Education Ecosystem: Using Project-based Learning and Blockchain to Change Online Learning

 (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
 
Professional development has never been more critical than during the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic. With unemployment rates at record levels, professionals have looked to professional development to stay afloat in the competitive workspaces. When we think about professional development, we think about taking online courses. Most of these courses are focused on beginners or are very theoretical in nature. Meaning, you’ve already grasped the concepts on offer or learning boring concepts that won’t help you very much in your job. Besides, it can be hard to do self-paced learning on your own as the incentives are low.
Dr. Michael J. Garbade is the CEO of Education Ecosystem, an edTech startup that is using blockchain in incentivizing project-based learning. Michael is working to revolutionize the industry by targeting intermediate tech professionals as well as college students. Education Ecosystem utilizes a project-based model and covers artificial intelligence, programming, cybersecurity, data science, game development and blockchain.
1. Michael, What is the current status of online learning, and what is the impact of project-based learning?
According to UNESCO, the onset of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic saw some 1.3 billion students across the globe being affected by school and university closures. Many learning institutions have since adjusted to online learning. The space has since grown to be widely accepted and used. Many online learning platforms have proliferated, and the space continues to grow. 
Project-based learning, on the other hand, is on the rise—at least it was pre-pandemic. The sudden shift to online learning appears to have brought with it more worksheets (just digital this time) and bite-sized tasks—and with it less engagement, less integration, and less application.
2. So, how and when did you get involved in blockchain engineering?
So, I got into blockchain back in 2010. Like most people at the time, I did not have an idea what blockchain was or what its impact would be. Someone dragged me to a hackathon in Berlin, Germany. At the time, I wasn’t sure what a hackathon was but somehow got to get a glimpse of blockchain. It was, I’d say, by accident that I attended the hackathon, and that is how I got into blockchain. I later learnt so much about it and many things have happened since. 
3. How does Education Ecosystem stand out from the seemingly crowded edTech field?
According to a report by Microsoft, by 2025 there will be 149 million new tech-oriented jobs globally across areas such as cybersecurity, privacy and trust, cloud, data analytics, and software development. Education Ecosystem departs from the other edTech platforms by targeting the intermediate tech professionals and college students in the tech space. 
Education Ecosystem is building a blockchain smart contract technology on top of the Ethereum blockchain using ERC20 tokenization mechanics. LEDU smart contracts will be used for payments and rewards in the ecosystem.
According to this report by Microsoft, these people will need to be skilled and reskilled. This is where the platform is plugging the gap. 
4. Pioneering a fairly new technology like blockchain in the industry sounds ambitious. What are the biggest challenges facing blockchain ecosystems currently?
Blockchain ecosystems have faced a slew of challenges in the first days due to a number of reasons, both within and outside. But with more people coming to the fold and helping in research and development, it is much better now. 
At present, blockchain ecosystems are suffering from pseudo-decentralization, security, and scalability issues. Progress is being made but just like Rome, it won’t be completed in a day. 
With more people joining the blockchain ecosystem, the network protocols are getting congested, showing that there is a need for a dynamic shift in the architecture of the blockchain networks. 
5. What exciting future projects can you talk about?
We are adding new projects to our ecosystem, and the majority of them were requested by our users. We will be hosting competitions and giveaways as part of our expansion plans.
Apart from this, we are launching National Coronavirus Hotline (NCH), a community-based information resource and telemedicine service to resume the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in our communities. NCH will offer services that include telemedicine, disinfection services, and mental health services. We are rolling the service in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, and Long Beach before it is extended to other states. This is very exciting for me because it was launched by the Education Ecosystem community as a way of giving back to the community.