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Blockchain is Powering E-Learning – But Beware the Charlatans

Blockchain-powered e-learning wooden blocks

Blockchain-powered e-learning (Pexels)

E-learning has exploded thanks to the business chaos wrought by the coronavirus, and bad actors are looking to cash in – that’s why blockchain is critical to helping validate courses, writes Amanda Rosewarne, CEO and Co-Founder of The Professional Development Consortium

The COVID-19 lockdown precipitated an exponential rise in “self-directed learning”, and online e-learning. Millions of people across the globe have utilised their time in self-isolation to learn new skills, update their knowledge sets and/or learn a new hobby.

In a bid to take advantage of this skyrocketing demand, nascent communications and web technologies are being employed to craft and sell online courses, creating a new business-to-consumer (B2C) market in online e-learning.

Prior to the pandemic, Forbes predicted that the e-learning industry would be worth £325 billion in 2022.  However, this is likely to have quadrupled, with the demand for online learning while people self-isolate, and have the time – either from a lack of commute, or from being furloughed – to indulge in e-learning. 

E-learning and online education sit behind an iron curtain. There are rarely honest consumer reviews of any given course, or transparent information about the success rate of a course, or even ‘taster’ examples of an online course’s content. 

Beware Cowboy Coaches And Charlatan Trainers

Earlier this Spring, the CPD Standards Office warned that those looking to buy an online course need to ensure that it has been externally verified. Particularly as many course providers use convincing and aggressive digital advertising to coerce people to choose from the plethora of topics online and easily buying e-learning courses out of their own pocket. 

The online course world has become a very grey area, and is purely capitalising on populism. Overwhelmed by the possibility of making money, there is little understanding, or ethical consideration from these new charlatans, or under-qualified experts. 

A New Sheriff In Town: How Blockchain Is Solving The Problem

As the new sheriff in town, blockchain technology can publicly record whether a course has been accredited by an individual student, whether it has been accredited, and details of the accreditation body – plus the quality of the assessment criteria.

In its simplest form, blockchain technology is a ledger system containing information about transactions, it evolves into a chain of blocks which contains information data. It has the unique ability to record the date, person and course that has been undertaken transparently. And blockchain can also record whether the course provider has been verified by a third-party accreditation organisation. The CPD Standards Office is leading the global training market and pioneering the issuing of digital certificates using a blockchain platform. 

In 2019, the CPDSO launched one of the first accreditation services offering a blockchain portal to accredited training providers, enabling them to issue individual digital certificates that have been ‘stamped on the blockchain’ to verify a person has undertaken the course.

The Role of Blockchain In Educational Standardisation

In today’s digital and information age, lifelong learning is crucial for everyone in the workforce, regardless of age or stage. So-called continuous professional development (CPD) now forms a cornerstone within every person’s career path or role. From retail assistant to finance director, CPD is crucial to ensure individuals stay up to date, and their professional qualifications do not become obsolete. 

There are over 2,500 professional bodies and regulators in the United Kingdom that oversee and regulate different professions and industries. These offer different educational pathways, usually beyond the university degree to get people qualified and stay up to date.

Ongoing CPD Standards Office accreditation of training, coaching and educational providers will continue to provide the proof it’s learning you can trust, and independently certify the quality of a course. 

Paired with blockchain, we can go one step further in providing transparent information to deliver the “right person, right course, right grade” evidence needed to confirm to employers that an individual’s educational achievements are correct.  

Blockchain enables standardisation and verification of online learning at the click of a button. The data that is stored within each block can include the following:

  • The sender (the course provider and details of the e-learning undertaken),
  • The receiver (the individual delegate or student, and details of when they undertook the learning)
  • The pass rate and / or grade achieved

Overall, the most important takeaway from understanding the combination of blockchain, CPDSO accreditation and e-learning means it is near impossible for any transaction to be hacked, and the block information changed. Therefore, if someone fails their course, it is marked on the blockchain in a timeless, untouchable block of information. 

E-Learning Powered By A New Engine

Moving forward, blockchain will begin to drive e-learning with a new engine. It helps solve the problem of businesses searching for the best online learning for their colleagues. 

We predict that, post-COVID-19 and the 2020 online learning boom, business leaders will be expected to provide increasing amounts of training – either feeding the new thirst for continuous online education, or countering the looming threat of recession and redundancies. 

During summer 2020, it is critical for business leaders to keep staff educated and professionally razor-sharp by offering ongoing CPD opportunities. This will give business leaders the agility to become innovative and proactive within the market, and in the face of aggressive competition. Organisations that don’t invest in CPD during these critical years of technological change will shrivel, rather than survive and thrive. 

It is important to keep in mind that not all e-learning are good learning experiences, and there are even some scams out there. These might be:

Non-existent colleges and courses 

Unscrupulous businesses set up a company with a name that mirrors a high-quality British education organisation and their heritage. The word ‘college’ is unprotected so it is easy to create a site, sell a course which subsequently doesn’t appear.  

Bogus qualifications

Some scammers advertise professional qualifications that meet the Department of Education’s National Educational Framework.  With clever digital marketing they easily hook unsuspecting consumers, by selling a ‘qualification’ that once completed and an individual has ‘passed’ the assessment, the professional certificate or licence fails to materialise leaving the consumer stranded, having wasted their time and money.  

Unfortunately, there is no government body that can oversee these scams, and this is where the CPD Standards Office independently verifies and promotes accredited high-quality courses. 

The Future Of E-learning With Blockchain

Blockchain will solve the problem of low-quality education, and stop the potential for people pretending they have undertaken a course – in order to secure a new role or promotion. 

Until now it has always been relatively easy to construct a fake or embellished curriculum vitae, and businesses rarely ask for evidence or proof of qualifications. 

In order to stay ahead, business leaders must educate themselves about blockchain. Regardless of industry, it will disrupt their organisation shortly, hence a strategic proactive business strategy is critical to navigating these next few years.  

Hand In-hand this strategy should be tied to continuous e-learning opportunities, and CPD accreditation. Combined this will provide the recipe for success over the coming decade.

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