The Blockchain Revolution and Higher Education — from by Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott
The blockchain provides a rich, secure, and transparent platform on which to create a global network for higher learning. This Internet of value can help to reinvent higher education in a way the Internet of information alone could not.


What will be the most important technology to change higher education? In our view, it’s not big data, the social web, MOOCs, virtual reality, or even artificial intelligence. We see these as components of something new, all enabled and transformed by an emerging technology called the blockchain.

OK, it’s not the most sonorous word ever, sounding more like a college football strategy than a transformative technology. Yet, sonorous or not, the blockchain represents nothing less than the second generation of the Internet, and it holds the potential to disrupt money, business, government, and yes, higher education.

The opportunities for innovators in higher education fall into four categories:

  • Identity and Student Records: How we identify students; protect their privacy; measure, record, and credential their accomplishments; and keep these records secure
  • New Pedagogy: How we customize teaching to each student and create new models of learning
  • Costs (Student Debt): How we value and fund education and reward students for the quality of their work
  • The Meta-University: How we design entirely new models of higher education so that former MIT President Chuck Vest’s dream can become a reality1

The blockchain may help us change the relationships among colleges and universities and, in turn, their relationship to society.

Let us explain.


What if there was an Internet of value — a global, distributed, highly secure platform, ledger, or database where we could store and exchange things of value and where we could trust each other without powerful intermediaries? That is the blockchain.



From DSC:
The quote…

In 2006, MIT President Emeritus Vest offered a tantalizing vision of what he called the meta-university. In the open-access movement, he saw “a transcendent, accessible, empowering, dynamic, communally constructed framework of open materials and platforms on which much of higher education worldwide can be constructed or enhanced.”

…made me wonder if this is where a vision that I’m tracking called Learning from the Living [Class] Room is heading. Also, along these lines, futurist Thomas Frey believes

“I’ve been predicting that by 2030 the largest company on the internet is going to be an education-based company that we haven’t heard of yet,” Frey, the senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute think tank, tells Business Insider. (source)

Blockchain could be a key piece of this vision.


The Living [Class] Room -- by Daniel Christian -- July 2012 -- a second device used in conjunction with a Smart/Connected TV


Florida Universities take system approach in addressing growth of online — from by Dian Schaffhauser


The Board of Governors for the State University System of Florida is putting final touches on a strategic plan for online education. The idea is to create a framework around which all 10 institutions in the system with online programs can pool their “collective talents and resources toward a common purpose” — helping Florida citizens earn credentials that will “improve their lives, lead to new discoveries and advanced Florida’s economy.” The plan was first begun a year ago when the board created a task force to examine how the state could better meet workforce needs through online education and increase effectiveness while reducing costs.

The goal of the “2025 Strategic Plan for Online Education” is intended to guide development and implementation of system policies and legislative budget requests related to online education with a focus on three primary elements: quality, access and affordability.


Also see:

  • U Florida turns distance learning into searchable video on demand — from by Rhea Kelly
    The University of Florida is rolling out technology from Sonic Foundry to record, store and manage distance learning courses, collaborative meetings and special events that occur via videoconference. The cloud-based Mediasite Join product can record any videoconference and make the content searchable, with no additional appliances or equipment required. Users invite Mediasite Join as a participant to a videoconference, and the technology then transcodes, indexes and publishes recorded calls to Mediasite alongside the institution’s other video assets.

From DSC:
Learning is messy.  Teaching & learning is messy. 

In my experience, teaching is both an art and a science.  Ask anyone who has tried it and they will tell you that it’s not easy.  In fact, it takes years to hone one’s craft…and there are no silver bullets. Get a large group of Learning Theorists together in the same room and you won’t get 100% agreement on the best practices for how human beings actually learn.

Besides that, I see some issues with how we are going about trying to educate today’s learners…and as the complexity of our offerings is increasing, these issues are becoming more apparent, important, visible, and costly:

  • Professors, Teachers, & Trainers know some pieces of the puzzle.
  • Cognitive Scientists, Cognitive Psychologists, and Neuroscientists know some other pieces of the puzzle.
  • Learning Theorists and Instructional Designers know some other pieces of the puzzle.
  • Learning Space Designers know some other pieces of the puzzle.
  • And yet other specialties know about some other pieces of the puzzle.

But, in practice, how often are these specialties siloed? How much information is shared between these silos?  Are there people interpreting and distilling the neuroscience and cognitive science into actionable learning activities? Are there collaborative efforts going on here or are the Teachers, Professors, and Trainers pretty much on their own here (again, practically speaking)?

So…how do we bring all of these various pieces together? My conclusion:

We need a team-based approach in order to bring all of the necessary pieces together. We’ll never get there by continuing to work in our silos…working alone.

