Blockchain Applications in Education: A Systematic Literature Review
- Public: these are open to anyone who wants to be part of the peer-to-peer network (i.e., they are permissionless). Once connected, peers can download and access all of the information, generate and validate transactions and execute smart contracts. To reach a consensus about new transactions, a task must be executed by peers (typically, up to millions of participants). Public blockchains achieve maximum immutability, decentralization and transparency, but they are very inefficient, since a lot of processing power, storage and electricity are required to reach a consensus. The transaction volume and speed are very low. Bitcoin and Ethereum  are examples of this type.
- Private: participants may only join if they are invited (i.e., permissioned). There are rules set by the organization that controls the network. In these highly centralized blockchains, immutability and transparency of the chain are limited. The number of peers is typically low, and the network tends to be much smaller and specialized. Therefore, the system is comparatively more efficient, and higher transaction volumes and speeds can be achieved, and, consequently, lower costs and resource usage are incurred. Hyperledger  is an example of this type.
- Consortium: is a combination of the two previous types. Like in a private blockchain, participants may only join if they are invited, however, there is not a single organization that controls the network but instead a group of them. From a governance perspective, they maintain the decentralized nature of a public blockchain, although they are more controlled and regulated. Consequently, transaction volume, speed and resources usage are also better.
- Blockchain 1.0 was focused on transactions and it was mainly used on the development of crypto currencies in cash-related applications.
- Blockchain 2.0 adds privacy, smart contracts, and non-native tokens, among other features.
- Blockchain 3.0 incorporates decentralized applications (dApps), back-end code that is executed on a decentralized peer-to-peer network, expanding the uses of blockchain to different markets as health, supply chain, government, education, etc.
- Blockchain 4.0 introduces artificial intelligence (AI), supporting decentralized AI-based decision making based on blockchain reliable data without the need for direct human intervention.
Defining the Research Questions
- What is the current state of the usage scenarios for blockchain in education?
- What are the features of blockchain that could benefit education?
- What are the unresolved issues of blockchain in education?
2.2. Eligibility Criteria
- The text of the article must be in English.
- The publication’s title, abstract and full content must be available online.
- Only articles published in peer-refereed journals will be considered.
- The article must be centered in blockchain and education as its main topic.
- The author or authors must contribute to the field of blockchain and education, and not only express an opinion or point of view, or present a use case (due to this criterion, the articles reporting exclusively use cases cited in the introduction were excluded from the final selection).
- Since blockchain is a relatively recent research field, searches were not limited by publication date.
2.3. Information Sources
2.4. Search Terms
- A general online search in the ACM digital library, IEEE Xplore, ProQuest, SAGE Journals, ScienceDirect, Scopus, Springer, Taylor and Francis online, Web of Science, Google Scholar and ResearchGate was conducted with different combinations of terms related to blockchain and education. Synonyms for each search term were then identified and used.
- All of the publications that matched this search were downloaded and registered (986 results). Those specifically related to education were identified.
- The words in the title and keywords of these documents were analyzed, and the most used specific terms were extracted.
- The final selection of terms included blockchain or “block chain”, and educat*, learn*, academic, student, accredit*, certific* and credent* (* represents a wildcard). By re-querying the mentioned databases using the selected terms only, all of the relevant publications could be retrieved again, so they were chosen and confirmed as search keywords.
