UniCoin – Rewarding socialisation at universities

By Nishant Pandav and Tejas Kothari

Monash University Event Link: https://www.monash.edu/it/events/2021/monash-blockchain-hackathon

This document was part of a submission for a blockchain hackathon organised by Monash University and Algorand between 9th and 11th July 2021. We would like to share this project with the general public and grow the project idea.

UniCoin logo

The Problem

Local governments and universities have lost money during covid due to lack of student engagement on campus and in the surrounding areas. Students’ presence has been a major source of income for these bodies. International students have been a major source of revenue for universities and as a result of COVID-19, Australian universities are expected to face a revenue loss of up to $18 billion for 2021-2023 period. Monash University is expected to face a revenue loss of up to $1.8 billion. A post-covid world would require these bodies to attract students on campus to financially recover from these losses. 

International students have been a major source of revenue for universities and as a result of COVID-19, Australian universities are expected to face a revenue loss of up to $18 billion for 2021-2023 period. Monash University is expected to face a revenue loss of up to $1.8 billion.

Ian Marshman and Frank Larkins, The University of Melbourne

Other major problems faced by the universities include low attendance in lectures and students not taking part in campus activities. It is known that classroom engagement plays an important role in the understanding of topics. The above cases result in students spending less time on campus and placing less value in universities which face great losses running empty facilities. Campuses also provide a safe environment for socialisation. Societies, cafes and events are part of this experience. Restaurants and cafes on campus incur operating losses when there are less people to spend money.

Considering the above scenarios, it is beneficial for the local governments, universities and small businesses to have more students spending more time on campus and in the surrounding areas.

UniCoin

Our solution is to incentivise students to spend more time on campus and the local areas by rewarding engagement with university tokens. 

UI for the student using a mobile phone and the lecturer using a tablet or a computer

Using Algorand

The need for using Algorand blockchain for solving this problem arises out of the need for creating a cheap yet secure transaction method for the university economy. As the idea for UniCoin is to be able to quickly convert a token issued by the university into fiat currency (considering cryptocurrency has not yet achieved mass adoption), we used Algorand stateful smart contracts to perform the exchange of the university own currency into fiat currency that can be used to purchase anything anywhere. In addition, as there is a likelihood of bad players (eg. hackers) trying to enter the system, UniCoin realises the security of Algorand and its low transaction costs.

Earning and Spending UniCoins

UniCoin economics

The fiat or Algorand value of UniCoin can be set by an organisation delegated by the university. This could, for example, directly relate to the quantity of Algorand that the university holds. At this point, as we imagine UniCoin to be issued by a university, the exchange rate may remain at the discrepancy of this university. We recognise that this may restrict the users from being able to trade the currency on public exchanges and would restrict them to services delegated by the university. 

Gift Cards / Vouchers Vs UniCoin

To offer incentives for attending events or to recognise achievements, the organisers offer gift-cards or discount coupons. Generally, this means that the cards or vouchers issued by a store would not be accepted by anyone but the stores that recognise the issuing body. Gift cards issued by banks also have a minimum required amount.

Due to the convertibility of UniCoin into fiat currency and the minimum transaction costs on Algorand blockchain, universities would no longer have to worry about purchasing and keeping a track of any gift-cards or vouchers. This is also beneficial for businesses as they don’t have to keep a track of the cards or vouchers issued. 

The Future

The vision of UniCoin is to reward socialisation. UniCoin gamifies the university experience by directly recognising the achievements and engagement of the participants by rewarding them. This gamification guarantees the increase in socialisation and expenditure. Answering quizzes and attending events are only examples of the numerous activities for which the university could reward the students. Other activities could include answering surveys and accomplishing daily workout milestones. 

Universities could also recognise the possession of UniCoins as an indication of loyalty. They could reward this loyalty by handing out merchandise to participants holding a certain quantity of UniCoin or holding competitions just for UniCoin holders. 

With a gamified university experience through UniCoin, the students would get more out of their university life and businesses would recover quicker from the COVID-19 losses.

References

https://melbourne-cshe.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/3392469/Australian-Universities-COVID-19-Financial-Management.pdf

https://rotman.utoronto.ca/-/media/files/programs-and-areas/behavioural-economics/guidegamificationeducationdec2013.pdf

https://www.algorand.com/technology

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