The University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) has just concluded its first accredited course focused on blockchain and distributed ledger technology.
The course, which was taught as a computer science class through the College of Creative Studies, was formed in response to requests from the Blockchain Acceleration Foundation (BAF), a nonprofit organization composed of students, professors, blockchain advocates, and interested individuals who want to facilitate the mass adoption of blockchain technology.
Blockchain at UCSB co-founder and Blockchain Acceleration Foundation president Cameron Dennis noted that despite blockchain’s rising popularity on college campuses, students at UCSB previously had few opportunities to learn about the emerging technology outside of Blockchain at UCSB meetings. After numerous discussions with UCSB administration, Dennis, BAF Director of Technology Alireza Rafiei, and blockchain advisor Kirk McGregor, were able to convince the university that a computer science course focused on blockchain was needed. Dennis said:
“My goal with this course was to teach radically-curious computer science students about compelling blockchain use-cases that can disrupt society's most entrenched institutions while revolutionizing corporate governance.”
The Importance of Blockchain Education
According to the 2nd Annual Coinbase Report on Higher Education, released on August 28, 56 percent of the world's top 50 universities now offer at least one course on crypto or blockchain, which is up from 42 percent in 2018. The report also found that twice as many students have taken a crypto or blockchain course this year versus last year.
The Coinbase report also noted that while computer science classes most commonly focus on blockchain (accounting for 32.2%), finance, business and economic classes are also teaching courses on blockchain.
UCSB’s course, titled “Decentralized Ledger Technology,” taught students about consensus mechanisms, Bitcoin and Proof of Work, Ethereum Virtual Machine, Solidity and smart contract development, algorithmic stablecoins, zero-knowledge proofs and other relevant blockchain topics.
While the course was taught by Professor Murat Karaorman, notable speakers from leading companies lectured on occasion. These speakers included the co-founder of Orchid Labs and creator of Cydia, Jay Freeman; Research Scientist at Protocol Labs, Evan Miyazono; Head of Backend Services at MakerDAO, Niklas Kunkel; and CBC Casper Researcher at Ethereum Foundation, Aditya Asgaonkar.
According to Protocol Labs’ Miyazono, it’s important for universities to start offering accredited blockchain courses as the technology enters the mainstream:
“Blockchain projects and the general set of distributed applications will transform many industries and address the important issues of our time. With these tools, we can build better, more equitable, collaborative, shared systems, whether it's secure and decentralized data storage networks or permissionless identity solutions."
Moreover, Miyazono noted that university courses are necessary in order to combat the hype and scams commonly associated with the blockchain and cryptocurrency space:
“The space is fraught with hype and misleading claims. I had the pleasure of meeting a number of students in the UCSB class who were an impressive balance of well informed, optimistic, and critically insightful. I wholly believe that there are few institutions better suited to instill and foster these qualities than accredited courses at universities.”
Other Blockchain Courses
While UCSB just concluded their first blockchain-focused course, Ripple’s University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI), which was launched in June 2018, has committed over $50 million in funding to 29 universities around the world.
According to Ripple, this funding allows academics and university administrators to work on researching critical issues facing blockchain, while educating students on the subject matter.
Other leading universities such as MIT and Stanford University have also been offering blockchain courses since 2018.
Blockchain Advisor at the University of California, Davis, Kirk McGregor, commented that blockchain will influence economic development and social reform, therefore courses on the subject matter are necessary:
“Understanding blockchains is crucial for both technical advancements in digital services and for policy improvements in a community. Scholastic accreditation of curricula for blockchains and their analogues ensures not only high-quality education but also cultural alternatives to orthodox business practices, both of which significantly influence economic development and social reform.”