Blockchain, NFTs and the Metaverse are hot topics right now. Will they have significant positive impact on the future of the education industry or are they just the play space for speculative investors, gamers and Gen Z?
Will these technologies just replace paper and pens, or is there something much bigger in the vision for futuristic education.
What is the Blockchain?
While Bitcoin is well known now to most of us, it is the technology that sits behind cryptocurrencies that is not well understood and has the greatest capacity for global impact. A blockchain maintains a secure and decentralised record of transactions in a database that is shared among the nodes of an extensive computer network. This blockchain database stores information electronically and in a digital format. The blockchain guarantees security of records and data .
Blockchain generates its own system of trust without the need for third party validation. No single person, organisation or group has control. It is the collective users who retain control. It makes it difficult or impossible to change, hack, or cheat. Changing one block of data means all the blocks after it need to be changed as well. This will require all hosts to agree. It can be used for medical records, identity management, food traceability, voting and in countless industries that rely on data storage and tracking. Education also has huge needs for these types of features given that our industry is very reliant on human services, we track and monitor data and we seek credibility and validity of outcomes. The future of education certainly must include blockchain applications as key technologies.
Applications of Blockchain in the Future of Education
Exaggerating resumes are one thing but we know that fraudulent qualifications can be very risky. Do you want a fake surgeon or pilot? The legal risks to employers are also significant. Universities and educational institutions of all kinds are seeking ways to validate and authenticate issued qualifications. A verifiable digital credential that cannot be tampered with makes sense. Employers can verify qualifications and academic transcripts digitally over the blockchain without third party screening. Just upload a copy of the document to a portal where the fingerprint is compared to the original and checked for integrity and expiration.
Smart Contracts in Teaching
Smart contracts are programs stored on a blockchain and there is potential for smart-contracts to be used by teachers within their courses. Smart contracts allow lessons and courses to be programmed into the blockchain and executed automatically once particular conditions are met. Task completion can be automatically verified on the blockchain. When tasks are completed teachers could even receive payment with crypto tokens and students can be awarded credits. Entire educational courses and programs can be structured this way, automating several crucial parts of the process. The future of education will include smart contracts that automate processes.
Crypto tokens are basically a form of currency like USD, GBP or AUD. The key difference however is that cash is not transferred. A record or ledger of tokens is updated. Bitcoin is the most well known, however unique tokens can be created for a specific function or purpose in a decentralised payment system. Unique cryptocurrencies can exist for many different industries or purposes. Tokenisation is an integral part of blockchain. Academic institutions have the potential to incentivise students to pay student loans on time, or faster, and teachers can motivate students by awarding cryptocurrency based on performance.
Learners can earn tokens by completing tasks, mentoring others, moderating groups and many different activities connected to the learning process. They can spend this currency (tokens) on payment for their course/s, extra tuition or support, enrichment or learning extension activities.
Educators can earn tokens from learners taking their paid courses, for creating crowd funded courses, mentoring, updating content and for additional extension, live or enrichment courses.
Gamification in the Future of Education
We all know how attractive, and addictive, games can be for young and old? Whether you find the game enjoyable or not, we just keep playing. They achieve this by rewarding progression. In education it is helpful if we can measure the progress. If we can receive rewards for progress and measure this along the way it can become an integral part of both motivation for learning as well as tracking of progress. The rewards can be artificial but if tokenised they can be even more attractive. The rewards can provide significant incentives for both the learner and the teacher.
Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)
What can be confusing is that an NFT is not a tangible object. It is a form of proof that shows ownership and purchase. They are blockchain-based tokens that can represent artwork, digital content, audio or visual media or even event tickets. An NFT is an indisputable digital certificate of ownership. It provides authenticity for a digital or physical asset. (Learn more about NFTs)
Yes, that Art assignment can now be sold by students in NFT form! Digital portfolios can have monetary value. The applications are quite endless. Diplomas and resumes can be NFTs. Digital textbooks can be NFTs and can be resold with royalties collected for each resale. Instead of those stickers small children once received as recognition of good work, teachers can share NFTs. Trophies and awards can be NFTs.
