Stanford Adds Bitcoin Engineering Course, May Grow to MOOC


Stanford University has introduced a new fast-paced, hands-on lab course on creating Bitcoin-enabled applications that requires its participants to hold a background in Python in a Unix environment.

The class, "Bitcoin Engineering," is offered as a companion to a previous Bitcoin course, "Crypto Currencies, the Blockchain, and Smart Contracts," comes with around 85% of new material. While the previous class offered information pertaining to Bitcoin as a technology, otherwise known as Bitcoin theory, the new course will focus on writing Bitcoin-powered versions of popular Internet services, writes Andrew DeSantis for Bitcoin Magazine.

"The class gives you a sense of what Bitcoin can do. It's not Bitcoin as a financial instrument, not about buy low/sell high. It's about Bitcoin as a protocol." said Dr. Balaji Srinivasan.

The first two weeks of the course introduce participants to Bitcoin concepts and micropayments. After that, students begin to explore with the creation of Bitcoin-powered versions of popular Internet services, such as Instagram and Twitter, which receive payment through per-use micropayment rather than through ads or monthly fees.

Students will receive stub code that explains the basic mechanics of Bitcoin-powered Internet services. From there, they will work individually or in small groups to get the stub code running, add their own improvements, and test it with their peers in an online marketplace before it is submitted for judging. Referred to as a weekly hackathon, all of this will take place in the course of a week.

The course has produced enough interest so far to warrant considering the production of a MOOC version, writes Sue Gee for i-Programmer. Enrollment for the new course has already doubled that of the previous course, with 83 students signing up on the first day alone.

Dr. Balaji Srinivasan and Dr. Dan Boneh are teaching the course. Srinivasan is the co-founder and CEO of 21, a startup that created an entire stack set of technologies for Bitcoin micropayments, which includes the Bitcoin Computer, the first of its kind that comes with native hardware and software support for the Bitcoin protocol. The computer allows those with no prior experience with Bitcoin, or around 75% of the class, to be able to use Bitcoin protocol with as little as two lines of code.

Dan Boneh is currently Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University and has been involved with Computer Science MOOCs for the last five years. When the 50 Most Popular MOOCs of All Time list was first introduced, based on the number of students enrolled, his Cryptography course was close to the top. Although it has since moved down on the list, he remains a popular choice among students, receiving a 4.5 rating on CourseTalk, which offers student ratings of courses.

A Bitcoin MOOC already exists on Coursera. The 11-week course, "Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies" originated at Princeton and offers students an introduction to the Bitcoin by answering questions about how it works and how secure it is.

Meanwhile, the Stanford course will allow participants to gain hands-on experience with Bitcoin.

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