10.15.2020

Introduction

Andras Kristof

Skilltree – An Introduction

Skilltree was made possible by a generous grant from the Ethereum Foundation. We would like to thank all of you who placed our trust in us.

Skilltree was created with the desire in mind to create a solid and sustainable platform for education. It attmpts to address many of the problems we have seen and experienced with education.

Todays’ schools have an impossible challenge in mind: they need to get students ready for jobs that don’t even exist when the students enter said schools.

Skilltree wants to provide a flexible and sustainable educational framework that has the agility to keep up with the changes of cutting edge technologies and deliver provably working, up-to-date knowledge.

We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, and we don’t want to create yet another online educational system. There are several, very mature platforms for that including EDX, Coursera and Udemy.

Skilltree wants to ensure that the content is up-to-date, and the path to achieve one’s goal is flexible enough. Instead of focusing on the delivery of education material, Skilltree is enabling content producers, educators and students.

Certificates

The very foundation of Skilltree is a certification system. Pretty much all other features and functions depend on certificates. Skilltree’s certificates posess all the expected properties of blockchain certificates – they are unforgable, trustless and they will keep existing as long as Ethereum exists.

The ability to issue, renew, hold them, use them as proof of a course taken, and all other functions and features are provided by smart contracts on the ethereum mainnet. They are not going to go away even if Skilltree as a company ceases to exist.

Also, they are built in a way that issuing them to students is a peer-to-peer process. It needs an issuer (a university, an institution, an event) and a receiver (a student or a participant). It does not need a third party, not even Skilltree.

These unforgable certificates come with longevity and no vendor lock-in.

The certificates framework will be free software. It will be open sourced with a permissive license so the code can be reviewed, used and re-used.

There is a lot more to the certificates, including micro-accreditations, building skilltrees, mathematically ensuring their relevance, and so on.

I will write a separate article about them later and link that here.

Examinations

Exams are a pre-requisite to a well respected certificate.

From the technical point of view, we will make sure that – similarly to automated tests, the exam questions are actually solvable. But this can only be done for a small, specific subset of exams.

So most of our work in this regard will be non-technical. We will have a separate post about our plans with exams soon.

Courses

The course is the fundamental element of Skilltree. Without a course, certificates would not make much sense.

Most of the original inspiration for Skilltree came from our experience with online courses, in particular courses about rapidly changing, cutting edge technologies, like blockchain and Ethereum.

It used to be remarked that textbooks are out of date by the time they are published. These days, most courses in this discipline become obsolete the week after their release.

Whether it is from examples failing to compile, tooling becoming obsolete, or new techniques replacing those that are only a few weeks old, we quickly find that fundamental parts of the course are out of date.

In response, Skilltree has (and will have more) measurements that can highlight and flag if the material in the course is growing obsolete. This is achieved in part by having built-in checks (similar to unit tests), and partly by providing the financial means to keep the course material maintained and up to date.

Funding Courses

Producing high quality course material in advanced subjects is expensive in time (opportunity cost) and resources. It is not trivial to be able to secure the domain experts to support the production due to their high demand.

Skilltree’s course funding module provides a mechanism to help with this. Domain experts can create a course proposal which can be funded by the community or an investor. Unlike other community funding initiatives like Gitcoin, those who enable help finance the course will be able to benefit from its success. The smart contracts behind Skilltree’s course funding module ensures that the people who made the creation of the course possible can also benefit from it once the course is ready for delivery.

Delivering courses

Delivering courses usually happens in one of these 3 ways:

  1. Online, async, with recorded material
  2. Online, live, with teachers and students present
  3. Offline, in a classroom setting

Each course created in the Skilltree platform can have a financial template to deliver in any of these formats, and the system makes sure that funds collected are distributed in a pre-determined way.

Users

Skilltree’s system calculates with and caters for all the important roles of online education:

  1. Issuers
  2. Investors
  3. Producers
  4. Maintainers
  5. Teachers
  6. Experts
  7. Students

Issuers are universities and organizations that can issue and track unforgeable certificates that fit well into a modern education system where a certificate is much more than a piece of paper that might have been issued 20 years ago.

For investors, Skilltree provides a mechanism to invest in creating high quality educational content, and then profit from it.

For course producers, teachers and maintainers Skilltree provides a constant stream of revenue, as the course is being delivered online and offline.

Experts who are involved in the production and delivery of courses, now gain an extra revenue source. They can easily sell their time, in the form of pre-paid micro-consulting contracts.

Finally, students can apply for ISAs, Income Sharing Agreements, take the right courses and land the job they want to advance in their carreer.

To Be Continued

In the next post I will detail Skilltree’s three main processes:

  1. The Certificate Issuance Flow
  2. The Course Lifecycle (Funding, production, delivery and maintenace)
  3. The ISA Pool

After that, I will talk about some of the design decisions, especially:

  1. The Feature Token mechanism
  2. The financial processes that meant to show a sensible implementation of some of DeFi’s experimental features in a service based product.

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at hello@skilltree.org

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