An Educated Guest

Ep.2 | Breaking Down Barriers Through Verified Digital Records


Guest: Manoj Kutty, CEO & Founder GreenLight Credentials

 

Todd Zipper, President of Wiley Education Services, welcomes Manoj Kutty, CEO and Founder of GreenLight Credentials. Todd and Manoj discuss how GreenLight is putting the student first and setting them up for future success through the secure storage and sharing of lifelong verified credentials. Listen to their conversation on your favorite podcast platform.

Topics Discussed:

  • The growing need for verifiable digital records of lifelong learning
  • How blockchain technology can secure student records
  • The appetite for a common language when evaluating credentials versus degrees
  • An employer’s role in the accelerating trend of verified digital credentials
  • COVID-19’s impact on the adoption of this technology

Guest Bio

Manoj Kutty is the Founder/CEO of GreenLight Credentials and a leader in ed tech for the past 28 years. He founded LoudCloud Systems in 2010, a competency-based learning platform with clients in North America, Australia, and India. In 2016, LoudCloud was sold to Barnes and Noble Education. Kutty then served on the leadership team to transition and integrate LoudCloud into the digital business. From 1993-2010 he was the President of Tata Interactive Systems, one of the world’s largest developers of custom e-learning products and services. He serves on several Boards, including the Dallas Education Foundation and the Center of Brain Health at UT Dallas.



View Transcript

Speaker 1:

You’re listening to An Educated Guest, a podcast that brings together great minds in higher ed to dive deeper into the innovations and trends guiding the future of education and careers hosted by the President of Wiley Education Services, Todd Zipper.

Todd Zipper:

Hello, and welcome to An Educated Guest. Today I’m here with Manoj Kutty, CEO and founder of GreenLight Credentials. Manoj, thank you so much for being here today. You’ve been such an innovator and leader in the edtech space over the past 28 years, most recently in founding and serving as CEO at GreenLight. Through GreenLight, you have made access to student transcripts, credentials and records so much easier and secure. It is hard to underestimate how transformational this will be for learners, educational providers and employers. You’re using blockchain, known primarily as the technology behind cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, is at the core of your offering.

Todd Zipper:

Before we talk more about GreenLight, I’d like to zoom out and talk a bit more about your background. In the moves you have made in the edtech space, what’s been your motivation for evolving higher education?

Manoj Kutty:

Thanks, Todd. It’s great to talk with you today. So, I got into education and I’ve been a technologist for forever. Got my computer science degree in the ’90s. But I got into education from my early employer, Tata, we used to work with post secondary institutions and helping them develop content, but also developing technology solutions. And one of our earliest customers was the then dominant, the University of Phoenix. And we worked with them to develop a technology platform that would create simulated situations and content scenarios where students could go and play and practice what they had learned in the textbooks.

Manoj Kutty:

And I realized very soon that building innovative content, and building innovative technology that can deliver that content can make a massive difference to our students. That was my first start but when I got the opportunity to found Loudcloud Systems in early 2010, it was one of the first cloud-based technology platforms that could deliver this content, that could deliver instructional experiences to students in an online setting.

Manoj Kutty:

10 years ago, the cloud was just nascent still in the education space. So we were pioneers and innovators in that space. That product was widely used by many institutions around the country. We ended up selling that to Barnes and Noble Education. And then I transitioned over a couple of years later to found in GreenLight, which is, I believe, the focus of today’s interview.

Todd Zipper:

Excellent, thanks. So let’s jump in. So, people can buy a car online, you can apply for a mortgage online, we can even now access our medical records from many sources. However, students still need to walk into a registrar’s office, or often send a request via snail mail to receive their transcripts. It cannot only be frustrating for students, and not to mention that they have to pay for these transcripts, but it’s also a huge undertaking for the staff who work in these offices. Take us back to the early days when you were starting GreenLight, what was it that got you thinking, “I need to come up with a solution for this problem?”

Manoj Kutty:

Can you believe it, Todd, today if you had to pull your academic records and if you have to basically reapply to college all over again, go back to Columbia as an example. How long would it take you to get your academic records? Your high school records or your college records? You’d be lucky if it was a few days. And for someone like me who came in from India, it might be a few months before I have access to my verified records.

