digital badges, teachers can provide awards to e-learning students for completing coursework.
In order for a badge to be compliant, it needs to have met the required meta-data:
- Badge name
- Badge criteria (usually written in the badge's description)
- The badge's URL
- Issue date
- The issuing body (an account or record associated with the organization)
- Recipient (an email or user account associated with the person who earned the badge)
There is also some information for the meta-data which may be optional, but very useful for anyone viewing the badge or considering getting it:
- Alignment (the standards adhered to)
- Additional information about the issuing body
- Expiration date
- Evidence URL
- Revocation reason
With the increase in online education and the availability of high-quality online courses, more and more people will likely choose to learn new skills outside of traditional schooling and more employers will probably rely on badges and credentials for hiring and renewing licenses.