Why MIT Implemented Bitcoin Blockchain to Distribute Diplomas Instead of Permissioned Ledgers
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has started to issue diplomas through its Blockcerts platform, a Bitcoin Blockchain-based application which provides a tamper-resistant and immutable ledger for the distribution of academic credentials.
Blockcerts, which was first introduced in 2016, was developed by Learning Machine in collaboration with the MIT Registrar’s Office, with the vision of creating an open infrastructure wherein graduates can receive diplomas that are easily accessible and verifiable. The Blockcerts development team explained:
“Blockcerts provides a decentralized credentialing system. The Bitcoin Blockchain acts as the provider of trust, and credentials are tamper-resistant and verifiable. Blockcerts can be used in the context of academic, professional, and workforce credentialing.”
Merit of Using the Bitcoin Blockchain
Permissioned or centralized Blockchains are being employed by large-scale conglomerates and corporations such as Pfizer and Genentech, pharmaceutical giants with a combined market cap of $300 bln, because they require flexibility and the settlement of thousands of data points every second.
But, for documents like academic credentials and diplomas, the immutable and public Bitcoin Blockchain network can be used, as it does not demand high flexibility and high counts of data points to process.
Hence, by creating academic credentials and diplomas at MIT and embedding them into Bitcoin transactions which are eventually sent to the Bitcoin public Blockchain, the Blockcerts app and MIT can allow both students and companies in the future to utilize the Bitcoin Blockchain to verify diplomas and credentials.
MIT Registrar and Senior Associate Dean Mary Callahan, stated:
“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.”
Chris Jagers, co-founder and CEO of Learning Machine, the software development firm behind Blockcerts, further emphasized that platforms like Blockcerts are particularly important because even if the issuers of credentials, in this case MIT, terminate their operations or shut down, students and organizations can verify their credentials on the Bitcoin Blockchain, which is unalterable in nature.
“MIT has issued official records 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.”
Permissioned Blockchain is Not Needed
Blockcerts has also proven the commercial applicability of the Bitcoin Blockchain as an infrastructure for applications. Permissioned and centralized Blockchains are not necessary to process small amounts of data, especially if security is of the utmost importance for the clients.
For MIT, the security and immutability of Bitcoin is especially crucial because academic credentials and diplomas are extremely valuable and important information for students and professionals. More importantly, the usage of a public Blockchain network allows the application to operate as open-source software. The Blockcerts team said:
“At its core, Blockcerts is open. The software is open source and anyone is welcome to join the developer community. Only an open standard allows individuals to remain fully in control of their own academic history. That is important, because academic certificates are markers of our lives. They can be tickets to a better job or education, and we can use them to tell a story about who we are and how we have become that person.”
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