This research has four main objectives, as stated in the research methodology earlier. In our study to each of these areas, we will include several parts. Each research objective includes several discussion points where we will contribute to. In the 1st part, we will add to the research findings and discuss it further. This contribution will be incorporated from previous experience, online resources related to the same topic, field case studies and learning materials. In the 2nd part, we will be comparing some opinions obtained from the interview responses. In the 3rd part, we will be suggesting several solutions that will help to implement the Blockchain technology while indicating the ability to use similar emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence & machine learning. In the 4th part, we will discuss real case studies and scenarios that applied this specific research objective in a real-world example.
3.1. Discussions of the Results Pertaining to the Utilization of Blockchain Technology to Reduce the Costs of Student Record Archiving
The questions in the block focus on users’ impressions of the student record archiving systems they already use at their institutions and their expectations for the future and possible implementation of the BC system.
The interpretation of these results will give us answers to different objectives raised in the study. In the first place we see that both students and administrative staff of educational institutions and external personnel, all of them, when asked about current archiving technology systems or the possible implementation of BC technology, focus their interest on the satisfaction of the student, who is actually the ultimate recipient of the services offered by these institutions.
3.1.1. Student Records Archiving Methods
The Ministry of Education requires the higher education institutions to keep a physical hard copy of the student records archived. This involves printing the complete file of the student as well as any service request processed under his/her name. It is often required to refer to a student’s record to check on specific information. To ease the process, some education institute tries to add the student online system to the process. This gives them the ability to generate reports, get contact information and check previous records. The use of both methods will allow the organization to comply with the requirements of the ministry of education while making the process of checking student records smooth.
There is a risk of losing data and information that is stored in the public folder. This creates a critical position for the organization where they may lose the trust element to the university. Additionally, this will lower the level of student satisfaction towards the university. As some universities depend on “word of mouth instead of their marketing activities”, this is a potential risk that the student will not recommend the university to their friends/family.
The level of manual work involved in this process opens a window for human mistakes. Since there is no specific format to follow, the information stored on the system may be inconsistent. Additionally, this method will not track the changes made by the staff. Although the personnel may be authorized to access the information on the public folder, they may change the information on the system and no log file will track such changes.
Education institutes tend to migrate their information to ERP systems. “Electronic records management systems help manage the extensive information needed to plan and make well-informed decisions” [2
]. Oracle PeopleSoft is known for its ability to provide a unique user experience for both; students and the administration staff. Other technology concepts could be adopted, such as Artificial Intelligence, face recognition and Blockchain. This helps to verify the academic records of the student making it reliable and genuine to use.
Additionally, it could help to conduct process like marking attendance without the need to print any documents using the artificial intelligence concept. Online ERP systems may provide another value for different departments across the organization. An employer may study inside the same university they work in. There will be one profile created for one person with two separate identities.
This is the least likely method to be used by the university. It requires document printing and archiving them to the manual system in the filing room. Similar to the public folder method, administration staff will not be able to generate reports or validate missing documents from the student. Every time the student needs to check, update his/her information, the Administration staff has to check in the filing room and find out the requested information. This will increase the manual work involved and as a result, increase the chances of human mistakes.
3.1.2. Ability to Generate Operational Reports for Other Departments
The student administration department is the entity whiten the university that holds the student academic information, complete service requests, and process academic forms. In case other department needs a report for their references, they will need to approach the student administration department and based on the required request, the head of the student services will decide to proceed or not. This may consume time and efforts that are needed to complete the request. Student administration may need higher management to continue with some applications. In some cases, students may miss the opportunity to get a scholarship or accreditation because of their requests not being processed on time. This creates unsatisfactory feedback to the student and put the university in a situation where they need to compensate the student. This increases the resources allocated which could be used for other similar tasks.
With the use of technology, the administration team may create an online workflow that follows specific steps. The main benefit here is an instance. The student administration department may be able to track student requests without interfering with them. The efforts made by the administration staff could be used in other tasks that require critical thinking. Such requests may include Appeal requests, credit transfer, dissertation registration, and official letters.
Research in other futuristic technology concepts has shown significant benefits to complete a structured process. Artificial Intelligence may be used to detect student’s request and advise the proper procedure to complete it. Additionally, it may help to identify mistakes that are more likely to happen and fix the workflow without human assistance.
3.1.3. Effects of Using Blockchain Technology to Reduce the Cost of Student Records Archiving
The operating cost required to complete activities associated with student records archiving could be reduced. This is an essential area that business leaders look to generally. Instead of printing documents, hiring extra staff members & spending efforts to complete basic processes, once the record is created using the Blockchain technology and encrypted, there will be no need to verify this information, print the record or use efforts from staff members to follow up on it like entering data by mistake, correcting information related to student and generating reports required for higher management.