But there are other reasons why the use of teams is becoming a requirement these days: Accessibility; moving towards providing more blended/hybrid learning — including flipping the classroom; and moving towards providing more online-based learning.

We’re moving into a world whereby lawsuits re: accessibility are becoming more common:

Ed Tech World on Notice: Miami U disability discrimination lawsuit could have major effect — from by Phil Hill
This week the US Department of Justice, citing Title II of ADA, decided to intervene in a private lawsuit filed against Miami University of Ohio regarding disability discrimination based on ed tech usage. Call this a major escalation and just ask the for-profit industry how big an effect DOJ intervention can be. From the complaint:

Miami University uses technologies in its curricular and co-curricular programs, services, and activities that are inaccessible to qualified individuals with disabilities, including current and former students who have vision, hearing, or learning disabilities. Miami University has failed to make these technologies accessible to such individuals and has otherwise failed to ensure that individuals with disabilities can interact with Miami University’s websites and access course assignments, textbooks, and other curricular and co-curricular materials on an equal basis with non-disabled students. These failures have deprived current and former students and others with disabilities a full and equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from all of Miami University’s educational opportunities.

Knowing about accessibility (especially online and via the web) and being able to provide accessible learning materials is a position in itself. Most faculty members and most Instructional Designers are not specialists in this area. Which again brings up the need for a team-based approach.

Also, when we create hybrid/blended learning-based situations and online-based courses, we’re moving some of the materials and learning experiences online. Once you move something online, you’ve entered a whole new world…requiring new skillsets and sensitivities.

The article below caused me to reflect on this topic. It also made me reflect yet again on how tricky it is to move the needle on how we teach people…and how we set up our learning activities and environments in the most optimal/effective ways. Often we teach in the ways that we were taught. But the problem is, the ways in which learning experiences can be offered these days are moving far beyond the ways us older people were taught.


Why we need Learning Engineers — from by Bror Saxberg

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

Recently I wandered around the South by Southwest ed-tech conference, listening to excited chatter about how digital technology would revolutionize learning. I think valuable change is coming, but I was struck by the lack of discussion about what I see as a key problem: Almost no one who is involved in creating learning materials or large-scale educational experiences relies on the evidence from learning science.

We are missing a job category: Where are our talented, creative, user-­centric “learning engineers” — professionals who understand the research about learning, test it, and apply it to help more students learn more effectively?

So where are the learning engineers? The sad truth is, we don’t have an equivalent corps of professionals who are applying learning science at our colleges, schools, and other institutions of learning. There are plenty of hard-working, well-meaning professionals out there, but most of them are essentially using their intuition and personal experience with learning rather than applying existing science and generating data to help more students and professors succeed.


Also see:

  • Why you now need a team to create and deliver learning — from by Mary Grush and Daniel Christian
    Higher education institutions that intentionally move towards using a team-based approach to creating and delivering the majority of their education content and learning experiences will stand out and be successful over the long run.”


Addendum on 5/14/15:

Thinking different(ly) about university presses — from by Carl Straumsheim

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

Lynn University, to further its tablet-centric curriculum, is establishing its own university press to support textbooks created exclusively for Apple products.

Lynn University Digital Press, which operates out of the institution’s library, in some ways formalizes the authoring process between faculty members, instructional designers, librarians and the general counsel that’s been taking place at the private university in Florida for years. With the university press in place, the effort to create electronic textbooks now has an academic editor, style guides and faculty training programs in place to improve the publishing workflow.


EdX and Qualcomm to build the next generation mobile learning experience — from
Collaboration will help edX increase access to education for millions around the world


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. and SAN DIEGO, May 13, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — EdX, a nonprofit learning destination, and Qualcomm Education, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated QCOM, +1.37% the leading global provider of wireless technology, today announced a collaboration to further develop edX’s MOOC (massive open online course) mobile capabilities and enhance its open source platform to benefit connected learners around the world. As part of the collaboration, Qualcomm Education will contribute engineering resources and will license elements of its SDK code, which edX will distribute to the Open edX community.

This collaboration brings together two industry leaders who share a common vision that mobile technologies are a critical enabler for open access to education for everyone. Together they will harness the power of more than 7 billion mobile connections globally, with more than 1 million being added daily, to meet the growing demand for mobile learning.


World’s first open online MBA to be launched by MOOC platform Coursera — from by Seb Murray
The world’s first open digital MBA degree will be launched in a tie-up between Mooc maker Coursera and US b-school the University of Illinois.


The world’s first open online MBA will launch in 2015 after a landmark decision from a top business school which is expected to pave the way for further digitization of the business degree and disrupt an already shaken education market.

