Category Archives: Blockchain Education

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University of Malta Announces Blockchain Scholarship Fund

A EUR 300,000 blockchain scholarship has been announced on the island of Malta in a partnership between the University of Malta and the Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA).

Scholarship fund

As reported by local news outlet Times of Malta on 29 August, the fund will be allocated to students who specialize in ICT, law, finance and engineering. Split over three years and starting this academic year, students can apply to the scholarship and start blockchain- and DLT-related Masters and PhD research dissertations.

Dr Silvio Schembri, digital economy parliamentary secretary, said, “These companies need technical resources both to build and to operate by use of this technology, as well as experts in financial services, law and managerial roles”.

This year, Malta has been a prominent entity for the growth of the blockchain industry and community. Passing accommodating blockchain and cryptocurrency laws in July, becoming the new home of digital currency exchange giant Binance and topping the charts for initial coin funding gains are just occurrences in Malta that signify a blockchain-centric future for the island.

With education now being introduced as part of the nation’s blockchain-friendly infrastructure, blockchain companies will find it hard not to be attracted to Malta’s shores. According to the Times of Malta article, Dr Schembri is positively anticipating scholarship beneficiaries occupying “important posts” in the sector.

University of Malta rector Alfred Vella also described a plan to internally exercise and review other degrees and Master’s programs such as law and finance ICT to include units connected to DLT, blockchain, AI, fintech and regulatory technology.

According to MITA executive chairman Tony Sultana, the agency is presently making inroads with other educational institutions to get a similar program going. Further to this, public sector employees are receiving training with the tech.

Education for the next generation

Interestingly, Malta already has a blockchain degree in the works, which is part of civil servant training and will be on offer later this year.

The topic of blockchain education and degrees is becoming a familiar one; there is a global movement presently taking place that is attempting to apprehend a world heavily involved with blockchain technology.

A recent report found that 42% of the top 50 universities in the world are offering “at least” one course on blockchain technologies or cryptocurrencies. The findings were from a Coinbase survey that highlighted an increase in courses as well as a growing interest from students in a “range of majors”.

 

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Walton College at University of Arkansas Joins Growing List of Blockchain Educators

The University of Arkansas (UA) is the latest addition to the growing list of blockchain education proponents having now established a Blockchain Center of Excellence at its Sam M Walton College of Business.

Proactive approach

UA is seeking to study the nascent technology and prepare its students for a future of blockchain, a technology that is experiencing incredible growth and applicable to almost every sector and industry.

In the sprouting adoption of blockchain into the mainstream consciousness, the desire to prepare the future generations is escalating. The technology is expected to disrupt many other global technologies and UA is taking the bullish approach.

Walton College Dean, Matt Waller said, “We will develop and establish research partnerships by conducting collaborative industry-university research, we will promote and enable dissemination of knowledge about blockchains, and we will accelerate industry adoption of blockchain technology.”

The new center is funded by an executive set of partners which will be limited to ten. Five have already been selected, most notably Walmart and IBM, who have deeply invested their time and funds into blockchain projects and patents.

Mary C Lacity, Department of Information Systems Professor at the Walton College and the new director of the Blockchain Center of Excellence said, “The technology is immature. Enterprises need to overcome significant obstacles to transition more blockchains out of innovation labs into live production.”

The center will be collaborating with Arkansas-based companies. It is taking a proactive approach to the study of blockchain with the intention of utilizing these relationships for practical research and business integration.

Other efforts

Educational institutions in the United States are mounting an academic response to the emerging industry, which, due to the cautious public and skeptical governmental approach to cryptocurrencies and blockchain may come as a surprise. However, now that the markets have cooled off, the monetary value of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies comes second to the value of the underpinning tech.

Stanford University, New York University, as well as others are tackling different facets of the industry. Stanford is shooting for the business approach, much like AU who is apprehending an innovative enterprising future with blockchain.

New York University is offering a course that educates students in cryptocurrencies, which is similar to that of Berkley; DePaul University is providing smart contract and fintech-focused classes.

Other global efforts are taking place, Brazil, Denmark, Russia, and prestigious academic institutions in the United Kingdom are making hefty bids to provide blockchain educations.

If industry-wide adoption has brought blockchain to the forefront of governmental discussion, then the inroads created by academic institutions may truly be the way to break blockchain into the mainstream permanently.

