E-Certification Project: University Credentials Using Blockchain (Bitcoin) Technology

By: M. Yassine EL BAHLOULI, MBA, IT Eng  &  Dr. Justin Longo
Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS) – University of Regina

Version 0.5 – Date: October 12, 2016

Universities operate in an inter-organizational and international context, with faculty, administrators, but especially students moving frequently between campuses and across borders. Approximately 3% of new students admitted to Canadian universities this year will have earned their previous degree from a foreign institution. Approximately 10% of students graduating from Canadian schools apply to universities across provincial boundaries. Another important percentage of degree recipients will go on to a subsequent degree at another university in the same province.

In these cases, a common requirement in the application process is authenticating the student’s claims as to credentials and performance, typically reflected in diplomas and official transcripts. This is a reasonable requirement, as prior grades and degrees earned is a core part of the university admission process, where the host institution satisfies itself – and future employers and educational institutions – that the student has completed the course and degree requirements they claim they have.

However, , sharing official credentials can be a challenging, time-intensive and expensive undertaking, usually requiring payment-for-services to the prior institution for sending physical copies of degrees and transcripts directly to the applicant university. . This paper-based, physical verification of credentials process is often slow, complicated, expensive, and frustrating.

Beyond the challenge, time and cost of having official records sent from one institution to another, other problems with the current system of credentials and verification exist. Lifelong learners have no meaningful way to insert the wider array of experiences and achievements into their official academic record. Displaced peoples (refugees) can lose access to their academic history and have no way of proving their qualifications (e.g.,. doctors or lawyers). Discontinuities in institutions (e.g., as a result of war, regime change, and organizational demise) can leave students without an authoritative organization of record. Employers have given up asking for transcripts to be sent (too difficult, slow, and increasingly less relevant). Colleges and Universities wait too long for official documents to arrive during admissions and spend too much effort trying to connect them with the right application.

We propose a solution that allows organizations to upload to a publicly accessible and secure database the credentials and transcripts of students and graduates in their organizations, that can then be accessed by any other organization or individual the student wishes to grant access to. With this solution, the problems pointed to above can be solved when individuals are empowered to be their own record keepers and when the database (the blockchain) is not owned by any company or government.


Then, the necessity of an online solution allowing education providers, employers, and others to issue official certificates that supply proof of membership, completion, or achievement.

These certificates can be collected by individuals and shared directly with anyone who requires official documents.

The disruptive benefit of Blockchain Technology is that it is useful as a decentralized permanent unalterable store of all types of information, not just for currencies.

The Open Platform “https://proofofexistence.com/” (1) provides a very complete solution to “anonymously and securely store an online distributed proof of existence for any document”.

We can store a cryptographic digest of the file, linked to the time of submission of the document, the can later certify that the data existed at that time.

The key advantages are anonymity, privacy, and getting a decentralized proof that can not be erased or modified by anyone. The document’s existence is permanently validated by the Blockchain even if this site is compromised or down.

Then any University could issue academic certificates whose authenticity can be verified through the Bitcoin Blockchain.

We can set these main points as the initial conception of this solution:

  • The Platform would involve no other solutions other than the Blockchain

  • The Platform would allow someone to authenticate a University certificate, Transcript or Diploma without having to contact this University.

  • The Platform would allow someone to complete the process even if the University no longer existed

  • The Platform would not only to ensure that Credentials can be verified but also that there is no way to copy the whole process and create a set of inauthentic certificates.

As for the Design of the Platform, we propose to consider the hashes and especially the algorithm SHA-256 used in the Bitcoin protocol.

For the indexation, we have to make an index document containing all the hashes of all the certificates and hash the index document and enter that hash into the Blockchain.

The public access, and in order to have a decentralized process, we can distribute the index to our students and acknowledging the hash through social Medias and Websites.

Thus to verify a credential, the user has to:

  • Produce a SHA-256 hash of the PDF certificate to be authenticated

  • Search for the certificate’s SHA-256 hash within the authenticated index document. If the hash code is found, then the certificate is authentic

API Developer : https://proofofexistence.com/developers
http://cyrilgrunspan.fr/index.php/2016/08/06/la-solution-de-paymium-au-probleme-de-la-certification-des-diplomes-des-etudiants-de-lesilv/ : In French, very interesting and detailed example.
http://diploma.report/ : Open Software (Platform)
http://certificates.media.mit.edu/ and http://www.blockcerts.org/: MIT MEDIA LAB OPEN SOURCED PROJECT (ON GOING)
https://medium.com/mit-media-lab/what-we-learned-from-designing-an-academic-certificates-system-on-the-blockchain-34ba5874f196#.9fhcr3k7g: MIT Media LAB Blog Articles

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