Momchil Jambazov: OSU Beta will deliver on our vision for the future of education
OSU design lead Momchil Jambazov made a great video on the progress thus far, which can be seen on the project’s YouTube channel. We decided to continue to conversation below and ask Momchil a few more questions on the bigger picture.
Momchil, it seems that blockchain is still a niche technology in the filed of education. How many people are actually affected by the problem you are trying to solve?
When it comes to the lack of tuition-free equally-recognized alternatives to formal on-campus higher education, hundreds of millions of learners are affected throughout the world. Learners from every age are excluded — university students, corporate employees, seeking re-skilling and up-skilling, as well as life-long learners far beyond their 20s. 30+ million U.S. learners are currently with some college education, but no degree or certificate, according to the National Students Clearinghouse. Most of them have dropped out of the institutional system due to lack of financing, shifting work and housing arrangements, among other challenges. By providing an opportunity for authentication of learning beyond the institutional university borders (introducing corporate-driven MOOCs-based curricula), higher education can expand its penetration levels, currently as low as 15% in world’s 2nd and world’s 5th most populated nations , i.e. India and Brazil.
Why have other attempts to solve this problem failed or been incomplete? It seems that people in Academia are well aware of the situation you describe and of the opportunities for change?
MOOCs themselves (the massive open online courses) are a great example of an incomplete attempt to provide low-to-no-cost higher education beyond a single institutional provider — we call this a ‘’distributed higher education’’. This effort has been intentionally kept incomplete by the providers of MOOCs, i.e. universities, because it is seen as existentially threatening to their core business model — providing on-campus or online, closed-sourced programs. Universities do not like sharing their source of income, i.e. students, hence they are not willing to orchestrate pan-university low-cost MOOC-based curricula. Therefore, there’s a need for an independent technology provider to enable such an alternative. One in which a business can assign a curriculum to its future (or current) employees, replicating the curriculum of a recognized university, but providing the opportunity for the students to acquire their necessary credit hours through the completion of some of the 12000+ already available high-quality open online courses, coming from 900+ high quality higher education institutions worldwide. An idea that is extremely realistic, given the educational resources are already there to compile, but too bold for a university to push it out on the existing market. What these universities are not taking into consideration, is that such low-cost MOOC-based curricula, delivered in a distributed fashion through a technology provider, are actually expanding the H.E. market.
Why should the global investment and business communities embrace the solution, which OSU is offering?
Well, we believe that our technology will enable employers to easily upskill and reskill their workforce, which is a huge difficulty for two main reasons. According to latest BBC data, factors such as automation are to cause up to 30% of the jobs to be reduced by 2025. Not only that employers need to take bigger part in education their workforce, but they need to make it in a more reliable/trusted and transferable way as at present, employers spend over a month and up to a few thousand dollars on verifying employee credentials (according to industry-wide research). In more than 50% of the cases, there are unreliable or false claims –something that the immutable and traceable character of the blockchain L&D records sorts out.
Tell us a bit more about the history behind the project. What led you to where you are today? What are your plans for the future?
Established in 2015 as a R&D project at the Technical University of Sofia, today OS.UNIVERSITY represents a unique distributed application, maintained by an award-winning team of developers, academicians, and leading consultants from around the world, which I am happy to be proud of. We strive to help learners and professionals claim and advance their academic & professional identity beyond borders by providing them with a competence passport on the immutable blockchain. As of day one, OS.UNIVERSITY protocol was built with a multi-chain architecture in mind and a peer-to-peer transactional model that provides for learners, educators, and businesses the opportunity to exchange information and value in a frictionless manner. Ours is a multi-faceted value proposition. While we remove the unnecessary middle-men when it comes to today’s background checks in university and job application processes, we also enable mobility of acquired academic credits, PDUs (professional development units), etc. beyond institutional and national borders by switching from multiple centralized closed ‘registers’ of accomplishments and achievements to a single decentralized register on the blockchain, i.e. the personal credentials passport. From content discovery to validation and verification of acquired knowledge and skills, the diverse set of smart contracts behind the distributed application shape www.os.university as the go-to location for the next generation of learners. This is our vision for the future of education and we believe that our Beta will deliver on that vision.
You speak a lot about the spirit of cooperativeness behind the project. How does your solution enable the private sector to uniquely contribute?
Our solution enables the private sector to create custom MOOC-based higher ed. and lifelong learning pathways, assign/recommend them to job applicants or current employees and higher/maintain those who accomplish the milestones along the way. It is important to say that this is not an alternative ‘’education’’ approach. It is an alternative ‘’validation and verification of education’’ approach, as currently universities are the only to serve as registers and arbiters of who accomplished what and when. Our success shall be measured by number of learners who are able to validate and verify their educational and professional identity (e.g. upon application for academic and professional development opportunities) in a frictionless instant manner through our platform and their credentials passports.
How does your solution deliberately create and sustain societal good?
In five years, we see ourselves as a company that helps more than 100,000,000 learners claim and advance their academic and professional identity beyond borders by providing them a credentials passport on the immutable blockchain — the ultimate personal learning account, built by us — the team who wrote the book on the application of blockchain technologies in education (www.os.university/book). The learners’ numbers are based on conservative projections around the adoption of open online learning, which provides the fastest way to adoption of our technology solution as well through integration with the MOOC and other online learning providers. Even today, more than 100,000,000 learners are engaged in massive open online learning, but none of them can complete an end-to-end MOOC degree and get hired on the job marketplace, due to the lack of a central ‘’register’’. Our solution deliberately create social good by empowering businesses to create such distributed learning pathways, by introducing them to learners and supporting the learners along the way of completion, and by enabling a way for authentication of the end accomplishment beyond institutional and national borders. Universities are still delivering the content, but they are no longer owning their students from ‘’cradle to grave’’. Students are owning their education and this act of democratization is our biggest pride!
More updates on the OS.University can be found in OSU August Newsletter.