Blockchain Spurs Collaboration in Educational Communities

Michael Zargham
Jan 23, 2018 · 6 min read

Imagine bundling solutions to higher education’s greatest challenges into a single platform.

Education is critical to the growth of local, national and international communities. Despite its importance, the process of acquiring an education is plagued by rising costs, inaccessibility, and opaque processes.

On-Demand Education Marketplace and its partner, Excelorators Inc, are global innovators focused on using emerging technology to bring about elegant solutions to education’s challenges. These companies are making in-person learning more accessible by enabling greater coordination and collaboration among students and education service providers.

ODEM’s interactive platform will empower students to engage collectively with top educators around the world to access educational experiences at a reasonable cost. The platform uses blockchain to track identity, data, and commitments; it uses machine learning to identify, streamline, and coordinate the organization and delivery of educational programs.

The solution uses the ODEM Token to align incentives for the platform. The token enables coordination among service providers, helps to simplify cross-border payments and functions as a currency to encourage professors to develop popular course offerings.

The platform uses blockchain technology to support three types of coordination.

  1. ODEM employs a discount token model which allows the platform users to escrow tokens to gain discounts against user fees. Since the token is not spent, but locked for a period of time, they serve as a perpetual license or membership. Proceeds from the sale of tokens fund the community’s development effort.
  2. The ODEM program generator uses a decentralized ledger to track conditional pre-commitments which enable recommendation, discovery and orchestration of educational programs as well as track the fulfillment of these commitments and reputation.
  3. A decentralized ledger facilitates multi-payer, multi-payee transactions that arise when a group of students is matched with educators and a host of support services to create a complete educational package. Integration with secure, robust payment processors further improves user experience.

ODEM Token — Community-Driven Development

Higher education has long functioned as an enterprise rather than as a community. Even non-profit organizations often appear more beholden to their financial donors than to their students and educators. A more community-based approach may be possible as more projects demonstrate the feasibility of capitalizing shared endeavors for the overall good of the community.

A well designed token model and properly executed crowdsale represent a community driven development effort. In the case of ODEM, students, educators and service providers become the community. The platform’s token is a reusable asset which provides users with discounts on the platform fees. The ODEM token follows the discount token model pioneered by Sweetbridge Inc. in collaboration with researchers at BlockScience and Coinfund.

An important aspect of the token is that it has the capacity to provide users with discounts that are not tied to its market price; tokens endow users with the power to offset costs incurred proportionally to their share in the platform’s overall use. The effect is that all token holders are incentivized to use their tokens, whether by directly participating in the platform, sponsoring a participant, or renting tokens to a third party for access to the platform.

ODEM Program Generator — Event Coordination

Coordinating an educational program, whether it is a weekend, a week, or a semester, is a logistical challenge that has traditionally been achieved by colleges offering curriculum on a set schedule in a set location. The centralized institution dictates the terms to limit the complexity of the coordination problem. Offering a peer-to-peer approach to education makes the coordination exponentially more difficult. In practice, coordination problems become very challenging when the number of participating stakeholders exceeds three.

In the case of on-site academic courses, twenty-or-more parties may require coordination, including translators, travel agents, classroom providers and catering services in addition to students and educators. To succeed, all parties must remain committed to participate to ensure service providers are paid and the total cost per student remains reasonable.

Blockchain technology balances the equation by enabling participants to make conditional pre-commitments. For example, a stakeholder can list services for sale, price expectations, and available class times. Such conditional pre-commitments allow the ODEM program generator to discover matchings of stakeholders who collectively meet an event’s requirements. Combining a ledger of signed pre-commitments with discovery and recommendation tools, the program generator is the heart of the platform. The generator provides community level service that is not possible at scale without the assistant of pre-programmed coordination.

Identity and Reputation — Community Management

Empowering the global community with tools to access in-person higher education is a collaborative task. Unlike some blockchain ecosystems, obscuring participants’ identities is not in the best interests of the platform or the education industry. Students, educators, and service providers will have unique identities within the platform, connected to addresses in all relevant blockchain networks and associated with their public and private ODEM profile information.

Public profile information may include available curriculum, services provided, and educational interests. Sharing most information is entirely voluntary and platform users may customize what is shared publicly, but some information may be required to provide services; public qualifications may include details about a participant’s reputation based on past performance and other credentials validated with third parties.

Private profiles will also include important operational data, such as responses to Know-Your-Customer questions. Furthermore, ODEM will not retain personal or business data not required for the platform’s ongoing operation and governance. While sharing data is necessary to transact, supporting data privacy is a priority.

Remittance Services — Efficient Multi-Payer Support

Remittance is an often cited application of blockchain technology. Unfortunately, traditional infrastructure isn’t capable of adequately handling multi-payer, multi-payee transactions.Once multiple currencies are added to the equation, the problem is all but intractable. To offer practical solutions for students, educators and service providers in the real world, it is not sufficient to slough off the bonds of conventional finance as may be the case for some edgy tech industries.

At present, ODEM is researching several payment networks. An eventual solution will be rooted in collaboration. An international digital payments infrastructure requires buy-in from users, institutions and in some instances governments. This is a compelling challenge; a solution would benefit the global economy well beyond the education sector. ODEM will contribute to and participate in the creation of an efficient international payment network

An efficient global financial network would involve partner institutions in local markets providing access to that network via payments in a local currency. The ODEM platform ledger would track assets and liabilities in all supported currencies, balancing its portfolio using the other flows in the broader financial network. Cross currency exchange in fiat is kept to a minimum as tokenized lines of credit are exchanged and only the periodic netflows between financial markets need be resolved through fiat remittance.

DISCLOSURE

I am serving as a contributing advisor to ODEM and my company BlockScience is currently supporting ODEM in the design and development of the ODEM platform, a blockchain enabled coordination marketplace. BlockScience’s ongoing areas of research include token economics for applications and multiparty coordination technologies emerging at the intersection of artificial intelligence and blockchain. This exposition on the ODEM use case is a follow up from my WCEF talk on using blockchain to enable coordination focused applications.

ODEM

Education Should be Affordable for Everyone

Michael Zargham

Written by

Founder, Researcher, Decision Engineer, Data Scientist; PhD in systems engineering, control of networks.

ODEM

ODEM

Education Should be Affordable for Everyone

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade