Nackademin College embraces blockchain - offers secure & verifiable diplomas
Article originally appeared in techworld.idg.se (in Swedish)
The Swedish College Nackademin has, by help of TRUE become the first school in the nation to issue blockchain-secured diplomas and transcripts.
"-We save a ton in administration cost!"
Nackademin is a vocational college based in Stockholm with classes in, among other things IT, Nursing and Communications. The campuses in Stockholm and Uppsala has more than 3000 students and now, as the first institute in Sweden they will issue all student diplomas, course certificates and transcripts digitally and secured with blockchain. Each record will be published on Ethereum through the TRUE platform. The purpose is to protect the authenticity of the diplomas, to save administration costs, and to create more attention to the different educations the school offers.
– A normal year, we spend a minimum of two weeks issuing certificates and diplomas, says Peter Hampus, CIO at Nackademin. With this new digitized platform, we save a ton of time, and we can guarantee the authenticity of each diploma, plus we have already seen a significant amount of increased traffic to our website coming from students who share their diplomas online.
Before the system was in place, Nackademin’s administrators spent a lot of time issuing transcripts. They had to be created digitally, then printed and signed manually by two officials, then scanned into a digital format again. The diplomas were then sent by post to the student’s registered address, which often posed a problem as many students moved around the time of graduation. The registrar’s office often worked overtime fielding calls and emails from students who was missing their credentials. On top of this, the diplomas must also be uploaded to the regulating national school authorities. And each step demanded tedious man-hours for the institution.
– Part of my job as CIO includes to simplify processes in an effort to save resources. We simply had to look at digitization because of the increased administration we had as we grew. We have built internal systems and streamlined our operation, and the last major process to digitize was the diplomas, grades and transcripts, says Peter Hampus.
Pdf’s are simply not secure.
Nackademin started looking at pdf’s as a solution – a natural choice for digital documents, but Peter Hampus believes that there is a growing problem with fake diplomas and pdfs are not nearly secure enough.
– It has become increasingly common with forged transcripts both from universities and colleges, and in addition there is a lot of negligence from employers where, for example, they don’t follow up to verify the authenticity of a degree. The last thing we want is for someone to take the place of a legit graduate by pretending to have diploma from our school.
The choice of technical solution revealed itself when Peter Hampus was introduced to the Swedish company TRUE. TRUE offers a SaaS platform which uses blockchain to secure important documents, such as certificates and other proofs. TRUE let institutions and companies create and distribute any official document in digital format, and the company also handled the technical implementation for the college.
– The whole process took about two weeks. True helped us with design, import of data, as well as the email setup and subpage display, says Peter Hampus. Now we issue all our proofs this way – diplomas, course certificates and grades.
– We are a pretty young company but have already has a chance to test our platform in different markets and with very different customers. We see education as an area that can strengthen the security of all types of transcripts, says Patrik Slettman. This is the case not only for the big schools, but also for internal training programs at large companies. I mean – if you invest money and resources training your people, why not give them a real proof that lasts, can be verified, and is always available?
Publishing on Ethereum
The problem with fake diplomas and certificates is a reality, especially in the US, but Patrik Slettman at TRUE believes that this is something that is spreading all over the world.
TRUE’s solution publishes data on the Ethereum blockchain – via smart contracts. On distribution, the student receives a link to the page where the proof is displayed, an upon acceptance, it can then be shared with anyone. The proof can also be verified as genuine through a control of the checksum on the Ethereum chain. The control is done either by clicking on a link next to the proof, or by scanning a QR code on a printed proof.
The authenticity is guaranteed by the fact that a manipulated document will render a different checksum than the one coming from the original, which TRUE’s system detects and warns against. The system does not require an App for either the student or those who want to check the authenticity of the documents. And scanning of a QR code is easily done with the camera of any smartphone.
View an example of a digital diploma from Nackademin here (try the Verify-button in top right corner).
– For each document, we create a hash and it is the hash that is published publicly on Ethereum. We have developed a smart contract that receives the hashes and saves them on the blockchain, including an expiration date if needed, so that you can see if a document has expired. If anything is change in the document, the hash changes, and the system detects that, says Victor Wallander, CTO at TRUE, and blockchain expert.
– The rules of school transcripts are different around the world, and to offer more ways to integrate with each market we have built solutions that enable the school to publicly show some data, and hide others, and to allow students to choose if they, for example wish to hide their social security number or grades. They can log in to our platform and choose how, or if, they want to display the diploma, says Victor Wallander
Consent for personal data
The processing of personal data is of course an important aspect for both institutions and students. According to Peter Hampus at Nackademin, the school requests the consent of each student, partly in connection with the studies, but also at a separate process when the diplomas and transcripts are issued. The implementation of the new digitized system has not entailed any major difficulties or costs for Nackademin, instead Peter Hampus already sees that the school saves money by issuing documents using TRUE.
– For every technical investment we must see an immediate return. We ran the numbers and quickly saw that digital diplomas would save us both money and resources. Previously, we spent a minimum of two weeks per year on the manual handling of diplomas, which we have already reduced that to about a quarter of the time. And we will save even more time on the administration when we have a perfect “flow” internally, says Peter Hampus.
Generating new organic traffic for the school
Nackademin points out that the ROI for the school by making the switch to digital transcripts also created more traffic to their website. When students share their proofs on social media or in other ways present them to third parties, they create traffic to Nackademin by a factor of ten per issued proof. The 1,000 issued transcripts have thus far resulted in over 20,000 page-views.
– Each proof is visible on a subpage to Nackademin.se, says Patrik Slettman at TRUE. The proofs have so far, driven traffic to their site by a factor of 10 for each issued proof. If you calculate that a click on Facebook costs on average nearly 1 dollar, it provides a way to measure what the generated traffic is worth, and Nackademin has already, just weeks after they issued diplomas for the spring semester, generated traffic worth way more than what TRUE charge for the entire year. Our clients can see the statistics for all issued diplomas, such as clicks, shares, views etc. These stats have never been accessible to a school before and it will be very interesting to see what they will learn from them.
– When students tell others about their degree and publishes it online, it gives us an opportunity to tell visitors about our school. It shows that we are at the forefront, and as far as I know we are the first school in Sweden with this technology, says Peter Hampus.
The software we provide does several things for institutions and companies, says Patrik Slettman. -I am absolutely certain that we can save most of them a lot of money by automatically generating important documents, for all types of companies. Perhaps especially for governmental organizations. Nobody wants the job of printing and posting documents. But, besides the automation we also provide a better ‘product’. It is always available, impossible to lose, and can always be verified as authentic. That’s game-changing for some.
– I strongly believe that all of us, very soon, will expect important documents to be verifiable. We will even find it is strange if a proof can’t be authenticated. You want easy access and availability, and you want verifiability. TRUE provide all of this, AND we work hard to design really beautifully animated documents that increase pride and create attention. We see it as an opportunity in branding and word of mouth marketing for our clients.