Blockchain In Higher Education
It is no secret that blockchain – the technology powering Bitcoin – has become a hot topic on college campuses. Although Bitcoin was often the catalyst for student’s interest in the space, a handful of universities have leveraged the underlying technology to drive innovation on campus.
Over the last few years, elite universities have shown their commitment to the technology by creating curriculum to suit the undergraduate and graduate levels. Those who have embraced the technology have received international praise and media attention, government grants, a wave of new student applicants, and a surge of recruiters looking to hire educated graduates.
According to a recent report from Coinbase, 42% of the top 50 universities offer at least 1 class on blockchain or cryptocurrencies. These universities include Stanford (10), Cornell (9), and University of Pennsylvania (6), to name a few.
Miami University of Ohio has followed suit. In August of 2017, a group of students founded MUBC – now the university’s premier blockchain initiative – with the goal of educating the community on blockchain and related subjects. Like that of the 2017 crypto boom, their audience quickly soared from 20 members to over 200 in the span of just 12 months. With this, MUBC positioned itself as one of the largest student-led blockchain collectives in the world, despite only recently coming into the fold.
The university took note, and has since announced plans to launch two blockchain-oriented courses at Miami. Dr. Arthur Carvalho – an Information Systems Professor and Advisor to MUBC – will teach ISA 481 in the Spring of 2019.
“We agreed that blockchain is a technology that is here to stay,” Carvalho told Inside Higher ED, “so we decided to develop a three-credit-hour course.” The cross-disciplinary course will explore how blockchain works, discuss real-world applications, and cover topics related to businesses, computer science and mathematics.
Starting a new and exciting curriculum is not without its challenges. Although many courses have sprung up in the past 24 months, very few are tailored to undergraduates, said Carvalho. “I don’t even have a textbook — everything has been developed from zero.”
Although the technology is often associated with payments and finance, MUBC’s membership comprises students from nearly all areas of study offered at the university. A potential reason for such diverse interest in the subject is its potential to impact society across many domains. According to Dawn Song – a computer science professor at University of California, Berkeley – “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.”
With increasing demand for blockchain-educated graduates, it is no surprise that academic institutions have made the subject a top priority. However, these same universities face new challenges: finding qualified professors to teach the material, and keeping the content up-to-date.