Manoj Kutty:

And God forbid, if your institution, your alma mater that you attended, went out of business. And that happens, how long would it take you then to prove that you actually have a degree? The genesis of GreenLight was influenced by a couple of these teams, one, the ITT Technical Institute’s had shut down. And Dallas College, I live in Dallas and Dallas college, the Chancellor called me one day and he said, “I have the strange problem that I have been asked to enroll students from ITT, but their registrar’s office has shut down there is no way for me to verify that these students have actually attended and they have some course records.” And it was a strange problem.

Manoj Kutty:

And when you when we went back and researched, we realized that every year, a few liberal arts institutions do go out of business. And it’s not very clear, every state has different rules, as how easily can these students prove that they do have a degree. So, we set about to solve that problem. That was the first problem that we tried to solve. But at that time, I was at Barnes and Noble education and general counsel at that time was telling me this, “What percentage of records that are sent on monster.com. or any of those platforms have some element of fraud in it?” And I thought it might be 5%, 10%. You’ll be shocked it was about 60%.

Manoj Kutty:

And the point was that if it’s not easy to verify someone’s credentials, there is really no incentive for people to be honest about it. Because you’re going to jump through hoops trying to verify these credentials unless it is for jobs that require, let’s say, a physician’s job, and even them, basically, there are stories of fraud there. And so, when you look at these two problems, the ability to verify instantly someone’s records and have access to your records lifelong. I was surprised that nobody had actually thought about tackling this problem.

Manoj Kutty:

And GreenLight in a sense, started out with this simple premise, that everyone should have access to all of their verified records instantly, they should be able to share them instantly to any third party. Receivers should instantly be able to verify that these records have not been tampered. And that can actually solve a lot of our problems. I mean, it can make students get college admissions quicker, faster, better, they get more opportunities whether there’s scholarships, employment opportunities, you end up actually, helping the community do better.

Todd Zipper:

That’s great. So, in terms of just talking about GreenLight, and understanding the model a little bit better, who is your paying customer ultimately? You’ve got learners, you’ve got employers, you’ve got educational providers, a lot of interested parties here. Who pays for this product or service?

Manoj Kutty:

That’s a great question, Todd. When we started out GreenLight, we first thought that we should charge students. Users to have access to their portfolio verified records, a direct to consumer model. And then we realized that just in Dallas itself, the inequities, asking students to pay, let’s say, $10 a year to have access to their records, the vast majority of students might turn around and say, “No we’re not interested.” So, we turned around and went to the academic institutions, the school districts, the community colleges, the four-year institutions and said, “This is a benefit that you can give your students. Give them lifelong access to their verified records.”

Manoj Kutty:

So, we charge institutions a modest fee to store their student records on GreenLight. And then students have access to these records lifelong. Now, students can share these records with colleges, with employers, with their friends, with their parents, for no additional charge. But we do have revenue models where institutions can be matched to students based on what their enrollment or recruitment criteria is. And we do that only if students consent to have their records viewed. So, these records are stored in the blockchain, students control them, and students can decide who should be able to connect with them.

Manoj Kutty:

So there are two real revenue streams here. One is the storage fees where institutions pay us a fee to store their student records. And potentially down the road where students get lifelong opportunities, those who are giving them the opportunities would pay us a fee.

Todd Zipper:

I read an interesting statement you made in the Chronicle of Higher Education, where you envision a world where students no longer seek out work, employers will instead recruit them after spotting their profiles with credentials verified on blockchain. Can you talk a bit more about this and how you see this evolving in terms of finding talent in the workforce?

Manoj Kutty:

Yeah, you’re a football fan, I know. The University of Alabama has a great football program. And what do they do? They hire scouts to go nationwide and find the best football players, right? And these scouts can go and actually set an attended game. And they can see how those players are performing and they can make offers. The University of Alabama for that matter, any college, they don’t have the same ability to send their scouts to sit in a classroom and see how students are actually performing in a class. And so, GreenLight in one sense makes that possible. When you have your records, all of your verified records, your transcripts, your course records, certificates, and badges, and recommendation letters, and financial information, all of these verified records in one place, and you can send to have these records instantly viewed by the institutions of your choice. Now, these colleges can actually sit inside your classroom if you were to think about it in that perspective and see your records, and they can make you offers.

