The Role of NFTs in EdTech

What are NFTs?

Non-fungible tokens, commonly known as NFTs, are the latest development in the tech space. Fungible items can be replaced with something else because they are not unique. For example, suppose I have a 50 pesewas coin or a quarter coin. In that case, I can use another 50 pesewas coin or a quarter because they are technically the same. A non-fungible token is the opposite of the above example. It is an asset or item that is unique and cannot be replaced with something else.

Understanding the technology behind NFTs

Now, we will get a teeny tiny bit technical here. The technology behind NFTs use is called a blockchain. It is the same technology that allows cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum to be possible. Blockchain technology is a system of recording information that makes it impossible for digital information to be edited but allows for its distribution and recording.

Blockchain Technology is being largely adopted globally

An essential component of NFTs — Smart Contracts

Smart contracts are another critical component of NFTs. Smart contracts are programs saved on the blockchain that is run to ensure that certain conditions are met. With the blockchain trade, smart contracts outline how the buyer and the creator can use the work in the future.

Popularity of NFTs

For a while now, NFTs have been popular in the art space because they protect the artist by giving them control over their work and enabling them to profit from it. Through smart contracts, some artists can dictate the use of the art once bought and can get a commission from the art even during a resale.

However, art is not the only industry that is receiving NFT attention. In the educational sector, forward thinkers are beginning to experiment with NFTs and evaluate their benefits to education.

Experiments of NFTs in education

In the US, an educator, Beau Brannan, conducted an NFT experiment by awarding his students in his financial class with tokens in the form of NFTs. These tokens did not have a direct monetary value. Instead, the tokens were proof of the student passing the course. They included unique information about the student’s performance and class information. The idea is for more educators to incorporate this and create a trophy case of NFTs that students can show to their prospective employers.

The sample size for this experiment was small; still, lessons to be learned on how to replicate this in the Edtech space regarding NFTs.

How NFTs safeguard educational credentials

Students may receive several credentials during their educational journeys, such as certifications, transcripts, and degrees. However, an issue with these credentials is their validity, as they can be susceptible to scammers. Also, assessing the credential’s value could be difficult to verify who awarded them, what the students did to earn them, and gauging the assessments given. However, converting these to NFTs, means these can be saved in digital wallets for a person’s educational profile. Remember we said that this digital information cannot be edited but recorded or distributed? This makes the data secure and more trustworthy for future employers and increases the integrity of these credentials.

How educational creators benefit from NFTs

Apart from safeguarding credentials, let’s talk about how NFTs can benefit creators. This includes persons offering masterclasses, courses, and authoring textbooks — let’s say all those creating content for EdTech platforms. After content creation and sale to Edtech marketplaces or academic institutions, smart contracts protect creators. The smart contract of an NFT will allow them to receive royalties even from secondary sales and regulate their materials’ usage.

Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels
Artists’ work will be protected by NFTs — Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

We will illustrate the use of NFTs using a fictional example of a textbook author. “Adam” is an author of an “Economics” textbook. Before NFTs, he sold these textbooks to an academic institution. He gets money from this sale, but that’s where it ends. When the institution sells the book to its students, Adam gets no cut. If a student is to sell their textbook to another student, he once again receives no percentage. Adam, however, decides to convert his textbook into an NFT, which allows him to make use of the smart contract. This contract specifies the textbook usage and determines that he should always get a 5% commission even in resales. Since the textbook is now an NFT, each transaction is recorded in the blockchain ledger, making it easier to ensure that Adam gets his royalties each time. Pretty cool, right?

How NFTs encourage student creation

Moreover, students are another group of people in the digital education space that also create content — although it might not always be looked at as creation. Students create original content in classrooms — from writing programs or essays on a literary piece or art pieces in art class. These creations can quickly go unnoticed in all these different classes, but with NFTs, that does not need to be the case. To encourage student creation, students can turn their creative works into NFTs. Share their work digitally and maintain ownership of it (without any copyright infringements). If they even wish, they can turn these into pieces for sale as 12-year-old Benyamin Ahmed did. He created a collection of 3,550 whale-themed NFTs, dubbed “Weird Whales,” and within 9 hours, he sold these for $160,000. If students opt to sell their NFT creations, this can be an introductory lesson into an emerging digital economy.

Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels
NFTs will inspire creation — Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels

How NFTs capture valuable learning moments

Lastly, another way that NFTs can revolutionize Edtech is to capture moments in time. Let us backtrack and give some context to this point. Jack Dorsey, the CEO and co-founder of Twitter, tweeted his first tweet in 2006, saying, “just setting up my twittr.” That was an iconic moment because it was the beginning of a new era in social media. That moment is now captured in NFT. Yes, Jack Dorsey converted his first tweet (a pretty valuable one) and sold it for $2.9 million through an auction.

Let’s look at another example to make this clearer. The media powerhouse, CNN, has created “Vault by CNN,” which converts crucial historical moments from CNN’s archives to NFTs and is now being offered to CNN users. Each recipient of a “Moment” will own a digital copy of it for collectible purposes. In layman’s terms, these people own a moment in history that may either have monetary or intrinsic value.

Similarly, there are some highlights in the educational journey that a person would like to save. Imagine the first time a medical student completes a successful operation. Or the first time you wrote code, and it actually worked. All of these are learning moments you cherish and will want to keep. Now, NFTs remain in its entirety forever and cannot be imitated. Converting these moments into NFTs enhances the learning experience. It makes students eager to capture these moments, knowing it is stored in a secure digital manner. Students can also create a digital trophy case, so they can proudly show off all their most valuable learning moments in the future.

Remembering the benefits of NFTs in EdTech

Before we end, let’s highlight the key points we discussed. NFTs are making great strides in the technology space, and it has great potential once it enters the Edtech space. It will allow the content creators contributing to EdTech platforms to profit off their works even during resales. Also, potential employers are assured of the validity of credentials since they know that digital information cannot be tampered with. Moreover, students get to look forward to learning, knowing they can store content they create in classrooms, or if they opt to, sell them in the NFT marketplace. Lastly, the learning experience of a student, especially its highlights, can remain with a student forever and can be used to form a digital trophy case of their academic achievements forever. Although NFTs have begun to creep up in the educational sector, we are eagerly awaiting its total embrace in this sector and the positive and enhanced changes it will bring about.

About Chalkboard Education

Chalkboard Education provides a mobile-based, offline-first Learning Management System tailored for underserved communities’ training. Lightweight, inclusive, and complete with full analytics capabilities, Chalkboard Education helps you reach your beneficiaries everywhere in the World, seamlessly. Currently used in 12+ countries in Africa, South and North America, Chalkboard Education is available worldwide.

References

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