Our economies are changing rapidly and education is struggling to keep up. Universities find it difficult to know which skills are needed by business, businesses struggle to identify suitable employees, and students can easily waste considerable time and money building expertise in an area with little demand.
What’s more, with “a job for life” increasingly a quaint notion from history, employees are having to retrain and change jobs more than ever before. How can they know which opportunities to pursue? And, once they’ve received the relevant training, how can they prove to potential employers that they are truly proficient in the skills they claim to possess?
We can boil these down to two different types of problem. First, information problems, which result from an uneven distribution of knowledge: for example, which skills are most sought after in the market.
Secondly, there is verification: the challenge of building trust between stakeholders in the job market. Checking references and qualifications is both time-consuming and expensive, making recruitment inefficient and frustrating for both employers and candidates.
The Open Source University plans to solve these issues by leveraging “distributed ledger technology to provide acquisition, verification and validation of knowledge and skills.”
OS.University provides a useful “one-pager” document for interested parties looking to acquaint themselves with the project.
The white-paper itself is thorough and well-presented, and does a good job explaining the market opportunity and how OS.University aims to position its platform. At 37 pages including legal disclaimers it takes care not to outstay its welcome.
The OS.University platform is designed as a bridge between the needs of businesses and education. Students’ credentials are stored on the blockchain, allowing for easy verification – with the student in a position to choos to whom he or she will expose his or her personal data – whilst smart contracts manage transactions within the platform.
Algorithms will match a learner’s interest and experience with employment and educational opportunities. Businesses will receive suggestions for suitable candidates for open positions, considerably reducing the costs of recruitment. In contrast with current employment platforms, and thanks to the blockchain-stored credentials, employers will be able to trust that these candidates have the skills they profess to have.
Global marketplace for education
The platform will also function as a global and decentralized marketplace for courses and other learning opportunities. Integrating offerings from more than 700 of the world’s top universities and MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), the platform will open up access to education and career development to a global audience potentially numbering in the hundreds of millions.
Better communication between all parties allows for feedback within the system so that students can see which skills businesses actually want, and pursue the most valuable and rewarding opportunities.
The system leverages one of the keystones of blockchain functionality, the ability for parties that are unknown to each other to collaborate together under trust. For businesses, to be able to rely on a candidate’s credentials makes for much quicker and cheaper recruitment. The platform’s smart contracts, it is claimed, will ensure that learners’ certifications are verified and stored correctly, and that they are made accessible to the relevant businesses and organisations.
There are three important sets of smart contracts:
- Learners-to-Academia (L2A). These increase transparency between learners and educators. Students will benefit from their skill sets being saved to the blockchain while universities can easily trace all students on their programs. Students may also receive the latest information on relevant new courses, or join groups with other students with similar experience and interests.
- Business-to-Learners (B2L). These smart contracts will ensure that the recruitment process is much smoother for both parties. Candidates will receive the best opportunities for their verified skill-set and employers will be notified of the strongest candidates.
- Business-to-Academia (B2A). Businesses will be able to pay universities for access to their students. Universities will be strongly incentivized to train their students into the kinds of employees that businesses actually want.
The Open Source University project dates from 2015 with a proof-of-concept and early corporate partners from the Bulgarian software and industrial sectors. It grew out of the Technical University of Sofia’s Faculty of Management, which resulted in several papers written on the initiative and published in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Latvia.
The following year it was listed as one of the top ten global ideas in social innovation by Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Living Progress Challenge, beating out more than 130 other proposals. 2017 saw more awards, with a prototype recognized as a “YouthSpeak” forum winner in Latvia, and then a nomination for the best IT project of the year by the Bulgarian Association for Information Technology.
The upcoming roadmap for the Open Source University seems achievable and contains a proper emphasis on marketing and business development as well as technology.
The Alpha release of the OSU platform should occur by the end of H1, 2018, with learners able to store their qualifications and search for employment, businesses free to post jobs and identify candidates, and academia able to upload courses and verify students’ qualifications.
