Digital Diplomas: MIT Students Can Secure Virtual Credentials

“You graduated! Press here to download your degree.”

That’s what some students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology can choose to do now. Using a free, open-source app called Blockcerts Wallet, students may download tamper-free, digital diplomas to their smartphones, in addition to receiving a paper diploma.

According to a story in Inside Higher Ed, MIT’s digital diplomas allow graduates to secure virtual credentials that are protected by blockchain, the underlying technology behind the digital currency Bitcoin. While Bitcoin and other crypto currencies are a whole separate topic for economists and “those packing a lot of soup in their basement,” says Capture Higher Ed Director of Data Science Brad Weiner, blockchain is a public ledger that offers a secure way of making and recording transactions.

“By making it publicly available, you completely eliminate the opportunity for theft or corruption, or for any challenges to the transaction,” says Brad, who briefly discussed the MIT degrees at the outset of an episode of The Weightlist Podcast, which he hosts with Capture Senior Vice President of Data Science Thom Golden.

“Whatever happens to Bitcoin itself, the blockchain technology is already being integrated for a lot of different purposes because of its scalability, because of its transparency and for its ability to make different, sort of, trust markets like financial markets work,” Brad says. “At the end of the day, when you think about a transcript, or you think about getting a credential, that is what you’re doing. You’re saying, ‘Hey, I earned this degree,’ and someone out there either has to a) believe you; or b) verify that through a registrar’s office at an institution.

“So what blockchain would ostensibly do would be to eliminate both of those steps. If you say you have a degree and that it’s in the blockchain, anyone in the entire world at any time could look it up on the Internet and see that transaction and it would be open and transparent.”

Thom says taking educational currency — credits basically — and putting them within the auspice of blockchain is meaningful.

“It certainly puts it in an open space,” he says. “Long-time listeners to the podcast, which is funny to say because we’ve only been around since November of last year, know that we’re big proponents of open data.

“And that’s really at the core of what blockchain is … It’s not facilitated through any one institution, like a financial institution or a bank. It’s peer to peer. It’s open and available for everyone to see. So the idea that educational credits or educational units or degrees or certificates might actually be facilitated through blockchain is absolutely significant.”

By Kevin Hyde, Senior Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed