Digital diplomas: a diploma in your pocket
As the global pandemic began to impact different areas across campus, the Registrar’s Office was challenged to embrace creative and innovative solutions to service delivery. One of those ways was through the expansion of the digital diplomas initiative. This initiative offered all Spring 2020 graduates with the opportunity to opt-in to receive a digital diploma anchored in the blockchain.
Unlike paper versions, digital diplomas are shareable, instantly verifiable, immutable and an encrypted record of their achievement. As McMaster continues to work toward interoperability, comparability and global recognition of its digital credentials, it has been encouraging to see engagement from employers and our 2020 graduates – 68 per cent of whom have opted-in to receive a digital diploma.
What is blockchain? Blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger that cannot be altered. Once your digital diploma is issued, the data is compressed into a hash and published on the blockchain.
“The option of a digital diploma has allowed McMaster graduates a seamless experience with ownership and granular access and control over their records of achievement,” states Melissa Pool, University Registrar. “Digital credentials allow students to share their accomplishments in ways that are meaningful and relevant to their academic and professional aspirations. The rapid, relentless pace of the digital world commands our attention and commitment to continue to meet the expectations of McMaster graduates and McMaster employers.”
The digital diploma initiative couldn’t have been achieved without the support and partnership of the Faculty of Engineering. What began as a pilot project for engineering graduates in 2019, turned into a university-wide practice in 2020 when COVID-19 prevented the Registrar’s Office from producing and distributing paper diplomas. The Faculty of Engineering stepped in to expand the support to all Spring 2020 graduates.
“Last year, we became the first university in Canada to offer digital degrees to graduates from the Faculty of Engineering,” said Ishwar Puri, Dean of Engineering. “Now, to overcome the challenge that new graduates face during the pandemic to receive their degrees in person, that innovation has been extended to McMaster’s entire graduating class. With digital credentials, literally at their fingertips on their smartphones, our graduates have now been empowered to more fully navigate and take advantage of future employment opportunities.”
How is it verified? Blockchain cryptographically seals a record of the diploma when it’s created so that third parties can be absolutely certain that a record hasn’t been altered since being issued. The verification service validates the signature of the issuer and the certificate data; it also ensures that the certificate has not expired or been revoked.
If you are an employer looking to verify a McMaster digital diploma, please visit McMaster’s Verification Portal.
A recognized innovator in digital credentials, McMaster has joined the Digital Credentials Consortium, a group of 12 universities spearheaded by MIT who are working towards a more flexible, expansive, and learner-centric record that provides direct learner agency over one’s lifelong learning record.