The American Council on Education (ACE) and the U.S. Department of Education have launched a $900,000 competition, the Blockchain Innovation Challenge, to identify solutions that harness the potential of distributed ledger technology to help underserved learners take control of and communicate their skills. In the wake of Covid-19, this challenge is intended to help individuals “bridge the divide between educational experiences and economic opportunity.”

The Blockchain Innovation Challenge calls for teams to design Learner and Employment Record (LER) pilots that empower all learners, unlock lifelong learning, and improve economic mobility.

This challenge is the second stage of the U. S. Department of Education’s Education Blockchain Initiative, which explores how nascent technology can be harnessed to boost opportunities for underserved populations by enabling individual ownership and use of education records. Teams who respond to the challenge must address three important characteristics of an ecosystem-first design approach: building community and consensus through networks of institutions and organizations; interoperability; and open designs that leverage open data standards and protocols. 

Credential Engine supports this challenge by enabling interoperability, providing metadata standards and schemas for the exchange of credential and competency data between employers, credentialing organizations, learners and workers. The white paper Understanding Interoperability for Education Blockchains, which Credential Engine contributed to, provides an overview of ecosystem-wide use cases and multiple types of standards supporting interoperability for LERs. 

Learning and Employment Records benefit from being designed and implemented using the Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL) so that credential, competency, and related data included in the records are meaningful, comparable, machine actionable, and discoverable on the Web. Challenge projects can use the CTDL and data from the Credential Registry for effective communications and consensus in LER ecosystems, such that learners, workers, employers, and credentialing organizations are all using the same language for a shared understanding of what learners know and can do. Credential Engine provides a range of resources to support LER ecosystems:

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