The OSU platform will be released to Beta during the second half of this year. Additional functionality will include challenges and scholarships for students, the ability for businesses to request particular courses and programs, and the option for academia to curate alumni networks. During this stage of the project’s development there will also be increased outreach to the crypto media, an advertising campaign, and workshops to introduce the concept to business and academia.
The EDU token is scheduled to be tradable on exchanges by early H2 2018.
The OS.University has a large team made up of luminaries from technology, academia and business: the sectors you’d hope to see represented in a project like this. In a further positive sign, there is extensive business, strategy and marketing experience at the highest levels.
Full biographies are available for everyone, as well as links to their LinkedIn profiles, and, in some cases, Wikipedia pages.
Many of the team’s main players are Bulgarians with considerable experience at the highest levels of that country’s institutions.
Senior Academia Advisor Detelina Smilkova is the Vice President of Bulgaria’s University of Finance, Business and Entrepreneurship (VUZF) and former advisor to the country’s Minister of Economy and Energy.
Project lead Hristian Daskalov comes from more of an academic and research background and was awarded 2017’s “Best Doctoral Candidate” by the Bulgarian Minister of Education & Science. He also acts as an advisor to the Bulgarian government, in this case to its Ministry of Economy.
Around the Bulgarian core is an impressively international team. Aly Madhavji, the project’s Senior Strategy Advisor, is the founder and former CEO of digital currency company Global DCX while Professor Kevin Dowd of the Durham University Business School has given his expertise to the project’s tokenomics.
OS.University has taken legal advice and believes that its EDU token is a utility token and not a form of security. However, EDU will be exchange listed, coming to DDEX, LATOKEN and Nebula early in July.
Total supply is capped at 48 million, 30 million of which will be made available during the public sale. 17.5% of the total is earmarked for the platform, while the team and advisors will receive 8% of the total.
Of the raised funds 50% will go into developing the technology with 20% for business development and 15% for marketing.
Within the platform all transactions in EDU are free from commission. Fees are only charged on transactions with other cryptocurrencies or fiat.
5% of the value of transactions users goes to the platform to keep the operation afloat. However, OS.University has committed to “burning” what it describes as a “significant percentage of the fees collected” to support its investors and help the appreciation of the token’s value.
The platform is extremely well represented in the usual social media channels with good engagement on Telegram, Medium and Facebook. Though we’re yet to be convinced that any ICO really needs an Instagram account, this is one of the few projects we’ve seen that actually seems to know what to do with one – although, according to some SEO experts, Instagram interest has a higher weighting in Google’s search ranking algorithms than other social platforms, and this may in fact just be a reflection of the marketing team’s experience.
The team has been enthusiastic about getting out its message, hitting the road to appear at conferences worldwide. Project lead Hristian Daskalov, marketing manager Teodora Alexieva and tech lead Jordan Jambazov have been particularly effective at getting the word out.
This level of marketing engagement at senior levels is particularly heartening. Though such a proactive approach might be nothing less than you’d expect, many ICOs don’t do the necessary legwork to capture people’s attention. After all, the best technology in the market doesn’t mean much if the market doesn’t know who you are.
With 65% of employers saying that a shortage of available talent is the biggest hurdle to successful hiring, there is clearly an enormous market opportunity for any company which can make recruitment cheaper, faster and less painful.
OS.University are doing everything they can to be that company. This is a large and talented team with extensive experience in education, business and technology. The company has deep links into the university sector which is promising as of the three players in the ecosystem — learners, business and academia — it is academia which is likely to be the most resistant to change.
If anything the team might be a little too large and the core members will have to work hard to ensure the company stays focused with so many contributing voices. However, there is nothing so far to suggest any such problem.
As is often the case with these kinds of projects, the ultimate determiner of success will be how quickly the platform can achieve a critical mass of users. The allocation of 35% of the raised funds to business development and marketing, and the inclusion of entrepreneurs and marketing experts at the highest levels, are good signs for OS.University’s future customer acquisition.
Ratings Score Methodology: a weighted average across three scores: Concept (10% weight), Blockchain Fit (30% weight), Execution (60% weight).
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