The 2,100 students preparing to graduate from Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) at the end of the summer term next month will receive the expected diplomas along with an added bonus.
Each student will have the opportunity to also receive a blockchain-powered digital credential, which they can access and send to prospective employers using a smartphone app. Developed by the college’s enterprise arm, the blockchain credentialing system gives students ownership of their academic records, which officials say can be independently verified by employers and will never be altered.
But that’s just the beginning, Feng Hou, CNM’s chief information officer, tells ThirtyK.
The blockchain-powered system addresses longstanding headaches with credentialing.
“Blockchain can be useful for higher education in many ways, such as storing permanent student records, developing interactive learning and analytics, automating transfer of credits… managing payment and funding, and indeed transforming the entire college operation,” he says.
A New Kind of Credential
Higher education has embraced the opportunity to train and with credentials and degrees, and a is testing blockchain-based credentials. But CNM is the first community college in the country to provide credentials on the blockchain.
CNM issued blockchain-based credentials , albeit for a short-term coding boot camp that graduated just 21 students. Since then the number of digital diplomas has increased to 300 as the college continued testing the technology. This term represents the first time all students will have the opportunity to put their credentials on the blockchain, and it’s happening a semester earlier than anticipated.
The blockchain-powered system addresses longstanding headaches with credentialing. Instead of having to contact a college, and often pay a fee, to formally request transcripts, which then must then be physically mailed to them, students receive a permanent digital record that cannot be altered or deleted even if the institution closes. This has been an issue of growing concern as the higher-education sector as a whole struggles to adapt to new digital learning models.
Community colleges, in particular, could benefit from the technology. Along with issuing associate and, increasingly, four-year bachelor’s degrees, they provide a wide range of short-term workforce training programs, boot camps, and other opportunities to develop specific skills, all of which could be better documented online.