There’s no question that digitalization has a brought a massive change in redefining the way businesses run, and higher education institutions are no exception. Apart from technological and cultural changes, higher education institutions have experienced a radical shift in their customers’ attitude towards higher education due to high costs, lower earning potential for certain degrees, employers’ change of attitude towards absolute need for a formal degree, and the broad availability of self-paced learnings that are cost-effective and readily available through digital platforms on-demand. For students who go the formal academic route, they expect great value from their education dollars, and they want their learning experience to be carefully crafted, thorough, and well-designed, delivered through both in-person classes and via digital platforms.

Higher institutions have been investing a great deal to drive transformation in their organizations to make sure they are ready for a digital future, allowing greater participation and deeper student experience. Yes, complete digitization will be nirvana, but attainment of a completely transformed digital future is no easy feat. This is mainly due to constraints like legacy IT infrastructure, data silos, and old business processes and models. Like any other business, they also face inherent business challenges specific to their industry:

  • The future of work is changing – The nature and future of work are changing. How do you prepare the workers of tomorrow in wake of automation and AI?
  • Deliver secure digital customer experience – Deliver seamless digital user experience while making sure data access and exchange are secure.
  • Platform and partnerships – Build strong ties and drive collaboration not just in local institutional communities, but with institutions globally via use of the right technology platforms.

In addition to these business and technology challenges, there are some very specific issues that are routed deep into the very business fabric of educational institutions.

  • Verified credentials: Let’s face it — verifying credentials is still a manual and slow process. In the digital world, it is very easy to create a fake certificate or dishonest resume, and it can be a very cumbersome process for employers and schools to verify those credentials.
  • Paper-based certificates: These are still the norm, interrupting the seamless digital experience that institutions want to offer to their students
  • Track and protect intellectual property infringement: Lots of intellectual property is created in universities’ research units. Unfortunately, there is no good way to enforce rights when instances of infringement occur.
  • Fair allocation of financial grants and admission process: Even though higher education institutions have taken great efforts to put in place fair processes to grant admission and financial grants, the recent college admission scandal has highlighted that bad apples can purge loopholes within organizational processes to create unfair opportunities for the select few. This breaks trust and tarnishes the image of these reputed institutions.

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Cloud and Blockchain Technology to the Rescue

To succeed in today’s digital world, and to stay competitive, institutions need to invest in transformative technologies. It is quite clear to institutions that cloud is the way to go to bring agility to their business environments and transform the student journey. To further augment transformation through the cloud, emerging technologies like blockchain can play an instrumental role in addressing very specific issues that higher education institutions face.

Blockchain technology offers a way to reduce costs and improve efficiency, speed, and transparency among multiple parties by enabling them to exchange verifiable information swiftly and securely, without relying on a third-party authority. Using blockchain, universities can verify students’ credentials, certify ownership of intellectual property, and verify students’ eligibility for financial assistance, grants, and admissions, making these transactions immutable and transparent while reducing fraud and increasing trust within higher education value chains.

In addition, students can share their educational credentials and learnings with employers digitally, reducing the burden of the vetting process and helping bring deeper student and ecosystem engagement. China Distance Education Holdings Limited (CDEL), one of the early adopters of this technology, uses blockchain technology built on the Oracle Blockchain Platform to share educational records and professional certifications across multiple educational institutions, so that employers and recruiters can verify the educational credentials claimed by individuals.

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