Papercut is a wound caused by a piece of paper. Truth be told, it is not one of our main safety concerns, we all get them from time to time. A freshly minted chequebook, the glossy sheets of a magazine and a crisp new visiting card can all be treacherous to our fragile digits.
As we look to use less paper each year, due to ever-increasing digital uptake, our chances of getting paper cuts diminish. Digital information such as newspapers and degree certificates now carry a different danger – the risk of a data breach.
Recently, UK students receiving their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) results were warned not to share images of their certificates online by fraud expert Robert Brooker. Fraudsters use the information on the certificates to create fake certificates that can be bought for as little as £7.
In an age where credential manipulation and fake certificates are wreaking havoc, the impact felt by students, recruiters and learning providers can be painful. So, now is the time institutes should be turning to the security and convenience offered by secure digital certificates.
It is surprising, considering the prevalence of digital in everyday life, from banking, to online learning courses and online exams, why institutes seem hesitant to turn a page (no pun intended) when it comes to digital certificates.
Paper-based certificates: just an old habit.
In a nutshell, most institutes and recruiters are in the habit of using paper-based certificates as proof of credentials. Consisting of unique identification numbers, holograms and issuing body attestations, paper certificates have been viewed as tokens of trust for a long time. They are often considered a matter of pride too, with degree certifications often displayed on office and home walls.
However, there are many problems associated with paper-based certifications. Firstly, there is the issue of data privacy. These certificates often have to be transferred across multiple administrative bodies, and so the issuer and student have no control over access or read and write rights. Moreover, there is a chance that credentials can be mistakenly or purposely tampered with. This can be done by the administrators, or the students themselves.
Labor intensive manual tasks
Besides the issues of tampering, there is a huge amount of manual effort involved with paper certificates. They have to be printed, signed and issued and are then physically transferred amongst issuers, learning bodies, students and recruiters. This is a challenge in terms of time, especially now when everything is happening at the speed of a click.
Users of digital certificates save a massive amount of time associated with the making, sharing, validating and correcting of certificates. Plus, institutions using digital certifications say they save up to 60% on certification costs.
Lastly, candidates also have to hold on to their paper certificates for life. Whereas digital certificates are easy to store and share via email.
Technical barriers to the widespread adoption of digital certificates
There can be barriers to entry. Every institute or certificate issuing body has the student/credential data, but what is currently lacking is the means to publish/award the digital certificates. Now, certificate issuing bodies can transfer the burden of awarding digital certificates to secure, blockchain-based emerging platforms.
The platforms built on blockchain are simple. Not only will they help in issuing digital certificates securely, but it will also help track and verify the issued certificates.
Why choose a blockchain-based platform?
Digital Certificates issued on a blockchain-based platform can make a huge difference to institutes. When receiving the credential data from awarding bodies, the data is encrypted onto the blockchain. Once this is done, unalterable links are created between a student’s achievement and his/her credentials. This makes the certificates tamper-proof. Also, in terms of access to data:
- The certificate issuing body has the read and write access to credential data
- Candidates have only read, share and verify access (to prevent misrepresentation of credentials)
- Recruiters have read and verify access given by the candidate (allowing them to verify credentials instantly).
The contents of a digital certificate are not far off from their paper-based counterparts. In addition to credential-related information, they contain a link and QR code for verification.
Moreover, as any digital artefact can be encrypted on blockchain, it becomes possible to include documents that contain evidence of continued learning. This would enable micro-credentialing, as students can support their expertise of specific courses with mini/sub-certificates. A great benefit indeed for students and recruiters in these times of niche skill requirements!
Also read: Industry 4.0: Time for MORE Education, with MORE Variety, for MORE People https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/industry-4-0-time-for-more-education-with-more-variety-for-more-people/
Furthermore, Blockchain technology platforms remove the need for middle-men. Students can directly receive their certifications from the issuing administrative body, and this again reduces the chances of their certificates being tampered with. It basically ensures that the process of issuing or sharing certificates is transparent and super secure. This would certainly build confidence between all parties concerned in the educational-professional axis. It also ensures ease of operations related to credential validations and background checks, in times where contract workers are in great demand.
The benefits are many, digital certificates will revolutionise the education sector and level the playing field for recruiters, students and imminent training institutes alike.
If you have any questions or would like to simply know more you can contact Certif-ID here.
Author: Mike Wild, Certif-ID