A couple of Oxford faculty imagine a different kind of university, one that is distributed and democratic. Joshua Broggi, Faculty of Philosophy, is the founder of Woolf Development, a platform startup that aims to leverage distributed ledger technology to remove higher education intermediaries, support decentralized governance structures and ensure the security of data.
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Blockchain, and other distributed ledger technologies (DLT) can address several other problems. First, a distributed ledger eliminates the risk that individuals claim a degree from an institution they did not graduate from. DLT also addresses the risk that an individual earned a credential from an institution that goes out of business. A third benefit of a DLT could be the efficiency of accumulating credits from multiple providers over time. A final benefit is cost savings from automating a number of administrative procedures and reducing overhead.
“We use a blockchain to create efficiencies by managing custodianship of student tuition, enforcing regulatory compliance for accreditation, and automating a number of processes,” said Broggi.
Ambrose, the first college on the platform, will be formed by Oxford academics in the fall of 2018. The plan is for a digital version of Oxford tutorial system at $400 per session. If that sounds expensive, it’s less than half of a traditional degree. Future programs could feature larger groups and lower costs.
Professors could earn $50,000 to $100,000 teaching a comfortable online load. Think “Uber for students, Airbnb for academics”.
“Our blockchain-enforced accreditation processes are such that teachers and students from outside the EU can join our platform and earn a full EU degree – a non-EU student with a non-EU teacher in a non-EU language,” added Broggi.
A series of student and teacher “check-ins” are key to executing a series of smart contracts that validate attendance and assignment completion. A check-in could be a simple as clicking a button on a phone app but it executes a smart contract that pays the teacher and provides micro credits to the student.
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Author: Tom Vander Ark