posted by on May 9th 2017 in business process & EdTech with 0 Comments

Today we dream of the future as much as we did at any other point in history. It is so close we can all practically taste it. Hoverboards, electric cars, total immersion VR, 3D Printing technology and space tourism with Elon Musk the planets real life Tony Stark. In the present, our boarders are relaxed and globalisation drives us to a one world economy and indeed a one world society, ultimately connected by the pervasive networking of the internet. Connected thinking if you like.

This was my view of the world up until Florida went red on the US voting map on November 8th 2016 and Donald Trump prepared his presidential acceptance speech. While Nigel Farage kept beating the war drum somewhere in the shadowy back halls of London and Washington.

But that is another piece for another time. What I want to talk about and get people thinking about, is how students are now travelling further afield to gain a better education and a better life.

More people, more education.

Over the next 90 years something interesting will happen. The world population will double going from 6 Billion today to 11.2 Billion in 2100. More here

The last time The World Bank made this type of population growth estimate, it was made in 1952 for the population in the year 2000, it was only wrong by 5%.

The world is seeing strained resources and demand for higher education skills and indeed vocational education is increasing significantly. Demand for greater healthcare, communications and technology are already highly strained areas with limitations to the number of people coming into the workforce. But where are the new volumes of skilled and professional people going to access education and up-skilling?

As the developing countries around the globe are brought forward with telecommunications, they have greater access to the internet, remote education and resources. This is where we see MOOCs (Massive Open Online  Courses) come into play. These courses are accessed from anywhere in the world through the internet; 3rd level learning through the web. It is a huge growth area and the market leaders are Coursera, Udacity and EdX. A large number of the ‘Brown Stone’ universities around the world are already offering distance learning online, such as Cambridge Assesments or OxfordX. Sort of an online franchise of their ‘Brownstone’ brands. 

In about half the cases with MOOC’s the courses are free. I think mention has to be made of Apples iTunes U– Which for years now has offered all accredited college course material open to internet users, including videos of all lectures and course materials. You can take a free course from MIT, Stanford or Harvard on there. You could start taking ANY Stanford course right now if you wanted.All you need is a laptop or iPad and iTunes installed.

The only drawback is you don’t get a degree at the end, but you might know how to build a spaceship. I’d rather have the spaceship. 

However unlike most MOOC’s, iTunesU does not offer any certification or credentials, badges or degrees; it merely shares the education for free. While we still have bricks and mortar universities, we are faced with the issue of student mobility….Getting out there to study, leaving home, integrating and getting out into the world to work.

Here is a really great interactive map showing where students go to study and where they come from. Clicking on the Middle eastern, Indian and African countries is quite interesting to see how much they travel. Map here 

Higher education and international study is a gateway.

75% of Indian students who completed university education in Australia in 2003 were granted permanent resident visas. It is clear to see that students need to get around and across borders to access a better education, essentially, access a better life. It is then acceptable that the competition is fierce for places to get accepted into these Universities. Students must act quickly, get applications completed with precision timing and share information with their prospects fast. But there is a factor that slows them down greatly. It is not visas, but their credentials – certificates, degrees, transcripts. 

Students are stuck with paper academic credentials. Their degrees are only available as a static piece of paper. The documents that decide if they get into the next university or job are still issued on paper

What I found when I first looked at EdTech in 2015, was a massive problem with what should be considered one of the most simple things. Documents. There are massive issues around student A from country X, moving to university B in country Y. What was worse, was that there were too many scattered players, all trying to solve this issue with segregated technology.

Let us say I complete 2nd year studies computer science in Trinity College Dublin. I wish to do a year studying abroad. I pick 10 universities around the world, sending applications to all 10. That is 10 copies of my transcripts from Trinity I have to get printed, stamped and mailed. Trinity look up my docs, print and send these to 10 universities around the world. Do all 10 get receive my credentials? How do I know if the recipients actually get them? When do I find out if they got them? How much will it cost me to call and confirm all of those universities? I hope they don’t put me on hold cause it could cost a fortune! Why can I not just email them a copy or photograph of my degree?

The cost of all this paper based activity? About €1,500 to the student.

Would it not be best if the university could issue me with a digital certified copy of my degree? Well, Digitary solve this problem. The leading player in the world for student credentials. A great company that enables the higher education, government and fortune 500 companies to securely send and receive these documents.

The driver – we need the real thing.

In Australia in 2015 it broke on the news that any individual could buy a forged degree from any university for AUD$6000. Great! I could be a real doctor for the price of a second hand car!

The negative impact of this type of fraud is multiple. Brand value of the university is shattered.

Would it not make sense that instead of printing out pieces of paper that have watermarks and low level security, that you encrypt your degrees and paper documents as digital. They become digitally portable? Think of those benefits. Instantly share your degrees, transcripts and other such credentials instantly with anyone in the world who is connected to the net? Verify someones credentials which have been sent to you as an encrypted original from the source agency. No more looking at scans, bringing specialist knowledge in, referencing other materials to check. Universities who do not use Digitary, spend thousands of dollars a year on specialist verification services validating degrees and transcripts from China, India, The US, The UK, everywhere.

About 3 years ago, when I returned from Beirut, Lebanon, I was looking to stay within the technology industry. To continue working where tech is disrupting a specific industry. I had spent the 3 years prior, bringing a technology to the oil industry for drilling engineers. After meeting the board of Digitary a few times, I initially thought – hmm, education, certificates, students? Where is the opportunity and is it interesting to me?

Jumping In!

I turned my technology focus to higher education after the first meeting with the Digitary board. I was unsure about the higher education sector having not earned  full degree myself, but if I knew anything, it is that technology disrupts in incredible deep and disruptive ways. While thinking about my involvement with Digitary, I had a look around at the space. There were simply TONS of problems waiting to be solved in the edtech document space, learning was very much moving online in 2014 and 2015 at an exponential rate and more and more students were travelling across boarders. But so many institutions were painfully doing things the old way. There was also a prevailing lack of leadership within the higher education space in general which slowed down some change process. 

Like the energy industry, adoption in the HE industry is slow. However it is changing. Our deals in Digitary with Australia and New Zealand proved this. Have a look at Universities Australia. A very progressive organisation which we successfully completed a deal with in Digitary. capturing 43 of the 47 universities in the region.

The HE sector is now, on a whole, moving from paper credentials to digital credentials and waking up to adopting technology as a friend rather than foe.

Digitary build and support software that gives universities and institutions a way to issue and verify students degrees, transcripts and other such documents online. For students, they benefit from their degrees, diplomas and transcripts becoming shareable web documents, verified from the university. Digitary is used by the globes top 10 universities for credential verification and or issuing students academic documents.

Digitary stats!

  • 1million documents severed and verified using Digitary.
  • 80 Institutional customers around the globe use Digitary to issue and verify credentials.
  • Digitary used by all of the globes top 10 colleges as rated by The University Rankings.
  • Digitary used by all of the UKs top 10 colleges as rated by The University Rankings.
  • Documents from Digitary used to verify credentials by US Military, Marines, Air Force and US Navy.
  • Documents verified by Fortune 500 companies.
  • Every single graduating Chinese student has their degree documents made available to send to third parties using Digitary, speeding up study abroad applications by Chinese students.
  • Digitary documents verified and accepted in 50 countries around the world (and growing)

I am going to follow up this piece with another article looking at another area of Edutech. The next piece will look more at the two sides of technology disruption of the space. On one side, we have huge innovation of the consumer and practitioner utility solutions, and on the other, we have a a data utilisation aspect. Looking at how people learn, and what is the value of analysing this. Hope you found some of this interesting. Thanks for reading.

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