76: MIT Offers Digital Diplomas in the Blockchain w/ Mary Callahan

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Mary Callahan, Senior Associate Dean and Registrar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, joined the podcast to talk about the fraud prevention and student empowerment benefits of offering digital diplomas through the blockchain.

You're listening to enrollment growth university fromHelix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to growenrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniquesand strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show. Welcome back to enrollments growth university, a proud memberof the connect Edu podcast network. I'm Eric Olsen, AVP of marketing atHelix Education, and we're here today with Mary Callahan, senior Associate Dean andRegistrar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mary, welcome to the show. Thank you, Eric. Really excited to talk with you today about the benefits ofoffering students digital diplomas through the block chain. Before we dig into that, Mary, can you give the listeners a little bit better understanding of both Mitand your role? They're sure so.

I'm senior Associate Dean and Registrar,very much involved with the various curricular programs at the institute, scheduling classes,scheduling class rooms, taking care of people's records, tuition and a lot ofwork with the faculty in their governance and in their roles as teachers. AndAdvisors, and MIT is, the course, of very special place, one ofthe premier in Stud atitudes of science and technology in the world and avery active, engaged community of learners, awesome married. Just to kick usoff as a definitional level set, can you give us a high level,boilerplate understanding of what the blockchain is? Sure, it is a buzz word, but it's also a real fact. So what it is is it's gota lot of different parts to it, but it's much if you can imaginethe World Wide Web, it's it's a decentralized public network that isn't controlled byany single authority. And the way it's...

...special for us is it's figured outa way for people to safely transact digital assets, with each storing the historyof the transaction into a new data structure, and it's called the blockchain. Soit's it's a linear timeline of transactions stored across a network entirety in amanner that is essentially for us, tamper proof. And so when MIT isuse a digital diploma to a graduate. That is a transaction between parties thatis registered on the blockchain and can be checked anytime validated is required. Andand it acts kind of like a global notary, if you will marry.What made offering digital diploma is so interesting to you at MIT and and howdo students benefit from having their credentials in the blockchain? Yeah, great question. So, you know, I think there's a confluence of things. Whatgot me interested in this was on campus...

...there was a development of what wecall block cert wallets by a research scientist in our media, arts and sciencearea called Philip Schmidt, and I got connected with Philip and then a partnerin learning machine, which is a vendor that was working as well with Philipon verifiable credentials and in a digital economy. So that had intrigued me because thesecurity, the ability to share information in a verifiable way that's so secure. I was intrigued. And then I started to think about how might weuse it in the world where paper no longer matters as much and digital transformationsare occurring. I was very psyche to think about how could we do thisfor our students, where would be a sweet spot and why it would matterto them it. To me, it's in in the empowerment of allowing themto own their own records. So when...

I talked about placing the diploma onthe block chain. It doesn't sit anywhere. It is empowered to the student.The student has total control about where it goes. It's their record.They earned it. I didn't take quantum physics that. They took quantum physics. So for them it's their record and for me, one of the benefitsI would see is how it reduced, it can reduce frauds. So,as you probably know, in higher it in other places, there are alot of different ways that we see fake diplomas coming in. Some of themare easy to spot, some of them are very close to actual diplomas wedo indeed offer. So this enables us to feel very sure because we've created, through this effort, mit branded degree verification portal where an individual can Goddrop in the information and get it immediately...

...verified through this portal. So,from a verification standpoint and a fraud standpoint, those are efforts that I feel inthis world, that where technology is evolved to a place that sharing thisinfrastructure and ways of communicating seemed very advantageous. So I come at it from howdo we help the students and how do we ensure the integrity of academicinformation, and a third peg would be we know students are lifelong learners.Now there's different ways they can express their their education and their ability to displaywhat that learning chain is. It's the learning cloud in some ways. Sofrom a degree to a certificate, to badge, all of this can beplaced in this block chain in a way...

...that they're building this portfolio of credentials. So I think this will be a great ongoing benefit to those who engagewith us in this and there's no cost to the student. It's simple todo. So we think we're on to something that I think can be verymuch more on of an impact for learners across the world. You've spoken aboutthe benefits to the students, about having access to what they've earned. You'vespoken about the fraud prevention benefits of the diploma living in the block chain.There's also some some PR novelty about being able to do this, especially givenyour market position is an institution. Talk about what you can, specifically fromthe pain point of a registrar in terms of a time management help us understandthe transcript request process, both incoming and outgoing, and and what this digitalblockchain solution might help on both sides of that right. So you know,and it cross we get graduate there's about...