Our only participant who didn’t agree on Blockchain to reduce the operating cost of maintaining the student records specified his opinion because of the initial cost associated with such technology. This cost is required for staff training, research, and development, errors that may occur long the implementation process and cost of uncertainty in which the staff tends to stay in the comfort zone.
I do believe that every new technology requires investing in it if the expected ROI is high. In the case of new technology like Blockchain and after understanding the main requirements of the education sector, we could conclude that it has a positive impact on saving the cost of the daily operations for educational institutes. Blockchain will cut efforts needed to complete the same process manually, enhance the usability of the information by making it reliable and provide security. Additionally, Blockchain provide a way to report to other entities with the need for human efforts.
As five of our participants agreed on the idea of using the Blockchain to reduce the time needed to complete a process, this is because the information will be verified once encrypted. Meaning, the student administration department will no longer need to check records, contact other organizations or request the student to send any document. This will cut the processing time required to finish a particular task.
From a managerial perspective, staff should use the total 8 h associated with work effectively with quality of work. Managers do calculate the time needed for each process and try to find effective ways to finish it.
Two applicants didn’t expect the Blockchain to change the process and reduce the time needed to finish tasks. Since it is a new technology, the staff has to dedicate time to learn new concepts to apply technology. Additionally, they may make mistakes which will cost extra time to fix, however, completing the task without the technology has more risks and it was tested before.
I do believe that business has a more significant margin for errors. Managers can accept a higher number of mistakes if the new method is expected to provide them with higher ROI.
3.2. Discussions of the Results Pertaining to Utilization of Blockchain Technology to Enhance the Integrity of Student Records
As we said before, the student, as the ultimate user of the services of these institutions, occupies a central place in the responses of the respondents on the integrity of the records. Complete records not only facilitate administrative procedures, saving time and money but also increase student satisfaction and improve the image of the educational institution.
The words that often follow are all the words on which the questions revolve, so, logically, they appear frequently.
However, we are struck by the appearance of words such as records, staff, time and access, which in the previous question, for example, came in positions after 50 in terms of frequency.
When asked about the integrity of records, students and administrators understand the vital role of the administrative staff of the institutions as regards the integrity of records, access to them, and the time invested in the operations of recording, accessing, modifying and maintaining them.
3.2.1. The Current Implementation of the Blockchain to Maintain Records Integrity
Three participants reported that they currently use the Blockchain technology to preserve the integrity of the student records. Information integrity is the state where the information of the student records is whole and complete. Four main elements ensure data integrity [9
On the other hand, two participants didn’t agree of using the Blockchain technology at the moment because it is a new technology concept and it requires more time to prove its reliability. They needed a ready and proven technology instead. They are using other methods to keep track of the integrity of the student records. However, I believe that traditional ways to do such a process will involve a considerable risk they may happen and could allow staff to make mistakes.
Ensuring the integrity of the student records will help to save money and time in several dimensions, especially in a country like the UAE. There are several initiatives which were launched to put the UAE at the forefront of other countries. Area 2071 is founded to invest in research and development to make the UAE the best country in the world by the year 2071 (100 years post the independence of the United Arab Emirates). Several jobs were created in many fields that target primary services such as education, transportation, water & electricity, and many more. This requires everyone who is working in any of these areas to have the knowledge and the competencies required. Assuring the integrity of the academic records will help support these objectives and initiatives.
3.2.2. Challenges Occurred to Maintain the Integrity of the Student Records
Several mistakes were reported in our interviews. Information was shared with unauthorized parts who had access to change them. This has a substantial potential risk towards the image of the organization in the community, especially education organizations.
Blockchain will help in the resolution of many issues faced by our administrative staff in educational organizations. The majority of these mistakes are human-based. Automated processes have better ability to satisfy the business needs with fewer errors.
These human mistakes could be the cases like entering information by mistake, changing existing record unintendedly and misleading the correct student profile. Since there is a manual process involved, there is a high percentage of errors to happen. Additionally, in case there are several parts involved in the process, the probability of error increases due to different thinking concepts. Adding to this, at the early stage of implementation, staff could make a mistake without knowing the proper process.
Another percentage of errors may occur because of the wrong way of setting up the system. A general rule of thumb instructs us to understand the business processes before we implement the system itself. Assuring that the system implementation stage is correctly reflecting what a business process is a key to the success of investing in the system. Several technologies were initiated and didn’t continue because the users didn’t understand the implementation concept.
The technology implementations are enormous. P#02 mentioned that using today’s technology, the student may be able to print a graduation certificate and falsify the signature on it. It will look like the real signature in the case of using laser printers. Also, online records may be tempered to reflect false information. From this perspective, we need to adopt a way to verify online information ensuring that they are correct and up to date.
3.2.3. The Ability of Blockchain to Maintain the Integrity
The Blockchain technology can enhance the functionality of the student records archiving, allowing it to be safe and secure to be shared with the authorized parts only. This is because of maintaining a high level of confidentiality that keeps the students’ records accessible to ecosystem parties. While satisfying the condition of student records integrity that keeps the whole of the record and correct.
