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Decentralised Qualifications' Verification and Management for Learner Empowerment, Education Reengineering and Public Sector Transformation

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - QualiChain (Decentralised Qualifications' Verification and Management for Learner Empowerment, Education Reengineering and Public Sector Transformation)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2019-12-31

Nowadays, education credentials are largely resisting the pull of technology, as they are still held in diverse formats in siloed databases, often involving paper documentation and extremely time-consuming manual processes for their verification. The latter come mostly into the foreground when education credentials are requested as a means of ratifying decisions regarding either personnel recruitment or individuals’ further admission in other educational and training programmes.
Indeed, the recruitment of personnel by an organisation is a lengthy process that comes along with combing through hundreds of candidates’ résumés, weeding out the unqualified ones and narrowing down the rest into a group of potential recruits’, whose qualifications and academic degrees have to be checked and validated on a case-by-case basis. The same applies when filtering out applicants for a postgraduate or other educational programme and creates a clear dependence from accrediting organisations for validating claims around the possession of certain educational certifications.
Disruptive technologies, such as blockchain, algorithmic techniques, data analytics and semantics and innovative concepts like gamification may offer solutions to these challenges. QualiChain, a project targeting the creation, piloting and evaluation of a distributed platform for storing, sharing and verifying academic and employment qualifications will focus on the assessment of the potential of the aforementioned combination of technologies for disrupting the domain of education. In this respect, it will assess the socio-economic, cultural, legal but also political implications of deploying the prescribed combination of technologies towards addressing the aforementioned challenges, whereas it will sort out potential benefits and risks.
QualiChain aspires to investigate and provide evidence on the transformative impact of disruptive technologies, such as blockchain, semantics, data analytics and gamification in the domain of public education, as well as the interfaces of the latter with the fields of private education, the labour market and public sector administrative procedures. The concept and focus of the project lie more specifically in the design, implementation, piloting and thorough evaluation in terms of benefits, risks and other potential implications of the QualiChain technological solution, a distributed platform targeting the storage, sharing and verification of academic and employment qualifications.
QualiChain will give shape and will meet its main goal through a set of targeted objectives, divided into two categories, namely:
• Scientific and Technical Objectives focusing on the scientific and research work to be carried out to deliver a solid, well-grounded approach for fully exploiting the disruptive potential of the aforementioned technologies in the given context, as well as on the technical work required for the implementation of the novel, self-standing components that will materialise the envisaged functionalities and their integration under a common platform.
• Business & Societal Objectives focusing in turn on the piloting, evaluation and validation of the QualiChain platform, the spread of the benefits identified and the assurance of its acceptance by the targeted stakeholders and thereby of its sustainability.
During the 1st reporting period, a first version of the majority of the QualiChain baseline and value-adding services has been developed according to the stakeholders’ requirements and use cases elaborated through the collaboration with the pilot users. Moreover, a comprehensive pilot’s operation and evaluation plan has been developed.
In general, the activities of QualiChain have proceeded according to plan and as per DoA and have produced significant results which are divided and summarised in the coming categories:

- Ethics, Socio-Economic Landscape, Stakeholders’ Requirements and Implications
During the 1st reporting period of QualiChain, emphasis was put towards defining the stakeholder’s needs that set the groundwork for the creation of the QualiChain services, as well as ensuring that the QualiChain ecosystem is in line with the existing regulatory frameworks and monitors the overall ecosystem that it operates within. The key achievements for the 1st reporting period are:
• The design of the QualiChain informed consent form, as well as the first version of QualiChain’s DPIA.
• A SotA Analysis in Qualifications’ certification, Issuance and Verification as well as Human Resource Management, accompanied by a SWOT analysis of the project's main technological concepts.
• Elicitation of a long list of stakeholders’ requirements, further processed to derive validation scenarios and functional requirements.
• A SLEPT analysis of the longer-term implications of the QualiChain project, structured around four (4) main themes: Qualification Validation, Semantic Profiles, Personalisation and Decision Support, and Individual Privacy and Data Protection.

- QualiChain Development
• The reference architecture of the QualiChain solution has been derived.
• The 1st version of the QualiChain baseline services has been designed, the dependencies amongst the various components have been investigated and the actual development of the aforementioned services has started.
• The 1st version of the QualiChain value adding services has been designed, the dependencies amongst the various components have been investigated and the actual development of the aforementioned services has started.
• The planned testing activities to be carried out on various components, modules as well as the overall integrated software platform have been formally described.

- QualiChain Pilots
• An appropriate methodology, accompanied by the corresponding framework, for the evaluation and validation of the project pilots have been officially described.
• A set of 5 “horizontal” KPIs, applicable for all QualiChain pilots, has been described.
• 5 sets of pilot-specific KPIs have been described.
• Collection of existing/baseline data, creation of the appropriate monitoring and data collection mechanisms have been realised.

- Networking, Dissemination and Exploitation
• Project’s partners have participated in 29 events during the first year;
• 7 QualiChain publications have been presented in international conferences;
• Promotional material has been produced and distributed in these events such as QualiChain flyer and QualiChain roll-up;
• Special content for the website such as partners’ interviews, webinars and newsletters have been also produced and published;
• Noteworthy and effective activity has been realised in the project’s social channels, resulting in 371 followers in Twitter, 41 followers in LinkedIn and 62 followers in Facebook.
• Identification of barriers and analysis of the job and learning market (including PEST Analysis);
• The generation of a list of assets (1 system, 6 components, 16 modules and 9 knowledge items);
• A first draft of Canvas Business Model and partners’ individual exploitation plans.
• Final QualiChain Requirements and Implications’ Assessment
• QualiChain Baseline Services
• QualiChain Value-Adding Services
• QualiChain Integrated Platform
• QualiChain Pilots’ Execution, Completion and Assessment
• Communication of Policy Briefs, Lessons Learnt from the QualiChain Project Experience
• QualiChain Business Plan and Model