Graduates from McMaster University’s Faculty of Engineering will be making history when they accept their degrees later this month.
More than 940 students will receive the institutions first-ever digital diploma following their convocation ceremonies.
The pilot project marks a first for any major Canadian post-secondary institution. A handful of American universities, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), have already begun issuing digital degrees.
A free app called Blockcerts will allow the students to carry and securely validate their credentials through their phones.
The app was built by MIT and is anchored by bitcoin blockchain technology which is a secure ledger.
Blockcerts uses bitcoin transactions to publish publicly accessible proof that a student’s degree was issued by McMaster. The proof is a digitally signed hash similar to a unique fingerprint. Once published in the bitcoin blockchain, it can be instantly verified and never changed.
“Once we give the credential, students own that credential on the blockchain platform. They can share it or keep it private. When they share it with employers, employers have an immediate link to verify the credential – it takes the middleman out of the equation,” said McMaster’s dean of engineering Ishwar K. Puri in a news release.
Puri said it was important for the faculty to invest in digital diplomas to stay at the forefront of innovation.
“Just as society is innovating and business is innovating, higher education must also innovate,” he said.
The online version is a digital replica of a printed McMaster diploma, which students will also receive.