While it’s making a lot of headlines in financial sectors, blockchain technology has big potential for higher education institutions as well.
When speaking about blockchain, it’s hard not to think about cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin. But to understand its potential importance for higher education, you need to consider that blockchain technology is about information first and foremost.
The modern form of blockchain was the brainchild of two cryptographers who were trying to find a way to make it impossible to tamper with document time stamps.
Once they developed a technology that made documents more secure, others built upon that to make financial transactions (another form of information) secure as well.
How will blockchain impact the future of higher ed marketing?
Blockchain technology operates by utilizing a decentralized network of computers to create a secure and transparent system for recording and verifying information in “blocks,” or rather, transactions.
Imagine a digital ledger that keeps track of every transaction ever made. Now, this ledger is not owned by any single entity but is distributed across multiple computers, or “nodes,” in a network.
Pieces of information—like transactions or documents—are bundled up into a block, which contains a unique identifier and a record of the transaction details.
Here’s where things get interesting: Before a block (a register of information) can be added to the chain, it needs to be validated by the nodes in the network. The computer nodes do this by solving complex mathematical puzzles that require significant computational power. Once a block is validated, it is added to the chain in chronological order, creating an unalterable record of all transactions.
Once a block has been added to the chain, tampering with it becomes nearly impossible.
Because the information is spread across multiple nodes, altering a single block would require simultaneously changing the majority of nodes in the network. Changing all of these nodes is highly impractical, and almost impossible because of the high levels of computational power necessary to solve the complex math problems required to edit each block in the chain.
This decentralized nature also ensures transparency. Anyone in the network can access the blockchain and view all the transactions.
This transparency eliminates the need for intermediaries like banks or payment processors, reducing costs and streamlining processes. It also facilitates the complex process of supply chain management, healthcare records, voting systems, and more where transparency and security are crucial.
How Blockchain Fits in Higher Ed Marketing
Blockchain technology is being adopted by the average consumer quickly. In fact, the global cryptocurrency market size was valued at USD 4.67 billion in 2022 and projected to reach USD 1.33 trillion by 2023!
While we may still have a long way to go before the majority of prospective students feel comfortable investing in and doing transactions with cryptocurrencies, there is ample evidence that blockchain as a technology is going to continue to grow in popularity.
Looking at these trends, I believe there are ways higher ed marketers and institutions can explore and leverage blockchain even now.
1. Transparent and Verified Credentials
Blockchain can revolutionize the way educational credentials are verified, eliminating the need for manual verification processes.
By storing certificates, diplomas, and degrees on a blockchain, educational institutions can ensure the authenticity and integrity of these credentials.
Because of the high level of transparency and trust, this can streamline the enrollment process by providing instant verification to prospective students and employers.
2. Secure Student Data Management
Higher education institutions deal with sensitive student data, and blockchain technology can enhance data security and privacy.
Michael Matthews, Oral Roberts University’s Vice President of Innovation & Technology, explains how important documents such as birth certificates, title deeds, loan documents, and even college transcripts are currently often copied and distributed when needed. They are copied until eventually no one knows exactly which one is the original.
While this current record-keeping practice is usable, it also introduces a high degree of insecurity.
With blockchain, records will be kept with such precision and security, only one of every document will be needed. And since it is only accessible by the people given access, records cannot be easily tampered with.
By using blockchain-based systems, institutions can ensure that student records are encrypted and tamper-proof, protecting them from unauthorized access or manipulation.
3. Efficient Student Payments
Blockchain can improve the efficiency and transparency of student payments. By using smart contracts, financial transactions—such as tuition fees or scholarships—can be automated, which would reduce administrative burdens, ensuring more accurate and timely payments.
Additionally, blockchain-based platforms can facilitate peer-to-peer transactions between students for services like textbooks or accommodation, bypassing intermediaries and reducing costs.
Colleges and Universities Currently Accepting Cryptocurrencies
Right now, several universities accept cryptocurrency payments for tuition fees.
The University of Nicosia was one of the first accredited universities in the world to accept Bitcoin as a form of payment for tuition fees.
Bentley University, a private college in Massachusetts, UC Berkeley, a renowned university in California, and Wharton Business School have all announced that they are now accepting cryptocurrency for tuition payments.
4. Improved Data Privacy and Security
Blockchain provides heightened data security and privacy protection for students.
We’ve focused mainly on the application of blockchain for academic records, but there are many more kinds of records, such as medical, conduct, and financial records that students will want kept private and secure.
Educational institutions can leverage blockchain to protect sensitive student information, ensuring that it is stored securely and accessed only by authorized parties.
5. Digital Credential Portfolios
Blockchain-based platforms can enable students to create digital portfolios of their achievements, skills, and experiences. This would allow them to showcase their abilities beyond traditional credentials, making it easier for prospective employers to assess their qualifications.
Of course, these changes will have a significant impact on graduates’ job placement and career development.
Blockchain: More than Digital Currency
These are just a few practical ways in which blockchain technology can enhance marketing, enrollment, and student payments in higher education institutions.
Hopefully it’s clear to all of us that blockchain technology is much more than cryptocurrency. As this technology continues to evolve, we can expect even more innovative applications and benefits for the education sector.
For more insights on technology trends and enrollment marketing, please contact us today!
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