Manoj Kutty:

So most students basically apply to colleges 50 miles around where they live. Their high school counselors are stressed out set of people who have one counselor for maybe 1,500 students, they’re not able to advise these students in the best possible way sometimes. What Greenlight does is it makes it possible, the real incentives for college enrollment are on the college advisors side, not really in the high school advisors were trying to push the students out, is really the college advisors were trying to pull the students in. And so, what we have tried to do is to make it possible for students to sit in one place, share their records and say, “Find me.” Whether that’s a college administrator, whether that’s a scholarship provider, whether that’s an employer that wants to find talented resources with skills and competencies, you just sit back and you wait for these offers to drop in.

Manoj Kutty:

And I think this has been influenced in some ways by some of the conversations that I’ve had with foundation detector, I should tell you a couple of months back, I was having this conversation with the foundation based in South Africa. And they saw this platform and they were like, “Wow, this is great. Are you telling me that my students here, economically disadvantaged, minority black person sitting out there, he can be given an offer by an American college that is trying to enroll students, but don’t have the ability to go and find students around the world?” And that was very interesting that he was basically thinking of it thinking from that perspective, but here just within the U.S., lots of inequities here, South Dallas, first generation college going students, incredible number of them.

Manoj Kutty:

They’re not thinking of applying to colleges around the country, but the University of Michigan, or Penn, how can they find students here without really having to buy SAT and SAT scores, which are just small data points of potential student success?

Todd Zipper:

That’s great. I want to switch gears to the trust issue around credentials, and you highlighted it with employment. And we’ll get into LinkedIn and some of these other things later. So universities, employers, they’re going to, let’s say, jump over this chasm around digital records, but there’s this trust issue. So, some may be quick to think that these records may not be correct, or they have some other may be tampered with. How does the blockchain technology work? And in this case, how do you use it to build that trust, so people know that this is verifiable ultimately?

Manoj Kutty:

This is a great question. I should take you back, we went live in the second half of 2019. And our first customer was Dallas College. And then we have UNT Dallas, and Dallas ISD were the initial founding members of getting GreenLight up and running. But when we went live at Dallas College, not only did we store their current students, their records, but also, we stored the records of every alum who had attended Dallas College from 1965. So you’re looking at over 1.5 million user records. And on day one, when we went live, soft launch, no marketing 12 students actually pulled their records and shared their records with other colleges.

Manoj Kutty:

And there was one student who had actually graduated in 1987. I’ve no idea how he even heard about GreenLight, registered, taking control of his records and shared it with Western Governors University. So of course, we get these calls from colleges saying, “Who is GreenLight? And are these records legit.” And so, we spent most of the first six to 12 months talking about the technology. Why this technology actually works. Firstly, we are the FERPA agent of the institutions that write records into GreenLight. So, we are the FERPA agent of Dallas College. Now, once the records have written in and students take control of their record, when they send it through the blockchain network to these receiving institutions, these receiving institutions can instantly verify whether the record has been tampered or not.

Manoj Kutty:

We made very simple, you take the record, you drop it in a verification box, and you would know whether this record has been tampered or not. Now firstly, the technology makes it almost impossible for anyone to tamper with these records. But even if that were done, what you do is, the receiving institutions are instantly able to verify, match the underlying record that has been given to the blockchain fingerprint. And you see that even if a pixel has been changed, the underlying math will trigger that this transcript has been tampered or this certificate has been tampered, or this letter has been tampered.

Manoj Kutty:

And so, we went around, talked to all these institutions and we early on engaged with the registrars, the American Association of registrars, and the Texas Association of registrars, and then with the Department of Education. Which also, was a big hoops to jump through because FERPA laws do not really allow students to own records, only control records. And you had to be a FERPA agent. So, we had to get all of these institutions on the same page to understand why this technology works.

Manoj Kutty:

Now, I’m glad to say that today, over 60,000 students have shared their record with over 1,500 colleges and universities nationwide. And these receiving institutions are across the country from the University of Florida to the University of Alaska, all eight Ivy League institutions have received record. So, the hard lift is now behind us, the receiving institutions have a great level of trust that records sent through the GreenLight platform are legitimate, and they can be instantly verified for its authenticity.

Todd Zipper:

So it feels like we are at this moment in higher ed, where learners are workers, which by the way, I love how you’re connecting the education and career because at the end of the day, all these credentials that they’re building from K-12 through college, through all their work is all going towards their jobs, their career and what they’re doing. So I think, we’ll come back to that. It feels like we’re in this moment where somebody moving beyond just the degree, right? Typically, that was how we thought about somebody’s credentials, and transcripts and whatnot. So, I like this analogy of just moving from black and white to color, we have these set of dynamic capabilities around credentials that is not just the degree.

