Engineering Economic Mobility

Announcing the ACE Blockchain Innovation Challenge

How might blockchain be designed to increase access, provide opportunity, and promote success for all learners?

Traffic on highway
Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

On August 12, the American Council on Education (ACE) launched the Blockchain Innovation Challenge to explore how blockchain can connect or create ecosystems, empowering individuals — especially those currently most underserved — to gain more control over their learning in order to access economic opportunity. The Blockchain Innovation Challenge seeks bold designs that use blockchain to reorient the education and employment ecosystem around the individuals that they aim to serve.

Dallas County Promise Network. https://www.acenet.edu/Documents/ACE-Education-Blockchain-Initiative-Connected-Impact-June2020.pdf.

Key Opportunities

In our research and exploration of education use cases, we are most excited by the characteristics of distributed ledger technologies that enable critical mobility for individuals between multiple learning and employment experiences. For example, we have seen how blockchain, when focused on eliminating inefficiencies of data exchange can reduce skills gaps in the recruitment process for institutions and employers, providing opportunities for traditionally underserved populations to access postsecondary education and to attain job opportunities outside their existing social or community network.

In this challenge, we emphasize an ecosystem-first design approach that:

  • Reorients and supports a network of institutions, employers, community organizations, and other stakeholders to enable individuals to move seamlessly through opportunities for learning and work
  • Develops technical solutions that enable data interoperability based on open standards and protocols so that the data and artifacts of individual learning can be accessed and controlled by individuals themselves, and not by a single vendor, platform, or education provider
  • Addresses the data literacy and digital skills divide, so that all learners and workers have the opportunity to prosper in the changing landscape of education and employment.

We know that the best ideas rely on the collective wisdom of educators and entrepreneurs, individuals and families, and institutions and community groups. We are seeking to draw people with great ideas into conversation with us and with one another. Please join us in the first of many conversations this Wednesday, August 19, 2020 at 2 PM ET at the Challenge Launch Event: https://www.acenet.edu/Events/Pages/Blockchain-Innovation-Challenge-Launch-Event.aspx

For more information on how to participate in this Challenge, visit https://www.acenet.edu/Research-Insights/Pages/Blockchain-Innovation-Challenge.aspx and follow our conversation at #BlockchainEDU.

This blog is a part of an ongoing effort to work openly and engage a broader education community conversation. Share your feedback with us at tech@ed.gov and keep up to date with our work at tech.ed.gov/blockchain and Office of Ed Tech.

Sharon Leu is a Sr. Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education where she works on issues related to the education and work of the future. Sharon is an aspiring park ranger.

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