Bitcoin and blockchain have become hot topics in recent years. And that is for good reason, given that they have made a huge splash in the areas of finance, economics and currency. As a result, bitcoin and blockchain have definitely become relevant to institutions of higher learning. And those colleges and universities can embrace the world of cryptocurrency by understanding both the challenges and harnessing the benefits.
First, it is necessary to understand what bitcoin is. It is a cryptocurrency that has an important role to play when it comes to international financial transactions. Its worth relies on the value that users place on it in a variety of platforms and trading schemes. Blockchain technology is the basis of a deeper and more specialized internet.
Don and Alex Tapscott, the authors of "Blockchain Revolution," have described blockchain as "an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value."
Bitcoins on blockchain are comparable to a virtual spreadsheet duplicated many times across a computer network. A blockchain functions when the network can accept regular, secure and authenticated updates and everyone sees the changes at the same time. Thus, blockchain technology has been called "the new internet."
Here is a good explanation of how blockchain operates: Blockchain technology allows digital information "to be distributed but not copied." It was created to protect bitcoin.
Unlike traditional banking, bitcoin blockchain does not have a centralized authority. Rather, bitcoin volunteer miners maintain the network through special computers that perform the complex math calculations that make the transactions occur. As transactions take place, they are grouped into a "block" and sent through the network where the miners validate transactions.
Although bitcoin has attracted a huge level of interest, it is not without its downsides and challenges. For one thing, it has been a rather volatile investment in recent months, with its value decreasing toward the end of 2018. Its all-time high value so far was $20,000, but more recently that has gone down to about $3,900. This is similar to what happened with the stock market erasing a large part of its 2018 gains. But the drop in bitcoin created added concern about its soundness as an investment.
There are numerous reasons for the drop in bitcoin value, according to experts. They believe the drop is similar to Wall Street stock splits, and with bitcoin, those are called "forks." There is also competition from other forms of cryptocurrency.
But despite the volatility, colleges and universities are creating their own programs that teach students about bitcoin and related topics. Those institutions of higher learning are also navigating the topics surrounding earning bitcoin revenue. The technology surrounding bitcoin is known as blockchain, and it is quite complex as it involves elaborate mathematical calculations and huge strings of user identification codes.
Colleges and universities may find that they can harness numerous benefits pertaining to bitcoin and blockchain. One benefit is that they may be able to receive handsome returns on their investments in bitcoin. In addition, when they design and offer courses pertaining to bitcoin and blockchain, they can expand the knowledge pertaining to these important topics.
It is interesting to see colleges and universities making investments in cryptocurrency funds. That said, because bitcoin value has gone down in recent months, it is unclear whether that investment trend will continue.
No matter what happens with cryptocurrency investment by colleges and universities and whether they continue to make investments in that area, it does seem clear that it makes sense for institutions of higher learning to offer a variety of courses pertaining to bitcoin and blockchain.
Here are some examples of universities doing just that. Stanford, MIT and Cornell offer courses about blockchain technology. At Cornell, 88 students signed up for a class about blockchain technology, and that included undergraduate students, even though the course was intended for advanced and Ph.D. students. That indicates the level of interest revolving around the topic.
Because the blockchain technology of tomorrow will likely be quite different from today's technology, the courses need to constantly adapt and change to suit current information and knowledge. And they need to provide leading-edge information.
At the University of Pennsylvania, there is support for blockchain technology courses, and it is coming from Keven Werbach, who believes those types of courses tie in well with and provide added insight into other courses and disciplines.
"In order to understand blockchain well, you actually need to learn a bunch of subjects that we already teach in the university, things like economics and finance and law and distributed systems in engineering. I think someone who is taking a bunch of related courses because they're interested in blockchain is going to get a well-rounded education that is going to serve them well and be useful even if this industry falls apart."
Indeed, studying blockchain technology can be part of a comprehensive education that is complete with well-rounded courses on a variety of topics.
It is unclear whether colleges and universities will embrace the investment potential - and volatility - of bitcoin. At the same time, various emerging types of investments cannot be ignored. It is wise to learn as much as possible about them since there appears to be a convergence coming between traditional technologies and the new asset class.
Can Gulec, co-founder of Kambo Finance, said this:
"As the connection between disruptive and traditional technologies gets stronger, the rate of change and increase in complexity becomes faster…. As institutionalization increases, so does regulation and governmental guidance which is all good news for end customers."
There are some key next steps that colleges and universities can take when they want to keep up with the rapidly changing world revolving around bitcoin and blockchain.
They can offer courses at all levels, starting with the most basic courses that define what blockchain and bitcoin are. Those courses can be led by instructors who have a depth of knowledge pertaining to not just economics but also cryptocurrencies. Colleges and universities can also invest in bitcoin as a way to enhance their endowment fund portfolios.
Other than that, higher learning organizations can gain as much knowledge and understanding as they can about bitcoin and blockchain, realizing that this is a constantly changing field that requires ongoing learning.
Bitcoin and blockchain are especially relevant in institutions of higher learning today. Not only can they be powerful investments, but learning about them can also help students keep up with the changing financial times. So colleges and universities are wise to focus on bitcoin and blockchain, especially given that institutions of higher learning should be incubators for new ideas and technologies.
It will definitely be interesting to see how colleges and universities respond to the changing financial world that now includes blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. It could be that those institutions where higher learning takes place will wind up playing a key role when it comes to mass adoption of bitcoin and blockchain.
No matter what, though, blockchain technology is likely here to stay.