ACE Initiative Will Explore the Potential for Blockchain to Close Equity Gaps Across the Education Landscape
February 06, 2020

​​​U.S. Department of Education supports nation's largest higher education association's research into and pilots of emerging blockchain technologies

ACE announced today that it has received funding from the U.S. Department of Education to support an ambitious initiative that will explore the use of blockchain in education.

The Education Blockchain Initiative is designed to help identify and evaluate ways that blockchain technology can improve the flow of data among educational institutions and employers while empowering individuals to translate educational outcomes into economic opportunity. It will include the launch of a competitive challenge to fund pilot programs later this year.

“This work is about exploring the potential of blockchain technology to give learners greater control over their educational records," said Ted Mitchell, president of ACE. “It's about enabling more seamless transitions between and across K-12, higher education, and the workforce. This initiative will explore how this nascent technology can break down barriers for opportunity seekers to fully unlock their learning and achievement."

The funding builds on longstanding efforts by the Department of Education to convene stakeholders and technology experts to explore how blockchain can help facilitate student ownership of their learning records, regardless of where the training and education takes place. Blockchain may also have a role to play in supporting new ways of recording and sharing achievements and skills, including those earned through the $87 billion in annual spending on corporate training or via one of the 738,000 unique credentials offered in the United States.

“The ability to demonstrate skills and knowledge is key to translating education into economic opportunity,” said Jim Blew, assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development at the Department of Education. “ACE will be a powerful partner in furthering our understanding of the potential for blockchain to ensure equal opportunity in the workforce landsc​ape.”​

ACE and the Department of Education also announced the formation of a steering committee to oversee the initiative, consisting of leaders and experts in technology and education as well as workforce stakeholders. The committee will be responsible for providing oversight of a research report and selection of the pilot projects to receive funding. The steering committee members include:

  • Gayatri Agnew, Walmart.org
  • Susan M. Bearden, Consortium for School Networking
  • Todd Borland, Union Public Schools
  • Richard A. DeMillo, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Amber Garrison Duncan, Lumina Foundation
  • Kara Lee, American Council on Education
  • Kerri Lemoie, OpenWorks Group
  • Joe May, Dallas County Community College District
  • John Mitchell, Stanford University
  • Rodney Parks, Elon University
  • Bonny Simi, JetBlue Technology Ventures
  • Tomicah Tillemann, New America
  • Harold Tran, Vantage Point Consulting
  • Connie Yowell, Southern New Hampshire University

“Blockchain holds vast potential to better connect learning in diverse contexts and help students achieve their education and workforce goals and ultimately improve mobility," said the initiative's lead Louis Soares, ACE's chief learning and innovation officer. “ACE is excited to lead this work and ensure the learning from this project is accessible across educational institutions."

The initiative begins with the development of a research paper that will review the current use of blockchain in education as well as identify opportunities and challenges for potential applications that can advance equity in educational and workforce outcomes. Following the report, ACE will partner with the President's Forum to create a process and criteria for pilot project selection, which will be released later this year.

To learn more about the Education Blockchain Initiative, email ​​EBI@acenet.edu

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