A group of Oxford professors have set out to disrupt the traditional academic system, planning to launch the world’s first blockchain-based, decentralised university.
The brainchild of Joshua Broggi, a member of Oxford University’s Faculty of Philosophy, Woolf Development (the platform is dubbed ‘Woolf’) seeks to gain full EU degree-granting powers in what Broggi has unabashedly compared to ‘Uber for students, Airbnb for professors’.
Built around traditional Oxford University course structure, Woolf would operate as a “geographically agnostic” platform, allowing students to work through individual modules available both online and offline.
While remote courses are not something new, however, blockchain technology will provide a logistical backbone for decentralised governance, data security and even as a replacement for intermediaries.
“We use a blockchain to create efficiencies by managing custodianship of student tuition, enforcing regulatory compliance for accreditation, and automating a number of processes,” Broggi told Forbes, adding that the technology would allow for “borderless” tutorship to international students.
“Our blockchain-enforced accreditation processes are such that teachers and students from outside the EU can join our platform and earn a full EU degree – a non-EU student with a non-EU teacher in a non-EU language,” he said.
Smart contracts, meanwhile, would be used to grant micro credits to students based on progress and attendance, and payment to tutors, which could amount to an estimated $50k – $100k (£38k – £75k) for teaching a normal class load through the platform.
That fee is based on the projected $400 (£301) cost-per-tutorial at the platform’s first college Ambrose planned to roll out in Autumn this year; at about half the cost of a traditional degree, however, and eliminating many of the administrative overheads, the result is an attractive salary for tutors, and lower-cost alternative for students.
One of the additional draws of blockchain technology is that it will be easier for outside sources to check and verify degrees, preventing false certificate claims and protecting students whose universities may have closed – particularly important given the global breadth of Woolf’s ambitions, says Broggi.
“We are using a blockchain to enforce regulatory compliance and provide high degrees of data security, so that regulators have the confidence to provide global teaching activities with accreditation in Europe.
“So a Woolf student in Madras with a Woolf teacher in New York will earn an EU Woolf degree.”