The other important application is that in order to participate in virtual worlds, like the Metaverse, students will need to have, or be a character. These unique and personal NFTs represent your identity and allow you to interact. You can also enhance the experience with extra tools. The NFTs will allow access, almost like a ticket or a key for different spaces. Your NFT could allow you access as an Alumni in the future.
Sadly, high-stakes exams remain the cornerstone of many education systems even though they do not always accurately capture key competencies. With NFTs, a student’s learning progress and highlights can be captured, stored, and used as ‘experiential’ evidence. This evidence proves that a student has truly experienced the practical aspects of a course and not just memorised and learnt for the purpose of academic grades.
The Metaverse and the Future of Education
The Metaverse is a digital or virtual platform that participants can use to build their own virtual environments. It’s also a space for users from any location to connect virtually. Participants can use a virtual reality headset or use their web browser to connect with a virtual space and communicate with others in real time. The future of education will very much include Metaverse worlds.
The Metaverse is basically a recreation of the real world but it can be customised to include almost anything the designer can think of. A Justin Beiber concert? Justin can create that, sell tickets and you can attend from your living room. A school, a classroom and special and unique learning environment? Teachers can create that, making an environment that is unique, engaging and maybe even the real life context of the topic students are learning. If you thought Zoom connections that have become so popular, are helpful, the Metaverse takes a few more steps including communication options that have animations and great visuals. You can connect and interact with families, friends and colleagues unlike anything you have seen before. Remember The Matrix, Inception, Total Recall and The Tron series?
In the education field we embrace what we call Augmented Reality (AR). We combine the real world with an overlay of information or visuals. AR utilizes signals from sensors and devices to show you relevant information and it helps you interact. The Metaverse enables us to experience what was previously considered unthinkable, like living on a different planet, being a different person, living in a different era, exploring things as if in the same space.
The concept of “What is a classroom” is certainly challenged by the Metaverse. You can attend a physical campus or a virtual campus, interact with people face to face, or virtually. Time and schedules are also challenged.
Where do we go from here?
- Blockchain technology will be used in all industries in the future and progress is already well advanced for credentialing student records.
- The Metaverse is a significant advancement in education technologies and will continue to expand as a way to accelerate and enhance children’s learning. It could be argued that the earliest models were gimmicky but in truth the quality is now amazing and in many ways can accelerate learning due to its advanced skills in bringing learning to life.
- Yes, there is a market for a more advanced form of virtual schooling with schools literally existing in the “Metaverse”. The greatest opportunity exist in areas such as language learning, online education for independent and home schooled students. The future of education for some students will embrace this.
- GSE is excited but remains cautious with a view that the very best learning and the best place for children is still in face to face classrooms. Children need to participate in genuine and authentic interactions with peers and teachers however these new technologies will continue to enhance and extend learning. “They have a place but are not a replacement.” The healthy future of education includes using these technologies to enhance and extend, not to replace proven best practice. “If it accelerates achievement then it has an important place.”
GSE is currently exploring opportunities in this space for the enhanced future of education including:
- The development of innovative models for virtual schools
- The creation of education investment and payment models using cryptocurrency and blockchain
- Teacher recruitment strategies using blockchain technologies
(Investment and partnership opportunities are available on request)
If you want to learn more about the steps required to set up a school check out some of our other articles:
– Setting Up a Virtual School
– Steps to Setting Up a New School
– 10 Steps and Articles on How to Set Up a New School
– GSE International School Franchise Models
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Internationally renowned for his expertise in education leadership, Greg Parry’s vast experience includes leadership of projects for education institutions throughout Australia, the Middle East, the United States, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Recognised for his numerous contributions in the education arena, Greg has received the Ministers Award for Excellence in School Leadership based on improvements in school performance and a range of successful principal training and leadership development programs, as well as the School of Excellence Award for Industry/School Partnerships and the School of Excellence Award for Technology Innovation. His company GSE (Global Services in Education) has been recognised as having the Best Global Brand in International Education in 2015 and 2016.
Considered one of the premier experts in his profession, Greg has trained teachers and principals throughout the world in areas such as critical thinking, language development and leadership. His expertise in school start up projects, leadership and curriculum development, has made him a sought after authority in these disciplines.
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