...at on the current world there's abouteleven pouns and plus students at Mit. So the verification of WHO's the studentis an important dimension, both in terms of an employer or government or oureducation institutes, of a students applying for Grad School. So knowing that theyactually received a degree is the step in a process for many of these activities. So we currently outsource some of that effort to the national clearinghouse and theydo on my behalf as acting as an agent, confirmed if there is aninquiry as to it whether an individual received a actual mit degree or not.But from the employer side that's time consuming. From the government side that would betime consuming. So I see where the value may becoming a lot fromthe external parties that wish to quickly in...

...this world of needing immediate application ofinformation, by having the student, in an employers sake situation, be ableto provide a Jason file that contains that they indeed that's verifiable, that theyindeed graduated from Mit. That eliminates a middle step that takes both time andeffort in sometimes money, because I outsource it as a registrar. I'm notseeing particular gains in time here, although we do spend a lot of timewhen we do see a case where thereby be fraud, of fraudulent diploma,really trying to track down what happened there. So from a time saving standpoint it'smore on the fraud side. The verification side. It definitely benefits theemployers, the student education occasional institutions if they're applying to Grad school governments.In fact, we have a step, because we're very international population, calledthe APP of steel and there's a workflow that I've done up a diagram whichcurrent world for a student requires eight or...

...nine steps. If we continue topenetrate in the acceptance of a digital credential, that eight step becomes just one.So we feel a given from a service standpoint and from the government inthis case, for an APP of steal of country international they if they acceptthat again, their work is reduced. The students work is reduced in theimmediacy and the verification. Again, I go back to a trusted source becomesvery much then powerful for the individual who can benefit from it, in theperson who is actually confirming something so exciting, Mary. And when we're talking aboutthe employer, is that the primary value for them as well? Whythey're so excited about it? Is that verification and Fraud Prevention reality? Ithink it's. It will catch on. To be honest with you, it'sa new concept we're culturally yet we're still finding that it hasn't you know,ton there is not yet a full adoption...

...of it, but where it hasgone it does seem to matter. So we will grow that enterprise, ifyou will, because it's somewhat cumbersome. So there's a self interest, Iwould assume, from these employers and educational institutes. So it will grow inby virtue of the ease of use in the trusted, verifiable digital records,and I think those will just grow because again, some more activity will comein, whether it's a student again doing a particular certificate or others will startto see the value in shaping this way of engaging with digital academic credentials.It's such an exciting step forward. I'm personally grateful for you and your teamfor leading the way. Any next steps? Advice for other institutions? Listen tothis, excited about the possibilities. How do they take that next stepin considering issuing their diplomas in the blockchain?...

Yeah, no, great question.So there's some things less you know. I will share some lessons learn.You know, we we spun this up really quickly with our vendor learningmachine. So it was not a lengthy time from conception to delivery to implementationto operation. But we did learn some things and our students have very technicalbut they had to figure out how to interact with the APP right. Sothat took a little bit and that's a communication effort should be spun up bythe business to reach the students. We worked with our vendor around a dashboardand data reporting in a direct data exchange. So the those integration features should bepart of what people consider. I would say there is still a financialconsideration. So in higher it as I mentioned, are our agent is thenational clearing house. The way that the business model at some schools are setup is that they get a slice of...

...the verification that comes into the clearinghouse because the employer or others are paying for that. So there's a modelthat they then receive a benefit from that type of verification. So by nothaving been a middle person and the agent. There is not that funding model inplace, it disrupts that. So institutions have to think about that consideration. So I think those are just things that are workable. It just hasto be in view so that, in a both a strategic and operational direction, that this leads you to a commitment and the sustainability to allow that ventureto be fruitful for all. I think it's it's exciting to think about andit's easy to start to articulate and taking that dive is worth the benefit toto the student and I keep always stressing that that's a cultural change that isworth considering. For sure. You have...

...me excited about it and I'm surea lot of our listeners to marry. Thank you so much for your timetoday. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you they have anyfollow up questions? Oh, absolutely, and I'd be happy to answer anyquestions or speak to them at any point. My email is Calahan at mit dotEdu and I'd be happy to receive any question, follow up, whateverpeople wish to talk about. That email would be the best mode reach meand appreciative if people feel free to do that. Awesome. Thanks against somuch for joining us today Mary. Thank you, Eric. Appreciate your timeas well. Thank you. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting newenrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth isuniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix hasjust published the second edition of their enrollment...

...growth playbook with fifty percent brand newcontent on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Download ittoday for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth universityfrom Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribeto the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so muchfor listening. Until next time.

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