ECPI

East Coast Polytechnic Institute, or ECPI, recently began issuing diplomas to its students digitally, through the blockchain. Provided/ECPI

A paper diploma can take about eight to 10 weeks to arrive in the mail, causing heartburn for students who want to get to work right after graduation. So one university with about 1,000 South Carolina students is giving their graduates the option to receive their credentials through a mobile app, immediately and securely.

The East Coast Polytechnic Institute, branded as ECPI, has brick-and-mortar campuses in Charleston, Greenville and Columbia, as well as in North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Texas. It began giving students the option to view and send their diplomas to prospective employers through the blockchain this summer.

Blockchain is best-known for powering the digital currency Bitcoin. Most resources describe it as a ledger that keeps track of transactions. It's a decentralized database: No one person or entity has control or oversight over these transactions. 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed — and was one of the first to adopt — the digital diplomas in 2017. The credentials are permanent, even if MIT as an institution ever went away, and tamper-proof, a press release from the institute states. 

Graduates can download Blockcerts, a mobile phone app developed through a partnership between MIT and Massachusetts-based Learning Machine. ECPI has sent invitations to every graduate since August. If students agree, the university can send them their credentials through the app, which they could then share with prospective employers. 

April Price, director of academic operations for ECPI, said the university has put together detailed instructions for students on how to access their diplomas, if they choose. 

"They can open it, and it looks like something you can hang on your wall," Price said. 

The blockchain-powered diploma takes away the problem of people falsifying credentials, Price said, something institutions of higher learning have struggled with of late. But she said it wasn't the driving force behind ECPI's decision to start offering the credentials this way. It falls in line with the university's mission of being tech-forward, she said. Though many students take courses online at ECPI, they also have a campus on Northside Drive in North Charleston.

Commentary: College of Charleston provost says fake college degrees are a growing problem

Soon, ECPI will begin offering its students verified digital transcripts as well. 

At least one other university, the University of Nicosia in Cyprus, has adopted the technology for all of its programs, Forbes reported

Since the invention of the blockchain in 2008, and the adoption of the crypto-currency bitcoins that followed, believers have shared high hopes for the technology shaking up the way business is done. But if blockchain is going to disrupt the way institutions conduct their business, it may happen at a slower pace than some predict.

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"True blockchain-led transformation of business and government, we believe, is still many years away," analysis at the Harvard Business Review wrote last year. "That’s because blockchain is not a 'disruptive' technology, which can attack a traditional business model with a lower-cost solution and overtake incumbent firms quickly."

Tech directory

The Charleston Digital Corridor released a new directory of local businesses called CharlestonPros. The digital corridor, a tech-focused economic development group, will vet all of the applicants and include only those they deem qualified to work with local tech businesses.

The resource is not unlike the Better Business Bureau's website, except the listings of companies included are tailored specifically for Charleston's tech community.

The new website, charlestonpros.com, is still in the beta phase. It features listings of businesses in legal services, marketing, software services and more. 

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.