Among the classes on offer at Cornell University this year there are "The Anthropology of Money" and "Introduction to Blockchains, Cryptocurrencies and Smart Contracts". These are just two of the 28 Ivy League school classes related to the blockchain, the popular new technology that creates a permanent ledger on multiple computers.
While Cornell has embraced the blockchain phenomenon more than other schools, it is certainly not the only one. According to new research by Coinbase Reports, a growing number of universities are teaching the subject across multiple disciplines.
Here is a table of the report, which shows how other major schools, including Stanford and UC Berkeley, offer several blockchain courses:
The popularity of the blockchain on campus is notable in part because the technology is still new and because some they still associate currencies like Bitcoin (which runs on a blockchain) as the province of geeks and cyber-criminals.
Back in 2014, when David Yermack, president of the finance department at the Stern School of Business in New York, offered his course on blockchain and financial services, states that only 35 people have signed up. Now, according to the report, the course is filled with 235 students and is teaching it in both semesters.
More generally, while many blockchain teachings have grown compared to traditional cryptography courses, the subject has also come up in many other disciplines, and interest embraces the traditional divisions between engineering and social sciences .
"The analysis of Coinbase found that of the 172 classes listed by the 50 best universities, 15% was offered by business, economics, finance and law departments, and four percent were in the social sciences departments such as anthropology, history and political science ", notes the report.
The multidisciplinary appeal probably reflects how blockchain projects typically revolve around decentralized communities that rely on incentives (such as cryptocurrency awards) to maintain a common, indestructible registry system. Building a successful blockchain therefore requires experience in different fields such as game theory, information systems and information security. And as the legal scholars Primavera de Filipi and Aaron Wright have explained in their revolutionary book Blockchain and the Law technology is also ready to redo some social and economic rules of society.
The report also included a survey that found a high level of interest in blockchain among students. This included almost half of the social science majors who reported that they would like to take a blockchain class.
Finally, the report found that interest in the blockchain was particularly strong in American universities. Only five of the 18 international universities included in the list interviewed by Coinbase – which was based on the 50 best universities classified by US News and World Report – offer at least one class on blockchain or cryptocurrency.
Coinbase itself is treating the results as good news, partly because the company is actively recruiting students with blockchain experience. According to a source close to the company, Coinbase will kick off a national tour to provide "crypto 101" sessions on campuses that have shown strong interest in the blockchain.
The company is also conducting a recruitment tour that includes a stop at Howard University on September 13th, in Princeton, Duke, and several other schools.