Oral Roberts University: Digital Credentials via the Student Learning Record power by Blockchain-based technology

Located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oral Roberts University’s six colleges offer over 150 undergraduate and graduate programs, including four doctoral programs. The University has over 4,000 students in for-credit programs and over 4,500 certificate-seeking students. The students come from 121 different nations. Most recently, ORU ranked 4th in the United States for student engagement by the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Ed. Oral Roberts University offers the most comprehensive academic technology solutions to enhance the student experience. These solutions include augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, digital credentials, and research on one of higher education’s fastest supercomputers.

Dr. Kathaleen Reid-Martinez, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Oral Roberts University (ORU), envisioned the day that both technology and education could be fluidized. She knows that we live in a fluid world, with fluid economies, fluid governments, fluid pandemics, fluid education systems, and fluid jobs. “This means if we want to meet the needs of a fluid world, our education and technology needs to be nimble to flow with students,” she says. “We are all moving forward at a fast pace, and to just ‘do technology’ is the wrong approach. We have to creatively find ways to leverage technology that creates less confusion, ease of use, and make studies more gratifying.” Under Dr. Reid-Martinez’s vision and leadership, ORU received Ellucian’s 2018 EllumiNation Technology Award, which recognizes higher education visionaries driving transformative change. Dr. Reid-Martinez is aggressively advancing the University forward in several areas, including reaching students globally with ORU’s whole-person education.

The front cover of this edition shows Dr. Reid-Martinez passing the digital credential to 2021 ORU graduate Jordan Rollinson. Jordan is part of the first class to receive their digital diploma via the Student Learner Record (SLR) powered by PISTIS.IO, a blockchain delivery platform. PISTIS.IO provides ORU with the student learner record, which leverages blockchain technology to provide instant and secure access to students from all 121 countries. The Student Learner Record is a clear line in the sand that fulfills yet another ‘fluidity’ goal with Dr. Reid-Martinez’s vision.

‘It was amazing to share with many of my friends graduating from other colleges and universities, who are still waiting to get their official diploma.’

Jordan Rollinson was elated to receive his diploma immediately via a secure network on his smartphone. Jordan was able to immediately digitally forward his secure and now verifiable credential to his employer. What made this extra special was that Jordan’s employer happens to be Oral Roberts University. ORU has become one of the first private universities to have this ‘fluid’ capability that speeds up the employment and verification process. This kind of ingenuity has allowed ORU to maintain a 94% placement rate. Jordan stated ‘It was amazing to share with many of my friends graduating from other colleges and universities, who are still waiting to get their official diploma.’

ORU has been at the forefront of thought leadership regarding Blockchain technologies for the past two years. ORU has hosted numerous national conferences, issued some of the first Blockchain certificates for education, and invited to the U.S. Department of Education’s 2019 and 2020 Blockchain Summits. In 2020, Oral Roberts was one of a few universities interviewed by both the American Council on Education (ACE) and the U.S. Department of Education on digital credentials, leveraging Blockchain-based technology.

ORU has a passion for educating the 195 nations of the world. Even though they have seen the growth from 85 countries to 121 nations during the last six years, they know that only 6% of the entire world populace has any form of post-high school degree, diploma, or certificate. This small number is far from the 46.5% of U.S. citizens having a post-high school degree, diploma, or certificate. This realization has motivated Dr. Reid-Martinez to create a concept of ‘fluidity’ while levering Blockchain. She says very poignantly, “why can’t we imagine 90% of the world obtaining some form of education, knowledge, or intelligence as we integrate all the technologies to deliver and assess hundreds of modalities of education.”

As a Provost and SVP for Academic Affairs, Dr. Reid-Martinez has the perfect smell and vision for solutions that will finally deliver fluidity in a personal and adaptive manner. Once she saw the ability of Blockchain to provide at scale in a trusted and agile way — with global access and security — she knew they had finally hit pay dirt. ORU knows that transforming international education and technology into fluid modalities will require a trusted and fluid model for credentialing; thus, digital credentials use Blockchain technology.

Jordan Rollinson & Dr. Kathaleen Reid-Martinez

ORU has embraced the vision of the Provost but takes it from the realm of disruption for education into transformation for humanity. ORU has already tested and proven that with digital credentials, every citizen worldwide can own their own ‘personal value ledger’ that allows them to use augmented and virtual reality to take micro-bites out of their educational journey. With ORU’s digital credentials on the Student Learner Record, ORU can let anyone around the world leverage small pieces of intelligence and translate those into personal and adaptive learning experiences. This breakthrough gives hope to the 94% of the world who do not have post-high school experience. Without the ability to issue digital credentials in micro or macro fashion via a Blockchain-based technology, the vision would not be realized.

Dr. Reid-Martinez states, “Blockchain-based technology will allow the world to see a type of Education Vending Machine, whereby anyone with a computer, smartphone, tablet, or kiosk can insert their digital credit card and personalize their education journey. Thirty years ago, if you saw a Best Buy vending machine, it would seem out of place, but today it looks normal. It’s a great business move, but currently, it’s only about electronic devices. Eventually, you will be able to order courses from a reputable college or university, just like ordering products or services from a digital shopping cart or vending machine. Blockchain is essentially a digital vending machine, allowing people to shop and receive value from any organization worldwide. The time has come when people can take education anywhere globally, match their personalities and interests to their career choice, and order it from a digital vending machine. The difference between the Best-buy vending machine and ORU digital credentials is that the student credentials are securely and privately held in the Pistis.IO student learner record platform."

As Dr. Reid-Martinez looks into the future, the next major shift in fluidity will be a smart-space application. This application will allow every device and location to be used in a fluid manner to access the best in personalized learning. Students will interact with personal data, global communications, self-navigation, self-help, data analytics, music, video, education, fitness, artificial intelligence, and robotic functionality will be the glass mirror. “The new form-factor of a glass mirror has all the attributes to make it the single largest shift in human-to-digital-and-visual interaction,” says Dr. Reid-Martinez. “The glass mirror combined with the small new computer design hidden within the mirror frame has made significant advancements in personal fitness by combining the mirror, smartphone, and wearable watch.” All three synchronized together to provide a premier digital experience that accesses personal data, AI, machine learning data, personal trainers, eCourses, and text to speech narration.

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