As NFTs and crypto gain popularity, learning engineers are considering how these emerging technologies could potentially be used to help shape the future of eLearning. The online interaction design school, Motiondesign.school, has an intriguing approach.
Motiondesign.school proclaims that “NFT certificates are the future of education and providing proof of skills.” Having recently collaborated with a university on a MicroCredential program, which provides NFT digital badges to successful learners, I have to agree that there strong possibilities for how this technology could impact education as we know it.
Here are a few emerging use cases:
1. The “Learn and Earn” Model
All students, regardless of grade/level or course, earn decentralized crypto tokens (similar to bitcoin) for completing course assignments. In this case, the higher your grade on the assignment, the more crypto tokens you’ll earn.
Apparently, the course also uses star ratings, points, and proficiency levels in addition to the NFTs and crypto… however, it is not immediately clear how stars, points, and proficiency levels are being used.
Learning strategy considerations:
- What is the strategy?
- Will these additional elements (stars, points, proficiency levels) be used as part of the grading process?
- What is the purpose of stars, points, and proficiency levels? Will they provide gamification?
- If there is gamification, are the learners competing against each other? Will there be a leaderboard?
- Who are the learners? What demographic? Does the university believe that these game elements and game mechanics will help motivate their target audience?
- Is it possible any learners could be demotivated by a leaderboard or game mechanics? If so, how will the university equally support those learners?
- Is it necessary to incorporate all of these elements—NFTs, tokens, stars, points, proficiency levels, grades—or could most courses get away with only using some of them?
2. Optional Gamification
The course platform mentioned above also includes optional gamification elements, such as “educational battles” where students compete in extra credit assignments. I’ve used this technique in previous courses, such as my Classcraft course for K-12 students, and this can be a useful idea if the learner demographic is motivated by friendly competition. (It can be demotivational to learners who dislike competitive environments, and I am guessing this is one reason why the educational battles are listed as optional.)
Additionally, the educational battles utilize crypto for digital prizes. Each participant pools some of their crypto tokens to participate in the battle and then submits a creative assignment fulfilling the battle rubric (e.g., a design of a specific web animation for a motion design course). The winner can be chosen democratically based upon votes, and whoever gets the most votes will keep the entire pool of crypto tokens from all participants.
While this might boost motivation for some learners, the specific approach that motiondesign.school has taken could be compared to gambling, which certainly wouldn’t be the best option for all institutions. A safer scenario would be that the institution itself provides the monetary prizes, rather than having learners pool their money, but this may not be affordable for all institutions.
3. Create NFTs and Earn
In creative courses, such as motion design, graphic design, or animation, students are able to convert their finished assignments to NFTs, which they can then sell for profit on any NFT marketplace.
This approach works well for course marketing, too, because students can literally start selling their class projects as NFTs to help the course pay for itself.
4. Proficiency Levels
The course also gives NFTs and crypto tokens based upon assignment grades, which are tied to adaptive learning. Based upon their grades, the learning platform automatically assigns students with specific proficiency levels, which will help provide more customized assignments for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students.
Learning strategy considerations:
- How to implement proficiency levels and a simultaneous rewards system without demotivating or “punishing” learners who are at lower proficiency levels?
- How to ensure that beginners have the same opportunities to earn NFT/token wealth as intermediate to advanced learners?
(This program is just entering beta testing, so the answers are unclear and time will tell…)
5. Incentivize Learning with Visual Imagery
NFT artwork enhances learning spaces with beautiful visuals. Think: customized, unique headers or banners at the top of each page. Having this imagery double as a gamification incentive can motivate learners while showing that your organization embraces the latest economic & technological trends.
I used to work for an organization that created beautiful banners and other imagery (you can quickly, inexpensively d this using AI art generators), then the organization would “mint” the artwork into Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs).
To take things one step further, the organization used their NFT artwork as gamification incentives for learners. For example, each learner who completed a specific task or earned enough points was entered into a raffle for the chance to win an original NFT. The NFTs were raffled off to learners at the end of the semester, and learners then retained full NFT ownership of their NFT art.
6. BONUS Idea – NFT Gallery of Student Work
Another organization that is blending NFTs with eLearning: Spatial.io, which offers universities a way to provide a student showcase in a metaverse environment. I love this idea and have pitched it to one of my university clients for 2023.
This approach allows remote, geographically displaced students to participate (whether in real-time or asynchronously). Spatial allows uploads of videos or images (they don’t have to be NFTs).
Universities can either lock the privacy settings so that only invited students can view the gallery, or the gallery can remain public to share the students’ work with the world.
The university can “go live” on a specific date/time to host an online event where all participants and guests enter the space and experience the student showcase at the same time.
(Image source: Spatial.io)
Let’s say a traditional university wants to take their classes online and use metaverse technologies to stay connected in Web3. This online student gallery could take the place of the in-person posters, galleries, and seminar sessions that many departments use, yet online students never get to participate in.
What ideas do you have for NFTs and crypto in the eLearning industry?