Giving students autonomy over their own credentials, MIT implemented a pilot program this summer that gave 111 graduates the option to receive their diplomas digitally, through a smartphone app called Blockerts Wallet. In addition to the traditional paper format, students can quickly receive a tamper-proof copy of their diploma on the app to share with potential employers.
“From the beginning, one of our primary motivations has been to empower students to be the curators of their own credentials,” says Registrar and Senior Associate Dean Mary Callahan. “This pilot makes it possible for them to have ownership of their records and be able to share them in a secure way, with whomever they choose.”
Although this is the first time MIT has officially handed out digital credentials, it is not the first time blockchain technology has been used at the Institute. Philipp Schmidt, Director of Learning Innovation at the MIT Media Lab, began issuing digital certificates to manage and track accomplishments of his team in 2015. In 2016, Schmidt’s team and Learning Machine developed an open-source toolkit called Blockcerts, which is an open standard for creating issuing, viewing, and verifying blockchain-based certificates.
“It’s not just about solving a problem,” Chris Jagers, CEO of Learning Machine, adds. “It really is transformative. And it could be as big as the web, because it affects every sector. It’s not just academic records. It’s being able to passively know that digital things are true. That creates a whole new reality across every sector.”
The Registrar’s Office expanded the digital diploma pilot program to include students who graduated in September. In the future, Callahan hopes that participants of MIT Professional Education programs, the Kaufman Teaching Certificate Program, and the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program will also have the opportunity to receive their certificates digitally through the Blockerts Wallet app, giving them the ability to own their credentials.