A Technology-driven Overview on Blockchain-based Academic Certificate Handling

A Technology-driven Overview on Blockchain-based Academic Certificate Handling

Bruno Rodrigues (University of Zurich, Switzerland), Muriel Figueredo Franco (University of Zurich, Switzerland), Eder Scheid (University of Zurich, Switzerland), Salil S. Kanhere (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia) and Burkhard Stiller (University of Zurich, Switzerland)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9478-9.ch010

Abstract

Academic certificates have a significant influence on the job market, proving a particular competence or skill of a recipient. However, the ability to verify the authenticity of certificates does not follow its relevance in the labor market, causing several companies to exploit this inefficiency to falsify information or even to make fake certificates. In this context, several proposals based on blockchain appear as a technological alternative to increase the transparency and the ease of verification of these certificates. This chapter discusses the main proposals toward the handling of academic certificates from a technological point of view, discussing the technical aspects that may influence the relationship between confidentiality and transparency as well as application requirements such as performance and reliability in contrast to the blockchain characteristics. Finally, this chapter summarizes the key challenges and opportunities based on this discussion outlining future directions for academic certificate management.
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Introduction And Motivation

Academic certificates are seen as proof of capability, certifying the level of education and skills of individuals. With an increasingly competitive labor market and employers with large applicant pools, it is a necessity to require a certain level of education for crucial positions. While applicants tend to “exaggerate” or even just fake certificates about their educational history to make it more desirable to the employer, job recruiters are usually overwhelmed with applications which makes it difficult to verify all certificates described by all applicants. In some cases, applicants even purchase fake diplomas from so-called diploma mills to declare that one has completed a program of postsecondary education or a specific technical training.

The extension of these fraudulent activities can be observed in numbers as reported by The World Education Services (Hanna Park, 2017), which estimated, in the year of 2017, that there are around 2’615 active diploma mills in the world. From these active diploma mills, almost half (1’008) operate only in the United States (US). These numbers reinforce the research conducted two years before by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) (Nicholas Musee, 2015), which estimated that 41% of job applicants in the US presented some type of falsified information about their education. As of today, educational experts (Jeremy Alder, 2017) estimates that about 500 fake Ph.D. degrees are sold monthly in the US, creating a parallel market of around 200 million US dollars of revenue.

According to (Grech and Camilleri, 2017; Merija and Kapenieks, 2018; Breuls et al., 2018), the increase in these numbers occurs mainly because of the following factors:

  • The increasing number of non-accredited educational institutions seeking to meet the demand for higher degree diplomas, and the lack of governmental measures to ensure the quality of these institutions. While some countries implement quality assurance procedures for their higher education institutions, other countries lack the same effective measures enabling transnational companies to exploit this lack of quality control in certain countries to issue diplomas.

  • The inability of traditional, paper-based, certification systems to allow an agile and effective verification of issued diplomas. Also, such form of certificates and diplomas issued on paper are relatively easy to counterfeit and rely on the ineffectiveness of processes to verify their authenticity.

The current system based on data (e.g., certificates, diplomas, and documents) privately stored in databases of each educational institution transforms a simple verification process in a complicated, cumbersome, and expensive process. If an employer wants to verify the authenticity of a certificate, it is not only necessary to interview the applicant to check whether the skills informed in its Curriculum Vitae (CV) are trustful, but also to contact a recognition or accreditation system to verify whether the diploma or certificate claimed were issued by a recognized institution authorized to award academic or professional qualifications.

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