MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has announced that it will start issuing diplomas on the Bitcoin blockchain. This development is made possible by an app called Blockcerts Wallet.
Starting out as a pilot program, MIT has given 111 graduates the option of receiving their diplomas on the blockchain via Blockcerts, in addition to a traditional diploma.
The pilot emerged from a partnership between the MIT Registrar’s Office and Massachusetts-based software company Learning Machine. Blockcerts, developed by Learning Machine, will allow graduates to view and share a valid, tamper-proof copy of their diploma using blockchain technology.
Here’s how the app works: when a graduate wants to view a digital copy of their diploma, Blockcerts sends a time-stamped transaction to MIT over the blockchain. Then, MIT creates a digital copy of the certificate, which graduates can access using their unique public-private keys.process where a time-stamped transaction from Blockcerts signals MIT, which then creates a digital copy of the certificate.
Finally, graduates can access this certificate using their unique public-private keys.
MIT Proclaims Their Program ‘Groundbreaking’
The university has called their pilot program “groundbreaking,” offering students unprecedented “autonomy over their own records.”
MIT registrar and senior associate dean Mary Callahan, MIT registrar said, “From the beginning, one of our primary motivations has been to empower students to be the curators of their own credentials.”
“This pilot makes it possible for them to have ownership of their records and be able to share them in a secure way, with whomever they choose,” Callahan continued.
Learning Machine CEO Chris Jagers applauded MIT, saying:
“MIT has issued official record in a format that can exist even if the institution goes away, even if we go away as a vendor. People can own and use their official records, which is a fundamental shift.”
Challenges and Roadblocks With the Technology
However, Jagers said the blockchain technology faces many obstacles as it matures. One notable issue Blockcerts Wallet is working to address is storing and managing private keys.
“It’s a huge roadblock to tell students to go generate public-private key pairs for the Bitcoin blockchain,” Jagers said, “Nobody has any idea what you’re talking about.
MIT and Learning Machine have worked on blockchain based education certificates for two years now. In 2015, Philipp Schmidt of the MIT Media Lab issued informal certificates to his team through the blockchain. Then, in 2016, Schmidt started working with Learning Machine to build an open-source toolkit for blockchain certifications. Blockcerts Wallet was born from that partnership, ultimately resulting in the current pilot program for MIT graduates.
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Images via Huffington Post, Learning Machine