On 23 February Reddheads.com published an article on upcoming DApps in the Ethereum ecosystem. Attendees at the EDCON Ethereum Conference in Paris (17-18 February 2017) were asked two questions:
- What is your project?
- Why are you building it with Ethereum?
The Open University Knowledge Media Institute
The Knowledge Media Institute “… was set up in 1995 in recognition of the need for The Open University to be at the forefront of research and development in a convergence of areas that impacted on the OU’s very nature: Cognitive and Learning Sciences, Artificial Intelligence and Semantic Technologies, and Multimedia.” (http://kmi.open.ac.uk/)
Reddheads.com was grateful to receive some detailed information from Professor John Dominigue, the Director of the Knowledge Media Institute, regarding the Institute’s Ethereum-based “Open Blockchain” project.
“I imagine a world where many tasks associated with managing and using online resources, for business and for personal use, will become automated. For example, companies will be able to form contractual alliances to meet mutually beneficial business objectives on-the-fly with no human in the loop. This will usher in completely new business models based upon a machine-readable web.” (http://www.open.ac.uk/research/main/careers/academics/john-domingue)
RH: “What is your project?”
“We are working on a set of DApps exploring how blockchains can transform Higher Education. Examples include transforming the Open Badges specification into a set of Ethereum Smart Contracts. Our representations have been tested on the OU’s badged courses on OpenLearn, the OU’s free learning gateway containing over 8,000 hours of study. We have taken the badges earned by OpenLearn learners across 10 courses and placed these on an OU blockchain. This will give students control and ownership of all their accreditation and ease transfer between institutions.
We are also working with the creation of student ePortfolios within the context of a running Master’s course in Open and Distance Education. We’ve created an interface where students can place their work onto a blockchain. Again this will give students control to manage and share their work with peers, educational institution and potential employers.
We have created a demonstrator for peer accreditation. Here we envisage a scenario where peers within a workplace setting can transfer tokens to each other in recognition of excellence in soft skills e.g. collaboration or communication. We see this supporting corporate training which is often not transferred to the workplace. Moving accreditation to the workplace will enhance the transfer of learning.
We are engaged with colleagues across the UK (including Southampton University) and internationally (especially the University of Texas at Austin) to develop UK National and International Higher Education blockchains. We see this supporting having the students at the centre of their learning and as a starting point for direct connections between students, teachers and learning material authors.”
RH: “Why are you building it with Ethereum?”
“When we began this project at the end of 2015 Ethereum was the only stable platform available which contained smart contracts enabling one to build generic applications. We have continued to stay with Ethereum because we are continually impressed by the sheer strength and vitality of the associated community. The community’s goals in the main seem to align with the OU’s social mission to enhance social mobility and aid all citizens to fulfil their potential through easily accessible high quality educational resources.
We have been in conversation with several members of the community especially a number of staff at Consensys and EthCore.
The term ‘Open’ in ‘Open University’ means that we accept all students – there are no barriers in terms of existing certification/skills to starting an OU degree. The exact OU mission is “The Open University’s mission is to be open to people, places, methods and ideas. We promote educational opportunity and social justice by providing high-quality university education to all who wish to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential.” This aligns well with Ethereum’s push for ever increasing improvements whilst adhering to developing an Internet for All.”
For more information visit the Open Blockchain website: http://blockchain.open.ac.uk/
The Open University
The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK, with over 250,000 students (including more than 50,000 overseas students). The OU is based on an distance-learning model. Over 1.5 million students have studied at the OU, which qualifies as one of the largest universities in the world.
The OU was established in 1969. The university has over 1000 academic and research staff, and nearly 3000 operational staff. The OU awards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, as well as diplomas and certificates.
For more information visit the Open University website: http://www.open.ac.uk/