An associate professor of computer science at Cornell University, Emin Gün Sirer, was scheduled to teach a 600-level course on blockchain technology. It was an advanced class intended for PhD students.
Sirer told CNBC Make It that you are teaching a popular class if the said class has about five to a dozen students. He was astonished to witness 88 students on his first day of teaching.
Most of the students were undergraduates. Sirer spoke about his students stating that it was quite interesting to see such a level of interest.
In addition, many students from other top universities are anxious to enrol in blockchain-related courses.
The Blockchain-Related Data
A survey of 675 US undergraduate students conducted by Coinbase and Qriously states that 9% of the students have already enrolled in a blockchain or cryptocurrency related class while 26% expressed their interest in enrolling in one.
Kevin Werbach and engineering professor David Crosbie of the University of Pennsylvania teaches “Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, and Distributed Ledger Technology”. Computer science professor Dawn Song of the University of California at Berkeley teaches “Blockchain and CryptoEconomics”. In addition, Cornell even offers a course on cryptography.
Song’s class had 25 available seats, and 100 students from her department were competing for it in 2017. Her class teaches blockchain and she co-taught this class with faculty from the business and law schools situated on the campus. She is still experiencing high demand for her blockchain class in 2018.
Song told CNBC Make It that she thinks her students are intrigued to learn about the technology as it offers a comprehensive range, deep historical academic roots, and new frontiers.
The Wharton School will experience their first full-credit blockchain class this fall, and it will be co-taught by the school’s professor of legal studies & business ethics, Kevin Werbach.
Werbach said that the job prospects are a big reason for the increased interest in blockchain classes and that the student’s attention is rapidly growing. The students are seeking opportunities with both blockchains focused start-ups and major companies that want the students to work in this area.
Werbach explained that the school sends people to every Fortune 500 companies, investment banks, and technology firms. He added that the majority of those companies are looking for expertise in the blockchain or distributed ledger area as they now have blockchain or distributed ledger projects.
Over the last three years, bitcoin-related job postings on LinkedIn increased nine-fold in the financial services industry and four-fold in the software technology industry. It was based on the data provided by the platform to CNBC Make It.
Tech companies like IBM, Facebook, and Amazon have already begun to incorporate blockchain into their system.
The industry proponents claim that there are numerous and far-reaching potential applications for blockchain even though the most popular use of it is in cryptocurrencies. Blockchain can be used to track the supply chain of food while its travelling and can also help you shop for electricity. According to data provided by PwC’s 2018 Global Blockchain Survey, 84% of the companies have already adopted the blockchain technology.
Bitcoin’s rapid surge in price and its overall impact on the market in 2017 was a massive factor in peaking the student’s interest. Bitcoin rose to an all-time high of US$ 20,000 in 2017, but at the time of writing, a single bitcoin is equal to US$ 6,480.35. Bitcoin rose from US$ 1,000 at the start of 2017 to US$ 20,000 in December.
Bitcoin became even closer into the limelight attracting the youths, along with the corporate magnate, Warren Edward Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
The faculty adviser of The Penn Blockchain Club, Kevin Werbach, stated that the club was created in 2017 and by the end of the year employed 300 members. There are currently over 600 employees in 2018.
Berkeley’s Blockchain at the Berkeley Student Club consults with the companies to create blockchain applications for them. They have even worked with companies like wireless tech giant Qualcomm and the French aerospace company Airbus.
A sophomore electrical engineering and computer science student at the student club, Alan Lai, said that the semester following the December 2017 blockchain craze had 2,000 people interested in their information session on Facebook. They even received 400 applications in the same semester.
The Cornell university’s blockchain club has managed to rope in over 100 members. They come from various fields of study ranging from hotel management to biology.
Sirer added that it often had times tough to find a room because the attendance is too high whenever the speaker came into the room.
Blockchain Is Only One Aspect of It
Sirer gave a warning to blockchain fanatics despite his excitement to see the student’s interest in the subject. He stated that you should completely avoid overspecialization so early in your career. He also added that you would be making a big mistake if you ended up going to go to a blockchain dedicated program.
Sirer argued that without the knowledge of overarching principles, concepts, and foundations underlying computer science and engineering, it’s pretty much useless to study a niche topic like blockchain.
He said that the right way to do this is to have a broad and strong foundation. He further added that the structure of all their courses convey the main principles and not how to use today’s blockchain because blockchain keeps improving, tomorrow’s blockchain may look nothing like today’s.
Werbach agreed with Sirer and defended him saying that it’s a mistake to focus all the academic education on the latest emerging technology alone due to the lack of materials to teach a full degree in the blockchain rigorously. Therefore, he also encourages his students to think about the topic before going into it thoroughly.
Werbach elucidated that you need to learn the subjects that are already taught in universities like economics, finance and law and distributed systems in engineering to understand blockchain. He thinks that taking on a bunch of courses rather than a single session can help the person get a well-rounded education.
Despite all this, Werbach states that the subject is worth looking into for the students.
“I am confident that whatever happens to the price of cryptocurrencies or the success of some of these first generations of companies that have done token offerings, this technology of blockchain and cryptocurrency is here to stay,” Werbach says. “It is a fundamentally new approach that is valuable in a lot of contexts.”