New Media Institute presents program certificates as NFTs

New Media Institute presents program certificates as NFTs

January 12, 2022

It is naturally fitting that the New Media Institute, a program that prides itself on teaching its students about emerging technologies, would be the first known unit on UGA’s campus to present completion certificates to its students as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.

John Weatherford, a senior lecturer in the NMI, said there have been many good, healthy conversations about NFTs in classes over the last few months and this was an obvious way to explore the space.

“The underlying technology is really interesting and has a lot of practical value,” Weatherford said. “NMI is always wanting to learn about new technologies and stay up to date, and issuing the certificates as NFTs seemed like a fun way to move beyond talk and theory into action and practice.”

NFTs are unique digital assets that contain value and authenticate ownership. They are gaining in popularity because they are an exclusive way to exchange assets more seamlessly with a high level of trust. Working through digital wallets as monetization is a frequent application of NFTs, which are used to prove ownership of other digital assets like artworks, recordings, and virtual real estate or pets.

Weatherford has been studying NFTs and their applications. He extensively researched multiple options for minting and sharing the NFTs, experimenting with different blockchains and marketplaces.

“This was a fun way for us as faculty to keep up-to-date with this rapidly-developing technology,” Weatherford said of the process.

Although most NMI students knew about NFTs, few actually had hands-on experience before the NFT certificates.

“Outside of having fun, offering the NFT certificates is a good nudge for them to take the step of actually working directly with NFTs themselves,” Weatherford explained. 

Each student was presented a traditional paper certificate with the option of having an NFT copy, as well. At SLAM, the NMI’s year-end event, only one student was prepared to accept his NFT certificate when it was announced they would be offered, but within a week nearly 20 students had taken ownership of their NFT certificates. 

Weatherford explains that the specific NFTs he selected for this project are also environmentally-friendly.

“To get really technical, these NMI NFTs are on the Ethereum-compatible Polygon blockchain,” Weatherford said.  “They are minted on OpenSea as 60 unique 1 of 1 NFTs. And, because they are gasless, there are no transaction fees and minimal environmental impact.”

The most important aspect is the lesson in how to apply a new technology in a format that is expected to continue growing.

“In the future, one could imagine NFTs as part of the college credentialing experience,” Weatherford said. “Instead of having just a paper certificate, the students have a unique, verifiable digital credential to share with employers.”

The New Media Institute is an interdisciplinary certificate program focused on learning about emerging technologies and their applications. Classes include user experience design, website and app development, product ideation and user research, among others.