Can Blockchain Technology Facilitate Unbundling of Higher Education
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In spite of the technological advancements we are surrounded with on a daily basis, the current higher education ecosystem is still lagging behind in terms of innovation and continues to function in a tightly bundled operation. Educational experts have stressed upon the need for reforming the higher education system in order to better fulfil the needs of its main consumer: the student. Unbundling aspects of higher education has been recognized as one such idea that can possibly result in universities reinventing themselves for the benefit of all stakeholders involved. At the same time, researchers have singled out blockchain technology as an emerging technology that has the potential of reforming current social systems. The launch of the EU Blockchain Observatory in February 2018 is one of the major indications that reflect the nature of interest in the potential of blockchain. Due to its capability to break the existing barriers of a trust less society and to provide a decentralized, transparent and secure method of handling any kind of transactions, blockchain technology could be used to unbundle aspects of higher education. There is a noticeable lack of empirical research when it comes to the use of blockchain technology in the higher education sector, specifically related to unbundling. The main goal of this research is to understand if blockchain has the capability of facilitating unbundling of the higher education sector. In order to get a holistic view of the current ecosystem, a literature review was conducted regarding the problems surrounding the current higher education system along with the possibility of an unbundled education system in solving those problems. The literature review further included an analysis of blockchain as a technology and the current practical applications in the higher education already in motion in different parts of the world. Subsequently, semi-structured interviews were conducted with experts in the field of higher education as well as blockchain technology. The literature review and the results of the data analysis shed light on how unbundling should be brought about in the higher education sector. Adoption barriers with reference to blockchain technology in the context of unbundling higher education were revealed and discussed. As a result of this study, it was concluded that unbundling could possibly be instrumental in solving the numerous problems plaguing the higher educator sector today however, there has to be a balance between the traditional mode of education and the new modular amendments that are made in the process of unbundling. The capability of blockchain technology was identified as being just right to facilitate the unbundling of higher education. However, a number of technological, cultural and political and regulatory barriers were identified that could prevent the adoption of a blockchain based solution for higher education.