Cryptocurrency Is The New Hot Topic At Universities: Blockchain Courses Are On The Rise

Blockchain Courses Popular With University Students, Coinbase Study Finds
Crypto is making its entrance into the world’s academic scene, and students are lining up to learn.

A recent Coinbase study reveals that University students want to learn more about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. Commissioned by Coinbase in partnership with Qriously, the survey sampled 675 U.S. students, and it found that students across all majors have an interest in blockchain technology.

Some have literal vested interest in the cryptocurrency market itself, while others are looking to leverage blockchain courses to break into the space’s developing job market. Of those surveyed, 18 percent reported holding some value in cryptocurrency. Another 26 percent indicated that they’re interested in taking a blockchain-related course in the future, with the most immediate interest coming from social science (47 percent) and computer science (34 percent) majors.

Benedikt Bunz, a doctoral student at Stanford, said the “tremendous excitement” around the blockchain and cryptocurrency courses is due to the ease of getting a job after graduation due to the high demand for blockchain experts.

“If you’re an expert in cryptocurrencies and cryptography you’ll have a difficult time not finding a job,” he noted.

The survey also studied the top 50 universities in the world as ranked by the U.S. News and World Report, and it found that 42 percent offer at least one class on relating to the blockchain industry. Geographically, the study indicates that cryptocurrency courses are more popular in the U.S., with Stanford and Cornell University topping the charts for most individual offerings. Outside of the U.S., only “five of the 18 international universities” surveyed offer at least one class on blockchain technology or cryptocurrencies in general.

One of its more salient findings, the survey highlights the high demand for crypto and blockchain courses across a wide spectrum of departments. Unsurprisingly, most of this demand stems from the finance and computer science disciplines.

“Coinbase’s analysis found that, of the 172 classes listed by the top 50 universities, 15 percent were offered by business, economics, finance and law departments, and [4] percent were in social science departments such as anthropology, history, and political science,” the report notes.

Dawn Song, a computer science professor at University of California, Berkeley, said the rise in the interest in blockchain courses is due to the potential impact the technology can have on society.

“Blockchain combines theory and practice and can lead to fundamental breakthroughs in many research areas. It can have really profound and broad-scale impacts on society in many different industries.”

Song, who co-taught the “Blockchain, Cryptoeconomics, and the Future of Technology, Business, and Law” in the spring semester of 2018 said the course was so popular that they had to turn students away because the auditorium was filled up.

Elsewhere, David Yermack from the New York University Stern Business School plans to offer his blockchain course in both semesters this academic year as opposed to just one semester like last year. Yermack launched his course on blockchain and financial services in 2014, and with an original enrollment of 35 students, it featured a smaller class size than the school’s typical elective at the time. By spring 2018, however, the number of enrolled students had increased to 230, a tangible reflection of the growing interest and enthusiasm students are exhibiting toward the field. / Source: BitcoinMagazine

The Anthropology of Money

Among the classes on offer at Cornell University this year are “The Anthropology of Money” and “Introduction to Blockchains, Cryptocurrencies, and Smart Contracts.” Those are just two of the 28 courses at the Ivy League school related to blockchain, the popular new technology that creates a permanent ledger across multiple computers. / Fortune Magazine

While Cornell has embraced the blockchain phenomenon more than other schools, it’s hardly alone. According to new research from Coinbase Reports, a growing number of universities are teaching the subject across multiple disciplines.

Here is a chart from the report, which show how other prominent schools, including Stanford and UC Berkeley, are offering multiple blockchain courses.

The popularity of blockchain on campus is remarkable in part because the technology is still new and because some still associate currencies like Bitcoin (which is run on a blockchain) as the province of geeks and cyber-criminals.
Back in 2014, when David Yermack, the finance department chair at New York University Stern School of Business, first offered his course on blockchain and financial services, he says only 35 people signed up. Now, according to the report, the course is packed with 235 students and he is teaching it both semesters.

More broadly, while a lot of the teaching on blockchain has grown out of traditional courses on cryptography, the subject is also popping up in numerous other disciplines, and interest spans the traditional divisions between engineering and social sciences.

“Coinbase’s analysis found that of the 172 classes listed by the top 50 universities, 15 percent were offered by business, economics, finance, and law departments, and four percent were in social science departments such as anthropology, history, and political science,” the report notes.

The multi-disciplinary appeal likely reflects how blockchain projects typically revolve around decentralized communities that rely on incentives (such as cryptocurrency rewards) to maintain a common, indestructible ledger system. Building a successful blockchain thus requires expertise in fields as diverse as game theory, information systems and cybersecurity. And as legal scholars Primavera de Filipi and Aaron Wright explained in their groundbreaking book Blockchain and the Law, the technology is also poised to remake certain social and economic rules of society.

The report also included a survey that found a high level of interest in blockchain among students. This included nearly half of social science majors reporting that they would like to take a blockchain class.

Finally, the report found that interest in blockchain was particularly strong at American universities. Only five of the 18 international universities among the list surveyed by Coinbase—which was based on the 50 top universities as ranked by U.S. News and World Report—offer at least one class on blockchain or cryptocurrency.

Coinbase itself is treating the findings as good news, in part because the company is actively recruiting students with blockchain experience. According to a source close to the company, Coinbase will be kicking off a national tour to provide “crypto 101” sessions on campuses that have demonstrated a strong interest in blockchain.

The company is also conducting a recruiting tour that includes a stop at Howard University on September 13, and at Princeton, Duke and numerous other schools.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is provided for discussion purposes only, and should not be misconstrued as investment advice. Under no circumstances does this information represent a recommendation to buy or sell securities.
Aamir Kapoor is a fintech writer specializing in cryptocurrency and blockchain. He has a background in finance and banking and was a researcher.