The Blockchain Big 12: Tech’s Top Colleges

School’s back in session, and blockchain courses have been filling up left and right. A recent survey showed that 42 percent of the world’s top 50 universities offer at least one course on blockchain technology or cryptocurrency. Columbia University (in collaboration with IBM) and Stanford Engineering have both started blockchain research centers. And blockchain courses are no longer just the domain of computer science and business schools—law schools across the country are including them in their course offerings as well. Even community colleges, such as Wake Tech, are getting in on the game.

Here’s a roundup of some of the biggest universities bringing blockchain to the classroom:


Blockchains, Cryptocurrencies and Smart Contracts
Ari Juels and Rafael Pass are teaching a new in-depth course this spring to master-level students that promises to cover the mechanics of consensus algorithms (think Byzantine Consensus and Proof of Work), digital signatures algorithms, zero-knowledge proof, smart contracts, cryptocurrencies and crime, and more.

Introduction to Blockchains, Cryptocurrencies, and Smart Contracts
A less technical course geared towards MBAs, now in its second year, will have a greater emphasis on ICOs (initial coin offerings) this time around, Juels said in an email. He also plans to have students critique ICO white papers “so that they could understand how much dross is out there.” The course will include more examples of IC3 (Initiative for Cryptocurrency and Contract) research. Additionally, students will consider “a wonderful didactic example of insanity and clogged blockchains: Cryptokitties,” Juels said.


Introduction to Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies & Analytic
This highly technical introductory course introduces the concept of blockchains using bitcoin as its primary example, and then delves into cryptographic protocols, hashes, digital signatures, smart contracts, and data mining of transactions with machine learning and social network methods. Students will gain an understanding of the applications of blockchains to peer-to-peer technology, and its uses in smart contracts.

Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies and Digital Tokens Demystified
This business school course gives non-technical students a primer on the theory and practice of blockchain, cryptocurrencies, digital tokens, and the underlying innovations and developments that made distributed systems possible. It will also touch on challenges and potential solutions in the field.


Innovations and Cryptoventures
What began as a business course in 2014 with just 13 MBA students has burgeoned into a class of more than 200, prompting additional classes in response to the demand. It goes beyond fintech and delves into non-cryptocurrency applications of blockchain, encouraging students to innovate and present a new company pitch tied to blockchain tech to the class.


Blockchain, Virtual Currencies, and Tokens: An Examination of Business and Legal Issues
This course, taught by Donna Redel and Kenneth Goodman, is for both business and legal students and covers the development of blockchain and the legal issues surrounding it. Students will develop an understanding of the business cases for blockchain by examining case studies.


Blockchain and Money
MIT is offering
a new 12-week course focused on blockchain tech, covering distributed ledgers, smart contracts and ICOs, as well as regulatory concerns. Students will also look at potential use cases for blockchain tech and create final projects incorporating the blockchain. The course is taught by former Wall Street regulator and Goldman Sachs partner Gary Gensler.


Digital Currency, Blockchains, and the Future of Financial Services Industry
NYU continues to offer a course on the emerging role of blockchains and digital currencies in the economy. This year, the class will include a new lecture on bitcoin futures that have been successfully traded on the Chicago commodities exchanges. Also new this year: they’ll spend more time on initial coin offerings, and explaining how blockchains work in terms of both cryptography and competition among miners.

Cryptocurrencies and Decentralized Ledgers
This tech-heavy course, taught by one of the authors of the textbook Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies: A Comprehensive Introduction, delves into the technical concepts underlying decentralized ledgers as used in not just banking and finance, but also voting, law, gambling, online gaming, and more. It covers decentralized consensus, smart contract, append-only ledgers, and zero-knowledge proof systems, and students will leave with a working knowledge of bitcoin and ethereum, of course.


Money and Banking
This course, taught by economist
Markus Brunnermeier is an economic deep dive, exploring the interaction between money, markets, and institutions. The course was offered before and taught by a visiting professor. This year’s may include some slides related to Brunnermeier’s blockchain economics paper, and go into more detail about Central Bank Digital Currency.  


Cryptocurrencies, Blockchains, and Smart Contracts
Taught by Dan Boneh, this course will focus on how different cryptocurrencies work, how to write distributed, decentralized applications, how smart contracts work, and how to design consensus protocols. “The very first time we taught it three years ago, the focus was very heavy on bitcoin. Ethereum was covered as well, but not with as much attention as now,” Boneh says.

University of Pennsylvania

Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, and Distributed Ledger Technology
The course, co-taught by professors at the Wharton School’s Department of Legal Studies & Business Ethics and Penn Engineering’s Department of Computer and Information Science, focuses on the underlying blockchain, cryptocurrency, and distributed ledger technology in the context of what it’s trying to do. “When we look at what’s going on, we see that the fundamental change is moving from centralized trust to distributed trust,” said course instructor David Crosbie. Students will work in teams to evaluate cryptocurrency or distributed-ledger projects in this interactive, project-based course.

University of California: Berkeley

Challenge Lab: Blockchain
Students in this highly experiential course, which counts towards Berkeley’s Certificate in Technology and Entrepreneurship, will identify new emerging sectors for blockchain technology by working on scalability, creating mobile blockchain applications, working on the creation and execution of broader smart contracts, or working through some of the policy challenges and regulatory challenges in this space. Berkeley also offers a
Blockchain and CryptoEconomics course.

In addition to computer science and business schools offering blockchain courses, law schools are getting in on the game as well. Duke Law will offer its Law and Policy Lab: Blockchain course for a second year. It focuses on the challenges and opportunities blockchain offers, to what extent regulation and government intervention should be allowed, and how to maintain rule of law through regulation and legislation if decentralized networks replace centralized ones.

ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law will be offering a new course called Blockchain & Cryptocurrencies: Law & Policy, which explores legal and policy applications and implications of blockchains and cryptocurrencies; big issues including not just supply chains, money transfers and exchanges, taxation, regulation, and ICOs, but also the use of blockchain in criminal and civil litigation, for example.

And Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School’s Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Law is back for a second year. In its first iteration, it was a broad overview of blockchain technology, its evolution and application, and legal issues that arise from it. This winter, the course will be taught by a full-time law faculty professor, who’s developing the curriculum from his own research and from resources developed by the Accord Project, an organization building out blockchain-based curriculum for law schools.