Todd Zipper:

The challenge is, there’s not a common ecosystem to compare them, like with the bachelor’s or master’s degrees, right? Where you are in the world, certainly in the U.S., if you have a bachelor degree, it signals something to the employer to the next University you’re going to. Whereas if you’re starting to chunk up the education experiences in different ways, you’re going beyond that easily identifiable signal like a bachelor’s or master’s. So you just recently partnered with the national nonprofit credential engine, which allows a common descriptive language and compares every type and level of credential. This sounds really exciting. Can you talk more about this partnership, and how it can move the credential debate forward?

Manoj Kutty:

The comparison is very apt, if you think about two-year and four-year colleges, these degrees, there are accreditors that audit whether these programs are good, they meet certain standards, it’s not just the content, but it’s also the assessment of learning. So, all of that is basically monitored on a regular basis by accreditors. Certifications on the other hand, it’s the wild west. The IT space has some more greater degree of relevancy here. I mean, if you have a Java programming certificate from Amazon, or from Google, or [inaudible 00:17:58], you have a better sense that this has been what’s the underlying content and it’s probably been vetted well, et cetera.

Manoj Kutty:

What credential engine is trying to do is to create a level playing field to be able to compare across different certifications issued by different certification providers. So, for instance, if there is a Java programming certificate that is issued by five different certification provider, you can go in and you can see what are the underlying skills and competencies that are taught and assessed by these different certification providers. And it’s not just limited to IT programming, it could be any certification that is issued.

Manoj Kutty:

For instance, I have a conversation now with the University of Texas at Arlington, on an annualized basis, they issue about 45,000, certificates, executive education programs, et cetera. And there is no easy way to compare across a certificate that is issued by UT Arlington versus a certificate that is issued by mom-and-pop shop certification provider elsewhere. So, what exactly are these certification providers teaching you? And do you have the underlying skills and competencies? And so, to make it easy for students to be able to shop across these different certifications, is really what the credential engine CTDL registry is doing.

Manoj Kutty:

For GreenLight, that makes a lot of sense because at the end of the day, GreenLight is all about trust. These records that are stored inside are issued by the institution that issued them so any receiver can instantly verify who issued it? When was it issued? How long is it valid? Et cetera. We can still do that with the certificate. We can still go back and say that the UT Arlington issued the certificate or some other provider, Udacity issued the certificate but now we can go one step further with the credential engine partnership, which is to go in and say that there are the underlying skills and competencies associated with this certificate.

Manoj Kutty:

This matters a lot to employers. If you’re an employer, you’re trying to hire someone who has the requisite skills and competencies. Right? You certainly, when you’re hiring someone from a four-year college degree, you’re looking at the GPA, perhaps, but you know that this person has been put through the grind four years, five years, six years through this college. But with a certification provider, you really don’t have that easy way to analyze that. And so, for employers, this is hugely helpful.

Manoj Kutty:

For GreenLight, not only do we basically now store that student’s certificate, but we can also store the underlying skills and competencies that that student has. So over time, what we would be able to do is not only for employers to be able to see their academic transcript, but also a work ready transcript. These are the skills and competencies that this student has. And that really helps give the students greater opportunities, but also reduce costs of hiring and make it easier for employers to find talent.

Todd Zipper:

I want to jump into micro-credentials and badges because that’s the implication here that there’s this other way to have some signal that’s beyond just the degree. Before I jump into the specific question, in the U.S., let’s say several million people every year, it’s probably caught five million probably on the high end, are graduating with some undergraduate or graduate degree, do you have a sense of the non degree end state, whatever we call that a certificate, a badge, a micro credential? In orders of magnitude, how much bigger that is? I’m signaling I think it’s much bigger than what the degrees are.

Manoj Kutty:

We think that at least at the very least an order of magnitude of 20 times that, probably even more because we’re still at the very early innings. Maybe the first or second innings, right? I mean, badges can be awarded. Every day I switch on my watch or my phone, Apple tells me that I’ve received a fitness badge for having what 30 more steps, I guess yesterday. So I think the badging ecosystem is going to explode.