The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign College of Business has received the seal of approval from its senate to launch the “iMBA”, in collaboration with Coursera, the $300 million-plus Silicon Valley start-up that produces MOOCs and has amassed nearly 13 million users.


Also see:

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign plans to start a low-cost online M.B.A. program in partnership with Coursera, the Silicon Valley-based MOOC provider, hoping to meet its land-grant mission of improving access and also to create a new stream of revenue at a time of shrinking state support for higher education.

Students enrolling in the new online master’s program, dubbed the iMBA, could complete the entire degree for about $20,000 — far less than the approximately $50,000 for the on-campus version or the $100,000 for the university’s executive M.B.A.


Embracing failure to spur success: A new collaborative innovation model — from by Kim Wilcox and Edward Ray


The implied message is clear: We’d prefer not to talk about what isn’t working at the postsecondary level.

We’re in a competitive sector, and there is misplaced pressure on all higher education institutions to achieve top placement in U.S. News & World Report and other annual rankings, regardless of whether or not those rankings make any sense. We all feel significant pressure to make sure that our constituents—from board members to faculty to parents to legislators—are happy with the direction of the institution. And we also know that those constituents can be impatient in waiting for substantive change to produce positive results. Honest discourse on new initiatives that seem unproductive or in need of modification is likely to lead to unpleasant conversations that few of us would relish.

This is not the way to foster innovation and improvement in higher education. The best innovators in the world typically follow the mantra that failure is acceptable, helpful, and sometimes even necessary to ultimately achieving an objective. Many of the products we rely on today, from Post-it Notes to pacemakers, resulted from mistakes or failures in the search for other innovations. And just about any founder of a successful Silicon Valley start-up has a track record of ventures that failed.

Successful innovation requires experimentation and learning from failure.

At the University of California, Riverside, and Oregon State University, we are engaged in one effort to achieve these goals: the University Innovation Alliance. The UIA is a consortium of eleven major public research universities that are working together to identify new solutions to challenges found throughout the higher education community, and then to share information about failures and successful solutions among institutions.


From DSC:
Some images that are along these lines:







How Google and Coursera may upend the traditional college degree — from by


Recently, the online education firm Coursera announced a new arrangement with Google, Instagram and other tech firms to launch what some are calling “microdegrees” – a set of online courses plus a hands-on capstone project designed in conjunction with top universities and leading high-tech firms. Coursera is one of America’s leading MOOC developers (Massive Open Online Courses).

Why does this announcement suggest such a shakeup is likely? Several reasons. Here are just four:

  • MOOCs are moving from novel sideshow to serious competition.
  • The partnership between online education and employers is likely a game-changer.
  • Accreditation as a restriction on competition is eroding.
  • Microdegrees are likely the pathway to customized degree programs.


Also see:

Top companies work with university partners to help create capstone projects with real world applications — from


Experts at top companies like Google and Instagram have joined Coursera to help develop the final projects — called “Capstones” — for Coursera Specializations.

Combining a curated series of courses with a final Capstone Project, Specializations help you master new skills with the best of university teaching and the real-time market perspective of top industry partners. Hundreds of thousands of learners have enrolled in Specializations since their launch in January 2014.


But partnerships like Coursera’s include employers actually certifying groups of courses as meeting industry’s standards for skills and knowledge – essentially an end-run around traditional accreditation as a measure of quality.



Also see:



From DSC:

First of all, that piece about the end-around traditional accreditation should make those of us working within higher ed veeeeerrrrry nervous — and much more responsive — as accreditation has been what’s kept traditional institutions of higher ed in the game. If that goes, well…hmmm…things could get very interesting.

Secondly, those who talk of the demise of MOOCs are waaayyy too premature in their assessment/conclusion. Technologies and vendors such as IBM (Watson), Apple (Siri), Google (Deepmind), and Microsoft (Cortana and Azure Machine Learning) could bake their products into MOOCs. Also, what happens if vendors involved with developing personalized learning platforms and/or those vendors specializing with big data start approaching MOOC providers? (See Will micro-credentialing be an example of the use of big data in education and training?) The resulting offerings could have an enormous impact on how people learn and make a living in the future. Again, if those types of technologies get baked into MOOCs, I’m pretty sure that people won’t be discounting MOOCs any longer.

Also, it’s because of items like those mentioned above that sometimes make me wonder if online education and digitally-related delivery mechanisms are what will save the liberal arts.  People could pick up courses in the liberal arts throughout their lifetimes — obtaining degrees…or not. (As a brief aside, I wonder to what extent faculty members will develop their own brands.)  Anyway, it’s getting to the point that many people can’t afford the campus experience.  But could they afford something online…? It could be…depending upon the pricing and associated business models involved. My guess is that those institutions who practice a team-based approach will survive and thrive if they keep a steady eye on their pricing. 



