Free online education provider Coursera is working with Princeton University to provide a computer science course called "Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies" that demystifies what the currency is and how it operates.
Coursera is a platform for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which can be taken anywhere for free online. Courses include video lectures, exercises, and forum-style interaction with other students. Certification can be attained for a small fee.
Krystal Knapp of Planet Princeton quoted Coursera on the need for cryptocurrency education:
To really understand what is special about Bitcoin, we need to understand how it works at a technical level. After this course, you'll know everything you need to be able to separate fact from fiction when reading claims about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. You'll have the conceptual foundations you need to engineer secure software that interacts with the Bitcoin network. And you'll be able to integrate ideas from Bitcoin in your own projects.
A "beta" version of the course has been available since January on the Piazza platform, and includes 11 video lectures, notes, and exercises. The Coursera update will include additional lectures, embedded quizzes, and more community discussion. There will be a textbook by the instructors available for purchase, but draft chapters will remain free online, according to Giulio Prisco of Bitcoin Magazine.
The course's instructors are Arvind Narayanan, Joseph Bonneau, and Edward Felton of Princeton, and Andrew Miller from the University of Maryland. They have emphasized that this is a computer science course. Narayanan said in a January announcement that understanding the technology behind Bitcoin is key:
How does our textbook (and course) differ from other books on Bitcoin? It's simple: this is unabashedly a computer science text and course. We connect the ideas we discuss to the rest of computer science, and separate fundamental concepts from implementation details. The hype in the Bitcoin community has sometimes gotten ahead of the technology, and we think that for cryptocurrencies to truly realize their potential, entrepreneurs must go back to the basics, rigorously understand the technology and build on it.
The course opened September 4th, but will be available well after its closing date of Novermber 1st, 2015. More than 15,000 students have signed up so far.
Bitcoin has recently received academic attention, as New York University offered a course called "The Law and Business of Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies," and Duke University's first Bitcoin course was called "Innovation, Disruption, and Cryptoventures."
For those looking for a more rigorous experience, Stanford University is offering a Cyber Security Graduate certificate, which will include a new course, "Crypto Currencies: Bitcoin and Friends" this September, writes Justin O'Connell of Cryptocoins News.