2.5. Data Collection Process
3.1. Publication Year and Geographical Distribution
3.2. Summary of Contributions
3.3. Contributions and Categorization of Individual Publications
4.1. Research Question 1: What Is the Current State of the Usage Scenarios for Blockchain in Education?
4.1.1. Certificate Issue and Management of Academic Results
4.1.2. Record of Learning Trajectory
4.1.3. Certificate Management for Performance Assessment during Recruitment
4.1.4. Blockchain-Powered Competency and Education
4.1.5. Education Resources
4.1.6. Tokens Transfer
4.1.7. Evaluating Academic Institutions
4.2. Research Question 2: What Are the Features of Blockchain That Could Benefit Education?
4.2.1. Distributed Consensus
4.2.2. Transaction Verification
4.2.3. Platforms for Smart Contracts
4.2.4. Transferring Value among Peers
4.2.5. Generating Cryptocurrency/Incentives
4.2.6. Smart Property
4.2.7. Security Provision
4.2.10. Smart Contracts
4.3. Research Question 3: What Are the Unresolved Issues of Blockchain in Education?
5. Other Related Work
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Conflicts of Interest
|Section/Topic||Num.||Checklist Item||Reported on Page|
|Title||1||Identify the report as a systematic review, meta-analysis, or both.|
|2. Objectives||2||The research question including components such as participants, interventions, comparators, and outcomes.||1|
|3. Eligibility criteria||3||Study and report characteristics used as criteria for inclusion.||1|
|4. Information sources||4||Key databases searched and search dates.|
|5. Risk of bias||5||Methods of assessing risk of bias||1|
|6. Included studies||6||Number and type of included studies and participants and relevant characteristics of studies.||1|
|7. Synthesis of results||7||Results for main outcomes (benefits and harms), preferably indicating the number of studies and participants for each. If meta-analysis was done, include summary measures and confidence intervals.||1|
|8. Description of the effect||8||Direction of the effect (i.e., which group is favored) and size of the effect in terms meaningful to clinicians and patients.|
|9. Strengths and Limitations of evidence||6||Brief summary of strengths and limitations of evidence (e.g., inconsistency, imprecision, indirectness, or risk of bias, other supporting or conflicting evidence).||1|
|10. Interpretation||General interpretation of the results and important implications||1|
|11. Funding||6||Primary source of funding for the review.|
|12. Registration||7||Registration number and registry name.|
|Section/Topic||Num.||Checklist Item||Reported on Page|
|Title||1||Identify the report as a systematic review, meta-analysis, or both.||1|
|Structured summary||2||Provide a structured summary including, as applicable: background; objectives; data sources; study eligibility criteria, participants, and interventions; study appraisal and synthesis methods; results; limitations; conclusions and implications of key findings; systematic review registration number.||1|
|Rationale||3||Describe the rationale for the review in the context of what is already known.||1|
|Objectives||4||Provide an explicit statement of questions being addressed with reference to participants, interventions, comparisons, outcomes, and study design (PICOS).||2–3|
|Protocol and registration||5||Indicate if a review protocol exists, if and where it can be accessed (e.g., Web address), and, if available, provide registration information including registration number.||3|
|Eligibility criteria||6||Specify study characteristics (e.g., PICOS, length of follow-up) and report characteristics (e.g., years considered, language, publication status) used as criteria for eligibility, giving rationale.||3|
|Information sources||7||Describe all information sources (e.g., databases with dates of coverage, contact with study authors to identify additional studies) in the search and date last searched.||3–4|
|Search||8||Present full electronic search strategy for at least one database, including any limits used, such that it could be repeated.||4–5, 23–25|
|Study selection||9||State the process for selecting studies (i.e., screening, eligibility, included in systematic review, and, if applicable, included in the meta-analysis).||5|
|Data collection process||10||Describe method of data extraction from reports (e.g., piloted forms, independently, in duplicate) and any processes for obtaining and confirming data from investigators.||5|
|Data items||11||List and define all variables for which data were sought (e.g., PICOS, funding sources) and any assumptions and simplifications made.||5|
|Risk of bias in individual studies||12||Describe methods used for assessing risk of bias of individual studies (including specification of whether this was done at the study or outcome level), and how this information is to be used in any data synthesis.||5|
|Summary measures||13||State the principal summary measures (e.g., risk ratio, difference in means).|
|Synthesis of results||14||Describe the methods of handling data and combining results of studies, if done, including measures of consistency (e.g., I2) for each meta-analysis.|
|Risk of bias across studies||15||Specify any assessment of risk of bias that may affect the cumulative evidence (e.g., publication bias, selective reporting within studies).|
|Additional analyses||16||Describe methods of additional analyses (e.g., sensitivity or subgroup analyses, meta-regression), if done, indicating which were pre-specified.|
|Study selection||17||Give numbers of studies screened, assessed for eligibility, and included in the review, with reasons for exclusions at each stage, ideally with a flow diagram.||4–5|
|Study characteristics||18||For each study, present characteristics for which data were extracted (e.g., study size, PICOS, follow-up period) and provide the citations.||5–11|
|Risk of bias within studies||19||Present data on risk of bias of each study and, if available, any outcome level assessment (see item 12).||5–11|
