Fake diplomas and embellished work experience are a bigger problem than you might realize. There are a growing number of websites offering counterfeit degree certificates, from made-up universities. BBC research found one website had made over 200,000 fake certificates in 2015, making over £37 million in the process.
What’s more, the e-learning market is booming. It’s expected to be valued at over $300 million dollars by 2025. Yet its qualification award system is fragmented, insecure, and difficult to verify. How can hiring employers trust people have actually completed the online courses they claim to?
Well, a new startup hailing from Palo Alto is facing these challenges head on, and it’s doing it with the blockchain. Founded by Berkeley Blockchain Lab co-founder Steve Chen, EchoLink is aiming to be the first company to use the decentralized technology to create a platform that can verify university degrees, employment history, and other professional credentials.
EchoLink believes the blockchain can help build institutional trust, by using the blockchain’s immutability and time stamping functions. Their EkoLink Service is trying to provide employers and recruiters with trusted information about a person’s employment history, their degree, and other skills they may have gained over the course of their career.
EkoLink Service does this by enabling recognized institutions like universities, employers, educators, and training services to upload source-verified credentials about an individual after they successfully obtain a new qualification. The information will be time stamped and any changes that are made to a qualification are linked to creating a historical chain of education.
To try and create a truly international decentralized system, open to the world, EchoLink has chosen to run on more than oone public blockchain — Ethereum and NEO to be specific.
So how does it work?
Say a student graduated from Harvard University with a degree in International Business in July 2014. Afterwards, they went on to work for a tech startup in San Francisco from August 2014 until September 2016, and then went back to study an MBA at London Business School until September of the following year. Let’s also assume they did some vocational training during their career, like learning to code.
On EkoLink, Harvard could upload the degree certificate, what was achieved, and when it was awarded. The San Francisco-based startup could upload the job title, responsibilities, and when they joined and left their business. London Business School could upload the MBA qualifications. And the online academy, could verify what coding courses were completed.
Ultimately, when this information is used by employers from all over the world, they can trust it hasn’t been embellished, inflated, or illegitimately adjusted.
While EchoLink can store grades, degrees, and certificates in a protected and secure blockchain-based platform, it’s also developing a platform to provide these documents to employers to help people find jobs and get paid..
EchoLink’s payment system uses its Eko token to incentivize education institutions to upload credentials about its students. Hiring business can use EchoLink to find appropriate candidates, paying a fee to access their full list of credentials. These fees are then used to reward the institutions that upload information about their students.
The theory goes that because the information stored on EchoLink can be trusted, it’s more valuable than a possibly-embellished, self-written CV; in the long run it’ll be cheaper for the hiring business in that it saves time and resources to find the right candidate. It also reduces the risk of hiring someone who isn’t fully equipped for the job.