ASU’s Trusted Learner Network Leverages Blockchain to Recognize Student Achievement

As learners enter new phases of study, career, and life, the cultivation of demonstrable strengths is important to success. The Trusted Learner Network (TLN), a collaboration between Office of the University Provost, UTO, and EdPlus, is a new way for that information to be gathered and distributed. A new, secure and decentralized approach to recording, curating and sharing learner data on abilities and skills across the learner’s lifespan, the TLN addresses a common need for students. It provides an aggregate of these abilities and accomplishments, data that can be shared and accessed easily across a learning lifetime.

The role of blockchain technology is key to the TLN. Widely recognized as the conduit for bitcoin and other cryptocurrency, blockchain is a peer-to-peer public network for directly transferring assets without an intermediary. This technology is leveraged by the TLN to have near real-time transfer of learning and work related data, where consented. The “trust” in Trusted Learner Network is not contrived; it’s not just based on blockchain and algorithms, but also reciprocally honored interactions between users.

[caption caption="Lev Gonick, Donna Kidwell, Phillip Long, and Kate Giovacchini present the Trusted Learner Network at Educause 2019."]

“The TLN is an open, secure, interoperable and decentralized approach to recording, curating, and sharing learner data on abilities and skills across the learner’s lifespan,” ASU CIO Lev Gonick says. “Student agency and cross-sector collaboration are at the heart of this invitation to educators, policy makers and technologists.” And the “invitation” is very important; as its name implies, the Trusted Learner Network will be built on a shared desire to advance the vision of learning across an individual’s lifetime.

A code of conduct and pursuing values ground the TLN, including respect, humility, connection, access and equity, learning-workplace continuum, learner/worker agency, data security, and personal privacy. It is also built on 12 core technological and data structure principles.

But what are these technical developments and trusting sentiments contribute to, really? The goal of the Trusted Learner Network CoLaboratory is to pilot this TLN in an effort to give agency to learners across their lifetime, enable the secure exchange of their information in an ever-changing and growing digital world, and provide a safe testbed to deploy new applications of this technology.

The TLN is an exciting development and a crucial example of how ASU and UTO are looking at new technology not just to proclaim its use on a wide-scale university setting, but to truly think of innovative ways to serve the University’s learner base. Keep up with the TLN initiative at