NFTs in the academy: Fighting fake credentials and unfair wages

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Pepperdine University professor Beau Brannan believes that NFTs could allow verification for individual courses and give more insight into college degrees.

The rise of fake credentials and teachers being undervalued and underpaid are some of the recurring problems that the education sector continues to face. Cointelegraph went on a mission to see if nonfungible tokens (NFT) can provide a solution to these headaches found in the education sector. 

One of the pressing issues in education is fake credentials. On May 18, the Washington Post reported that there are about 2,800 people who purchased their credentials without attending the proper classes. They were able to pass the National Council Licensure Examination in the United States. Authorities are now trying to find these people.

This is not a one-off problem. In the United States, some estimate that around 100,000 fake degrees are purchased from illegitimate institutions or “diploma mills” every year. Some of these degrees can be bought for $1,000 without any of the work required for such academic achievements. 

NFTs are a “solid solution” to degree forgery

In 2021, Beau Brannan, a professor at Pepperdine University, argued the case for NFTs use in education. Back then, Brannan wrote that taking individual classes and putting them on an unalterable public ledger, with uniquely designed images, could make education more valued. 

“Institutional education would arguably improve because the individual classes would matter more as opposed to being bundled into a degree and hidden.”

Fast forward a few years, Brannan still holds the same beliefs about NFTs. The professor told Cointelegraph that NFTs offer a “solid solution” to a massive international problem which is degree forgery.

A simple search shows various sites offering fake diplomas. Source: Google

According to Brannan, there’s no way to verify degrees from a school. “I have no idea what is in it. I am just trusting the institution, brand and accreditation process,” he said. The professor believes that verification for individual courses would give more insight into college degrees. He explained:

“If individual courses become part of the student ledger, it creates another level of accountability for the school and teacher.”

The professor also explained that this also “opens up the playing field.” Brannan said that if this is implemented, other gifted teachers and non-institutional courses can be offered to students who perhaps don’t have access or the finances to go to a traditional school.

Challenges in implementing NFTs in education

While there are clear benefits in using NFTs, there’s also a mountain of challenges the academe must climb before these solutions can be adopted. 

Brannan said that access and adoption may be some of the problems that must be addressed when implementing NFTs in the academe. “Access and adoption are always a challenge in early technology. But when incentives are aligned, it is amazing how resilient we become,” he said.

Offering a perspective from the NFT space, the Binance NFT team told Cointelegraph that one requirement in implementing NFTs in education is good technical literacy from educational institutions, teachers, and students. They explained that:

“NFT technology is still fairly new and so to be able to introduce NFTs into a very established space, like education, it is going to require a good level of understanding about the benefits that this kind of technology can bring.”

Apart from technical literacy, Binance told Cointelegraph that it also requires appropriate investments, a shift in the “ways of working” and revamping long-standing processes and infrastructure that has been around for many years.

Despite the hurdles that need to be overcome, the Binance team encouraged educators to explore the possibilities of NFTs if they want to think about new ways to create and distribute educational resources, reward achievements, and engage with students.

Related: Secret Service owns crypto, loves blockchain and has an NFT collection: Reddit AMA

Returning value to educators with the power of blockchain

Apart from fake credentials, one of the biggest issues in the academic world is teachers being undervalued and underpaid. 

Recognizing these problems, a community-led protocol called Open Campus started a mission to create decentralized solutions for educators in an attempt to solve these problems.

Speaking to Cointelegraph, TinyTap CEO Yogev Shelly, who is also a council member at the Open Campus protocol explained how their team is working to help educators be rewarded for the content they create through NFTs.

According to Shelly, they’ve introduced Publisher NFTs, which could generate revenue for educators to “empower teachers and educators to freely create knowledge repositories.” The executive shared that there’s been a growing interest in connecting Web3 to education. He said:

“I was astonished to know how much interest has been expressed in education from the Web3 community along the way, which gives us great motivation to continue to bring value to teachers, creators, and students through decentralization.”

The executive believes that the power of blockchain and tailored smart contract protocols are the keys to decentralizing education and providing a “fair experience for the stakeholders.”

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