Blockchain Degree: All you need to know

Call NIT Rourkela 2022, Digital Degrees based on Blockchain: On Saturday, the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Rourkela became the second centrally managed higher education institution in the country (after IIT-Kanpur) to award blockchain-based digital degrees to all of its graduates.

On 1,500 students received their degrees in this format in addition to the traditional printed copy of the certificate.

How is the blockchain-based degree different from a regular digital degree certificate that a student can receive via email and share electronically with employers and higher education institutions? We explain:

Q. First, what is blockchain technology?

“Blockchain is like a ledger that stores information digitally, in a very secure way. Data is connected as blocks and exists in a distributed way (across a network of computing systems),” says Prof. Manish Okade, Head of the Computing and Informatics Center (CIC) at NIT-Rourkela. He explains that since the data is not stored in one place, no one can tamper with or hack the system.

Q. Why is this technology used to issue educational degrees and certificates?

Blockchain technology is useful for educational institutes because it helps preserve original documents and store them digitally and securely.

“Blockchain acts as an unalterable ledger for information. Any information once entered into the blockchain cannot be erased,” says Professor Manindra Agarwal, co-founder of the National Blockchain Project and former deputy director of IIT-Kanpur. The National Blockchain Project, initiated by IIT Kanpur, is funded by the National Security Council to develop e-government solutions using blockchain technology.

Blockchain-based documents are read-only, so no changes can be made to the original documents, even by the student. Hence, technology provides security and permanence for the certification of academic achievement.

Most importantly, this technology provides an easily verifiable version of a student’s degree, diploma, or educational certificate.

Q. How does this help employers?

Verification of degrees and academic certificates can be slow. It is easier for an employer to verify a title powered by blockchain.

Unlike the lengthy process of sending an email to the university to authenticate a degree, with blockchain technology, a one-time password (OTP) is sent to the mobile number and email of the student in question. Once the OTP is shared with the employer, you can digitally access the original title.

“A procedure that would normally take three weeks now only takes 30 seconds,” says NIT Rourkela’s Okade.

Q. How is a blockchain-anchored degree different from an educational degree or certificate available on an online platform such as DigiLocker?

While such platforms are useful for securely storing digital documents, they are only intended for personal use. For employers, the title verification process would not be possible in such applications.

Q. What is the first centrally managed educational institution to award blockchain-based degrees?

Last year, IIT-Kanpur became the first higher education institution to award degrees using this technology. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the main guest of IIT-Kanpur’s 54th convocation ceremony held in December 2021. This was started under the auspices of the National Blockchain Project at IIT-Kanpur, which shared the technology with NIT-Rourkela.

Q. How can NIT-Rourkela students access their blockchain-based degrees?

The titles are available in the “Digital Certificates Portal” of the university, accessible through the registration number of each student. To download the degrees, candidates will receive an OTP on their mobile number, which will also be sent to their email id, to provide access to the secure portal containing their degrees. Titles will also be available for download in PDF format, making them accessible from anywhere in the world.

Q. What are some other uses of blockchain technology?

It can be used to store land records. In Karnataka, the National Blockchain Project is trying to digitize land and property records. Only the buyer and seller would have access to the document. “It’s like a virtual handshake,” says Professor Okade.

“This technology will greatly reduce financial scams and fraud. As long as authentication is required, it can be used,” he adds.