Imagine An eLearning DAO

Imagine An eLearning DAO
Summary: The future of eLearning: a scenario.

Decentralized Autonomous Learning

The recent developments in distributed ledger systems have generated a lot of interest specifically in blockchain applications. Besides decentralized finance (DeFi) and decentralized exchanges (DEXs), a novel concept that has captured software developers’ attention is decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs).

A DAO is an internet-blended organization that is jointly owned and managed by its members. A DAO eliminates hierarchical management and can be employed for a wide array of functions (e.g., charitable organizations where donations are jointly approved by the members). The core characteristic of a DAO is that all its members work in coordination according to a common set of laws encoded on a blockchain. The main advantage associated with a DAO is increased transparency, in comparison to conventional hierarchical-based organizations, since anybody can see all the transactions for the DAO. Such transparency enables a significant decline in risks associated with corruption and censorship.

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a major shift to eLearning, pushing students, teachers, as well as many industry employees to the online environment. As online content in many domains becomes readily available, the possibility of novel DAOs for eLearning becomes a reality. In such an organization learners would cooperate in the learning quest by helping each other understand various complex topics in a particular domain.

To understand the eLearning DAO concept, we can draw a parallel with the well-known decentralized file-sharing system, where each member in the system can act alternatively as a server or as a client based on the member’s needs:

  • If the member has the requested file, they will act as a server distributing the file to interested members.
  • Otherwise, the member acts as a client requesting a certain file.

In the eLearning DAO, the client/server paradigm is replaced by the student/teacher paradigm, based on the following scenario:

  • If the member is knowledgeable about a certain topic that is required by other members, they will act as a teacher distributing knowledge to interested members.
  • Otherwise, the member acts as a student learning about a certain topic.

Advantages Of DAOs

It is helpful to highlight the most important characteristics of an eLearning DAO:

  1. Transparency
    An evaluation mechanism for both students (i.e., grading) and teachers (i.e., students’ evaluations) would allow other members to have an insight into how members are interacting with each other in the learning environment.
  2. Decentralization
    It enables teaching flexibility where trust among members is unnecessary and the control of the teaching network does not rest with a single entity or a small group of members. Each member may become a teacher if knowledgeable about a topic, or a student if the desire is to learn a topic.
  3. Immutability
    The teaching/learning events are recorded permanently by the blockchain ledgers, hence counterfeit certifications are not possible.

Solving The Principal-Agent Dilemma

The principal-agent dilemma is a conflict in priorities between a group (the principal) and an individual making decisions and acting on their behalf (the agent). A popular example is the relationship between the stakeholders (the principal) and the CEO (the agent). The CEO may run the organization in a way that’s not in connection with the priorities and objectives agreed by the stakeholders and instead act in their own self-interest. Another example is that a trader (the agent) may take an excessive risk (e.g., high leverage) to get a performance incentive since the stakeholders (the principal) cover the downside.

The eLearning community governance solves the principal-agent dilemma in a DAO. In the eLearning DAO, the students are not forced to join a certain teacher or course. They only do so after understanding the rules that govern that course. Members don’t need to trust each other and instead, work as part of a group whose goals are common (e.g., gaining expertise on a specific topic).

Because the members of the eLearning DAO have a stake in the network (i.e., as a student becomes an expert at a topic, they can earn income by becoming a teacher), they will want to see it succeed. Acting against it would be acting in contrast to their self-interests.

DAO Caveats

  • Lack of legal frameworks
    Since DAOs can be dispersed across multiple jurisdictions, there is a lack of legal framework for them. Legal issues will likely require the members involved to deal with a variety of regional laws in a complex legal dispute.
  • Security
    While transactions are encrypted and immutability offers a permanent record, attackers may alter the smart contract’s code to destabilize the DAO.


As distributed ledger systems are evolving, decentralized autonomous organizations are generating new models for managing modern organizations, including eLearning-based systems. With the added value of collaboration and transparency among members, eLearning DAOs may foster new paths to increased learning efficiency.