The University of California, Berkeley, has been operating Blockchain at Berkeley as a student-run organization for several years.
The program was created to provide Blockchain education as well as research and consultancy for students and companies.
Because of the success of their educational materials, the Berkeley Blockchain team now offers two new online courses on the edX course platform based on this tried and tested content.
The new courses are intended for beginners who are looking to learn about Blockchain fundamentals; the individual courses can be accessed for free.
"The Course Material Has Been Tested on Campus"
Edukatico: Dear Gloria and Rustie, how are your courses different from other ways to learn about Blockchain?
Berkeley Blockchain Team: Blockchain requires a well-rounded body of knowledge from a variety of fields.
We make sure that students are exposed to knowledge from all disciplines necessary to get a holistic understanding of blockchain.
The goal of the courses is to present such a complicated topic in as fundamental of a way as possible, so as to be accessible by anyone no matter their background; we build students’ intuition from the ground up.
For coursework, in addition to in-depth lectures, we also create a virtual classroom environment through online discussions, office hours, quizzes, and complementary reading materials.
Blockchain at Berkeley educational material has been tried and tested on campus in lecture, for community meetups, and also internationally. Our course material and design has been fine-tuned by talented student volunteers and school faculty. We are confident that this course will present the best way to understand blockchain at a fundamental level.
"Our Courses are Simple for Anyone to Understand"
Edukatico: Who can participate in your course? Do students need to have prior programming skills?
Berkeley Blockchain Team: This course is intended for anyone. We don’t assume any technical background knowledge. The concepts are broken down into language that is simple for anyone to understand.
Having a firm understanding of blockchain fundamentals is the imperative first step in truly immersing yourself in the blockchain space. We teach our students how to think in this new paradigm of blockchain thinking. We then encourage our students to carry this knowledge over into their professional careers -- whether it be technical or non-technical.
Students interested in blockchain development may look into Blockchain at Berkeley’s “Blockchain for Developers” course, which is currently only offered on UC Berkeley campus (including video recordings), but is looking to expand to edX soon.
Intro video to the Berkeley Blockchain MOOCs
Edukatico: The two courses are part of an edX Professional Certificate Program. Can online learners also take just one course? And what would be the additional benefit from enrolling in the full program?
Berkeley Blockchain Team: Yes. Students can take either or both of the courses for free.
Students may also choose to pursue a paid Verified Certificate, which they receive upon completion with a passing grade.
Our courses were designed in conjunction with each other, one being a prerequisite for the other. The first course is an introduction to blockchain from a historical and technical perspective of its invention and first use: Bitcoin. Understanding the key innovations of Bitcoin, and how it uses blockchain and inspires later blockchain applications, students learn that lessons in Bitcoin are easily transferable to other blockchain platforms.
The first course ends with an introduction to Ethereum, and generalizations and commentary on blockchain use cases: Breaking down the innovative properties of blockchain that are necessarily captured in good blockchain use cases.
Our second course takes a step back even further, and begins with a survey of traditional distributed systems literature, and also covers alternative consensus mechanisms (to Proof-of-Work). We also teach topics such as anonymity, scalability, enterprise blockchain, and crypto economics, all of which rely on the knowledge taught in the first course.
It is strongly recommended that students take both of our courses, in chronological order. You can find more about our syllabus on the course website.
"More Than 10,000 Students from Around the World"
Edukatico: How will students benefit from learning about Blockchain? What are the key real-world applications or jobs they can prepare for with these courses?
Berkeley Blockchain Team: Blockchain education introduces a brand new mental model. It pushes students to consider a new paradigm by which individuals interact, conduct trades and exchanges. By extension, it forces students to reexamine existing systems and identify the strengths and drawbacks in their design.
Some stats from our edX page:
Whether the students use this knowledge to pursue blockchain development careers, or whether they're trying to pursue non-technical positions, it still requires a fundamental understanding of the technology in order to be effective.
This is what our course teaches, and also why it is so important to take. Currently we have over 10,000 students (and counting) from many countries around the world.
"Mission to Bring Blockchain to the World"
Edukatico: So what is your personal motivation behind offering these online courses?
Gloria: I’m an instructor for the first half of the series. My main motivation comes from giving back. I acquired a large part of my knowledge in blockchain due to the help from people I met. These people poured hours and hours of their time to help me get to where I am today. I want to pass on their help by allowing more people access blockchain education.
Since the blockchain industry is still very young, there are few formal educational materials available to general public. So I thought the online lecturing format would be most effective in bundling various topics together and presenting them to the world.
Rustie: I’m the team lead for Blockchain at Berkeley’s edX team, and instructor for both courses. Very early on, we recognized the need for a comprehensive guide of the blockchain space. Members from Blockchain at Berkeley have taught an on-campus version of this course, which is the world’s first and only university-accredited undergraduate course on blockchain.
With each offering, we see our application numbers rise. But there was a hard cap of what we could offer due to limits in the number of hours we could teach in a week, and also of lecture hall size. And while we did record our lectures and post them on YouTube, the full experience of our course was only truly accessible to Berkeley students.
To scale up, we looked into leveraging our university’s existing relationship with edX, an online course platform, and from there, we planned the next stage of our course: open, free, and accessible for thousands of self-motivated online learners.
Blockchain at Berkeley’s main mission has always been to bring blockchain to the world, and in my mind, my team’s work in providing our material on a global level is just the logical next step in the realization of this goal. I’m extremely proud of what my team has accomplished, and I hope everyone can appreciate the content we have created.
Edukatico: Thank you for this overview and all the best for your Blockchain courses!
[The interview has been redacted for better readability.]
The new Blockchain MOOCs (massive open online courses) can be accessed here. Enroll in the Professional Certificate Program to get a certificate upon completion. Or choose the individual courses to learn for free.
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