Blockchain, Open Education and Digital Citizenship

Blockchains in Education: Fad or Opportunity?

Originally, in 2017, there was the promising report of the Joint Research Center “Blockchain in Education”, which announced a disruption of most industries and economic models. Two years later, at the conference “Blockchain, Open Education and Digital Citizenship” A. Greekco-author of this report, reports relatively slow progress, in a tension he says “remains unresolved between control and sovereignty.”

Several speakers drew a parallel between the internet and blockchain: two technical developments that were originally synonymous with freedom, based on open protocols, which free themselves from intermediary bodies. With an important difference in terms of values: if the internet was initially built on a trust system, the blockchain is built on a trust imbalance, a need for certification and recognition of transactions and “minors”, external users competing for complex calculations on that validate the transactions within the chain.

… And since the internet has had its “Internet bubble”, there would be a milestone before the blockchain can really contribute to a world where “monopoly will be impossible” (see “Beyond the bitcoin bubble”)

Reinventing the Internet…

The blockchain is fascinating because it questions how the web works. The W3C Standardization Consortium is working on a new standard to get out of the current trend of data accumulation driven by the major dominant players on the Internet.

R. Verborgh, from Ghent University, presented the “SOLID” project, which aims to create a new standard for separating data from applications and the servers that use them. The internet would no longer be reduced to a competition in the accumulation and exploitation of data, but would once again become a place of innovation, where “basic knowledge in html and css coupled with an intermediate level in Java” is sufficient – these are the conditions to to develop an application in “Solid”.

… and trust?

Like the association “Reconnaître”, the French-speaking branch of the Open Recognition Alliance, the conference was also an opportunity to advocate the values ​​of an open and learning society, built on a framework of trust and recognition. †

This is the case for the BOAT network in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, which aims to bring together all actors – colleges, secondary schools, universities, public actors and companies – to create an ecosystem locally where each individual can and they are endorsed by others and where proof of their attribution can be verified. Or the European Extrasup project, to recognize the experience and skills that students have developed during civic activities or personal commitment within their education.


The wealth of initiatives presented at this conference, organized by the University of Lille and the Commonwealth Center for Connected Learning, is difficult to summarize: European projects such as:

  • the European student card, to facilitate mobility and recognition of the student’s identity.
  • digital safes offered to students, such as at the University of Grenoble-Alpes,
  • private digitization and certificate security solutions,
  • a European pilot project on the control and transparency of European funding,
  • experiments at the level of the ENIC NARIC network to verify the authenticity of diplomas in the context of individual mobility paths from one European country to another…

And more !

In the perspectives, the development of a prototype of the European blockchain infrastructure, within the framework of the “European Blockchain Partnership”, which will allow the first experiments with cross-border digital public services where the blockchain should provide added value. At the end of 2019, to be continued…

(Illustration: University of Lille, conference poster)


Conference on blockchain, open education and digital citizenship

JRC Science for Policy report. Blockchain in Education (2017)

S. Johnson. “Beyond the bitcoin bubble” (2018)

For more information: Twitter thread by Perrine de Coëtlogon, Blockchain & Education project manager at the University of Lille and French referent of the think tank on the use of blockchain in education:

Already published on Thoth:

F. Minichiello. “Blockchain in Education: Preparing for the Challenge” (March 2018)
(Last accessed: July 2019)

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