At top schools like Wharton, students are flocking to classes on bitcoin and blockchain

September 12, 2018

 

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. 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.

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