Blockchain Technology will increase the level of student satisfaction by transferring the daily services required by the students to instant and accurate results. This helps to promote the concept of student happiness and helps to implement its effects. Blockchain will be enhancing the trust element allowing the parties who are participating in the same ecosystem to transact safely. This supports the four main part that consists of the integrity factor. We will need to authorize any node before allowing them to access the ecosystem. We will use the permission list access to enable them to contribute and participate.
In a recent study which was conducted by the Ministry of Education and published by Emirates Al-Youm newspaper, the current job market in the UAE has an attractive environment for many employees who would like to work and live in the UAE. In several occasions, those employees would falsify their education degrees to get accepted to their jobs. To maintain a strong level of education in the UAE, several governmental organizations require the employee to apply for the equivalency application in which may take several efforts, as stated earlier.
Nowadays, we live in a fast-changing world where data represent the basis of everything. It is vital to ensure the integrity of the data stored. For instance, this data could be used to take sensitive decisions or forecast future scenarios before they happen. In a business perspective, this helps to reach the organization’s goals.
As the technology is still new, touching on its value might be a challenge due to investing lots of time for research and development. For its benefits to be revealed, the implementation plan has to be very careful to address the business requirements to avoid spending double the time needed.
3.3. Discussions of the Results Pertaining to the Utilization of Blockchain Technology to Enhance the Confidentiality of Student Records
We see how, with the introduction of questions about confidentiality, the words access and record become more critical in the answers of our respondents. They understand the importance of the information recorded at universities about their students and the danger that any gap or leaking in this data can pose, not only about the students, their studies and their financial issues but also about the image of the institution. From the answers, we also see that the most crucial concern comes from the insecurity that exists regarding access to this information. Whether or not data has been leaked, the concern about who has access to the data is the most crucial issue in terms of confidentiality.
Importance and Risks Involved in the Confidentiality of the Student Records
Assuring the student that his/her information is confidential, has a positive impact on the university. It reflects a level of professionalism in the community. The student expects this by default. Confidentiality helps to promote the trust element between the university and the student. This will increase the overall satisfaction of the student and help show a positive image of the university. Additionally, confidentiality helps to obtain accreditation from internationally well-known accreditation organizations.
The student might be a victim for attempts to get personal information and use it in other applications like bank verification or telecommunication data update. An individual who knows the necessary information about the student may attempt to visit the university to get further information. If they succeed, they could use this information to replace their mobile phone number and then call the bank and complete financial transactions. From this perspective, it is highly essential to maintain the confidentiality of the student records ensuring that information is only shared with the authorized parts. Education institutes often tend to ask the student to sign on an authorization form that confirms the eligibility of the particular person to access their information.
Risks also could include breaching the privacy of the student, which is considered unacceptable behaviour. Identity theft is the main result for such a threat and could affect the organization negatively.
3.4. Discussions of the Results Pertaining to the Utilization of Blockchain Technology to Enhance the Student Life Experience in the HE Institution
The student is the ultimate consumer of the services offered by educational institutions, especially in a block of questions that revolve around their satisfaction and the improvement of their experience in educational institutions, so it is reasonable that it is the word that appears most frequently. The following words in frequency, Information, System, Data, and Blockchain, are all terms on which the questions have revolved. Frequent words also include access, technology, staff, department, process and time.
3.4.1. Changes Associated with Adopting the Blockchain Technology to the Current Process
To be able to provide the highest level of education, universities in the UAE often benchmark themselves with several goals and objectives that will be able to guide their staff to work towards complying with them. These goals are linked to broader concepts like student’s happiness, distinctive education level, high standard research capabilities, capturing the recent technologies and applying them and fulfilling the market demand. Additionally, they continually work to use the new technologies which will save resources and help the student to have a better experience.
University management needs to satisfy the requirements which will help them to reach these goals. Some of which will help to increase the preserved image of the university in the community like complying with the data confidentiality and integrity while reading and storing the student information. Additionally, meeting these goals will help to reach the mission and vision statements for the organization.
3.4.2. Reaching to the Overall Organization’s Goals through Blockchain Technology
University’s top management has several objectives and strategies to achieve their mission and vision statements. Organization’s goals are essential to draw a path for the staff to follow. These goals may be like getting international accreditation from international organizations, applying research and improve it in the current market, gain value over other intuitions by providing security and technology edges.
3.4.3. Demonstration of Using the Blockchain Technology in Education
The British University in Dubai (In association with University of Nicosia) has recently adopted the Blockchain technology to verify the final graduation certificate to its graduation. Earlier, the student used to visit three organizations to complete the requirements of the attestation before heading back to the destination country for the equivalency. It gets more complicated if certain documents are required. With the adoption of the Blockchain technology, the student will be able to graduate and receive an encrypted PDF file which will be used by the final authorizing part to verify the validity of the certificate. This saves time, efforts and money.