Toward A Universal Learning and Employment Record (LER) Ecosystem: A Privacy-Preserving Verifiable Credentialing Solution

Youngjin Yoo, the Elizabeth M. and William C. Treuhaft Professor of Entrepreneurship and faculty director of xLab, and Erman Ayday, assistant professor, department of computer and sciences, were recently awarded a grant from the Walmart Foundation to develop a white paper identifying key socio-technical challenges and principles to design and implement a universal LER ecosystem. 

As the world economy is rapidly being transformed by technology, finding qualified employees with necessary skills and credentials has started to be a major challenge for many organizations. The Covid-19 global pandemic has also exacerbated the labor shortage problem. 

“The need to use advanced digital technology has been putting an urgent pressure on organizations to find ways to upskill their existing workforces,” says Yoo. “Individuals have been increasingly seeking non-traditional venues to gain new skills and training necessary to get high-paying jobs.” 

A major hurdle in accomplishing these goals is the antiquated ways that educational institutions and employers provide records for education, training and employment. What is needed is an open platform that respects individuals' rights on their own data while making sure the records are valid and easily verifiable. This requires such platforms to provide privacy protection, verifiability, data portability and scalability at the same time. 

“By universal LER ecosystem, we refer to a distributed and open infrastructure that permits individuals to collect, store, own, and share self-verifying credentials that are issued and accepted by participating organizations,” says Ayday. “A key design challenge in designing such an open ecosystem is to simultaneously meet conflicting goals of privacy preservation on one hand and verifiability on the other hand.”

The team will conduct a systematic review of the extant literature, an industry survey, and a series of expert interviews to develop the white paper and provide key design principles for future development efforts to build a universal learning and employment record ecosystem. 

“With the great resignation and the digital transformation that is sweeping through our entire economy, finding talents and upskilling existing talents is one of the most urgent challenges in our economy. At the same time, there are growing opportunities where employees gain new experiences through non-traditional means. Our report will allow policy makers and business leaders to address their pressing business needs while providing individual employees the freedom to leverage new technologies to gain new skills,” says Yoo.