 

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LSE Begins ‘Cryptocurrency Investment and Disruption’ Course in August

A fascinating development has emerged from the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) as it has unveiled a brand new online certificate course titled ‘Cryptocurrency Investment and Disruption’.

Prestigious institution

LSE is a leading British research university. Historically, the alumni and faculty have been awarded 18 Nobel Prizes in economics and literature, with some 34 past or present world leaders being part of the LSE alumni.

The first class will begin in mid-August and has intentions to provide practical knowledge and “theoretical thought leadership for which LSE is renowned”, evoking the century-old LSE “understand the causes of things” motto.

The blurb for the reasonably affordable (GBP 1,800) six-week long course reads:

“The exponential growth and volatility of cryptocurrencies and the distributed ledger technology underpinning them has led to a global interest in cryptoassets, ICOs and the distribution of digital wealth. Private organizations, individual investors, financial service firms, governments and regulatory bodies worldwide are taking note of this highly disruptive trend. And in such a volatile environment, it can be difficult for potential investors and businesses to make sense of, and accurately evaluate, cryptocurrencies and their uses.”

LSE is now part of an expanding list of coveted institutions that are offering cryptocurrency and blockchain courses. Oxford University already has its own ‘Blockchain Strategy Program’.

It is another online six-week course; it aims to give its students foundational understandings of the blockchain, future implications for business and open up collaborative partnership doors.

Increase in crypto-education

Over in the United States, Stanford University, as well as New York University, are among others displaying a clamoring for blockchain educations in the states. In Spanish-speaking countries such as Spain, Argentina and Venezuela, there is also a hunger for the crypto knowledge.

It comes as no surprise that crypto-related education is becoming somewhat of a norm; the 2017 boom of Bitcoin’s price and ICOs caught the attention of the mainstream. However, in the wake of the unrelenting bear market, the discussion has moved on to “what is blockchain?”.

Demands for blockchain

In May 2018, blockchain development was actually a highly sought-after skill. Freelance employment website Upwork has released its quarterly index of the “20 hottest job skills” and it showed that postings for workers with blockchain skills had grown faster than more than 5,000 skills on the website.

As the commendable efforts to provide blockchain education increase, as does the workforce. It is a snowball effect that highly reflects the legitimacy of the technology and is evidence of an extraordinarily positive set of changes for the industry.

 

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Joshua Broggi: Woolf’s University Blockchain Education “Practical Rather Than Theoretical”

There is a widespread scramble in the blockchain industry to apply the technology to almost any imaginable industry. Projects now seek to update existing standards, enhance efficiency or upgrade every known tool across a broad range of sectors, from finance and banking to music sharing and data privacy.

While it’s not improbable that most industries could benefit from a blockchain upheaval, there is some merit in asking the question: is the education system in need of distributed ledger technology? Also, is a blockchain university really necessary?

Joshua Broggi, Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford University, certainly thinks so.

Broggi has founded Woolf, a platform that is designed to deliver higher education degrees through a decentralized, democratic system, with the intention to protect both students and teachers. Billed as “the first blockchain university, Woolf allows anyone around the world to access higher education outside of their own jurisdictions.

With platforms like the Open University and other universities allowing for distance learning degrees, this is blockchain’s foray into the sacred institution of education?

Bitcoin News got in touch with Joshua Broggi to help unravel some of the broader questions surrounding Woolf’s innovation on modern education.

Bitcoin News (BN): When did it become apparent to yourself and others behind the Woolf project that higher education needed to undergo some rigorous readjusting? 

Joshua Broggi: Higher education faces many challenges, and these have occupied my thinking (and public debate) for many years. Two economic problems have stood out: student debt and adjunct teaching. In the UK and US, student debt is a major and visible problem – it damages the lives of many students and keeps them from reaching their potential.

At Oxford, my home university, most of the faculty members – 63% – are on temporary contracts. This is typical of all major British universities. In the United States, roughly half of all university teachers are on extremely precarious ‘adjunct’ contracts. The human costs of this employment practice are incredibly damaging.

Meanwhile, university administrations have been growing for decades. In 2015, university administrators finally outnumbered academics in the United Kingdom. So we are left with a situation in which the normal employee of a university is either an administrator or a badly-employed academic. That’s not a good arrangement.