Manoj Kutty:

And there’s the standard called Open badge [inaudible 00:22:25] standard, modular supported by all our major providers, and we support the open badge [inaudible 00:22:32] standard. There are different issuing entities, there’s Badger, there’s Credly, there’s lots of different issuing entities that make it easy for any provider to issue a badge. But once a badge is issued, rather than it sit on that one platform like a badge, or a Credly, or an IBM, or an AT&T, what GreenLight does is, it is that unified repository of all of your records. So in the GreenLight locker, you can not only see your transcripts, but you can also see all the badges that you’ve collected, whether it is from an Apple or whether it is from an employer that demonstrate some skills that you have.

Manoj Kutty:

And our goal is not only to collect and showcase this badge, but just like the certification to actually demonstrate the underlying skills and competencies that that badge demonstrates. And so, at the end of the day, a true marketplace will work if an employer can query, or the receiving party can query based on certain attributes, right? And so, just to make it easy, in the academic world, you can query and say, “Show me all students with a 3.5 GPA and higher from the following 10 institutions.” It’s not that easy to basically query and say, “Show me everybody who has a badge in Java programming.” What does that actually mean? What are the underlying skills that this person has? So, in a really being able to unlock that and present that in a work ready transcript is really what GreenLight’s goal is?

Todd Zipper:

It’s really fascinating to see the MOOCs like Coursera, edX, Udacity, market an adjacent name, like a nano degree, or a micro bachelor’s degree, I think they all are trying to stay connected to that signaling factor that you get off of what the institution of higher education is done for centuries as we switched to this micro credential model. You’ve covered a lot of what I was trying to cover here that the micro credential is this idea of awarding for a smaller bite size, learning or mastery of a skill set or competency, which makes a ton of sense. Like, for example, even just the universities are starting to work with some of these micro credential providers. I was reading about Southern New Hampshire how they’ve partnered with, I think it’s edX, so you can get your micro credential at edX, but then you could use that for degree granting credit towards a larger associate or bachelor’s degree, which is fascinating to see how these things come to work.

Todd Zipper:

I want to switch gears around this though, you mentioned them, I want to bring that out large companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and IBM have announced very publicly training programs that clearly must lead to some micro credential that then sends that signal to the job market. Does this speed up verify credentials? How are you thinking about these massive companies wading into this space of education?

Manoj Kutty:

I think it’s welcome, and it’s great because you know when you attend a top university, or a top college, that you’re attending a program that is of high quality, and that when you graduate from that program, there is an expectation that you have certain skills and competencies, right? And I think as these big certification providers, like the Amazons and Googles step in, there is the same expectation that they can set standards for their content and for their assessment, that is of a very high standard. And again, keep in mind that most of these large behements that have come in to provide the certification courses and programs are focused on IT, which is a fast moving area, right? Two-year and four-year colleges struggled to keep pace with the advances in information technology.

Manoj Kutty:

And so, when you see a cybersecurity course, offered by a college and a cybersecurity course offered by let’s say, one of these large technology companies, you now, as a student have the option of going in and taking these courses from these providers. Now, if the certifications can also provide a recognition that this student has underlying skills and competencies, that now a university can tap into and say, “Okay, you can come into our program, we will acknowledge prior credit based on what you have demonstrated from these providers, and then we will give you those credit, and then we can build on from there to provide a more generalized rounding.” That is a win-win for everybody.

Manoj Kutty:

So, I think that what these certification providers are doing is what I call more transactional, you have more technical, you can code this much better, and you can get jobs certainly for that. But as you want to get better and better, you probably still need to get a university education. But there’s a partnership here between the universities and the businesses that is only getting better and better.

Todd Zipper:

We talked a lot about the universities and their role in this. Let’s dig a little bit deeper on the employer. Obviously, not everybody is those big tech companies. What is the employer’s role in accelerating this trend around verify digital credentials?

Manoj Kutty:

Well, twofold, right? I mean, one is for employers, both as those who store credentials into the system and second employers that basically provide jobs by viewing these credentials. I think as more and more employers come in to provide these certification programs, and GreenLight becomes hopefully a place where we can store all of these records in one place, it provides an avenue for employers to also retrieve these credentials from this repository. GreenLight’s become part of a consortium called The Velocity Network Foundation.

