An Ivy League Education in Blockchain

An Ivy League Education in Blockchain

The term ‘Ivy League’ refers to a collegiate athletic conference officially founded in 1954 and consisting of eight private north-eastern universities: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University. However, as some of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the U.S., the term has become synonymous with these schools’ reputations for academic excellence.

In the U.S. News & World Report 2019 National University Rankings, all eight Ivies are ranked in the top twenty, with Princeton taking the top spot ahead of Harvard, while Columbia and Yale join the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago in a tie for third.

As with other leading universities, the Ivies have directed increasing resources towards blockchain and have incorporated it into their academic programs.

Embracing Blockchain

In August 2018, a Coinbase report examining the rise of cryptography and blockchain in higher education found that Cornell offered 9 courses on blockchain and cryptocurrency, second only to Stanford (10 courses) of the 50 universities examined. Penn, Harvard and Princeton were also highly ranked. Back in 2017, Trustnodes.com ranked Cornell as the best university at which to study blockchain technology.

In addition to offering a number of introductory blockchain courses to its MBA students (such as B8776-001 and B8462-001), Columbia Business School hosts an annual two-day summit on ‘Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies & Digital Tokens Demystified.’ This course is intended for participants with no prior knowledge or technical background. Check out this page for details of how to register.

Beginning in summer 2019, the university will also offer a 3-week summer immersion program for high school students (grades 11 and 12), entitled ‘Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies, AI, And Beyond: An Introduction To The Future Of Financial Technology.’ Columbia is serious about blockchain – in July 2018 it announced it had partnered with IBM to open a center dedicated to research and innovation in blockchain technology and data transparency.

In Fall 2018, Penn’s Wharton School began offering its first full-credit blockchain course for undergraduate and graduate students, entitled “Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, and Distributed Ledger Technology.”

Along with 16 other universities, including Princeton, Penn has also launched a strategic partnership with the San Francisco-based currency exchange Ripple, under the banner of the University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI). UBRI aims to “support and accelerate academic research, technical development and innovation in blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payments,” with Ripple so far contributing over $50 million in funding.

Many of the Ivies also have popular student-run clubs promoting the use of blockchain, such as the Penn Blockchain Club, Columbia Blockchain Alliance and Cornell Blockchain.

And the good news is that the top ranked Ivy in 2019 offers an online course that is free and accessible to all!

Princeton MOOC

Since 2015, Princeton has offered a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on blockchain. Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies is an 11-week course taught (and co-created) by Arvind Narayanan, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Princeton who co-authored a seminal textbook on Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies.

According to the course materials, upon completion students should “know everything you need to be able to separate fact from fiction when reading claims about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. You’ll have the conceptual foundations you need to engineer secure software that interacts with the Bitcoin network. And you’ll be able to integrate ideas from Bitcoin in your own projects.”

The 11-week syllabus is organized as follows:

  1. Introduction to Crypto and Cryptocurrencies
  2. How Bitcoin Achieves Decentralization
  3. Mechanics of Bitcoin
  4. How to Store and Use Bitcoins
  5. Bitcoin Mining
  6. Bitcoin and Anonymity
  7. Community, Politics, and Regulation
  8. Alternative Mining Puzzles
  9. Bitcoin as a Platform
  10. Altcoins and the Cryptocurrency Ecosystem
  11. The Future of Bitcoin?

Requiring approximately 18 hours of study to complete, teaching methods consist of videos, articles and quizzes. It’s worth highlighting that no certificate is awarded upon completion.

Cornell Certificate Program

Cornell also offers a 100% online program to students around the world, via eCornell, the university’s online learning platform. Unlike Princeton’s offering, the Blockchain for Business Certificate Program does award a certificate upon completion but this comes at a cost of $3,600.

Aimed primarily at business leaders and entrepreneurs, the program promises you “will walk away with a proposal for an application of blockchain technology in your organization.”

The program consists of four courses lasting two weeks each, meaning the course can be completed in two months (32 professional development hours):

  1. Cryptocurrencies and Ledgers
  2. Cryptography Essentials
  3. Blockchain Fundamentals
  4. Applications of Blockchain Technology

Harvard Online Courses

Harvard Extension School offers an online Introduction to Blockchain and Bitcoin course, costing $2,750. Previous experience of programming in Python is listed as a prerequisite.

This course covers the mathematical, computational, and economic foundations of blockchain, and exposes students to the societal and legal implications of a decentralized monetary system based on consensus. Students learn what bitcoins are, why it is possible to make money using bitcoins, and why it is so volatile. Through practice with bitcoin and Ethereum-based software platforms, students build decentralized applications, develop an understanding of cryptographic principles, and revisit critical economic questions, such as what is money, what is a transaction, and who should authorize a transaction.”

Harvard Extension School

The university’s Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning (VPAL) also offers a FinTech online short course, through the GetSmarter platform. Lasting six weeks, the course examines the shifting nature of the financial sector, including a module focusing on blockchain and cryptocurrency. You can watch a course trailer on YouTube. The course costs $3,600 and a certificate will be awarded by Harvard upon completion.

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