U.S. Department of Education Funds ACE Research on Blockchain in Education, Competition to Accelerate Adoption
June 08, 2020

​​Report identifies potential for blockchain to boost economic mobility by connecting learning to employment; Innovation Challenge will fund exploration of nascent technology’s potential

ACE today released the findings of a six-month study on the use of blockchain technology as part of the Education Blockchain Initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The report, “Connected Impact: Unlocking Education and Workforce Opportunity Through Blockchain," explores the potential for blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, to help individuals better communicate their skills, experiences, and credentials. The results of the research will inform a $900,000 Blockchain Innovation Challenge, designed to seed blockchain projects with the potential to boost economic mobility.

“As the implications of mass unemployment loom large, the imperative of making good on our collective educational investments takes on new urgency," said ACE President Ted M​itchell, who authored the foreword for the paper. “Blockchain, in particular, holds promise to create more efficient, durable connections between education and work."

The report, which is based on interviews with leaders from K-12 and higher education, credentialing organizations, and technology providers, identified 71 active blockchain initiatives. These include a Dallas County Community College District-led effort to help learners better access and control their learning records to remove barriers to enrolling in college and applying for employment. Arizona State University (ASU) and Maricopa County Community College District are piloting the Trusted Learning Network to explore blockchain's role in streamlining reverse transfer to award associate degrees to transfer students at ASU. In addition to solutions, the report highlights potential concerns, such as data ownership, implementation costs, and gaps in access to technology, as blockchain adoption accelerates among technology and credentialing organizations as well as workforce hiring leaders.

“Ensuring that individuals can effectively communicate and share their skills and experiences is both an educational and an economic imperative. But, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, that challenge takes on new significance," said Louis Soares, chief learning and innovation officer at ACE and co-author of the report. “This research reflects growing interest among education providers and employers in blockchain as a tool to more equitably bridge the gap between learning and employment."

In conjunction with the publication of this research, the Education Blockchain Initiative will launch the Blockchain Innovation Challenge to seed experimentation with technologies that can smooth transitions between education institutions, training providers, and employers. Up to three pilots will be funded to create ecosystems that empower learners, unlock the value of learning, and improve economic mobility. Individuals and teams can sign up to express interest and receive early access to the application that will be released later this summer.

For more information on the Education Blockchain Initiative and to learn about the Blockchain Innovation Challenge, visit the initiative ​web page​

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