Manoj Kutty:

The Velocity Network is an employer initiated, some of the largest employers in the country, in the world actually, SAP and Oracle and many other large employers they came together but also hiring agencies. HireRight and HireKelly’s and these agencies that want to instantly verify underlying skills and credentials that people have. They came together to form The Velocity Network, GreenLight’s part of The Velocity Network. And what it makes possible is for users who have collected a portfolio of records, whether these are awarded by universities, or by colleges, or by employers, or by trade certification providers, for you to not only share these records through these different networks, The Velocity Network as an example, and for the buy side for the employers to be able to instantly verify that.

Manoj Kutty:

So, I think these market mechanisms are coming in place, and I certainly see that a few years from now, when users have access to all of their records in one place, it just makes it easier for third-party agencies that are required to do screening, and finding students with the verified records, their jobs are going to become incredibly easy. And employers might be able to get access and get matched to the students a lot faster than they would do otherwise.

Todd Zipper:

So before I get to the obvious question around scaling, I would love to hear your thoughts around the regulators too because obviously, they play a huge role on the university side, either effecting change or looking the other way with the status quo. So, what are your thoughts on how you work with the Department of Education and the regional accrediting providers around this area?

Manoj Kutty:

Well, your early question about when students using GreenLight for sending their record, the questions that popped up was not only around security and stability, and the verifiability of these records, but also other questions around interoperability between different blockchains as an example, between different learner records. Two institutions, the IMS as a regulatory partner, they’ve come together to issue what’s called the comprehensive learner record to CLR format. It is a format by which records can be written in. It’s a schema that allows how records can be written, and how records can be consumed.

Manoj Kutty:

And similarly, the learner record, which is the T3 consortium in the Department of Education came together the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to create what’s called the learner education record, the LER. So, we have been as partners, but also influencing the direction of how both LER framework schema take shape, as well as the CLR schema take shape. We’re excited about it because once there is a definition of these standards, and they are widely adopted, it makes it a lot more easier for universities and institutions to embrace these formats. And then they can issue RFPs. And it becomes a lot more easier for us to compete and win this business.

Manoj Kutty:

As opposed to today, you have institutions that are early adopters that have come on board, and they have said, “This is really a great benefit to our students. We want to do it.” But there are still many institutions that are waiting back and saying, “Let’s see what are the standards that are going to evolve. And once these standards are qualified, we can see which software providers adhere to these standards.’ And thankfully, GreenLight has been at the vanguard of the standards movement. And we certainly haven’t come back from the LMS world, where I saw that once the standards evolved, it just made it so much more easier for institutions to adopt those platforms. We see the same thing happening here in blockchain.

Todd Zipper:

I noticed that earlier this year, the American Council on Education announced winners of its blockchain Innovation Challenge, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Ed. That’s a great connection there. This seems like a great initiative. It looks at ways blockchain technology can help learners get more control over their records. And so, you guys were selected as a winner. That’s awesome. In terms of partnering with, I think a few schools in Texas, to bring the idea to life. What do you hope to accomplish with this initiative? And how are you going to get it done in the coming years?

Manoj Kutty:

That was a great award to win for a couple of reasons. One is what the American Council of education did was to evangelize what we had done in the Dallas County area, and invite nationwide applicants to replicate in what we had accomplished here to provide those benefits to not only students but also to institutions, and the broader ecosystem, employers et cetera. So, they issued this challenge grant, I believe there were over 100 participants, we ended up winning with our partners, Texas Women’s University, UTA, Texas A&M commerce, et cetera, and several other institutions. And we just completed phase one of the deployment, super exciting, about 100,000 students have access to their verified records now through this grant.

Manoj Kutty:

But what it has done is it has made it possible to showcase this accomplishment not just in those first early pilot schools that have come on board, but now is really a much bigger, bigger ecosystem. And I think every other community, whether it’s in California and Florida, et cetera, that had competed for this grant that did not win it would be looking at this and saying, “Okay, these are the new standards that are evolving. This is how two-year and four-year colleges are participating, their students are taking control of their records. Employers are participating.”

