Students who complete a number of Duke engineering courses through the Coursera online learning platform will receive a copy of their certificate as a Non-Fungible Token – or NFT. The course instructor says this will be the future of training certification.
The unique digital token is earned through the completion of a series of courses on blockchain technology taught by Jimmie Lenz, who leads the Financial Technology Engineering MSc and Engineering Cybersecurity MSc at Pratt School of Engineering, where he is a director in residence. .
Lenz, a financial technology, capital markets and banking expert, spoke to Duke Today about NFTs and what the future looks like for this type of technology.
Here are the quotes:
Q: Students in your blockchain technology class on Coursera receive their certificates as NFT – Non-Fungible Token. How is this better than a traditional paper certificate, and what are the limitations, if any, with paperwork on this form?
LENZ: Consider a paper diploma, can you use it to show the employer that you have truly graduated from an institution? Probably not, after all, anyone can make a good copy of a paper diploma, right? How does an employer know if it is legitimate? What usually happens is that you have to pay for an official copy from a university registrar and this is only valid for about a month.
An NFT, on the other hand, cannot be modified; is “incomparable” or unique. It is very easy to verify because an employer can go online and see that an NFT has been sent to the applicant’s address from the school’s wallet address. It may also contain certain metadata that provides additional details. There are a few limitations on what can be placed in an NFT.
Q: Is the key advantage here portability, security, both, or something else entirely?
LENZ: The security aspect is extremely important to everyone involved. After stories about Coursera course NFTs surfaced, I was baffled by stories from employers about diploma and experience fraud that were so real and costly.
Q: How is this different from a simple scanned image of a paper document?
LENZ: These NFTs are unique. The code has been changed so that it cannot be transferred even from the original wallet they were delivered to. Making them non-transferable is another element of security. The other element is the metadata I mentioned before; What if schools place NFT in every class taken after a student gives permission? That way, an employer will know not only that you’ve earned a particular degree, but also the courses you’ve taken. Frankly, this is a big difference from a paper diploma.
And here’s another important thing, what do most people do with a diploma? Frame it and hang it correctly? With an NFT you can embed it on your LinkedIn profile or other social media. Try doing this with a pdf.
Q: Do you feel a desire or demand for this type of technology from companies, universities or other institutions where students who complete your course can share their certificates? For example, if you are an employer, what is the benefit?
LENZ: I have heard from all three of these, students, employers, and schools. The students were ecstatic as they took the NFTs; It was a complete surprise that they didn’t know he was coming until I told them to check their wallets. Next up were employers; They wanted NFTs that carried diplomas and certificates as well as work experience – basically a replacement for a CV to try to reduce exaggerated or bogus information.
Q: You wrote an article on this topic where you argue that universities can explore this world of digital degrees and NFTs as a way to connect with alumni networks. Do you think that university graduates will soon hope that such documents will come from the schools they graduated from in this way? And how else could a university use this technology to interact with its students and alumni?
LENZ: I certainly will. You’ve seen how NFTs explode in popularity, and we haven’t really scratched the surface of the utility here. Only a few schools will have to adopt it before employers start demanding them.
But this is also an opportunity to stay connected with students and alumni. It’s a permanent wallet address id, unlike your school email, which many schools close after a year (I have no idea why they did this). Schools can use it for any kind of engagement. From alumni events to fundraising, there really is little to no limit. For example, how cool would it be to send an NFT with a short video embedded and a final message from Coach K to all graduates?
Blockchain technology has already changed the world. Not everything will pop up as technology proliferates, but some things will become second nature, like the internet or cell phones. You can lead the adoption or drift, but either way, the adoption will happen.