|Results of individual studies||20||For all outcomes considered (benefits or harms), present, for each study: (a) simple summary data for each intervention group (b) effect estimates and confidence intervals, ideally with a forest plot.||5–11|
|Synthesis of results||21||Present the main results of the review. If meta-analyses are done, include for each, confidence intervals and measures of consistency||5–11|
|Risk of bias across studies||22||Present results of any assessment of risk of bias across studies (see Item 15).|
|Additional analysis||23||Give results of additional analyses, if done (e.g., sensitivity or subgroup analyses, meta-regression [see Item 16]).|
|Summary of evidence||24||Summarize the main findings including the strength of evidence for each main outcome; consider their relevance to key groups (e.g., healthcare providers, users, and policy makers).||11–19|
|Limitations||25||Discuss limitations at study and outcome level (e.g., risk of bias), and at review-level (e.g., incomplete retrieval of identified research, reporting bias).||11–19|
|Conclusions||26||Provide a general interpretation of the results in the context of other evidence, and implications for future research.||20–21|
|Funding||27||Describe sources of funding for the systematic review and other support (e.g., supply of data); role of funders for the systematic review.||20|
|Database (Sorted by Name)||Search Query|
|ACM digital library||Title:((blockchain OR “block chain”)) OR Abstract:((blockchain OR “block chain”)) OR Keyword:((blockchain OR “block chain”))) |
AND (Title:((educat * OR learn * OR academic OR student OR accredit * OR certific * OR credent *))
OR Abstract:((educat * OR learn * OR academic OR student OR accredit * OR certific * OR credent*))
OR Keyword:((educat * OR learn * OR academic OR student OR accredit * OR certific * OR credent *))
|Emerald||(blockchain OR “block chain”) AND (educat * OR learn * OR academic OR student * OR accredit * OR certificate OR credent *)|
|ERIC||(blockchain OR “block chain”) AND (educat * OR learn * OR academic OR student * OR accredit * OR certificate OR credent *)|
|IEEE Xplore||Divided in two parts due to the command search options limitations: (“Document Title”:blockchain OR “Document Title”:”block chain” OR “Abstract”:blockchain OR “Abstract”:”block chain”) AND |
(“Document Title”:educat * OR “Document Title”:learn * OR “Document Title”:academic OR “Document Title”:student OR “Document Title”:accredit * OR “Document Title”:certificate OR “Document Title”:credent *)
(“Document Title”:blockchain OR “Document Title”:”block chain” OR “Abstract”:blockchain OR “Abstract”:”block chain”) AND
(“Abstract”:educat * OR “Abstract”:learn * OR “Abstract”:academic OR “Abstract”:student * OR “Abstract”:accredit * OR “Abstract”:certificate OR “Abstract”:credent *)
|ProQuest||((TI((blockchain OR “block chain”)) OR AB((blockchain OR “block chain”)) OR IF((blockchain OR “block chain”)) OR SU((blockchain OR “block chain”)))) AND (TI (educat * OR learn * OR academic OR student OR accredit * OR certific* OR credent *) OR AB(educat * OR learn * OR academic OR student OR accredit * OR certific * OR credent *) OR IF(educat * OR learn* OR academic OR student OR accredit * OR certific* OR credent *) OR SU(educat* OR learn* OR academic OR student OR accredit * OR certific * OR credent *))|
|SAGE Journals||(blockchain OR “block chain”) AND (educat * OR learn * OR academic OR student * OR accredit * OR certificate OR credent *)|
|ScienceDirect||(blockchain OR “block chain”) AND (“education” OR “learning” OR academic OR student OR accreditation OR certificate OR credential)|
|Scopus||TITLE-ABS-KEY ((blockchain OR “block chain”) AND (educat * OR learn * OR academic OR student* OR accredit * OR certificate OR credent *))|
|Taylor and Francis online||[[All: blockchain] OR [All: “block chain”]] AND [[All: educat *] OR [All: learn *] OR [All: academic] OR [All: student *] OR [All: accredit *] OR [All: certificate] OR [All: credent *]]|
|Web of Science||TS = (blockchain OR “block chain”) AND TS = (educat * OR learn * OR academic OR student OR accredit * OR certific * OR credent *)|
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|Publication||Develops a Prototype||Includes Empirical Measures or Results|
|Arndt and Guercio ||✓|
|Badyal and Chowdhary ||✓|
|Bálint et al. ||✓||✓|
|Choi et al. ||✓||✓|
|Dai et al. |
|Daraghmi et al. ||✓||✓|
|Ghazali and Saleh |
|Guo et al. ||✓|
|Islam et al. ||✓|
|Jeong and Choi ||✓|
|Lam and Dongol ||✓||✓|
|Li and Han ||✓||✓|
|Li et al. ||✓||✓|
|Lizcano et al. ||✓||✓|
|Novikov et al. |
|Ocheja et al. ||✓||✓|
|Palma et al. ||✓|
|Prinz et al. ||✓|
|Rooksby and Dimitrov ||✓|
|Saleh et al. |
|Sun et al. |
|Turkanović et al. ||✓|
|Ubaka-Okoye et al. |
|Vargas and Soriano ||✓||✓|
|Wahab et al. |
|Wanotayapitak et al. |
|Publication||Certificate Issue and Management of Academic Results||Record of Learning Trajectory||Certificate Management for Performance Assessment during Recruitment||Blockchain-Powered Competency and Education||Education Resources||Tokens Transfer||Evaluate Academic Institutions|
|Publication||Distributed Consensus||Transaction Verification||Platforms for Smart Contracts||Transferring Value between Peers||Generating Cryptocurrency/Incentives||Smart Property||Security Provision||Immutability||Uniqueness||Smart Contracts|
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Delgado-von-Eitzen, C.; Anido-Rifón, L.; Fernández-Iglesias, M.J. Blockchain Applications in Education: A Systematic Literature Review. Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 11811. https://doi.org/10.3390/app112411811
Delgado-von-Eitzen C, Anido-Rifón L, Fernández-Iglesias MJ. Blockchain Applications in Education: A Systematic Literature Review. Applied Sciences. 2021; 11(24):11811. https://doi.org/10.3390/app112411811Chicago/Turabian Style
Delgado-von-Eitzen, Christian, Luis Anido-Rifón, and Manuel J. Fernández-Iglesias. 2021. "Blockchain Applications in Education: A Systematic Literature Review" Applied Sciences 11, no. 24: 11811. https://doi.org/10.3390/app112411811