American Council on Education Acquires Funding from US Department of Education to Explore Use of Blockchain or DLT in US Education Sector

​The ​​US Department of Education is backing the nation’s higher education association’s research efforts into and tests of emerging blockchain or distributed ledger technologies (DLT).

The American Council on Education confirmed on February 6 that it has acquired funding from the US Department of Education, in order to support “an ambitious initiative” that will explore the use of blockchain or DLT in the United States’ education sector.

According to a press release, the Education Blockchain Initiative has been developed in order to identify and assess ways that blockchain tech can enhance data flow between different educational departments and workers while empowering individuals to “translate educational outcomes into economic opportunity.”

The initiative will include the introduction of a competitive challenge to finance pilot programs at some point later this year.

Ted Mitchell, president at ACE, stated:

“This work is about exploring the potential of blockchain technology to give learners greater control over their educational records. It’s about enabling more seamless transitions between and across K-12, higher education, and the workforce. This initiative will explore how this nascent technology can break down barriers for opportunity seekers to fully unlock their learning and achievement.”

The latest round of funding builds on previous efforts by the US Department of Education to gather relevant stakeholders and tech industry professionals to look into ways blockchain can help “facilitate student ownership of their learning records, regardless of where the training and education takes place.”

The release added:

“Blockchain may also have a role to play in supporting new ways of recording and sharing achievements and skills, including those earned through the $87 billion in annual spending on corporate training or via one of the 738,000 unique credentials offered in the United States.”

Jim Blew, assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development at the Department of Education, said that the ability to demonstrate skills and knowledge is vital to converting education into “economic opportunity.”

He added that ACE aims to be a major partner in increasing their understanding of the power of blockchain to “ensure equal opportunity in the workforce landsc​ape.”​

ACE and the Department of Education also confirmed the establishment of a steering committee to manage the DLT-focused project, which consists of industry experts working in technology and education.

The committee will be tasked with offering oversight for a research report and selection of blockchain pilots that would be eligible for funding.

The steering committee members are:

  • Gayatri Agnew, Walmart.org
  • Susan M. Bearden, Consortium for School Networking
  • Todd Borland, Union Public Schools
  • Richard A. DeMillo, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Amber Garrison Duncan, Lumina Foundation
  • Kara Lee, American Council on Education
  • Kerri Lemoie, OpenWorks Group
  • Joe May, Dallas County Community College District
  • John Mitchell, Stanford University
  • Rodney Parks, Elon University
  • Bonny Simi, JetBlue Technology Ventures
  • Tomicah Tillemann, New America
  • Harold Tran, Vantage Point Consulting
  • Connie Yowell, Southern New Hampshire University

Louis Soares, ACE’s chief learning and innovation officer who’s leading this project, remarked:

“Blockchain holds vast potential to better connect learning in diverse contexts and help students achieve their education and workforce goals and ultimately improve mobility.”

The project is set to begin with the release of a research paper that will cover the present state of the use of blockchain or DLT in the US education system. The paper will also aim to identify “opportunities and challenges for potential applications that can advance equity in educational and workforce outcomes,” the release noted.

After the report has been published, ACE will team up with the President’s Forum to formulate a process and relevant criteria for selecting pilots, which will be revealed at some later point in 2020.

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