Manoj Kutty:

And so, we’ve built this entire ecosystem. That is a tremendous showcase that can now be easily replicated nationwide. So kudos to the DoE and to the American Council of Education to have initiated this and certainly to our partners for having had the leadership to embrace this. It’s a paradigm shift for over 100 years. In education, if it ain’t broke, you don’t have to fix it, right? And not just in education, most businesses but moreso in education. And for over 100 years you’ve worked in some way using the registrar’s office to send records for employers to verify those records in that format, and now you’re suddenly changing it, it really required leadership from these institutions to come in. And really support from the DoE and the American Council of Education sector to say, “This is where the world is headed, and this is what we should all be doing.”

Todd Zipper:

Great. I want to switch gears and talk about scaling. You see certain companies technologies, where it seems like they just scale overnight, the Facebooks, Instagrams, Ubers, what do you see are the barriers to digital credentials becoming mainstream? And when do you think that inflection point is when every student, just like consumers would demand Uber in their cities, when does every student say, “You know what? I want my verified digital credential. I’m not going to keep going and paying for my transcripts like that.” When does that point come?

Manoj Kutty:

10 years ago when we found a Loudcloud, we would go to technology executives in these colleges and universities and say, “Store your records in the cloud.” And they would say, “You’re crazy. We want to keep control of our records.” Today, not a single CIO or CTO would want to do that. All records are stored in the cloud. The onus has moved from protection inside their own systems to protection inside the cloud. And if you think about blockchain, students in control of their records, et cetera, it might take 10 years, but the trend is inexorably pointed in that direction. We have access to our banking information on our phones, you certainly should have control of your verified records on your phones, on your computers that you can share.

Manoj Kutty:

You always over appreciate the impact of technology in the short run and under appreciated in the long run, and I think it will happen very quickly. The Ubers and the LinkedIn switch or direct-to-consumer models were able to scale very quickly. In the business that we are in, we still have a broker, an intermediary, which is the academic institution, they are today controlling the records. And for us, when we go and knock on the doors, we still have to convince them that they should give up control of those records to the students to put that on this technology. And so, it is taking time. But with every success story, the second set of customers that come on board, they know that this has worked for others. And it does work for the early adopters, so they would come on board and say yes.

Manoj Kutty:

Now, there are other challenges, of course. It’s not only a technology challenge, but as you can appreciate, over time, many of these institutions have built bureaucracies around capital financial units within their institutions to process and issue these records. And it is a challenge for these institutions also to figured out how to reallocate these resources. That is perhaps one of the reasons that this is not going to happen overnight, but it is headed in that direction.

Todd Zipper:

On this same thread, can there be multiple winners in his space? When you think about LinkedIn, you’ve talked about GreenLight being a verified LinkedIn profile, there’s really only one winner there, right? For all of us that work throughout our careers, we maintain our LinkedIn profile, right? I can’t imagine that we would have multiple GreenLight lockers is that the term use where you store everything? So, can you talk about, because there’s lots of players here from nonprofits and for profits, MIT’s involved, I think we all want a solution here. How do you think about this from all the different players, and can there be multiple winners and how that could work out?

Manoj Kutty:

I think over time, there’s only going to be one or two winners in the space. And when I think about GreenLight, it is a unified repository of all of your verified records. So, it is that one place where you have all of your records. So, it’s entirely possible that MIT might create its own locker with its own technology. It’s challenging, but it’s very expensive. A software costs a lot of money not only to build, but also to maintain. And so, some institutions or some other developers might come in and they might build localized area set of institutions in their local markets that can store records in, but to really have all of your records in one place, there’s just going to be maybe one or two such players that would be in the space. So, we certainly don’t think there’s going to be 100 providers.

Manoj Kutty:

All of these businesses require scale. Early on, you would see, there have been lots of pilots by academic institutions, research projects, the Arizona State University had one. There’s one in New Mexico, there’s MIT and Maryland, et cetera. But these are academic institutions doing research projects. They’re not funded to scale, and they’re not funded to continue to operate, which requires sales and other capital investments. And so, we think that there’s just going to be maybe one or two players in this space five years from now.And hopefully, we’ll be one of those.

Todd Zipper:

So, if education digital records wasn’t big enough, you’ve also gotten into the healthcare space with the launch of the GreenLight VitalSigns6 last year. My understanding is users can screen for depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses and privately send to their health provider of choice. Not only will this hopefully reduce the prevalence of mental health in our communities, but it’s giving patients and healthcare providers the opportunity to store and share screening results privately. I can see this being a game changer also in healthcare. And I’m curious what it was that made you want to shift gears or maybe not shift gears, but incrementally go into an area leveraging your technology and healthcare?

