Blockchain-based education for the developing world: What are the limiting factors?

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Blockchain-based education – is this a dream?

There is a burning quandary in developing countries: whether Internet protocols, as we currently know them, are good enough to scale the huge hurdles faced by education.

Will the mobile phone advances and apps, as we know them, be enough to make rapid advances needed to make a difference to marginalized students?

The marginalization of a student may be due to cultural differences, knowledge gaps, and socioeconomic status, which result in the need for supplemental support within education learning environments. This is a century-old problem highlighted by the current pandemic.

Do we need to really focus on how blockchain-based education can be the catalyst for change? Here’s one answer:

Dear Diary

It’s me again, Saanvi, passing another boring day in lockdown away from my friends…

Not long ago, in fact so near in my past that I can remember it, my formal education India meant a brick-and-mortar classroom setting, where attending school, taking down notes, and sitting for exams were considered mandatory for me and all my classmates to attain qualifications. 

Maybe we should have a “new mandatory”?

One where we use blockchain learning apps like the one proposed by English Forward, where you can “earn as you learn” with a token-based reward for effort and progress system…

That sounds great to me!

How can Blockchain Technology change global  Education?

Education aids the integration of migrants into new societies and also mitigates the adverse effects of displacement. Poor living standards in rural locations, refugee camps, and unreached areas have rendered following a strict education plan and completing the assignments sporadic and without concrete results. This is merely the tip of the iceberg. With COVID-19, inequality in education is magnified.

Today, technology is drastically changing the way students learn and acquire information globally. Add a blockchain learning application on top of that and we could even change the financial outcomes of students, allowing them to graduate without any debt or student loans.

In time, this enablement of learning might change the face of education by opening up a plethora of opportunities through which students can continue pursuing their goals, despite any geographical or monetary constraints. 

But for this to happen, blockchain-based education is crucial to be prioritized or we will grow different challenges in a field that is ripe for new opportunities. 

Tokenized reward system for new mobile phones

Each day we see advances in the free online resources available to students and the growing use of mobile devices and apps that support their use. 

One omission is how we can use this opportunity to encourage education in all communities, but especially in poorer communities by giving them access to a tokenized reward system which will allow them to buy newer mobile phones.

Technology is constantly creating new opportunities for students, teachers, and educational institutions. The collaboration of educational institutions and funding organizations to push this and navigate the way forward is going to be a challenge. 

By fundamentally changing the way in which we adopt new and improved methods of gaining and imparting knowledge, smartphones are becoming a key medium which will give hope to thousands of students who drop out or give up on their higher studies due to not being able to access education as it moves forward.

Sometimes the answer is hidden in plain sight, and I believe that answer is blockchain technology.

Blockchain-based education incentives

Internet technology has significantly contributed to furthering education and its access to students around the world, but could it do more with a blockchain incentive-based model? 

The rapid development in technology has raised hope in many developing countries with its potential to impact education in a positive way. 

Access to the World Wide Web and the different search engines have allowed information on demand to become a reality. 

Massive Open Online Courses and other low-cost options for promoting blockchain-based education have raised hopes in developing countries. 

Engage blockchain experts in the planning

How can we tie this all together to fast track and offer a far-reaching opportunity to developing countries? We need a radical technology to re-think, and I believe we need to engage with blockchain experts as part of the planning framework and education roadmap for the future.

Device affordability challenges have also been lowered to a large extent, with the lower cost of tablets, phablets, and smartphones.  Could the availability of cell phones be used as the doorways to the world of information and access to the knowledge on the Internet? How could we integrate an “earn as you learn” model to speed up a blockchain-based education?

The rapid growth of mobile phones in India is largely due to the availability of relatively inexpensive smartphones. India’s mobile phone subscriber base grew by more than 486,000 in April 2019  to reach 1.162 billion. Let’s look at the bigger picture:

b;ockchain based education

Source: wearesocial.com

Harness the power of millions of students

A McKinsey study shows, India as second only to China., and now is one of the largest and fastest-growing markets for digital consumers, with 560 million internet subscribers in 2018.

This is the same the world over, rising cellphone users, online resources, and hopes of better education platforms. We have the opportunity and the technology in blockchain to harness the power of millions of students, allowing us to accelerate education and catapult it forward with their help.

When we propose blockchain initiatives, we’re speaking to parliamentarians of governments, decision-makers in nonprofits, forward-thinking investors, education stakeholders, and concerned citizens, among others. Fast-tracking changes in the education system cannot stand on two feet, or many pairs of feet, but multiple hands and feet of innovators who think and talk blockchain.

It’s time for us to ask:Is blockchain technology the answer to the question?”

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Mitch Rankin

Mitch Rankin is the Co-Founder of Forward Protocol, a technology company building open source blockchain tools to connect the Edtech sector. A devoted husband and father, he has passionately invested on education and blockchain. Focusing on helping solve UNESCO's Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) of the 2030 Agenda, he supports the goal to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. His vision is to impact 1 billion people through a better education and learning experience by changing how the world learns. https://forwardprotocol.io.

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