When students excel in their homework, they are given all kinds of certificates and trophies by teachers and coaches. Straight As on a report card can lead to praise and privileges, and are often a source of bragging rights among friends. But good grades often become irrelevant when a young adolescent finally graduates from school and encounter the vastly different challenges that the real world presents.
Believe it or not, the educational system's traditional reward systems could change thanks to blockchain technology and alt-coins.
One startup, Knowledge.io, wants to award tokens to people who attain high Knowledge Scores. But unlike academic points systems, these blockchain-supported tokens can carry monetary value that high achievers can store and spend as they wish in compensation for mastering a subject. A Knowledge Score is a measure of proven knowledge or skill in a wide variety of topics.
"Greater engagement and insight into the knowledge of your audience is at the core of all great communication and satisfaction measurement initiatives," says Marcia Hales, one of the co-founders of Knowledge.io. If it gains adoption in the marketplace, Knowledge tokens could transform the $2 trillion higher education market by restructuring the incentives for learning.
Currently, there are barriers to monetization given that the educational system, with its entrenched special interests and political alliances, is highly resistant to change. Unless of course you're a top scholar with access to scholarships, in which case the money come in each semester to pay for classes and personal expenses.
Enter Knowledge.io. Its founders propose to create revenue streams for those who have proven their mettle in acquiring topical expertise — mastery of a relevant subject that publishers, advertisers, recruiters, local governments and other stakeholders would find valuable.
In academia, there are many possibilities that can make token incentives work. A Harvard study from a few years ago found enormous learning gains by elementary students who were given cash for excelling in reading and math. The study also found that the learning gains were acquired at relatively low cost.
Here are some key considerations.
What if school districts, community colleges or job training centers set aside a yearly budget for cash or token rewards? Wouldn't such market incentives motivate parents and students to strive for achievement? In essence, a token rewards system gamifies an important area — the acquisition of discipline and industriousness — that lead to subject matter expertise. Many more students could acquire desired habits that would likely steer them away from a life of unemployment and crime. Thus, proponents argue, the reduced long-term social costs incentivize local governments, school districts and job training centers to grow the practice, so long as entrenched interests do what's right for communities instead of their own pockets.
Here are other examples of token use. Schools and colleges can partner with companies to leverage the Knowledge Score blockchain. For instance, book publishers can use the insights of (verified) scholars to create better content. Advertisers (such as prep providers and tutoring services) can work with the best students to optimize their products and services for the benefit of all students. A verification system makes such partnerships easier.
Educational quality can also improve. For example, teachers and professors can get tested for their subject matter expertise. Unfortunately, the power of unions have skewed assessments of teacher effectiveness. But Knowledge Scores can help school districts and colleges identify and retain the best talent, and get rid of the bad apples who are not performing to standard. Why not reward the best teachers for proving their expertise?
Knowledge.io is in the process of launching their ICO.