Manoj Kutty:

Well, mental health is a big challenge more or so post COVID. It’s always been a big challenge but students success is somewhat determined not only by their ability to learn, but also their health. And the University of Texas Southwestern Medical had invested over $10 million, several years put 50,000 patients through a program not only to screen for mental health, depression, anxiety issues, but also to provide primary care physicians the tools by which they can diagnose and treat these patients. It made a lot of sense for us because we as we looked at our student community, our goal was to ensure, how can we make these students successful? How can we put them in a position where they can get better college and scholarships and employment opportunities?

Manoj Kutty:

And having some health would go a long way to ensuring their success. So we partnered with UT Southwestern, we acquired the rights to this technology and this product, we ended up building more ubiquitous and powerful screening tools, we can store those tools, patients can store their results on their blockchain, and securely share that with any third parties, whether it’s their own primary care physician, or the nurse practitioner in school, or with other peer networks that they want to share.

Manoj Kutty:

And if you think about these records at the end of the day, they are just data and stored certificates. They’re similar to a transcript, or they’re similar to a badge or a certificate. What GreenLight’s just doing is, it’s making it possible for users to have access to these health records. And we realized that they’re very complimentary, for you to be successful, if you have access to all of these records in one place. Now, you might choose to share your health records only with your physicians and with your doctors, and certainly not with a college enrollment advisor, but it certainly helps you as a student position yourself, be successful in life.And that’s why we partnered with UT Southwestern. But we’re super excited about this.

Todd Zipper:

It’s great. So before we wrap up, I want to know what your biggest challenges that you’re facing to the success of this model that we might not have covered. I know we’ve talked a lot about the registrar’s office as a huge hurdle. And sorry for picking on those folks because I know many wonderful people that work there, and they’re just doing their best to help the university advanced and learners. But how are you thinking about your biggest challenges to hitting that tipping point?

Manoj Kutty:

Well, I think standards goes a long way. We think that as we can get more of the success stories out there in the marketplace, it is really communication and strategic alliances. How do we make it easy for these institutions to store records in GreenLight? And those are integrations with storing information systems as an example, one click these institutions can push these records into the GreenLight locker. How do we make it easy for institutions to consume these records, have all of these records in one place?

Manoj Kutty:

And so, I think standards goes a long way, the leadership of these institutions to embrace this technology. And I think in Texas already, we can see the momentum shift. We have reached that inflection point because we now have significant number of school districts. And now, some leading two-year and four-year colleges that have embraced this technology.

Manoj Kutty:

Having partners nationwide that can store records and that can consume records, The Velocity Network Foundation as an example. And also, content providers and publishers, et cetera. It’s really bringing together this ecosystem that can see value not only in storing records, but in consuming those records. And I think that if we have this conversation again, 12 months from now, I suspect what COVID has done, is it has accelerated many of these trends. It would have taken us many more years to get these institutions to give control of these records. These institutions are saying yes faster because it’s capacity. They don’t have the resources to support their students and alums who come in and say, “We would like our records.”

Manoj Kutty:

And enrollment challenges, colleges want to be able to find students and enroll students. And so, COVID has certainly been an accelerator of the adoption of this technology. And so, hopefully, in 12 months from now we’ll have a much better story in keeping to these trend lines to share with you.

Todd Zipper:

Well, Manoj, thank you so much. Final question I ask all of my guests, one of our core values at Wiley is learning champion, which is the definition should be fairly self-explanatory, who has been a learning champion for you? And how is that person helped you in your life?

Manoj Kutty:

Certainly, my parents. Early on, they would tell me, in India, everybody played cricket, a modified version of baseball. In baseball, you have three strikes and you’re out. In cricket, one strike and you’re out. And so, they will tell me that whatever you do, you’ve got to be honest and put a high bar to at honesty and integrity because once strike in that area, and it’s very challenging to pull yourself up when you get there. And so, that’s what we’ve tried to do with GreenLight. To trust, honesty, and build those values into this company.

Todd Zipper:

Manoj, you’re a true innovator and have made some transformative moves both in higher ed and healthcare. Thank you so much for your time and for speaking with me today. Until next time, this has been An Educated Guest.

Manoj Kutty:

Thank you so much, Todd.

Todd Zipper:

Thank you, Manoj.

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