Decentralized finance, or DeFi, has become one of the fastest growing sectors within the cryptocurrency ecosystem. Data shows that the total locked-in value (TVL) in all DeFi protocols is now around $ 130 billion. This is an important metric, as some analysts see TVL as one of the best ways to measure sentiment in the DeFi industry.
Although the growth is apparent, many people may still wonder what DeFi is and how it can be applied today. Piers Ridyard, CEO of Radix DLT – a secure decentralized network – said DeFi is currently only for users with sufficient knowledge of the crypto market.
With that in mind, it’s worth noting that a small number of universities now offer DeFi-focused courses to help educate enrolled students and the general public on the basics of decentralized systems.
Where you can learn more about DeFi
The University of California, Berkeley recently added a massively open online course, or MOOC, in decentralized finance to its fall 2021 semester offering.
Dawn Song, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Berkeley and founder of the blockchain platform Oasis Network, told Cointelegraph that she would help lead the DeFi course, alongside professors from Stanford and the ‘Imperial College London. According to Song, DeFi is emerging as a fundamentally new way to build financial infrastructure, which is why it’s important for students around the world to familiarize themselves with the subject:
“About 300 IT and finance students have signed up for the course, but given the huge interest in DeFi, we also have a MOOC version open to anyone around the world. In total, more than 1,400 students have enrolled in Berkeley’s DeFi course.
Song mentioned that UC Berkeley previously offered a shorter, more experimental DeFi course during her Spring 2021 semester. She explained that due to the success and interest of this class, the university now offers a full semester course covering the most important concepts of DeFi.
“The first segment of the course will cover an introduction to smart contacts and blockchain. The second segment is the core, where we will discuss different DeFi services including stablecoins, decentralized exchanges, decentralized lending and more, ”Song said, adding,“ We will also cover oracles and privacy protocol in DeFi, which has turned out to be a big topic lately.
Song noted that the DeFi course will be entirely remote due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the curriculum will be the same for UC Berkeley students and MOOC course participants. However, she did mention that Berkeley students will be doing more coursework, such as doing open classroom projects and gaining hands-on experience developing new technologies in the DeFi space. Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, will be issued as certificates to those who complete the course.
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While UC Berkeley’s DeFi course is one of the first of its kind, it’s worth noting that the MOOC is open to anyone across the world. “We have students from Europe, India, Asia, and other areas outside of the United States taking the course,” Song said. True to DeFi’s open and inclusive standards, she added that the goal of Berekely’s DeFi course is to bring online participants together with students enrolled at Berkeley to create a greater community while improving technology in the space.
Wyoming, one of the leading states for blockchain innovation, also offers DeFi training for University of Wyoming students. Ali Nejadmalayeri, professor of finance at the University of Wyoming, told Cointelegraph that the university offers a blockchain minor and various industry disciplines can be studied as courses.
For example, Nejadmalayeri teaches the Blockchain and Financial Services course, which is a full semester online course that contains a part on DeFi concepts:
“The first part of this spring semester course focused on an introduction and review of the blockchain industry. The second module focused on the digital currency sphere, which included the first experiments with electronic money and central bank digital currencies. DeFi was the last part, where we discussed platforms like Uniswap and Aave, as well as various apps.
According to Nejadmalayeri, anyone in the world can take the Blockchain and Financial Services course. “If you are admitted as a non-traditional student, you can take the course,” he explained, adding that around 10 students took the course during the spring semester. But given the interest in DeFi, he expects that number to increase in the future, pointing out that people without a background in IT or finance are starting to find DeFi interesting:
“You have the people who can code, but DeFi products have to be tailored to a certain clientele. Thorough knowledge of these particular industries is important and will therefore be at the forefront of many of these courses. “
Although the United States ranks as the top region for DeFi adoption according to data from crypto intelligence firm Chainalysis, European universities and schools also offer DeFi courses to boost innovation.
For example, the University of Nicosia (UNIC) in Cyprus is offering a free MOOC DeFi from October 11. George Giaglis, executive director of the Institute for the Future at UNIC, told Cointelegraph that although UNIC has offered a free introductory crypto and blockchain course since 2013, DeFi has only been briefly covered. Yet given the success of the course – which has attracted over 45,000 students from various countries – UNIC now offers a six-week online course entirely dedicated to DeFi.
Giaglis said the course syllabus would cover all DeFi fundamentals: “This includes the full DeFi application stack (decentralized exchanges, automated market making, lending and borrowing, cash extraction, yield farming, decentralized insurance, synthetic assets, oracles, stable coins), governance, tokenomics, DAO. Although the course is completely free, Giaglis noted that there is an optional cost for graduates who wish to receive a blockchain verifiable certificate of completion issued by the UNIC.
In addition to UNIC, European Tech School – which launched in July and offers two blockchain programs – also discusses DeFi in depth. Victoria Gago, co-CEO of the European Tech School, told Cointelegraph that the Blockchain Executive Program course and the Certified Blockchain Expert course contain a DeFi unit taught by Monica Singer, South Africa manager of ConsenSys.
Unlike the other DeFi courses mentioned, Gago believes these blockchain courses are small and focused – requiring students to pay a fee to enroll and also submit a request for acceptance. Gago developed:
“These are all live, online, and cohort-based courses that start September 15th. Classes will each have 25 students to ensure that students can interact with professors and their colleagues. ”
According to Gago, what is commonly referred to as decentralized finance today will ultimately just become finance in the future, which is why she believes there is a need to teach DeFi-focused courses: “We hope that students who take these courses will be able to create an impactful network. by being surrounded by other people who are there to learn and contribute to the blockchain industry. ”
The challenges of teaching DeFi
While it should be noted that universities are starting to offer DeFi courses, the rapidly changing and developing nature of the cryptocurrency industry can create challenges for faculty.
For example, delivering a program that addresses the most relevant topics in DeFi can be problematic. Nejadmalayeri explained that during the spring semester of 2021, he had to change everything in his course on blockchain and financial services as DeFi started to gain traction: “I had to withdraw a lot of my lectures and them. replace with DeFi concepts.
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Echoing this concern, Giaglis noted that it can be difficult to develop a curriculum when there is next to nothing to trust and when the industry is literally changing from day to day: “You might as well say that we do not consider the material to be finalized at any time: we are making and will continue to make changes to reflect new developments up to (and beyond) the date of each session. “
However, industry participants believe DeFi courses are here to stay and will become an integral part of education in the future. For example, Alex Tapscott, author and instructor of Coursera’s Blockchain Revolution specialization course series, told Cointelegraph that as the DeFi industry grows, demand for educational content will also increase:
“In the early days of Bitcoin, schools like Cornell and Berkeley started offering courses on the subject. I wouldn’t be surprised if DeFi was a part of the curriculum of every MBA program in the future. We are still very early.
On top of that, Kimberly Grauer, research director at Chainalysis, told Cointelegraph that DeFi courses will be an ongoing trend at many universities alongside the likely incorporation of other crypto related courses: “In that sense , DeFi acts as the basic building block. for a wider range of courses.