IBM, Fluor and the University of South Carolina Team to Create Innovation Center — from
Public-private partnership will center on analytics and higher education solutions


COLUMBIA, S.C., Nov. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — IBM (NYSE: IBM), the University of South Carolina (USC) and Fluor Corporation (FLR) today announced the formation of the Center for Applied Innovation. The Center will provide application services to both public and private sector organizations across North America with specialties in the areas of analytics and higher education industry solutions. As part of the initiative, the organizations will collaborate on tailored IT curricula and advanced analytic techniques for personalized learning

“The Center for Applied Innovation is the realization of the University of South Carolina’s vision to advance higher education through strong, public-private partnerships,” USC President Harris Pastides said. “Through this collaboration with IBM and Fluor, USC students will have unique opportunities to learn both in and outside the classroom and further hone their IT skills. By using advanced technologies and data analytics the collaboration will help students, educators and others in higher education make intelligent decisions that improve the student experience and enhance student achievement.”

The collaboration is part of an ongoing effort to expand student skills and understanding of applied computing to meet the growing demand for highly skilled IT professionals and business leaders. IBM and USC will develop internship opportunities that better link the classroom with career pathways as well as curricula to build analytics skills that support businesses both locally and across North America. IBM will work with the Darla Moore School of Business as well as USC’s College of Engineering and Computing to team with companies in the region on analytics solutions to their most pressing business challenges.


Following up on yesterday’s posting, History Channel bringing online courses to higher ed, I wanted to thank Mr. Rob Kingyens, President at Qubed Education, for alerting me to some related work that Qubed Education is doing. Below is an example of that work:

The University of Southern California, Condé Nast and WIRED launch Master of Integrated Design, Business and Technology — from
New Learning Model Combines Network and Access of WIRED with Academic Strength and Vision of the USC Roski School of Art and Design

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

MARIN, Calif., October 1, 2014 – The University of Southern California, Condé Nast and WIRED today announced a partnership to create a new online Master’s degree in Integrated Design, Business and Technology. The partnership creates an unprecedented learning experience, combining the expertise of the editors, writers, and designers at WIRED with the academic rigor of USC, a leading research university known for its pioneering interdisciplinary programs. The aim of the 18-24 month degree is to educate creative thinkers and technologists to better equip them to transform the world of industry and enterprise. The first cohort is scheduled to begin in the 2015-2016 academic year.

“The pace of technology development requires higher education to continue to respond with programs that are flexible and adaptable, and that meet the needs of future cultural and business leaders,” said Dean Muhl.

“We’ve been thinking for years about what a university curriculum with WIRED would look like, and now we have a chance to build it with a terrific partner,” said Dadich. “Taking the best from USC and WIRED, we can teach discipline and disruption, business fundamentals, and the very latest innovation models from Silicon Valley. This is going to be thrilling.”

USC’s program development and build out will be powered by higher education partners Synergis Education and Qubed Education.


From Qubed’s website:

Qubed is the gateway for world-class, global brands to enter the education market with top tier universities.


From DSC:
I’ve long wondered if institutions of higher education will need to pool resources and/or form more partnerships and collaborations — either with other universities/colleges or with organizations outside of higher education. This reflection grows stronger for me when I:

  • Think that team-based content creation and delivery is pulling ahead of the pack
  • Hear about the financial situations of many institutions of higher education today (example1; example2)
  • See the momentum building up behind Competency Based Education (CBE)
  • Witness the growth of alternatives like Ideo Futures, Yieldr Academy, Lessons Go Where, ClassDo, Udemy, C-Suite and others
  • Hear about the potential advantages of learning analytics
  • See the pace of change accelerating — challenging higher education to keep up

For some institution(s) of higher education out there with deep pockets and a strong reputation, I could see them partnering up with an IBM (Watson), Google (Deepmind), Apple (Siri), Amazon (Echo), or Microsoft (Cortana) to create some next generation learning platforms. In fact, this is one of the areas I see occurring as lifelong learning/self-directed learning opportunities hit our living rooms. The underlying technologies these companies are working on could be powerful allies in the way people learn in the future — doing some heavy lifting to build the foundations in a variety of disciplines, and leaving the higher-order learning and the addressing of gaps to professors, teachers, trainers, and others.




Speeding up on curves — from by Bradley Wheeler


Higher education faces a number of important curves, but I’ll focus first on just two:

  1. The finance of higher education is increasingly moving from a public to a private good, leading to increasing cost and price pressures (particularly for state-supported institutions).
  2. The increasing digitization of education and research favors greater scale while it also enables potential new substitutes for colleges and universities.


figure 4



Also see:

© 2017 | Daniel Christian