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Author Topic: [2018-09-12]At Wharton, students are flocking to classes on bitcoin  (Read 15 times)
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September 12, 2018, 05:47:48 PM
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Last spring, Associate Professor of Computer Science Emin Gün Sirer was scheduled to teach a 600-level course on blockchain technology at Cornell University, an advanced class intended for PhD students.

"Usually when you have five to a dozen students in such a class, you're teaching a popular class," Sirer tells CNBC Make It with a laugh. But when Sirer arrived on the first day to teach, he was shocked: 88 students had shown up.

"It was pretty interesting to see that level of interest," Sirer says of the students, most of whom were undergraduates.

Those Cornell students aren't an anomaly: At other top universities across the country, students are anxious to enroll in courses focused on the proliferation of blockchain, a decentralized ledger technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

Blockchain 101?
According to a new survey of 675 U.S. undergraduate students by cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase and Qriously, 9 percent of students have already taken a class related to blockchain or cryptocurrency and 26 percent want to take one.

Among courses on blockchain, the University of Pennsylvania offers "Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, and Distributed Ledger Technology," taught by Kevin Werbach and engineering professor David Crosbie; University of California at Berkeley offers "Blockchain and CryptoEconomics," taught by computer science professor Dawn Song; and Cornell offers a course on Cryptography.

Last year, Song had around 100 students from her department competing to nab one of 25 available seats in a blockchain class she co-taught with faculty from the business and law schools on campus. This year, she's still seeing high demand for her blockchain course.

"It's still very popular," Song tells CNBC Make It. "I think students are intrigued to learn about the technology which is very broad ranging and both has deep historic academic roots as well as exciting new frontiers."

The course professor Werbach, who teaches legal studies and business ethics at The Wharton School, will be co-teaching this fall is the university's first full-credit class entirely focused on blockchain.

A big reason for the increased interest in blockchain classes is job prospects, he says.

"There is rapidly growing student interest," says Werbach. "They're seeing opportunities with companies that want students to work in this area, which include both blockchain focused start-ups as well as major companies.

"Wharton sends people to all the Fortune 500 companies, and investment banks and technology firms. A very high percentage of those leading firms now have blockchain or distributed ledger projects, and they're looking for expertise in that area," Werbach explains.

University of Pennsylvania Professor Kevin Werbach speaking.
Source: The Wharton School
University of Pennsylvania Professor Kevin Werbach speaking.
Indeed, job postings related to bitcoin on LinkedIn increased nine-fold in the financial services industry and four-fold in the software technology industry (as a proportion of overall job postings on LinkedIn) over the last three years, according to data provided by the platform to CNBC Make It. As of Monday, there were 2,770 open jobs related to "blockchain" posted on careers website Glassdoor.

Tech companies like IBM, Facebook and Amazon have all started blockchain initiatives.

And though the most widely known use for blockchain is cryptocurrencies, industry proponents say the potential applications are numerous and far-reaching, from tracking the supply chain of food as it travels from farms to your plate to helping you shop for electricity. A full 84 percent of companies are "actively involved" with blockchain technology, according to PwC's 2018 Global Blockchain Survey.

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