BN: The economic downturn caused quite a stir across all industries; a heavily discussed issue was the decline of college and university entrants, this in tandem with increased university costs has left many sceptical. However, there seems to be somewhat of an upswing over the past couple of years, what do you think has caused this? 

Broggi: Without engaging in an interpretation of the data, I can say that at Woolf, we are committed to providing access to an education that prepares students for a changing employment situation. We’re asking ourselves, “How can we best prepare the next generation of students? How can we reach across borders so that we can broaden student horizons?”

At Woolf, we are committed to the long-term benefits of a formative university education  – the kind of education that results from the extended, concentrated effort demanded by universities – because that is how the underlying skills of good judgment, sound reasoning, and intellectual creativity are developed.

But we don’t think the current system is agile enough to create the courses that students most require. We need to prepare students for a more global world in which the employment demands are changing. This is one thing that makes senior professors excited about joining Woolf: they can craft innovative curricula across borders.

BN: What can a blockchain-based education system do to remedy the employment challenges that faculty members face? 

Broggi: At Woolf, we are creating blockchain processes that enforce regulatory compliance for teaching activities, and that provide government accreditors with assurance about cross-border teaching data.

This eliminates a number of administrative processes and facilitates a global, collegiate, democratic, university structure. The result is potentially very powerful: a system in which professors do not need to ask for permission to practice their profession, but in which regulators and students can be confident about the quality of teaching.

BN: The Open University has been delivering a similar service to what Woolf offers and is in the pursuit of utilizing blockchain also, so can this medium of education overtake the present standard? 

Broggi: The Open University has been doing marvelous work exploring blockchain’s potential in higher education – as have Alex Grech and Anthony Camilleri, who wrote the European Commission Report on Blockchain in Education. We are really supportive of their work on blockchain.

At Woolf, however, we aren’t just researching blockchain; we’re focused on delivering a full university system to the public as quickly as possible, and we have been beta-testing our smart contracts since March of 2018. Woolf is in the process of obtaining full degree-granting powers in the European Union – so many of our considerations are practical rather than theoretical.

BN: In a recent Forbes article you were quoted saying that “teachers and students from outside the EU can join our platform and earn a full EU degree – a non-EU student with a non-EU teacher in a non-EU language“.  The broader implications of this guide me to a point where educational qualifications have the capacity to become borderless, but will the degrees hold any weight in a country that could deny the legitimacy of those qualifications? 

Broggi: The whole design of Woolf is meant to incentivize higher standards. But you raise an interesting point, which is that there are no agreed global standards for accreditation. Every agreement is the result of political negotiation and consensus.

Our work with various governments has reinforced how varied the standards are across jurisdictions, but Europe has agreements like the Bologna Process, which not only help to harmonize standards but also to make them more globally recognizable. At Woolf we have had to develop a strategy to ensure the widest global reach for our credentials – this is an ongoing process, but it is going well, and we are committed to ensuring that our future students will be proud of their degrees!

BN: Protecting the educators, as well as the students, appears to be a priority for you and the platform. However, how can a professor be sure that there is any employment or financial security when the tuition fees will be significantly cheaper and they’ll be getting paid in a cryptocurrency, which is often well known to be rather volatile?

Broggi: Every academic department faces employment challenges because it is uncertain how many students will enroll in a given course. Woolf has several advantages. First, we are focused on a personalized education with Oxbridge-style classes – so we only need one or two students per class. Second, we’re creating a global pool of students and a global pool of qualified teachers – and this makes it much easier for students and teachers to find each other across borders. Third, lowering tuition fees does not mean lowering salary. Many traditional universities only pass on a fraction of tuition fees to their teachers, in their salaries.

This is why we have been working so hard to eliminate and automate bureaucratic processes. Fourth, our blockchain-based enrollment system is designed to give teachers greater financial confidence about future student enrollment, so they know exactly what their teaching load is in the future.

Digital currencies are more unstable than most fiat currencies when they are compared to each other. (Of course, for any currency, one unit is stable in relation to another unit of that currency; so volatility is always a description of external relations.)

At Woolf, we’ve been developing a stabilised payment system to dampen volatility with relation to specific external values, but you’ll have to wait for future announcements on that front.

 

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