With the ever-expanding reach of crypto, individuals and businesses alike seek to develop their literacy of blockchain technology. Berkeley's online program aims to do just that – equip technical and non-technical professionals with the knowledge needed to enter a blockchain career.
According to the program description, the certificate "is accessible by anyone, with any background." The description lists a wide array of potential careers the program is appropriate for, namely, "blockchain developer, crypto trader, data analyst, researcher, or consultant."
In order to earn the certificate, students must complete a two-part course over three months, with each part lasting six weeks. The course covers bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as well as the systems and mechanisms underlying blockchain technology. Berkeley has partnered with the massive online open course provider edX to deliver the program for less than $200. There are 7,400 students enrolled so far.
The first part of the course, Bitcoin and Crytocurrencies, provides a look into the fundamentals of the bitcoin and cryptocurrency space. Specific topics include the history and intent of a virtual currency, the basics of cryptography and hash functions, wallets, mining, and the properties of Ethereum (with discussion of the differences between the Bitcoin and Ethereum protocols).
The second part of the course, Blockchain Technology, delves into the mechanics and applications of blockchain technology. In this part, students learn about consensus algorithms and mechanisms, the field of cryptoeconomics, and real-world applications of blockchain technology. These applications include efforts from various organizations to implement blockchain technology, obstacles to blockchain adoption, and governmental regulations.
The program originated from the university's student-run organization Blockchain at Berkeley. The organization collaborated with faculty from Berkeley's computer science department to develop the program, although the original 2016 course material was narrower in focus. Over two years' time, the program "decided to offer a more comprehensive view of the industry," said Mengyi Wang, lecturer and discussion leader for the course.
Berkeley is not alone in ramping up its blockchain educational offerings. Stanford University's School of Engineering offers a course titled Bitcoin and Crypto Currencies. Princeton University has partnered with education technology company Coursera to offer an 11-week course, Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies. And the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a course through the hosting service GitHub called Cryptocurrency Engineering and Design.
There are also specialty schools outside the university and college system that provide blockchain education. Blockchain University based in Silicon Valley offers various courses in blockchain and cryptocurrency technology, including Intro to Bitcoin Protocol, Project Creation, and Smart Contracts. The B9lab Academy based in London has course offerings specifically tailored to Ethereum, such as Ethereum 101 and the Ethereum Developer Course.
Although many institutions offer courses related to blockchain and cryptocurrency technology, these classes may be electives as part of an overall degree, intended only for a technical audience, or offered discretely – apart from a single program. Berkeley's professional certificate program is a step in the right direction for a more holistic, accessible approach to blockchain education.