3 min read

College Degrees on the Blockchain

Two visionaries have partnered with a university to put a college-level course on the blockchain. And they’re using NFTs as the degree/certificate of completion. It’s a bizarre idea that I wanted to dive further into. In particular, why something like this should exist, how it solves a problem, and where I think it’ll take us in the future.

Blockchain-Certified Credentials

I wrote a story three years ago about how easy it is to fake your credentials online (on LinkedIn, particularly). A Dr. Damian Sendler made headlines for conning his way up the medical ladder. Faking an MD and PhD from Harvard. Saying he’s one of the youngest elected members of the American Psychiatric Association. And that Barack Obama gave him a President’s Gold Service Award for his contributions in medicine and mental health.

They were all lies. The President’s Gold Service Award doesn’t even exist. But, his impressive credentials helped him get PR covering taboo topics in Vice, Playboy, Women’s Health, and Forbes. Worse, people paid him for psychiatric work. Can you blame them? He was clearly the most accomplished 28 year old alive.

Putting college degrees, awards, and credentials of all kinds on the blockchain would have clear benefits. Not only in stopping con artists and liars. But also because it would make applying and attending courses simpler.

And this idea is not just imaginary. It’s happening!

The University of Nicosia is launching the first university course that is 100% on the blockchain. It means that NFTs are used as the database of record, instead of the college maintaining records. That includes:

  • Enrolling in the course
  • Attending the course lectures
  • Graduating and getting your certificate

All of these milestones are tracked on-chain, which means anyone can verify it happened. This makes it more secure than thousands of colleges maintaining their own records of graduates.

Pretty revolutionary idea, right?

George Giaglis and Punk 6529 created this concept. George has been a pioneer in this space since 2011 and created the first Metaverse Buildathon (like a hackathon but building worlds instead of programs). Punk 6529 is the creator of OM (Open Metaverse), as well as a revered NFT collector.

If their experiment works out, it may change the way higher education is administered.

You mint college courses. This NFT contains an access code to the lecture room, perhaps in the metaverse. And after completion, that NFT-based course automatically evolves into a degree or certificate directly in your NFT wallet. (This is possible because NFTs can be programmable based on criteria like time and actions taken.)

Recreating higher education is cool. But I think this could also be applied to any skill or knowledge you pursue as an adult.

Girl Scout Badges for Adults

To me, what's cool about this idea is that it's a way to show off micro-learning successes. And do it in a way that is digital, permanent, and artistic.

Kind of like earning badges in Boy/Girl Scouts. But more technological.

Just because we’ve grown up, doesn’t mean we’ve grown out of wanting to share our achievements or what we've recently learned:

  • The first thing you do after learning a new recipe is cook for a friend
  • After you've finished a book, you either update your Goodreads, tell a friend about the book, or Tweet something you learned
  • Sharing educational or interesting posts you’ve seen on social with friends/family in groupchats

Degrees and driver's licenses are really the only credentials we widely recognize into adulthood... but there are soooo many other skills or learnings we acquire weekly that could be displayed on the blockchain:

  1. Certificate for finishing reading The NFT Handbook, The Metaverse Handbook, or other books
  2. Unifying how we display professional upgrades like Google certificates or AWS Certification
  3. Skill courses you complete through Skillshare or Udemy
  4. Proficiency tests in software like Photoshop, Final Cut, Excel, etc.

NFT credentialing can be like the adult version of Girl Scout badges.

There’s no recognized and permanent way of sharing micro-learning achievements we gain into adulthood. But if there were… maybe it would inspire us to continue learning after college.

Maybe it would create the desire in us all to seek new skills, new books, and new ideas.

After all, doesn’t a trophy make it more desirable to win in sports? Doesn’t owning a personal recipe book inspire us to fill it with new recipes? Doesn’t Goodreads keep us accountable for finishing books?

The future is gamifying learning through NFTs. It fills our appetite for boasting. It quenches our appetite for showing off. But all in the name of becoming better, more accomplished, and educated humans.