The Impact of Web 3 Technology on Third Level Education

Universities need to adopt an agile approach to curriculums to keep up with the shift towards blockchain technology.

The global pandemic has forced many educational institutes to shift to online learning methods more than ever before. E-learning platforms offering tutorials and courses such as Udemy and LinkedIn learning were already catapulting into the mainstream but higher education lagged behind in terms of adopting new technologies. Also, while the world was restricted to physical limitations in educational venues, the Blockchain industry flourished and the world of cryptocurrencies catapulted into the news. 

Perhaps, in the not so distant past there were skeptics with regards to e-learning effectiveness. However, the pandemic quickly propelled our trust in this newer model of education. Today, this is the dominant form of education with more and more students opting for online courses to upskill. 

Readily available courses, video tutorials, downloadable certifications and easy access to high quality learning materials is the norm today. However, many Universities are only beginning to understand the blockchain industry and the opportunities offered via the technology. 

“We see more and more demand for our Blockchain foundations course. This is across the board. From conversative private colleges to all age profiles, the vast majority realise the potential and want to learn more about the technology and its utility,” says Ryan Williams, Director of The Blockchain Academy.

“We believe in a mutually beneficial partnership model. Student clubs and societies have been getting involved in Blockchain projects for years now. We work with student clubs from over 20 top tier Universities around the world who are driving blockchain innovation,” continues Williams.

Issues with Higher Education adoption of Blockchain Education

Did you ever hear the saying ‘old habits die hard’? Well this is especially true in the realm of education. Over hundreds of years institutions have developed and cemented educational conventions. From Harvard referencing to the highly regarded journal entries to almost pageant-like conferring ceremonies, the practices in third level institutions are set in stone. And although blockchain technology is not trying to change the whole system, the move towards e-learning platforms has forced many of these processes to be reimagined.

Another issue that rises its head as institutions begin to facilitate the adoption of newer technologies are long term commitment to older systems and security challenges. Building out new systems often involves migrating from older technologies that have become embedded into all aspects of University processes. These technologies may be archaic and require optimisation, however, they are so tightly interwoven into existing infrastructure that unbundling those systems takes time, revenue and manpower that may not be available to ensure the correct implementation.

Fast paced technology versus slow moving institutions

Blockchain Technology is advancing at warp speed. From new programming languages to non fungible tokens, everything in the world of blockchain technology is happening so fast, making it difficult for mainstream adopters to keep up with the pace. Decentralized autonomous organisations are governed by communities that value innovation and use stumbling blocks as a new motivation to develop new ways of learning. In contrast, traditional University systems are slow moving institutions that take the time to evaluate, research and understand the complexities of new systems. An opposing view of approach and priorities hinders the ability to work together towards a common goal of educating students who see the potential for blockchain technology.

Exploring blockchain research opportunities

It is recognised by most that University research departments are key components to all industry research, across a wide spectrum of subjects. So how are Universities contributing to the blockchain ecosystem for countries around the world? Many blockchain courses are housed within the business or engineering schools of institutes but the applications of Blockchain technology have a much further reach. With recent applications in finance realms and the arts, it could be that blockchain bridges various departments and does not necessarily fit into the traditional strict segmentation between areas of interest for students and faculty. 

Journalist and advocate for women in blockchain Jillian Godsil believes education is key to driving mass adoption. “In particular we need to concentrate on reaching young (and not so young women) and the best way to do that is to push the education agenda. We need to encourage young women to learn about blockchain as part of the school curriculum, and open it out as a lifestyle subject not just a boys club.” 

“We know that when we educate women in new powerful technologies the benefits far outweigh their own personal development – it spreads to their families and into the community”, she continues.

Research as a key component of the future. MIT leads the pack in terms of exploring research opportunities and adopting blockchain education. Although China has banned cryptocurrencies this has not stopped them from advancing the use cases for blockchain technology and Peking University is ranked as one of the leading institutes for the study of blockchains. 

Bottom up curriculum development

Students today are engaged activists, many of whom are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to the future of technology, innovation and education. This is one of the central reasons why student clubs are leading the march towards blockchain adoption within Universities. 

“We had over 22 clubs participate in our recent Blockchain Academy crypto simulator competition and expressions of interest from student clubs in every corner of the world. The students are eager to learn, share and build their ideas in this space,” notes Williams. 

There is also a movement towards crypto related career moves from high level executives. LinkedIn reports a rise of over 600% in the number of blockchain related career opportunities this year. Working adults recognise the economic opportunities displayed across a wide range of blockchain applications. OpenSea, DappRadar and Invictus Capital are just some of the many companies offering unique positions for those seeking to change direction of career. The future role of blockchain education within Universities has a crucial role in meeting this demand.

Where does Blockchain currently live within University programmes? In most cases blockchain subjects are part of the Business and engineering schools, clubs and societies and research labs. 

Unsurprisingly, a lot of the subjects related to blockchain applications derive from the student clubs and societies. This bottom up approach to education around the various use cases of the technology often leads to further investment and interest from the core faculties of the Universities but some have failed to take advantage of the opportunity for advanced learning.

Lisa Gibbons
Lisa Gibbons
Lisa Gibbons is the Editorial Director at BlockTelegraph.

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