ACE Publishes Findings From U.S. Department of Education-Funded Blockchain Initiative


​​​Report indicates wide interest in the potential of nascent technology, highlights opportunities and considerations to enhance education and workforce equity through blockchain 

Today, ACE released a report outlining the outcomes and best practices that have emerged from the Education Blockchain Initiative, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Education and included the Blockchain Innovation Challenge. The $900,000 competition sought bold ideas to reorient education and employment around learners and ultimately funded four projects that explored how blockchain technology can empower learners with more control over their educational records and create more equitable opportunities for economic advancement.

“The past eighteen months has surfaced the critical need of exploring and developing emerging technologies to address systemic opportunity gaps in our country,” said Kristina Ishmael, deputy director of the Office of Educational Technology at the Department of Education. “This report highlights promising technologies like blockchain that grant learners agency to navigate their educational journey, including ownership over their credentials and the ability to share credentials between institutions freely.” 

The report comes as national research continues to show how learners are often unable to translate all of their learning and skills into credentials of value that can help to boost their employability. This past year, Ithaka SR found that roughly 6.6 million students have “stranded credits” due to unpaid balances at their institution, which leaves them unable to count or transfer credits toward a certificate or degree. Research this summer found the issue disproportionately affects low-income learners and students of color.

“As the world of work continues to shift rapidly, higher education institutions have a critical role to play in ensuring that all learners can successfully transition between learning and work throughout their lives,” said Louis Soares, ACE’s chief learning and innovation officer. “Experimenting with new approaches such as blockchain, and scaling what works, is paramount to our collective efforts to unlock opportunity for more learners. This initiative has made clear that blockchain technology can help learners have agency over their educational experiences—in ways that can improve their chances of economic advancement.”

Blockchain is a technology best known as the underpinning of the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. It is a type of shared, distributed ledger technology that uses an agreed upon and encrypted process.

The Blockchain Innovation Challenge attracted applicants who collectively serve over 1.5 million postsecondary learners. The report identified best practices and opportunities based on the four winning projects, including an emphasis on interoperability and data alignment in order to make the technological infrastructure sustainable and durable. In addition, the report found that designers of these technologies must focus first on the needs of the end users, including learners, and make the technologies intuitive for those users.

As the Education Blockchain Initiative formally concludes, ACE, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Presidents Forum have launched a new partnership called Potential to Impact: Harnessing Blockchain to Empower Learners. The virtual convening series is exploring how to engage end users of these innovations to further promote learner empowerment. For more information and to participate in the series, email

For more information on the Blockchain Innovation Challenge and the Education Blockchain Initiative, please visit​.