A blockchain is simply a distributed database, or more accurately a database that resides in multiple locations. The various locations can then be checked against one another to verify security and authenticity. This is the basic structure used by BitCoin to establish digital currency artifacts. The blockchain data or “ledger”, records ownership, value and other key information. Depending on the implementation, the distributed ledger entries are typically written into many distinct copies of the database. Some data can be made publicly accessible while other data can be protected. Alternately, the entire database structure may be in a restricted environment requiring specific permissions to access and read the records. Proposed commits to a blockchain database have their integrity verified through some form of consensus mechanism among the participants in the blockchain community involved. When a database commit (a process of recording data to all participating database copies) takes place, it is encrypted in such a way that it cannot be altered and, after its integrity is checked, the update is approved.
This project is testing two different blockchain structures, Ethereum and Bitcoin, while monitoring the development of a promising new system called Hyperledger. The creation of badges, storage of student work and other elements are agnostic to the final encryption and blockchain structures that will support actual rollout of the new system.