September 17, 2021 |James Messi
Society has seen a lot of changes in recent years. The various technological advances have pushed humanity’s innovations further and further. From the transformation of our modes of communication to the development of numerous mobile applications and computer software aimed at making man’s way of living more convenient, technology has gone a long way. In line with these advancements, software developers are hard at work to produce software that would either complement or replace the existing older models of conducting transactions in the financial scene.
One of these modern innovations is the development of digital currencies or cryptocurrencies. The first of such cryptocurrencies is Bitcoin, which was developed back in 2009. Following Bitcoin’s debut, hundreds of other cryptocurrencies, or altcoins, also soon entered the market.
The development of digital currencies paved the way for the popularization of decentralized exchanges (DEX), a decentralized marketplace that connects buyers and sellers of cryptocurrencies. These decentralized markets operate using smart contracts, self-executing programs used in the Ethereum platform. Ethereum itself has its own cryptocurrency, the ETH, with a present ETH to USD trade rate of 1 ETH = USD 3,400.
With the advent of decentralized exchanges, the concept of decentralized finance or DeFi was also brought into the limelight. There are various DeFi applications that are being run on Ethereum’s platform, all aimed at disintermediating transactions between users.
However, despite the apparent popularity of DeFi applications and decentralized exchanges, these are yet to be widely known by the larger community of laypeople. In short, there is still a large part of the population that has either completely no knowledge of DeFi and decentralized exchanges or has only rudimentary and surface-level knowledge of it. In fact, Radix LTD CEO Piers Ridyard has noted that DeFi presently only caters to users who have sufficient know-how of the crypto market.
Fortunately, there are now some universities that are including DeFi courses in their curriculums, allowing those who are enrolled in their campuses to learn the basics of decentralized systems.
Universities That Offer DeFi Courses
With about $130 billion in total value locked (TVL) in DeFi protocols, the growth of the decentralized finance community is easily recognizable. But as mentioned earlier, DeFi, despite its popularity, is still only popular within a given niche. Despite the benefits that it provides users, it is still separated from the larger global community by a technological and technical barrier.
Hence, a number of universities have begun offering DeFi courses. Among these universities is the University of California at Berkeley. The UC Berkeley’s DeFi course is a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) which will be available in the Fall 2021 semester offering. The course is said to tackle decentralized finance.
Helping to lead the DeFi course is Oasis Network block chain’s founder and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Berkeley, Professor Dawn Song. Song would be handling the course along with other professors from equally well-known institutions, namely, Stanford University and Imperial College London. More than 1,400 students have thus far signed up to be part of UC Berkeley’s DeFi course.
Prior to this, UC Berkeley has already experimented with a shorter DeFi course in its 2021 Spring semester. It was this earlier course’s success and the level of interest towards it that UC Berkeley has decided to offer a full semester course that would cover the essential concepts of decentralized finance.
Song has also noted that the course’s entirety would be held remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions but the curriculum for students in the MOOC class and those in UC Berkeley would be the same. However, Song added that UC Berkeley students would be conducting more course work, such as having hands-on experience with the development of new technologies in the DeFi space.
Another educational institution offering DeFi education is the University of Wyoming, a university that offers a minor course in blockchains. Professor Ali Nejadmalayeri, a professor of finance at the University of Wyoming, handles the Blockchain and Finance Services course, a full-semester online course that touches on DeFi concepts. Among the DeFi concepts discussed in this course are platforms like Uniswap and Aave, alongside other applications. Similar to UC Berkeley’s course, the University of Wyoming’s offered curriculum is also available globally for anyone interested.
Across the Atlantic, certain European universities have also begun offering DeFi courses. One of these is the University of Nicosia (UNIC) in Cyprus which will offer a free DeFi MOOC beginning on October 11.
While UNIC has been offering a free introductory course on cryptocurrencies and blockchains as early as 2013, the executive director of the Institute for the Future at UNIC, Professor George Giaglis, stated that DeFi has only been briefly discussed. However, the course—which has garnered more than 45,000 students worldwide—proved to be such a success that UNIC is now offering a six-week-long online course that would be revolving solely on DeFi.
Another institution, the European Tech School, also offers courses that have an in-depth discussion of DeFi. The courses, Blockchain Executive Program Course and Certified Blockchain Expert Course are both taught by Monica Singer, ConsenSys’ South Africa lead.
However, unlike the previously mentioned courses, the European Tech School’s courses are not free. Victoria Gago, the European Tech School’s Co-CEO, believes that these courses are small and more focused. The online classes will be composed of 25 students each “to ensure that students can interact with their professors and colleagues.”
While it is a good thing that there are now educational institutions that are bridging the gap between the global community and the crypto sector, teaching about decentralized finance is still proving to be a real challenge due to the sector’s fast-paced and continuously evolving nature.
One of the problems that DeFi educators have faced is creating a syllabus that tackles the most relevant topics in DeFi. Nejadmalayeri shared his encounter with this problem during the 2021 Spring semester, where he had to take out many of his prepared lectures and replace them with DeFi concepts.
Giaglis reaffirmed this, noting that it is really challenging to create a curriculum with almost zero building blocks and a sector that is literally changing by the day.
However, participants of the industry hold a strong belief that DeFi will be staying for the long run and become an integral part of the educational curriculum. Gago echoed this sentiment, stating that what we now call as decentralized finance would in the future be simply called finance. It is therefore highly important to include DeFi-focused courses in curriculums.